Creating a New Walking-Focused City District for 30,000 People

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Raycom City, a new mixed-use district for Hefei, China, has a 3/4-mile-long public linear park flanked by stores and restaurants as its heart. The park and retail promenades provide a comfortable, convenient walking spine connecting the district’s residential, hotel and office towers, schools and amenities, an upcoming metro station and the surrounding city fabric.  To design the linear park and flanking promenades, Marco drew on Hefei’s identity as a river city with grand river parks to imbue the new district with a dynamic, high-performance outdoor environment.  With the rich mix of amenities and services provided in close walking distance within a beautiful and varied setting, the design strives to create an urban “Sculpture for Living” where people enjoy living locally for a higher than average percentage of their lives.

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7 thoughts on “Creating a New Walking-Focused City District for 30,000 People

  1. The sheer scale of this project and the high attention to body scale detail and choice of material was really impressive. The opportunity to design such a large portion of city to accommodate so many people is a unique opportunity to establish an identity for a community. Though the ‘sun exposure’ permitting was addressed both as an opportunity and constraint I found it to be a very cool concept and wish it was employed in more regions. If not in the sake of solar radiation than for the sake of more communal outdoor space that is designed for pedestrians and not automobiles. The speaker comes from San Francisco and I could tell that he is quite comfortable in a city with tight knit streets and tall buildings, but myself, I aspire for an atmosphere of a more open environment and so this large project in China really spoke to me. I appreciated how the design accommodated both cars and pedestrians, but the Chinese government took the opportunity to gate off portions originally intended for cars. I think that it is in these initial stages of city development that government can set the standard for how people get around and it is up to the inhabitants to adapt and find alternative means of transportation. These are the precedents that will be referenced in the future and inspire other cities to follow their example.

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  2. One concept of the design is to incorporate Hefei’s identity as a river-city into the design of this new development, and I think it is very clever to harvest rainwater and graywater and use them in the water features. However, one thing I found strange is that other than the being part of the water-city, the development seems to be completely divorced from the rest of Hefei. The site context is not being mentioned in the talk. How does Raycom City connect to the rest of Hefei? Is it far from city centers or right next to it? It might be due to the fact that there is time limit in the talk so Marco did not explain this part of the project in detail, but it would be nice to hear how Raycom City is actually part of Hefei instead of another large-scale development that could be built anywhere else. Marco mentioned that one of the main concepts is to create a walkable city, however, what I got from the talk is that the Raycom City is still relied on automobiles. Not only did it have a lot of features designed for car access, the lack of public transportation within the development is also encouraging the use of private vehicles. Again, if the development is far away from the city centers, automobile would be a major transportation tool. The only public transportation mentioned is a to-be-developed metro system on one tip of this large and long site. It would be nice to have a new development that could actually connect to the “outside”.

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  3. Marco’s presentation was extremely interesting. I do agree that there could have been better suggestions with how it connected to the city outside the periphery of the development zone. However, the waterway system was a very nice feature, which I am surprised is not more prevalent in other developments in Hefei. Since Marco mentioned that the water there can be quite polluted, I wonder how clean the water is and if it gives off bad gasses in the summer? One would hope the vegetation would help in the cleaning effects and perhaps even bring some “natural” ecosystems back into the area. I found it amazing the frequency in which they had to go visit the project; every 5-6 weeks seems like a lot. Though it would have been disastrous if they hadn’t with all the grading miscommunications that were made. All in all, it came across as a thoughtful way to look at a relatively large development project in a detailed, human scaled way.

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  4. Marco’s talk provided a good reminder that designer’s job is not simply finished at the drawing board.

    Perhaps one of the more revelatory aspects of his talk was showing us how the Raycom City project could have potentially ran into major challenges had it not been for site visits. If I recall correctly, I think it was that during a couple of different site visits they were able to spot how serious issues with the construction of drainage and retention systems. Yet, by being able to visit the site during various stages of implementation, they were able to able to quickly rectify the situation.

    At least for me, grad school can feel very caught up in the designing and conceptualizing happening via the pen, mouse click, or keypad; perhaps this is the point. Yet, Marco’s talk was a good reminder that, at least a certain stage in your career, the critical oversight of construction processes will become equally important to ensuring a quality design.

    The other aspect of his talk that I felt important–and the one I asked a question on–was the design management process from afar (or, in this case, with a US-based team and a Chinese-based project). I was fairly amazed to hear how often they were travelling over to the site, though it seemed like a necessary move to ensure project success. Though, it does make me wonder if firms reach a certain tipping point in terms of US domestic vs. international offices. More specifically, at what point does a firm decide it has enough projects in certain country/region that a new office in that area is warranted? At least for China, it seems that many firms have already reached that point.

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  5. I found it very impressive to be able to develop essentially, a walking village amongst a high density development, complete with its own performing waterway. The attention to detail at all scales was also very important as was shown with reconfigurations made after site visits, sun/shadow studies, development of a complicated drainage system, and creating communities within the village. It was all quite remarkable but I must agree, we are taught that site context is vastly important and this design’s lack of connection to the larger city is concerning. It will be interesting to see how these chunks of development come together and form amongst the already established urban fabric. Will it become its own development? What kind of people will be moving in? Will it be isolated? Are there ways to develop the village into the site context? I also found the lack of public transportation a little discouraging. Yes, there is plentiful retail and walks down the waterway but not everyone will work on that main strip. Outside of the transportation hub at one end of the village, it might be difficult for someone who lives on the opposite end to travel across the village. Can there be a smaller transportation system developed within the village? Perhaps, a shuttle system carrying residents during commute hours to the edges of the village. Overall, the work was impressive as it handled all scales of design well and chose to integrate a sustainable water system to hold the village together.

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  6. As a Chinese designer, I have seen so many similar scale of residential development in China. Most of them are super block gated communities that create rich enclaves and greatly reduce the pedestrian mobility. From an urban design perspective, I am delighted to see that this Raycom City design opens up its main promenades to public access. This helps promote the concept of creating a new walking focused city district by reducing the parcel size and increase accessibility. Also, the pedestrian and traffic flow help enliven this promenade and sustain the local retails and other amenities.

    Another interesting point is that the stormwater system design by taking advantage of the all year rainfall and the nearby river. In the history, there are many good stormwater uses example that combine both the aesthetic and functional purpose typically seen in traditional Chinese Garden design. However, because of the rapid development and poor stormwater management nowadays, problems of flooding, water scarcity, and water pollution are becoming more serious in China.

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  7. Marco’s talk’s topic was pretty new to me and it was awesome to hear that the designers of the project did not just make the plan of the place, but also visited the site a few times and the fact that they did that turned out to be very critical since during one of the visits I believe they found a fundamental mistake and had the ability to fix it.
    The thing that I personally would change is that I would make a better connection of the park to the city and make it more accessible. Overall, the project was outstanding and the amount of detail put into it was exceptional. I loved that the plan is very encouraging for people to walk more and with that get the exercise, but I do also understand that not everyone would either have the time for the walks or the ability to do it so it would be awesome to see some improvement in the public transportation area.

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