Designing Sustainable Cities for China

Zhenjiang Mayor Liu Handong discusses urban design with architects, planners

Mayor Liu Handong of Zhenjiang, China in New York on Dec. 1, 2010.
Mayor Liu Handong of Zhenjiang, China in New York on Dec. 1, 2010.

NEW YORK, December 1, 2010 - The scale of urban development in China is staggering: its urban population is expected to grow by more than 300 million within the next few years.

Given the new pace of development, China's cities are under massive construction. Asia Society New York hosted on Wednesday the mayor of one such growing Chinese city, Zhenjiang, who spoke alongside a panel of architects and city planners who highlighted examples from within and beyond China of ways in which enlightened design and urban planning is making for more comfortable, sustainable, and livable cities.

Zhenjiang, with its access to the Yangtze River and Hangzhou-Beijing Grand Canal, exists at the logistical hub of the Yangtze River Delta. Mayor Liu Handong described how the ancient city was fast becoming a modern, high-tech city with a mature transportation system. High-speed railways now connect Zhenjiang with other major cities, Nanjing and Shanghai. Its port has hosted trade with over 70 countries around the world.

Yuwen Jiansheng, deputy director general of housing and construction in Zhenjiang, discussed some of the plans for the city, including mixed-use development along the waterfront, to ensure the city supports the residential and recreation needs of its growing population.

Tom Murphy, former mayor of Pittsburgh, described some of the development projects that had transformed that city from one of the most polluted in the country to one that has recently been ranked as one of America's most livable by Forbes magazine.

Hai Zhang of Rafael Vinoly Architects said his firm was interested in seeing what Western architectural lessons might be applied in Chinese cities.

All of the panelists emphasized the need for construction projects in cities to consider context and sustainability as key factors in design schema.

“It is important to make the [urban] environment humane from the start,” concluded Trent Lethco, associate principle with Arup.

Reported by Mollie Kirk