This studio will be the sixteenth year of the Yale School of Architecture’s China Studio, and the fifth year of the collaboration between Yale and Tsinghua University School of Architecture in Beijing. With this studio, we continue an investigation of urban development and redevelopment in the historic and contemporary Chinese city, with a particular emphasis on models of sustainable mixed-use and neighborhood development. Over the first three years, the China Studio studied the impact of preservation, infill and new development on three sites along the historic north-south axis of Beijing, moving from the center outward to the urban periphery.
This year’s studio will continue a new line of investigation, begun with the 2014 Studio, examining the development corridor that has recently been created by the high speed commuter rail connection from Beijing to the port city of Tianjin. Tianjin has been an important port city and center of trade since the Sui Dynasty (589-670) when the Grand Canal connected Beijing and Tianjin to Suzhou and Hangzhou in the south. In 1860, at the end of the Second Opium War, Tianjin became a Treaty Port and was opened to foreign trade, which fueled rapid development and a characteristic pattern of urbanization based on foreign concessions surrounding a traditional Chinese core, much like Shanghai. More recently, it was granted special administrative and economic status as a National Central City, along with Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chongqing, and is already the fifth largest city in China after those megacities. In 2009, the so-called Binhai New Area was established as an economic development zone along the lines of Shenzen or Pudong in Shanghai, creating a new center, east of the historic center, and in relation to the port area along the Bohai Sea. This area will have its own master planned CBD, now being built from scratch in a bend of the Hai River (Hai He). Already 258 Fortune 500 companies have established offices there and development is projected to include over 9 million square meters on a 2,500 hectare site. In addition, the Beijing city government announced in July 2015 that it will integrate Bejing, Tianjin and Hebei province into a super-region called Jing-Jin-Ji (JJJ), with a population of more than 100 million. Within the plans for JJJ, much economic activity will move from Beijing to Tinajin, and the Bohai Bay area will become the center for logistics and transportation for the whole region.
The previous year’s studio considered a 170 hectare industrial site along the Hai River just to the west of the new CBD and flanked by the high speed rail corridor, connecting to the South Station in Beijing with almost 50 pairs of trains a day travelling at speeds of 330 km per hour, and making the roughly 120 km trip in around 30 minutes. The most prominent use on that site was the historic Tianjin Xin He Shipbuilding Company. This year’s site will also consider the re-use of another historic shipbuilding factory complex directly to the east of the new CBD and located on a dramatic site where the Hai River flows into Tianjin Harbor and the Bohai Sea, and including some associated canal infrastructure dating to the Japanese occupation of China during World War II. The Xingang Shipyard currently occupies a 52.6 hectare (130 acre) site bordered on the west by the Harbin Coastal Highway and bridge and with dramatic views to the southeast of the harbor and port facilities. The focus of the studio will be to understand the potential consequences for urban form and function of the re-use of large industrial sites and structures, while accommodating the density and mix of uses characteristic of recent urban development.
As in past studios, Yale students will travel to China, tour the site and other relevant sites and projects in and around Tianjin and Beijing, meet with local planning officials, and, most importantly, collaborate with their counterparts, graduate students at Tsinghua University, to develop preliminary site analysis and design concepts. This interaction will continue throughout the term via video conferencing, and Tsinghua students, faculty, along with Tianjin planning officials, have been invited to participate in final reviews at Yale. All students considering participating in the studio should make sure that they have a current passport in their possession, with sufficient space for a Chinese visa.