Thriving Neighbourhood

Thriving Neighbourhood | Beijing Xidian FUNS iTown

Forgotten run-down warehouses and factory floors have been rejuvenated by the influx of cultural and creative industries. While being transformed with a new lease of life, the area becomes a hybrid of post-industrial park and urban space – what we call a Thriving Neighbourhood. The completion of buildings and landscape is only the start . We have left space for neighbourhoods in the area to grow. After people start to work, ship, gather, and live here, buildings and landscape will grow upon human interactions, ever-improving along with the transformation of the city.

Background

The project is located between East Fourth Ring and East Fifth Ring roads of Beijing, fragmented by several railways. It was the warehouse of Beijing Glass Company prior to 2015. Some of them were used to store glasses, some were leased out to paint and lime factories, while others were used as workers’ dormitories. Redevelopment plans have given this fringe area of historic significance and unique environment possibility of improvement. It was also made the polit section of the area’s redevelopment.

Challenge

Six railways cut through the project area. A series of commercial, office, recreational, and creative zones dotted across what were factories and warehouses, forming a new hybrid community. As the landscape designer, Change Studio planned the most optimised transport links that connect the fragmented neighbourhoods, together with other contractors and the client. The result is integral and multifunctional. Through the designing process we aspired to optimise the technology and usage of materials, so as to control cost and leave buffer for the project’s operations later on.

Scenery and life around the railway bridge

Buildings with light grey walls and sloped tops dotted across the area, long with modern well-lit venues. Roaring trains pass by and weave together the past, now, and future, giving the town some weight of history and sense of literature and arts.

Waiting for the next train to pass by while sitting at the cafe by the road is a popular pastime. Trains with green carriages of the old days give off industrial glory of the last century. They share this moment with static buildings and humans, each subtly connected to one another. The space under the railway bridges is liberated from the function of the railway, becoming the interface between public space and roads. These plots of new spaces provide a lot of recreational and enjoyable environment along the blocks, with terrain management and the introduction of plants. Some under-bridge spaces were designed into parking lots, competing the functions of the blocks. Other parking spaces are outside the main town area, saving the town centre for pedestrians and non-vehicle transport.

Blank space

The roads are the most important and complex core systems of the town. We designed them as continuous, nimble, and sharing spaces, with some public and private spaces interconnecting. The town has a lot of works by top architects, so we integrated their works into parts of the roads, minimising the designing of the roads and maximising the rich forms of the architecture. Most venues have left ample open space for activities, such as parks for train spotting, roller skating square, and the art gallery at the street corner. The most beautiful time of the neighbourhood is when people are drawn to shops’ exquisite decorations, and when the roller-skating square is full of people.

Materials

Neighbourhood flooring utilises modularised light weight cement blocks, which are easy and fast to implement, and save as much as 50% construction cost. In the park that people wait to see trains passing by, installment from recycled cement blocks created new atmosphere.

Rich greenery of the streets are an important component of the biodiversity of the town. Trees, vines, and climbers with flowers contrast with buildings. Ample local and adaptive plants ensure healthy environment for the plants and low maintenance cost for the town, while providing it with lush, pleasant, and sustainable ecosystem.

Ever-growing and evolving

The unique aspect of the project is the co-existence between tenants and the spaces under the client’s control. This is realised under the macro coordination of the operator and relied on active public participation in design and the recreation of public spaces. This is a new way of life. With the addition of filming studios, art centres, recording studios, among other things, more events and activities will take place, such as forums and cocktail receptions. These events keep the neighbourhood alive and provide the public with new and developing platforms. iTown is a new generation of public space that’s taking place instead of finished by design. This visionary openness give others space to leave their mark as the city develops.

The project demonstrated how forgotten spaces are transformed into attractive venues, supporting elasticity for society, culture, environment, and economy. Materialising this level of cultural sustainability and aesthetics that catches eyes demands complex collaboration between the designers, engineers, investors, and the community. Thriving Neighbourhood can be a solution to a lot of challenges in modern city planning: appropriate intervention and intentional hands-off, creating room for joint efforts from multidiscipline teams.

Photography:  Wang Ning

Project location (For publicly accessible projects please include exact address. For Private gardens place write Country or State):

FUNS iTOWN, Gaobeidian, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China

Design year: 2018

Year Built: 2020

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