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The Chinese shift: mixed-use future beckons

Senior UK architects have spoken of the increased demand for mixed-use schemes in China

BDP architect director Jeremy Farrington; Aedas chairman Keith Griffiths; and Make partner Sean Affleck all told AJ of an increase in multi-sector projects in the Asian powerhouse.

A study by Global Construction Perspectives and Oxford Economics this month predicted China would average construction growth above 6 per cent per year from 2020 to 2025.

Global Construction 2025 forecast a shift from an export-led Chinese economy to consumption-based growth, with increasingly affluent consumers demanding larger homes and better retail facilities.

BDP, which retained its second spot in the AJ100 earlier this year, recently won a project to masterplan a mixed-use scheme in the city of Wuhan.

Farrington said the project had evolved from a single high-rise tower into its current twin tower form to accommodate increased area for commercial office space and a hotel.

‘These changes are in part driven by specific client demands, but mainly are responding to ever-evolving trends in masterplanning and development of this typology of project,’ he said.

‘Since the recent government change at the end of last year, Chinese developers have been capitalising on the central government’s new directive of shifting economic growth from an export and investment driven model to a consumptions-supported one.

‘As a result, we are finding more and more clients approaching us with briefs for mixed use schemes similar to our Wuhan project that draw together and maximise a strong commercial retail component, Grade A office space and a high end hotel or leisure offer.’

Aedas is working on several mixed-use projects in China, including the North Star development in Beijing; the Jiading New Town Centre Headquarters Park in Shanghai; and the Greenland Group Chengdu East Village CBED Plot in Chengdu.

‘China is urbanising rapidly at a rate of 50 million people per annum and it is the largest construction market in the world,’ said Griffiths. 

‘The continuous and massive urbanisation process and urban development needs in China create notable opportunities for architects, in particular for mixed-use developments which allow users to be engaged in different activities easily.’

An economy led by domestic spending creates opportunities for retail, leisure and commercial developments, according to Griffiths.

‘Aedas is currently working on many exciting projects in China,’ he added. ‘All projects create modern day communities in which people can enjoy a revolutionary work and life dynamic that is emerging in the new China cities.’

Make Architects has been working in mainland China for more than five years, and completed its first building there last summer.

Affleck said this week: ‘Our work in China is certainly shifting. We’ve seen a move towards more complex, mixed-use developments and infrastructure projects that include more office, retail, housing and leisure.

‘This has resulted in a change in thinking too: buildings are seen much more as communities that better respond to and engage with their context.’

AJ reported last summer that measures put in place in China could hail the dawn of a ‘second design boom’ for UK firms

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