PRP Architects has reveald its masterplan for a large residential-led development in Huzhou, west of Shanghai
The competition-winning scheme for the New Changning Group, featuring a new ‘grand canal’ running through the site, is part of the larger City of New Experience proposal.
The architect’s view
The key goal in this proposal is to create a strong brand identity which draws upon the unique natural and cultural aspects of this location. Where nature and culture are most tightly interwoven is in the canal waterfront of the local heritage water towns. It is not simply that nature (especially water) has been brought into the town to help it function. It is nature (especially water) which gives birth to such cities, providing the fertility and transport links that allowed them to flourish over centuries. The urban setting of the canal waterfront remains a key location for the union of nature and culture. The canal waterfront evokes strong emotional feelings –trade, success, prosperity, but also happiness, relaxation, peace. All these positive elements are woven into the brand identity of the site through the creation of new canal waterfronts which cut deep into the heart of the site.
A north south ‘grand canal’ acts as a central spine through the site. This is a distinctly urban waterfront, welcoming a diverse range of land-uses and building types. Smaller secondary canals are also created, recreating the excitement, surprise and sense of discovery created by the heritage water towns’ maze of canals. This newly cut canals have the rich urban character of street. This is in marked contrast to the existing waterways running through the site which, because of their wide protected green-belt, cannot be densely urban like a street but instead function more like a park – a large outdoor space for recreation.
The architecture is ‘elegant, light in colour and rich in details’. This direction works well with a strong brand identity which draws upon the unique natural cultural aspects of this location. In terms of nature, an architecture which is light and elegant means it is open to the sunlight, breezes and views. This has been translated as large windows and doors opening out onto expansive terraces and balconies, all facing south-east towards sunshine and prevailing breezes. These openings and spaces are then shaded by louvers and screens, all in a white colour to reflect the worst of the summer heat and keep interiors cool. The interiors have been cleanly planned, maximising the sense of openness, space and light. The colour palette for buildings is predominantly white, reflecting the strong tradition of white buildings in the local architectural heritage. Also reflecting this heritage, strongly contrasting black or dark grey framing elements have also been used. Overall the architectural intent is not to create something excessively traditional nor excessively contemporary, but to create a clean, simple “timeless modern classic” style which will maintain its value in the long term, regardless of inevitable changes in architectural fashions.