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London practice wins major Shenzhen public realm contest

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AZPML has won an international competition for a new ‘green axis’ within Shenzhen’s new Super Headquarters Base district

The London practice – working with Berkeley and Shanghai-based TLS Landscape Architecture – was chosen ahead of eight rival teams including MLA+, Martha Schwartz Partners, Studio Boeri, ADA Barcelona Architecture, and SWA Group to win the 28ha waterfront commission.

AZPML’s winning scheme will create a new central green space within the city’s Shenzhen Bay Super Headquarters Base development district, which is served by major roads and an underground rail line, and neighbours a large golf course and parkland.

Shenzhen is a major Pearl River Delta city, just north of Hong Kong. It grew rapidly following its designation as China’s first Special Economic Zone in 1979 and has a population of about 11.9 million.

Earlier this year Shenzhen Municipality launched an international competition to design a 2.1 billion yuan (£240 million) natural history museum. In January, the client also announced a contest for a landmark new 167,000m² waterfront opera house on a 17.5ha site close to the Shenzhen Bay Bridge, which connects the mainland China settlement to Hong Kong.

The latest appointment comes a year and a half after Foster + Partners won an international competition to design a new headquarters for China Merchants Bank overlooking Shenzhen Bay in south-east China.

Architect’s view

AZPML's competition-winning proposal for a new ‘green axis’ within Shenzhen’s new Super Headquarters Base district

AZPML’s competition-winning proposal for a new ‘green axis’ within Shenzhen’s new Super Headquarters Base district

AZPML’s competition-winning proposal for a new ‘green axis’ within Shenzhen’s new Super Headquarters Base district

The proposed ‘Super Campus’ seeks to create an interactive model for multi-levelled open space as a collaborative hub of global interconnection. Inspired by the open model of a college campus , it links business and research communities not only with each other but also with Shenzhen’s urban fabric and its ecological systems. ‘Aggressively biological’, the park is a living organism composed of four specific biomes, which climb a topography of hills and invade hollows in the below grade layers to create a three-dimensional ‘campus mesh’.

The four biomes include a botanical forest and pool, an exuberantly vegetated transportation node, a grassland dedicated to cultural performance, and coastal zone with bay-related wetlands and avian habitat. A group of five transparent ‘Crystal Hills’ create a moment of intensity within the overall mesh to house the bamboo forest and fill a regional train station with light.

A series of sunken courtyards that bring the vegetation into the underground spaces are covered by lofty and delicate shading canopies of mesh crowned by large outdoor fans and chilled rain fountains for cooling in the warm Shenzhen summers. At the Shenzhen Bay overlook, large retractable fabric canopies span over a festival esplanade and a public green framed by terraced hills. Opening these canopies will be a dramatic performance in itself.

Each space in the Super Campus is dedicated to co-operation and exchange in an open, non-hierarchical environment, where social intersections and chance meetings fertilise the collaborative engagement between the Super Headquarters Base companies. And these spaces are framed and suffused with direct physical relationships to local ecologies – a business requirement as climate change comes to structure our enterprises.

Shenzhen Super Headquarters "Super Campus" from TLS Landscape Architecture on Vimeo.

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