Where cultural heritage meets culture of innovation

14 January 2020

Our conceptual master plan for Yuzhong in Lanzhou, China draws on its Silk Road history to create a new model for innovative and liveable cities.

Lanzhou is known for many things. It is the capital of Gansu in China, a former trading hub along the Silk Road, and the only provincial city that the Yellow River runs through. The city is also home to Yuzhong, a small town and its last parcel of reservation land. Yuzhong had already been earmarked for development as a new innovation hub for northwest China but the question of ‘how’ remained.

From May to October 2019, we worked in partnership with the client to reimagine the future. We believe that it is important to think ahead and broad so we began outside China.

We started global and considered, for example, how the Belt and Road Initiative would reshape the region’s dynamics as China seeks to create a massive network of overland links to connect with Central Asia, Europe and Africa. We also looked at China as a growing economic powerhouse and studied its national directives and strategic thrusts for the future before drilling down to the Lanzhou-Xining city cluster, the Lanzhou Metropolitan Area, and finally, to Yuzhong itself.

At each stage, the economy, demographics, industry, structure, connectivity and ecology were analysed. Using these insights, we developed a clear vision and unique identity for Yuzhong, positioning it as a new sub-centre of Lanzhou and an eco-innovation city where urban and rural coexist, where people and planet live in harmony, and where the past is cherished and the future is heralded.

Our design for Yuzhong pioneers future industries, especially those related to urban sustainability, while promoting cultural renewal in a liveable city. We conceptualised a multi-level green space system integrated with a three-dimensional pedestrian walking system to protect and enrich the local natural ecology while catering to its community’s needs. Low-carbon principles and multiple intelligent energy utilisation techniques have also been weaved into the city’s core infrastructure to sustain the environment and foster a culture of green innovation.

Where Lanzhou used to connect East and West through its strategic location along the Silk Road, Yuzhong will now connect past and future as a sustainable home for culture heritage and eco-innovation.