Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi province, lies between two long mountain chains to its east
and west, in a corridor-like space linking central China with the steppes. With a rich history, its population has the reputation of being generous in nature if reserved. Presently located on the bank of the Fen River, the city is slated to grow to the southwest according to its master plan. In 2006, the municipality launched an international competition for a 2.56 kilometers square site, to build its new cultural, administrative and business center.
From the first sketches, we felt the preponderant and essential role of its present site to the future expansion, a transitional place between the existing and the future. At the same time, we needed to create a place with a defined character, a new pole for this thousand-year old city which lacked a typical urban structure. Because the site lay along the river, we imagined a design where water would be the prime element.
In Paris, several urban axes were drawn perpendicular to the Seine in order to locate major infrastructure along them and to create public spaces converging on the water. In Taiyuan, we decided to bring the Fen River into our site to create a green island from which three axes would radiate. These axes, these avenues, provide both a link with the existing city and extensions along which future growth will locate. This will be a whole new town center, including an exposition quarter, an administrative quartier, a CBD, and in the very center of the design, a great cultural complex composed of the Shanxi Grand Theater, a library, a museum, an art gallery and a science center.
The site is separated from the river by a six meter high anti-flood wall. Views are blocked. A highway is also planned along the river. Therefore, we proposed raising the green urban island so that buildings would be visible from the other side of the river and to allow pedestrians to reach the river. This enabled us to provide space under the slab for city services and parking under each building. The slab is nevertheless pierced by numerous sloped or recessed gardens which bring light and views down into the space. We took holistic overview to controlling the architectural volumes for the project.
The overall design emphasizes the central element, the Grand Theater, which is the only building on the east-west axis perpendicular to the river. The landscape architectural concept (planted allees, passages, recessed gardens, street furniture) is oriented toward the center, as if pulled by an invisible centrifugal force. In places, a few skewed or rotated elements are introduced to enrich the project. Finally, we proposed a pedestrian bridge across the river, linking the green island to the city on the other side, inspired by the two level pedestrian bridges which cross the Seine in Paris.
In less than two years, the paper project has become reality. The avenues are now lined with trees, and river water irrigates the canal. The five public buildings are completed, defining a new silhouette integrated into its site: the heart of a neighborhood with an opening to the southwest.
– Contractor : Taiyuan Urban Planning Bureau
– Architect : Arte Charpentier Architectes
– Landscape : EDAW Inc.
– City : Taiyuan
– Country : China
– International competition winner : 2006
– Delivery : 2012
– Built area : 2 300 000 m²
– Site area : 2.56 km²