Xingdong New Area Urban Design Competition: City of the Future


Winning entry by Cui Kai (© Cui Kai)


Master plans have been around for ages; but master plans for very large cities with all their support systems are relatively new. Milton Keynes (MK), located in Buckinghamshire in southern England, and begun in the late 1960s, is one of the most successful of the new cities, now having a population of almost 250,000. Its success lies mainly on the lessons learned from the establishment of the planning which generated the new towns in the U.K. during the 1940s and 50s, many of which have not fared well in the test of time. MK’s success was based primarily on the careful separation of high density from residential where the influence of the “garden city” could be seen. Here the idea of a live/work environment was even incorporated.


The rapid urbanization of China has resulted in a huge demand for new, large-scale city planning. One of the most ambitious new cities, Lingang, not far from Shanghai, when built could have been regarded as a white elephant—some even branded it as a ghost town. But in China, that can changed after a few years: the government saw to it that firms and banks were relocated to the city, with the result that it now would appear to be a viable project in terms of population growth.


Still, the Chinese are evidently still searching for that magic city planning formula. A most recent competition with the title, “City of the Future,” sponsored by the magazine, Urban Environmental Design (UED), is an obvious effort to gain new knowledge in this country’s plans for urban expansion. To this end, six high profile firms, three local and three foreign, were invited to submit ideas in this planning process. They were:


• He Jingtang and team (Chinese Academy of Engineering)
• Thom Mayne and Morphosis, Los Angeles, U.S.
• Cui Kai and team (Chinese Academy of Engineering)
• Zaha Hadid Architects, London, U.K.
• Yang Baojun and team (China Academy of Urban Planning and Design)
• UNStudio, Rotterdam, The Netherlands



Without full presentations available from the participants, it is difficult to discuss these designs in any detail. However, a cursory examination of the entries from the two renderings suggests the following:

– With one exception, most concentrated on the central business and entertainment district to the detriment of housing;
– For the most part future growth of the project in an orderly organic manner was ignored;
– Although it can be understood that detached family housing could not be a major part of the project due to the numbers which had to be accommodated, based on what we can assume from the winning design, the housing solution would seem to be very Corbu-like and possibly result in a sterile solution. The scheme by Morphosis did show some promise in that the business and cultural areas were on opposite sides of the river; and there was open space created for multi-purpose development.


In general, we assume that the linear nature of the site was preordained due to the existence of the rail system. Would this have precluded any plan from ignoring the grid system, radiating out from the central district?


This was certainly an interesting challenge; and although each of the plans had some positive aspects, it would appear from the two documents that were received based on each competitors entry, that a comprehensive plan, which could serve as a future model for development was missing. If one could incorporate some of the best ideas from all six entries; that could well provide a solution.



Note: The commentaries about the individual entries are taken from the competition sponsors press release.



Winning Proposal

How to activate a new area by planning and design ?  Infrastructure-led development as one of the approaches

Cui Kai Team


Image © Cui Kai



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A Paean to its Founders in Weimar

New Bauhaus Museum Commemorates an Anniversary


2012 COMPETITIONS Annual with Weimar Bauhaus Competition WInner Design  Image: ©Heike Hanada

As projected, the Weimar Bauhaus Museum, one of two new Bauhaus museums scheduled to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the founding of the Bauhaus in Germany, has opened its doors in Weimar. The new Bauhaus Museum in Dessau, also the product of a competition, is to open in September of this year.

Before my visit to the Weimar museum, opinions about the museum’s design had appeared in various German publications, i.e., Süddeutsche Zeitung, Berliner Tagesspiegel, etc.—one in particular not very flattering. So my arrival in Weimar was filled with much anticipation, especially since we had covered the original competition in some detail in the 2012 COMPETITIONS Annual (above).


Front view of museum from city parcel  Photo: ©Andrew Alberts


What was initially absent from the competition proposal by the project’s author and competition winner, Heike Hanada, was a water feature leading from the street toward the entrance. The basin was not intended simply as an incidental landscape feature, but an integral design feature, focusing the attention from the street toward the museum. Instead one finds paving, the victim of a decision by the client, Klassik Stiftung Weimar, to split the site and stage an additional competition for the new parcel—and not extending an invitation to a member of the winning Hanada team to compete. The resulting design by the winner of the second competiiton, Vogt Landscape Architect of Zürich, completely ignored the Hanada design, instead covering the parcel at the street almost completely with light stone paving and a curious depression. The result? Attention from the street was no longer diverted away from the neighboring Nazi era, Mussolini style neighbor while focusing on the main event, but totally disrupting the harmonious scheme as envisioned by the winning entry. In no way did it suggest an extension of the landscape from the building to the street as an integral design element.

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