The Necessity of Investigating New Towns
We are looking at New Towns because it is pretty obvious that they are going to built whether we look at them or not. The unprecedented rate of urbanization in China is certainly one factor contributing to the importance of New Towns, but there is another reason for the study that is even more pressing than the housing of 250 million rural Chinese over the next twenty years. Climate science tells us that cities will soon confront a series of dramatic ecological challenges. Regardless of how these challenges are met, it is already clear to everyone not in denial that upcoming generations will occupy cities in a very different way than we occupy them today. These new patterns of occupation will cut deeply into our accustomed ways of living, calling for a ground up restructuring of urban life including its built form. We believe that traditional, block and street urbanism cannot respond to the ecological crisis if for no other reason than the fact that traditional blocks and streets have not been produced, only rehabilitated, over the past half-century. We instead look to the contemporary model of urban production — the New Town — in order to address the extraordinary challenges thrown down by climate change.
Sha Tin New Town
Even though in the last half-century Sha Tin exploded from a few thousands inhabits to over 600,000, the city is still locked into its image of a New Town. The problems related to Sha Tin’s growth are manifested in three scales. At the scale of Hong Kong, the city lacks a gateway mark that corresponds to its status as an international hub. At the scale of the New Territories, Sha Tin’s architecture needs to better engage the infrastructural networks that can facilitate its role as a center to the region. Lastly, at the scale of the city itself, Sha Tin’s dispersed urban fabric lacks a strong focal point that can establish a sense of place for its population.
The Gateway Project
by Ryan Botts, Tucker Douglas, and Tsvetelina Zdraveva
The Gateway project induces a synergy between Hong Kong, Shenzhen, and the New Territories; simultaneously it cultivates a cohesive image for Sha Tin. It views Sha Tin as a critical nexus in response to the geopolitical, economic, and cultural dynamics that surround it, and proposes a way to facilitate the city’s inevitable maturation.
The Gateway project is a proposal for a city-tower. With its iconic impact, it aims to rearticulate Sha Tin’s relationship to Hong Kong, establishing the city as the third district to the Hong Kong-Kowloon bond. Integrating infrastructure as a design element in itself, and allowing for the mixing of public and private programs that relate to both Sha Tin and beyond, the Gateway firmly roots itself within the local community and opens up to the new territories at large.
Images by (from top to bottom): Tsvetelina Zdraveva, Tsvetelina Zdraveva, Albert Pope's Spring 2013 Sha Tin studio, Ryan Botts