The Green Edge China between hope and hazard Neville Mars, Erich Schienke Nobel laureate Al Gore

reminded us in his acceptance speech that the United States and China are the two major contributors to global climate change. America warns us that China will be the biggest polluter of the 21st century. China argues it has to catch up with the West, and is, in absolute terms, decades behind in polluting - a political deadlock. The real difference between the USA and China is that the former has evolved to become a fossil fuel dependent nation; the latter still has an opportunity to redirect its development away from such a landscape. Embedded in urbanisation patterns are trends of behaviour that will shape energy usage for decades to come. The question is what is the sustainable form of urbanisation China can aim for? Rise and Shine China’s rise is the most successful humanitarian project ever to have taken place. Never before have so many people been lifted out of extreme poverty in so short a space of time. Estimates vary, but it is on the scale of 400 million Chinese poor raised above the US$1/day line in 28 years. In that time, GDP has risen in real terms by a factor of more than 14. If current growth rates continue, China will outsize the US in the next 20 to 30 years. This remarkable economic and urban growth is ‘The Chinese Dream’; a dream that has installed a sense that the country is in full control of how its development occurs. The excessive environmental problems are one by one countered with stated goals of solutions in the distant future. Reality is however profoundly more pragmatic. Leapfrog The world observes the Chinese boom with anxiety and anticipation. Set against a backdrop of diminishing resources and bleak prognostications for the capital markets, the emerging economies are where the big gains are to be made. It is the absence of a mature power grid, the lower levels of urbanization, the lack of cars and so on, that suddenly offer hope. Leapfrog development, so often vaunted in China yet seldom observed, is today demanded by the West in order to align its course of progress with goals for global sustainability. Big solutions are required to move beyond such fuel-dependant landscapes, as those produced with the American Dream. Indeed, for China to leapfrog effectively, this knowledge must be found and implemented nation-wide, and immediately. Midway However, neither leapfrog ambitions nor big schemes and outstanding objectives acknowledge the reality that China is now halfway done. 2008 marks the 30th anniversary of China’s open door policy and subsequent economic rise. If current growth rates continue, in a further 30 years China’s GDP will outsize that of the USA. Other significant half/half markers are coming up, including the shift in employment from primary to tertiary industry, and the move from predominantly rural to predominantly urban settlements. These phenomena butt up against the popular believe that China is still essentially a clean slate. Developers and

Green Dreamers often approach China with a similar ambition; to supply its young market with the latest trends. Their ideas are not actually the guiding visions of a new economy, but rather stylistic gimmicks that can be used to satisfy existing market oriented development. China, along with the rest of the world, is in dire need of a systematic development model. In particular a model that works to implement green development initiatives through an evolutionary, flexible process. Only then can a half-built China redirect its course of development and create future-proof solutions. Current pragmatism hinders any conceptual leapfrog. The complexity can be illustrated by a number of contradictions. 1) 2) A collection of well designed sustainable buildings can still amount to a poorly operating, unsustainable city. In the West suburbia is at the heart of concerns for fuel-dependent urbanization. In China the suburb offers hope to accommodate its massmigration in a compact way, steering growth away from the smaller inefficient settlements. Boom economies like China are geared towards consumption. With little intention of slowing down, they force us to redirect efforts away from reduction towards stimulating ‘green consumption’ and ‘green consumers’.


How can China make a conceptual leapfrog? A first basic problem arises, as there is no convincing example which China can look at when it comes to green cities. The strategy of copy and paste that has so effectively expedited China’s building process can not be applied. Cities in the West, already developed, are slowly greening existing urban systems and infrastructure. Even for China’s existing mega-cities like Beijing, this is an approach by no means in touch with the speed and scale of their reconstruction. We have to understand China’s cities as entirely new and still rapidly growing. Any long term vision will need to be incorporated into the immediate plans that are serving the country’s many current needs; a vision it can start to realize today and continue to build on as understanding of sustainability develops. China’s predicament proves ultimately existing models for urban sustainability are inadequate for our collective future. China’s goal, as articulated by the Central Government in their Agenda 21 plans, is to live in a way that is more ecologically sound than that exhibited by the current environmental conditions and human impacts. This objective, now formalized, arises out of a variety of complex interactions between the State, provincial and local constituents, and international governance regimes such as the UNDP and UNEP. Though similar to other national plans for sustainable development, it also reflects developments that extends from China’s currently shifting attitudes towards Western modernization, and its (so often conflicting) historical/traditional cultural attitudes towards the relationship between nature and society. While it is difficult to predict the outcome, this mélange of ideological and political forces will be present as real world ecological consequences in the near future. How choices will be made about China’s environment relies mainly on the kind of future it imagines for its people and their environment, including recognition of the sacrifices that will be needed to achieve sustainability.

The task of answering this question is immediately overwhelming. The world is looking for the answer to sustainability, and, as outlined, still has to formulate a common overarching approach. Understandably China’s impressive green ambitions have so far proven to be mostly basic green features on top of existing status quo development. ~ A collection of well designed low-emission buildings can still amount to a poorly operating, unsustainable city. Government ambitions, market force and cultural heritage continue to put enormous pressure on every building and planning project to be realized all but instantly. However, as our first paradox illustrates, long-term and integrated planning are pivotal, if only to address basic urban issues such as congestion and air-quality. In order to give coherence to its big green ambitions China can and must be the first to define a clear holistic approach. Green Imaginaries In anthropology and political ecology the concept of an “imaginary” has been developed as a means to describe the body of ideological, ethical, and rhetorical forces that scientists, planners, decision-makers, and citizen activists (together referred to as “environmental subjects”) must engage with to accomplish their goals. Imaginaries are higher-order discursive systems that allow local environmental subjects to work through double-bind situations, such as creatively turning a “no-win” situation, presented by greening versus development (traditionally a paradox), into a “win-win” situation. Environmental imaginaries provide environmental subjects with ways of expressing problems and solutions in new terms, concepts, metaphors, and symbols. That is, locally situated environmental subjects are “tapping into” systems that are sustained at a higher-order of magnitude or on a larger-scale than might be apparent if reading only the local context: a mode of thinking particularly important to sustainability. New environmental situations and political complexities beget new concepts that force the articulation of new terms. The concept of an environmental imaginary works to describe how environmentally charged concepts — such as a Green Olympics in Beijing, or Xiao Kang (a well-off society) — are conceptualized in the context of broader Chinese interests regarding the co-construction of society and nature, or what Ma Shijun and Wang Rusong call the Social Economic Natural Complex Ecosystem (SENCE). With the DCF we have introduced a number of new imaginaries that aim to move beyond the Green Beijing Olympics - which unfortunately has maintained very superficial attitudes. At the heart is The Dynamic City; a strategically evolving green metropolis, itself consisting of other new sustainable components, such as the Green Edge and the D-rail described below. Now more than ever, ‘to be green, is to dream’. Beyond environmental indicators and emission standards this imaginary poses the question of what ultimately we (in China) want our living environments to be like. It forces us to think ahead to where we want to be in two

decades and construct a path back how to get there. We can conclude that increasingly options we may prefer are eroding. A daunting example is the rapid and fragmented urbanization of the Chinese countryside. Half a billion Chinese living in rural villages are becoming dependent on the urban economy and motorized transportation. Yet severely dispersed the efficiencies of an urban lifestyle will be impossible to achieve. Dynamic Density (DD) Imaginaries offer a common goal to achieve cohesion between long-term plans. China already half-way done, also needs a model that can adhere to the organic reality of its accelerated market-driven urbanization. In the midst of an unseen building frenzy China and it’s planners, policy makers and designers feel very little limitations to what extend the city can still be orchestrated. Yet such notions of planning will be inadequate when urbanization occurs even faster than planners can map and driven by construction at two ends of the spectrum: the macro-planned and micro-organic. The large top-down stepping stone projects and rural in situ urbanization combined define the ‘China speed’. Designers are presented with a fraught dilemma - to pursue the clean modernity of this economic miracle, or to stimulate the human vibrancy of Chinese entrepreneurialism. But this is no more than an illusion of choice. Both urban forms fear each other, yet feed off each other. While we deliberate, aggregated projects grow the urban landscape in the form of more Market-driven Unintentional Development, or MUD. At street level China’s new urban realms look perfectly micro-planned, while the same polished island developments at the scale of the metropolis merge together to reveal macro-organic systems. The building blocks of China's cities are designed in days; the ensuing MUD configurations then fixed for decades. But, while Chinese society seems endlessly flexible, the inelasticity of urban growth patterns demands that development equip itself with flexible frameworks. Demolishing and then reconstructing the built volume every generation, as has been the case in the Republic’s young history, will flout any efforts toward sustainability. It is not just energy intensive - farmland will be permanently lost, while the configurations that define China's future energy needs will be consolidated. Dynamic Density is a model that aims to work with these natural tendencies of the city. Tendencies that differ throughout the course of its life cycle, and can be monitored in order to aim for optimal compactness, based on a dynamic relationship between footprint and population. Analysis of prevalent urban distribution patterns suggests a normative density curve with two essential components. First: high performance density is composed of a contextual matrix of densities, including people, programmatic mix, and functionality. Second: density occurs within a temporal continuum of urban expansion and shifting densities. Planning density cannot be regarded in terms of static achievements, but instead must incorporate an understanding of fluid interactions in both space and time: Dynamic Density.

Density itself is irrecusable. Population and building densities are among the highest in the world, amid MUD defined interactions China produces naturally compact typologies. Applying dynamic planning logic to the phenomenon of MUD offers the opportunity to harness China’s predilection for high rise high-speed development, and set it towards the production of compact yet flexible configurations. In stark opposition to evolutions multigenerational development of for instance the much loved European town, the Chinese city is built almost at once and but outdated equally fast. Dynamic Density offers a tool to the Chinese planner how it can produce plans that anticipate ongoing development. Modernism has exhibited a density fetish. Cultural consciousness grants it a metropolitan aura. The iconography of advanced society, leaning cupidinously toward science fiction invariably assumes ultra-dense structures of close-knot mathematical brilliance. In reality the average residential consumer despises density. Those who can afford it move to a single home in the suburbs. The high density interventions in the periphery of western cities and satellite support towns have proved notoriously unsuccessful. While boosting the density of people per square kilometer, they frequently diminish the density of services per person, and vitiate diversity. Yet in China today their is cultural niche. The Le Corbusian tower block is realized with great marketability. More importantly, those Chinese suburbs planners would be quick to deem sprawl can reveal extreme vitality. At hyper-speed the Chinese suburb is only temporarily a sprawl derivative, able to (with appropriate planning and connections to the core) mature and evolve into healthy urban tissue. Western concerns for suburbia need to reformulated, when the suburbs offer a means to steer growth away from the most inefficient settlements and accommodate hundreds of millions of people in a more compact way. This is a potentially invaluable condition that China should nurture to give quality to its loose-fit urban periphery. ~ In China, green buildings belong in the suburbs, or rather in The Green Edge, of large cities. If at Chinese speed so-called sprawl is often temporary, the question that remains is how to define the city limits? Bigness is a managerial challenge, but, as Tokyo shows, ultimately does not define a city’s efficiency. We have suggested any urban expansion beyond the reach of high-end public transportation should be considered unsustainable. The zone outside of the urban core but within the mass-transit system we have coined the Green Edge; a transitional zone between the city and the countryside. Freed from its derogatory appellation and mediocre image, the Green Edge introduces a highly sought after residential environment: lush suburban living with fast access to the center. The mayor of Beijing Wang Qishan acknowledges the schism between real-estate and infrastructural development is the city’s primary concern. Yet this city could expand in a Green Edge if first public-private partnerships would be forged that produce such close collaboration between rail and real-estate development as in the suburbs of Hong Kong. Step two, when aiming for flexibility moving away from the all too popular model of the fortified residential island is crucial. Grid systems are an obvious choice. In addition to more flexible urban patterns, they facilitate (through more connections, more alternative

routes and a greater spread of vehicles) a much more efficient road system, hampered by much less congestion. Green Consumers . A green society is not the product of laws and guidelines alone. The individual, or rather the consumer, will define the success of most green ambitions. Like so many aspects of China’s modernization, it is the combined result of top-down government interventions and bottom-up incentives that generate the profound transitions. Yet China’s double-digit economic growth can be argued to be at a standstill when the environmental squalor costs an estimated 10% GDP annually and air pollution is directly affecting the health of millions of individuals. This is particularly poignant when considering that the average individual in China consumes only a fraction of what people in most Western countries do. Increasingly a divide seen with China itself, split along its rural and urban population. The imminent dangers: It will exclude the bulk of China’ citizens from most progress made and present the poorest with the bill for its rampant environmental degradation. Yet China is caught up in an delicate economic and social equilibrium, ostensibly only sustained by fast and broad growth. We are faced with a paradoxical objective in terms of greenness. Rather then looking for means of reductions, we need to help people out of poverty to become consumers - green consumers. ~ China forces us to redirect efforts away from reduction towards stimulating ‘green consumption’ and ‘green consumers’ Though propagating massive schemes at the periphery, the CCP centers its trust for the future on the growing middle class - a trust in well-contained self-organization that for the moment seems to be paying off. The 'Harmonious Society' projected onto the future is steadily carved out today with every single producer turned consumer. Confronted with a sizzling hot economy and surrounded by Dizzying construction, the average individual presents the party stable progress. The benefits should slowly creep outward from the center to the periphery to reach the countryside. However, while societal shifts seem to run ahead of spatial organizations, urban patterns soon reveal their domination over how society evolves. As China's economic reforms unfold, the tendency to produce MUD formations accelerates. The grip the urban configuration has on Chinese society tightens, the dream to design city or society slips away. Ultimately the Chinese Dream is at odds with the CCP's Grip on power. Widespread urbanization jars against centralized control. Exclusivity clashes with the harmonious society. Ultimately the design of a society contradicts the empowerment of the individual. To retain market palatability, the individual will need to be offered more than personal space. Demand will include citywide performance. As the urban dream takes shape, it has to gain ground against growing urban expectations. Counter-intuitively, this will require more coordinated planning efforts at the same time as increased homeowner status. Micro-planned projects will need to integrate within a coherent macro-level structure. Urbanization will need to be streamlined not for speed but for quality, in the form of efficiency and comfort.

‘China should not develop in the same way as the US, with high consumption of resources and high emission levels. Otherwise, China will not be tolerated by the world, or even by itself.’ President Hu Jintao ‘If this doesn’t work for China, it will not work for India or the three billion other people in developing countries who are also dreaming the American dream’ Lester Brown, Earth Policy Institute. Breaking the rules - Chinese case studies There is a sense in China that, if only developers would abide by the rules, if only buildings would not be so haphazard, things would be better. After completing the research project and publishing the book, we learned some important lessons practicing urban planning on a day to day basis. Most policies and planning regulations in place are in fact a significant barrier to sustainable development. A recent project we did for a new CBD in Tianjin revealed exactly this. Simply put, you cannot make a city sustainable (following basic Western standards) within the exiting regulatory framework. Building setbacks, road widths and other rules are extremely restrictive by design, but not developed with sustainability in mind. An angst to streamline the building boom has produced regulations that on an intuitive level make China’s cities more human, spacious and green, but in terms of sustainability and performance have the opposite result. The large omni-present urban spaces and the obligatory building set-backs drop the average density of China’s new cities and make them increasingly inaccessible to pedestrians. The potential to forge immediate connections between buildings and public spaces is all but lost. A first analysis for Tianjin showed it was crucial to ignore regulations and systematically design a new urban system from the bottom up. Wedged between industry and a booming smog covered harbor, what would normally be our first step for a master plan - mapping the ecological surroundings - was awkwardly impossible. The site of what should become China’s first green CBD was bulldozed flat and smoothed over into a grey carpet of rubble. Starting with emergency systems, such as run-off and flood water prevention we reintroduced the natural networks of water and vegetation in the landscape. In addition to the basic green technologies and mixed-use urban typologies, we allow the CBD to expand along an urban backbone and discourage regional and local car use. Then steadily three-dimensional neighborhoods can begin to develop that provide the pedestrian with stacked commercial networks in low-rise but dense living areas. With China’s fast pace of development, ignoring the rules is a considerable risk for the designer and for the client. Yet the path to effecting real change at block and neighborhood level is strikingly obvious. The rules must be altered to allow real green initiatives to occur and ideally to promote them.

Tianjin, Tangu CBD: A Manhattan grid system developed around a green ring, natural water filtering system and subway connections lay the infrastructural foundations of an entirely green CBD.

Peoples Urbanity of China. (PUC) The potential dangers / advantages of an emerging megalopolis.

The Peoples Urbanity of China refers to the area wedges between the major cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Xian. Currently, rapidly developing towns and villages, this area as current growth trends predict, will soon make up China’s massive megalopolis.

When seen from space, the north eastern triangle, created by the major urban centers of Beijing, Shanghai and Xian form a rapidly developing megalopolis. The small communities and villages between the existing major cities are developing faster than anywhere else in the country. Already small villages are developing themselves in relation to the larger economies of whatever major city - Xian, Beijing or Shanghai - they find themselves closer by. If current trends persist, the area is destined to becoming a massive megalopolis, essentially the world’s largest urban area. We have termed this area the people’s urbanity of China. (PUC). The current situation found in PUC forces us to rethink the urban and population density numbers. Within the limits of PUC the combined demographic, social, and economic forces give rise to hyper-speed urbanization on an unseen scale. The policies in place to keep this urbanization away from large cities is stimulating scattered low level developments (policy sprawl). Migration to the larger cities is often of a temporary nature (rollover migration), and mainly contributes to peripheral urbanization. As a result, new forms of urbanization at the village and township level have emerged, such as doorstep urbanization and brickification. The intensity of recent growth suggests village mushrooming will dictate the expansion patterns for decades to come. These phenomena represent the most space extensive settlement types. In addition, both grass roots industrialization (TVEs) and officially planned economic and industrial development zones, act as pull factors for investments and migrants away from the urban core. The concept of PUC introduces a paradox. “China’s urban landscape is distinctly concentrated on one third of the nation’s surface. The projected growth of both population and built-volume for 2020 reveals over-layered areas with the density of a continuous urban region, yet without such coherence. The distinction between urban and rural conditions is steadily lost as China moves towards a hyper-suburban road dependent landscape. The space available however will not possibly allow for suburban solutions such as have emerged in the US. Stimulating the compact urban growth of larger settlements through job incentives and policies which concentrate development will be pivotal, not just for a more efficient and sustainable layout, but to allow China to keep evolving toward a prosperous and advanced nation. The L-builing – social sustainability block by block Greening existing built-up areas is very difficult without deep investments in infrastructure or innovative approaches, such as vertical greening. This will likely come over the longer term, but near term payoffs are far more achievable and effective when looking at the greening of areas currently undergoing development. The proposals of the L-builing (or Hybrid Hutong), attempt to address many of the problems as well as opportunities that are presented by the Green Edge, i.e. thinking at the current plausible limit of urban greening. The L-Building, which draws its inspiration from the traditional and highly successful Beijing hutong, introduces the concerns of the individual to planning approaches which often,

given the inevitable granularity of big building projects, forget the relevance of issues like community. This mode of thinking is then integrated into a larger scale development, the GBD proposal for an area of East Beijing near the fifth ring-road, which attempts to bring a degree of coherence to the city by considering future transportation routes, the availability of public services, and the recirculation of waste. By imagining greening on levels that are relevant to both consumer satisfaction and consumer greening, and city wide operational efficiency and city greening, the green edge is given a concrete form.

The letter L in L-building embodies these qualities. L is the primary shape of the apartment, but L also stands for Luxury and for Loft. We have designed the units as lofts not merely as the epitome of the architect’s dream apartment, but as a space that can easily be adapted from one owner to the next. The apartments can be either completely compartmentalized or entirely open, and thus can be made suitable for couples, small families, or a new generation of single occupancy tenants born out of the one child policy. The L-building as a whole introduces the further aspect of social sustainability, often missing in China and in the general discussion. Nothing is more desirable than an apartment with amenities such as running hot and cold water, a toilet, and a view. But for the inhabitant the transfer from the ping fang — the simple derivative of the famous hutong — to the modern tower block is often less rewarding as time goes by. The traditional Chinese neighborhood,

including the danwei, had an exceptional social coherence. Qualities of the ping fang that were taken for granted, particularly the sense of community, are disappearing. Recreating a community for the individual within an environment of large-scale developments will become increasingly important in China, as more and more people find themselves not only relocated, but also questioning the benefits of that relocation. The L-building tries to mediate between China’s traditional urban environment and the contemporary trend of up-scaling; between low-rise and the modern tower block. First the Lbuilding complies with some rudimentary suburban desires — a large private garden and your car at the door. But as a medium-sized, collectively developed, owned, and operated form, the L-building also resonates with more traditional principles. D-rail - bridging the concrete seas of Beijing to make an efficient social and environmentally friendly transportation corridor.

D-rail: a major transportation project designed to bridge Beijing’s ring road network, and promote social, interactive mobility on top of the existing walls of congestion.

The current transportation system in Beijing is exigent. Trying to mend the existing voids created by the cities’ status quo monosprawl and the immense ring road system is a daunting challenge in a city that is so geographically large, and fragmented. The current attempts have been to build new metro rail lines, while trying to congest the automobile traffic off the roads. The status of the personal automobile however, still outweighs the costs of commutes lasting from two sometimes three hours. Congesting people off the streets is proving to be terribly costly. Beijing stands to become a city laden with transport systems, and yet impossible to navigate. We have designed a large scale transportation system that works to dramatically shrink he urban network. The D-rail is a design for an innovative mass-transit system that combines the speed of the maglev train with the efficiency of a travelator (flat escalator). In a 64 kilometer long ring the D-rail stretches all around Beijing’s Third and Fourth Ring Roads. People get on and off without the train ever stopping. This technology brings the commuter around the city in minutes. Existing ring roads, currently dividing the city and inhibiting pedestrian movement, will be bridged with the elevated D-rail network. The ring roads will become not only a transportation platform for cars, but also a much more efficient platform for pedestrian traffic. Up another level, brings you to a rooftop garden, where people can enjoy views of Beijing, relax and socialize. The D-rail presents a unique form of public transport that works to remedy a host of spatial issues in Beijing, including pedestrian movement, revitalizing single-use spaces, stimulating investment, creating an elevated commercial district and providing unique social spaces. The D-rail is a big attempt to dramatically shrink the urban network. Solar Forest
Offer shadow, use the light, hide the parking lots

It has been our ambition to work on every scale on which the city operates and to relate the different findings and proposals to each other. The solar forest is a final project offered as a breath-mint. As most likely we have to accept the future will be vastly different from what we expect. Maybe we can make a shift to renewables, maybe new technology will change our course very soon. The Solar Forest tries to learn from nature. The big hot and unattractive parking lots the we need today are in need of such innovation. To protect against Shanghai’s summer heat we suggested to cover the cars on its Expo assembly so keep them cool. Designing the panel structure increasingly made our proposal look like trees. We felt, like trees then our panels should be light sensitive as well. The leaves of the Solar Forest slowly rotate to follow the sun. Under the Solar Forest, electric cars can park and connect to the tree to recharge.

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