According to its designers, the urban development dubbed “Net City”, which has an area of 2 million square meters (22 million square feet), will give priority to pedestrians, green spaces and self-driving cars.
Although Tencent is used primarily, many spaces and facilities will be available to the public. credit: NBBJ
But in addition to providing the company’s housing and offices, the neighborhood is expected to host shops, schools and other public facilities, and it will be connected to the rest of Shenzhen via the city’s road bridges, ferries, and metro system. The American company behind the master plan, NBBJ, hopes to attract recreational places, parks and park alongside the new area, visitors from other parts of the city.
The site will be built on an area of reclaimed land. credit: NBBJ
As such, the plan differs from the closed campus that major tech companies have devised in recent years, according to Jonathan Ward, design partner for NBBJ.
“It is definitely the destination (and it has) a civilian component,” he said in a telephone interview. “It is not supposed to be an isolated and safe island – it is a vibrant city. People will wander through it, they will arrive … and it will be a vital center for Shenzhen.”
Eliminate the car
Ward said that with an unusually large free space to work with, the National Bank of Bahrain – which won an international website design competition – was able to rethink the role of the car in urban planning.
“Our main goal was to provide a place where innovation can truly thrive,” he explained. “To do this, we tried to minimize the impact of the vehicle.
“Moving without a car” is still a huge challenge in our world, so we spent a lot of time designing the city to be as low-impact as possible, and removing (cars from) where they don’t need to be and focusing on people. ”
The master plan prioritizes pedestrians, with limited access to traditional vehicles. credit: NBBJ
Although regular cars will be able to reach some parts of the neighborhood, the plan revolves around a “green lane” designed for buses, bicycles, and autonomous vehicles. The design removes what he called “unnecessary” traffic.
“You don’t need one block surrounded by roads – maybe you can have eight blocks surrounded by the road, and remove everything between them,” he said. We were “laying” roads in places we thought it was quite good for people to walk for two minutes from the subway or taxi.
“And in these two minutes, you might see something inspiring, related to nature, or meet a colleague you haven’t seen in a while – all of these things you can see happen in the workplace environment that can happen in the city.”
In addition to integrating with the broader urban fabric in Shenzhen, the NBBJ Master Plan is designed to deliver what it calls a “human-connected, interconnected organic ecosystem.” For Tencent employees, this could mean eroding the distinction between their work and their private lives – an idea that has become more relevant in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, Ward said.
“The traditional cities are very isolated, even in the more dense cities where there is more interaction and mixing,” he added. “But what can happen now is that you can start blurring these lines (between work and play), and achieve more interaction between different parts of life.
“You see more blurring of these lines, for better or for worse. But I think we can make it for the better while we continue this model going forward.”
Elsewhere, the master plan examines environmental sustainability with rooftop solar panels and elaborate systems for capturing and reusing wastewater. Planners also considered future sea level rise projections to ensure buildings are better protected against climate change.
Transportation systems will link the “city within the city” with the rest of Shenzhen. credit: NBBJ
It will take Tencent Net City about seven years to complete, and construction is expected to begin later this year. Dozens of individual buildings, which will range from one floor to 30 floors, will be designed by a variety of different architectural firms.