Urban Design Studio III

Three Ecologies

GULIN, CHINA

Gulin New Town Axis:


Gulin lies at the southern edge of Sichuan Province along the Gulin River. It enjoys a sub-tropical climate, but with a record recent period of destructive drought. The metropolitan region numbers approximately 1.4 million population. The city roots can be traced back for many centuries due to the region’s strategic location between the Sichuan Basin and the Yunghiu Plateau. It is the site of significant natural and historic cultural heritage, dating from two millennia ago when it was at the center of the powerful Yelang political entity. The region is of great ecological interest, including the extraordinary mountainous landscape and the only remaining primordial forest at its latitude (30oN). Of great historical interest are the intact the Erlang ancient town center and the Taiping town center. The wine culture is of national prominence. Availability of cheap energy is increasing due to coal resources and a new southern Sichuan generation facility. Pharmaceuticals and food processing remain viable options for the future economy.

Presently the region is among the poorest of the Chinese Provinces. And compared with many other urban centers in China, until recently Gulin has not experienced extraordinary pressure for growth, due in large part to its isolation. Now with the building of new highway connections, pressure for new development is increasing substantially. The UD Spring 2011 Studio will explore crucial aspects of this next era, at the request of the Gulin municipal government; and in collaboration with the Urban Design Program of the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in Beijing. Specifically we will be examining critical aspects of the Gulin New Town that is presently being constructed.

With the completion of the Dana Expressway and construction of the Guxi Expressway, the travel times between Gulin and other large regional cities will be significantly reduced, stimulating new investment in its urban development and a new global presence by 2020. In anticipation, Gulin has begun construction of a “New City” comprised of an east-west waterfront axis along the Gulin River, with a central north-south axis devoted to landscape and cultural activities. The landscape axis is considered the most important feature of the New Town, consisting of office buildings of Gulin County and Southern Sichuan Provincial governments; a civic center, business zone, formal park and forest preserve. This axis must respect the extraordinary natural ecology of the site. Gulin is already a tourist destination, and it is anticipated that the new development must enhance this potential for further economic development without destructive side-effects. While preliminary design has already been undertaken, the new north-south axis will be at the last phase of construction, such that our work will provide important further input into the nature of its design and development. The Gulin County government’s formal invitation to the Urban Design Studio has expressed their intentions best: “Gulin is sincerely inviting you to guide our work, so as to explore Gulin’s cultural essence and potential; to propose a higher level of concepts for plan implementation based on deep traditional and macro-scopical heights; and to build a model city respecting ‘great nature, deep ecosystem, and post modernism;’ to make a legendary Gulin.”