Instinct Fabrication: Runner-Up of World Design Awards 2021. The Beijing Wangjing Street Urban Revitalization project redefined the street, activated public space, and transformed abandoned property into a vivid contemporary district on the corner of Beijing’s metropolitan area. Originally developed in the late 1990s, the outdated infrastructure within this 13-acre street block area had been neglected and the vast hardscape catered to the vehicle, creating an unappealing environment for pedestrians. After recognizing the need to revitalize this densely-populated area comprised of a diverse demographic, the project was initiated in 2017 by a partnership between a private development company known as VANKE and the government. Over a four year period, a new 6-acre public space was developed, turning the district into an inviting urban landscape that was welcomed by the district’s residents and businesses. It also catalyzed a movement to redefine other urban landscapes throughout the metropolis experiencing a surge of growth over the last three decades into public spaces that inspire the community they are a part of.
SITE HISTORY | LEFTOVER SPACES AND VEHICLE DOMINATION
The fast-paced development of high rise buildings built in the early 2000s created a vehicular dominated streetscape and fragmented public space known to the Wangjing District. It differs from the typical orthogonal urban fabric of Beijing, with pockets of public land that are disconnected, abandoned, and leftover as the city rapidly expanded. The district is comprised of large-scale residential towers, office buildings, hotels, and retail spaces with imposing architectural features. Over the years, the residential towers became disconnected from the public landscape. As the retail environment matured and available parking outgrew demand, the street was dominated by vehicle parking and congestion. The hardscape environment created areas inundated with stormwater after heavy rains, discouraging pedestrian use and activity. In addition, the site was void of shade and other landscape amenities, adding to the site’s uninviting environment. These factors attributed to an overall unpleasant experience and resulted in retail sales plummeting with a continuing loss of customers.
VISION | AN INTERCONNECTED PLACE FOR EVERYONE
A comprehensive urban landscape plan was initiated by the developer VANKE and supported by the government, as they had a mutual vision to create an economically viable and environmentally sustainable place for all to enjoy. Beyond the complex site conditions, the design team recognized the immense diversity amongst its users. The surrounding area was bustling with workers commuting to their offices, people shopping in the retail establishments, and residents traversing from their homes. The majority of residents originated from Korea, Japan, Germany, and other cities of China with incomes of all levels. This wide diversity of people, culture, and activity led to the concept to create a space that not only bound the adjacent land uses, but also the people that were a part of it. The site conditions, surrounding context, and diverse population inspired a design that connects people to landscape, art, and community. The concept is anchored in three major spaces of the project: the streetscape, an urban plaza, and a garden.
GARDEN| A SUSTAINABLE RESPITE
The garden, located in west part of the site, was the first renovated public realm in 2018. The original site was utilized for overflow parking and experienced several flooding events throughout the year. The planting scheme was developed to provide a generous amount of shade from trees and the opportunity to interact with varying plant textures. The planters serve as a visual barrier to the adjacent parking lot and also direct surface run-off into a rainwater collection area comprised of permeable stone, resulting in a 45% reduction of stormwater runoff. During the monsoon season last August, the site effectively managed the stormwater and the parking lot, having flooded repeatedly since 2013. It has not experienced any flooding conditions since the renovation.
PLAZA| LEVELS OF INSPIRATION
The garden’s success in transforming underutilized public space into an activated landscape catalyzed the swift implementation of the two level, 3.7 acre urban plaza. Completed in 2019 and located at the center of the retail complex, the plaza was conceived to be a flexible open space with multiple stages, outdoor dining space and viewing opportunities. The combination of interactive art, fountains, seating, and polished stainless steel planters are woven together with the use of striated pavement materials highlighting the plaza’s circulatory patterns. The harsh structural elements of the buildings were reimagined as canvases for additional art and color, transforming their previously obtrusive nature into enlivened edifices.
The first level allows for not only passage to adjacent retail establishments but also relaxation and communal enjoyment. Shade trees, flowers, and ornamental grasses soften the hardscape and are accentuated with glowing LED lights during the evening.
The sunken level was designed to provide opportunities to entertain, spectate, and interact within the landscape. Theatre spaces were intentionally woven into the flexible design and ample seating was incorporated for optimal viewing. An alternating art exhibition space sponsored by the government promotes continual interest.
STREET| A GATEWAY WITH ART AND JOY
Previously prioritizing the vehicle, the street was redesigned as a pedestrian promenade in 2020 to seamlessly and safely connect adjacent properties. The government, recognizing the parking issues and critical need for public space, envisioned the street as the key gateway to the community and recommended the elimination of vehicular traffic on the street. Although vehicular access is maintained for emergency situations, it primarily functions as an outdoor space designed for people and events. Closing the street activated the retail establishments, attracting visitors as they pause to enjoy the public space.
Three design approaches transformed the street from its drab uniform appearance into a vivid corridor of lifestyles, in collaboration between the artists and our design team. The first approach focused on invigorating the space with the careful placement of memorable art installations. Secondly, the street was proposed to operate as an event stage designed to be flexible in use when shows and exhibitions were not programmed. The third approach utilized the varying levels from the building edge to the street center to create series of seating terraces for event audiences and restaurants’ outdoor dining.
Completed in just six months, the pedestrian promenade includes fountains, outdoor cafes, seating, space for street vendors and entertainment, and four art installations. Since its opening last August, the space has hosted more than 30 exhibitions for cars, fashion, sports, as well as daily enjoyment.
PEOPLE AND URBAN EVOLUTION
Although the project reconciled several issues, perhaps the most triumphant outcome is its ability to inspire diverse groups of users to engage with the urban landscape. It holds a prominent role in Beijing’s urban evolution history as the first urban revitalization project to successfully integrate complex systems, achieved through the effective collaboration and support from the government, developer, community, and design team. Its success was also accentuated during the pandemic, providing an opportunity to recreate and interact safely within an urban space surrounded by a dense population. Additional retail establishments have flocked to the popular area and land value of both commercial and residential properties has substantially increased. Careful planning to mitigate construction impacts to the existing businesses and residents during and after construction preserved the district’s diverse character, while the final design accentuated its attributes. As the area’s economic stability and quality of life has increased, a larger movement to incorporate walkable, dynamic, and sustainable landscapes continues. A half mile street redesign is anticipated to begin construction soon with plans to integrate the design concept throughout the district over the next few years.
Beijing Wangjing Street Urban Revitalization
World Design Awards Category
Landscape Design Built
Ying Lou, Jingyi Li, Zheng Mao, Shuqun Zhang, Xiaohui Liu, Qianhui Ban,Xian Wu, Jun Wu, Lina Sun，Yufeng Liu, Zijun Su, Shengyang Liu,Yu Liu
©VANKE Beijing & Holi Photography
Instinct Fabrication was registered and established in the United States in 2014, and then set up its Beijing head office and Shenzhen branch. It is a creative design firm featuring humanistic participation and experience, which pursues innovation, pays attention to design quality and devours itself to create high-quality products. The company’s international experience and vision ensure the landing of innovative projects.
IF is professional services include urban complex,urban renewal,commercial office, residential apartment, urban park, hotel vacation, campus and other full-stage design services.
We believe design is something centring in users, which is reflected through sereis of our works which are addressed in exprience and interaction with natural and minimalism design lauguage.