BAU386 Symbiotic City

Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province, China





Urban planning


Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province, China




Invited competition


Hangzhou Economic and Technological Development District Planning Department


Urbanity for two million inhabitants

By 2025 Hangzhou is likely to become one of China’s mega-cities with a population of more than 12 million people. The sheer size of the city will stimulate extraordinary economic activity but the available urban planning models seem unable to deliver either highly livable, or environmentally sustainable cities.

A New Model
Symbiotic City is a new planning model which combines nature and the city in a symbiotic relationship of mutual benefit. The model provides a framework for an environmentally sustainable city: minimising energy use and harnessing renewable energy on site; managing and reusing waste on site; producing a portion of the city’s food on site; harvesting, minimising use, and reusing the city’s water on site.

Networked Systems
Symbiotic City is created by laying an urban network over a rural network. The bands that make up the urban networks are never more than 1.6 kilometers wide, while the bands that make up the rural network are never less than 1.6 kilometers wide. This means that even in the centre of the urban band, symbiotic city’s citizens are never more than 800 meters (a ten-minute walk) away from large areas of rural open space offering a diversity of ecological, active, and productive programs. These productive landscapes will contribute to feeding the citizens of symbiotic city and, being close to the population, ensure the CO2 emissions generated by transporting food to the populace are kept to a minimum.

The consequence of the intersection of these continuous networks is that a rhythm of purely urban cells and purely rural cells are interspersed with hybrid cells – cells that are both urban and rural. These hybrid cells can be configured to allow the urban experience to be continuous or the rural experience to be continuous in either direction. These hybrid cells also accommodate a series of eco-corridors that form another network connecting all the purely rural cells. These purely rural cells act as cool sinks within the urban environment, easing the urban island heating effect and cooling the southerly summer winds. They are also a rich source of oxygen located adjacent to the dense urban cells.

Vehicles dominate urban environments because roads are the only continuous systemized surface network in cities. Other systems may at best be tree-like structures, but are only connected to the road network, not directly to each other. Symbiotic city doesn’t privilege the road as the only continuously linked network – the existence of a number of equally important high quality networks ensure the urban environment offers a series of alternative and continuous other ways of experiencing the city. These networks also provide the physical continuity and connection of the various programs of the city’s complex 21st Century economic, social and cultural activity.

Fractal Community Structure
Access to public transport is the basis of the community structure – a 400m radius transport oriented development. At this scale of the city, the community is provided with public transport within a five-minute walk of an urban plaza and public parkland. Each of the transport oriented developments are split into four neighbourhoods (each having a 200m radius) each with their own plaza and parkland. These neighbourhoods are in turn split into four 100m radius mosaics of subculture – smaller scale urban places where the various cultures that exist in the community (the elderly, school children, farmers, youth, etc.) have the opportunity to use the plaza and pocket park regularly. At the larger scale, four of the transport oriented developments combine to become the 1.6 kilometer-wide wide city bands. Again, at this scale, the city is provided with a major urban plaza and parkland. Importantly all these open spaces (both plaza and park) are linked to each other with either the hard or soft networks that run through the city network. They also connect to the rural network.

Each of these fractal community structures have their centers or nuclei – the urban plaza – located, not in the centre of the community, but off-centre, towards the next biggest nucleus. This is a strategy to reduce the use of the car within local transport areas. With an off-centre nucleus, a large majority of symbiotic city citizens who walk to their sub-cultural or local shopping area are also on their way to the neighbourhood shopping area. In fact they are also on their way to the nucleus of their local transport area. If what they need is not at their local shops, they are more likely to continue walking to the next nucleus than return home to get their car and then drive to the next larger nucleus.

Zoning and Programs with Flexibility
The logical evolution of the history of land use zoning, continuous intersecting networks of the various land uses, are spread through the city. Retail and commerce are directly attached to the light rail public transport system. Housing is the next network, followed by the high-tech industry, research and development network. This places housing in between these two major sources of employment and close to the public transport system. Like the other networks in the city, these networks regularly intersect with each other forming hybrid zones which provide the opportunity for mixed use – housing with retail and office; high-tech/R+D with retail; housing with high -tech/R+D, etc. Importantly, these hybrid also provide the city with significant areas of flexibility where unpredictable future demand can be accommodated. Within these continuous and flexible land use zones, a multiplicity of urban programs and their combinations are provided. Also, given the fractal community structure is focused on hard and soft public open spaces, various sites adjacent to these fractal open spaces become the sites for various public building programs. In addition to these sites, the active rural cells provide locations for a variety of public health and well being programs, like hospitals, health-care centers, and physical education facilities.

Sustainable Forms of Transport
The emphasis in symbiotic city is on sustainable forms of transport – public transport, bikes and pedestrians. Public transport consists of the metro, linking all the urban cells of symbiotic city, and a light rail (tram) network, placing public transport within a five-minute walk of all symbiotic city citizens. All streets in symbiotic city have dedicated tree-lined pedestrian and bike paths. In addition, every alternate road in both the north-south and east-west road network is designed as part of a green network, with trees, water sensitive urban design principles, and pedestrian and bike priority providing a safe and comfortable sustainable transport environment. Private vehicles have access to all networks, however in 50% of these networks they have to realize that they are now in a shared environment and no longer the dominant form of transport. Parking facilities at train stations at the edge of the city will provide park + ride options to encourage reduced city destination car use.

Diverse and Sustainable Landscape
There are diverse and sustainable landscapes in symbiotic city. The purely rural cells are linked by an ecological network that incorporates sustainable living technology to provide onsite renewable energy, rain water harvesting, retention and cleaning of storm water, solid waste treatment, and organic waste treatment. The active landscape provides for the recreational and physical well being of the population. Linked to the hard and soft public open spaces are the sports, athletic and adventure grounds, sports stadia, and gymnasia. The productive landscape provides for all of the sustainable farming initiatives of symbiotic city, with hydroponic agriculture providing more than 25% of the cities vegetable requirements.

Private Landscapes






Public Landscapes



Structures & Pavillions











Urban Design








Mixed Use









































an excessive minimalism:
BAU478-A U-Park Incubator, Shang Qing Huai, Nanjing

more Piazza Navona than Levittown
BAU618 Tianyou Experimental Primary School and Kindergarten, Suzhou

clarity and unpredictable adjacencies:
BAU119 Jinqiao Sports & Leisure Centre

landscape, urbanity, networks, the suitcase, and the paper-bag:
BAU592 Qingpu Zhaoxiang Sports Park, Supermarket + Hotel

more than a frozen moment:
BAU659 ZOOM OASIS, Linkong Perimeter Super Block

look! up in the sky!
BAU210 Shanghai Hongxuan Office Building

Made in China, no question – Invented in China, of course:
BAU588 You-Du R+D Development, Jinqiao, Shanghai

a hybrid infrastructure:
BAU679 Yuandang Bridge

large plains, small grains, and the in-between:
BAU686 Longgang Arts Centre, Shenzhen

on reflection:
BAU674 Qingpu Performing Arts Centre

Place, typologies, programs, and public life:

more than just a technopolis:
BAU206 Hangzhou Xiasha New City Centre

a second network embracing history, smalllness, and complexity:
BAU193 Chengdu West New District

a park for everyone and everyone in their park:
BAU189 Hongqiao Park

disorder – not randonmness but beyond order:
BAU182 Chengdu East Village

mosaics of teaching, networks of learning:
BAU149 Huai’an Tertiary Education District

walled cities within a walled city:
BAU147 Xi’an High-Tech Precinct CBD

co-existence without incompatibility:
BAU138 Jiangxi Xinyu Networks City

space-time conflict:
BAU544 Shanghai University Campus

clarity and unpredictable adjacencies:
BAU119 Jinqiao Sports & Leisure Centre

Journeys AND destination, not just destinations:
BAU569 Nanjing Youfu West Street Primary School

continuous loops and internal courts:
BAU603 Suzhou kindergarten no. 3

weaving and stitching:
BAU616 Jiangyin Greenway Loop (stage 1. Eastern Segment)

a constructed and cultured topography:
BAU269 Jindi Green Land Club

it takes a village to educate a child:
BAU602 Suzhou Sci-tech City Xizhu Kindergarten

city typologies, cultural traditions, contemporary theories, and spaceships:
BAU600 Shanghai Qingpu Newtown 30-class Primary School

artificial plateau:building more site:
BAU599 Shanghai Qingpu Newtown 24-Class Junior High school

it is the least we could do: minimalism in an environment of expressionism
BAU584 Hangzhou Tonglu Office Building

more Piazza Navona than Levittown
BAU618 Tianyou Experimental Primary School and Kindergarten, Suzhou

classrooms AND the in-between: teaching and learning beyond the classroom
BAU610 Taizhou School

other institutions for this new century:
BAU604 Qingpu District People’s Court

building the unfinished:
BAU003M The Victorian Pride Centre

minimal AND maximal:
BAU583 Exhibition Pavilion Gaochun, Nanjing

small in scale large in monumentality:
BAU027 Wyndham Mausoleum

multiple rooms of difference:
BAU253 Shanghai Qingpu Renheng Yunjie Entrance Garden

active cultural edges, passive natural centres:
BAU402 Shanghai Qingpu Qin Yuan Lake Park

intimate, cool, sheltered and lively:
BAU268 Xinqiao Commercial Street + Shop Housing

formal teaching and informal learning:
BAU540 Gaochun New District Kindergaten to Year Nine School

an exercise in robustness:
BAU333 Jiangyin Huifu Office Tower

effortless complexity: learning from water-town:
BAU222-2 Shanghai Qingpu Zhujiajiao Commercial

no longer but not only:
BAU213-3 Jindi Yunhu Market

actualizing the virtual:
BAU 213-2 Jindi Yunhu Sports and Activity Center

geometry, history, art, craft, iconography, and pragmatics: an exploration of intention, coding, narrative, and meaning
BAU021 Olinda Green + Public WC

there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in:
BAU015 Jan Juc House, Victoria, Australia

BAU009 house in the sky

surreal adjacencies:
BAU019 Marymount Residence, Guest Accommodation, Stable + Office

mini-city of culture:
BAU590 Nanjing Pukou Haiqiao Community Service Center

keeping a low profile:
BAU 214 Suzhou Qingshan Hotel Phase I

positive space, human scale, and a blue-green net:
BAU213-1 Jindi Yunhu Housing

dis-integrated guest houses :
BAU495 Pine Pillow Retreat

don’t look at me, don’t look at me:
BAU436 Nanjing Jiangning Demonstration Kindergarten

new buildings, old topography:
BAU424 Suzhou Qingshan Hotel Phase 2

defining the perimeter, programming the centre, inhabiting them both:
BAU238 Town Plaza, Xinqiao, Jiangyin

turning outside-in:
BAU199-2 Wuxi Fudi Forte Parktown Sales Pavilion

beyond PODS, networks, and nodes:
BAU552 Chengbei Urban Design project, Nanjing

podium and bill(ding)board:
BAU547 Nanjing Yaxi Town Central Hospital

inner sanctuary, outer crust:
BAU546 Nanjing Gaochun Qiqiao Hospital

an excessive minimalism:
BAU478-A U-Park Incubator, Shang Qing Huai, Nanjing

a plane of reference:
BAU474 Nanjing Zijin Gaochun Science and Technology City

rips in the fabric by place:
BAU461 Nanjing Tangshan Tourist Resort South District

other ideas of hospital:
BAU446 Fuding Hospital

architecture AND terrain:
BAU445 Suzhou Hi-tech District Cultural Center

crust: in-between and on the edge
BAU426 Shaoxing Jianhu Keyan Tourist Resort Planning

eco urbanism:
BAU425 Chongqing Eco Valley City

BAU348 Kunshan Hyper Complex

beyond the picturesque:
BAU347 Kunshan White Pagoda Park

don’t just re-use the typology, improve it!
BAU310 Hangzhou Changbanxiang Housing

building a community not just housing:
BAU302 Shanghai Ludi Baoshan

upside down program – ‘private’ circulation becoming ‘public’ circulation:
BAU254 Shanghai Wai Gao Qiao Culture Centre

extra-large private space as public space:
BAU199 Parktown, Housing, Fudi Forte, Wuxi

BAU197 Jindi Sanlin Pavilion

BAU191 Wuhan Cuiwei Housing

urban camouflage:
BAU227 Hangzhou Sports Centre

the resort at the end of the yellow dirt road:
BAU543 Emerald Village at Soul Bay

critical regionalism and abstraction:
BAU487 Nanjing Yaxi Citta-Slow

hospital for the ill, health care for the healthy, aged care for the elderly: BAU469 Zhaoxiang Hospital

tear open the package: BAU247 Qingpu NGS Supermarket

urban sponge:
BAU324 Cixi Commercial and Culture Center

lyrical islands in pragmatic seas:
BAU530-1 Nanjing Gaochun Transport Interchange – Stage One

fractured enormity:
BAU281 Chongqing Huarun

ring roads AND peripheral parks:
BAU243 Shanghai Ring Park

simple box OR 3 points in space – you choose:
BAU204-2 Ningbo Wanda Office

many utopias:
BAU129 Xinhu Pearl City Housing Development

a close family:
BAU125 Zhejiang Power Company HQ

stretching, squeezing, bending, trimming:
BAU550 Huanglong Xigu Urban Design

BOTH networks AND objects:
BAU497 Wyndham Cove Eco Sub-urb

ethics, democracy, difference:
BAU470 Towards a Socially Sustainable Canberra

warp and woof:
BAU460 Jingzhou Museum

sustainable technologies for clean living:
BAU396 Nanjing Residential

network of learning:
BAU341 Yushanwan School

not in galleries, but a way of seeing:
BAU338 Jingqiao Ramp Restaurant

shopping sandwich:
BAU321 Jiangyin Wuxing Commercial Centre

celebrating the collective, the intimate, the sustainable, and the local:
BAU312 Suzhou School

21st century Ponte Vecchio:
BAU287 Shanghai 2010 World Expo Bridge

antidote: not another ghetto city:
BAU285 Chengdu North Central

at last …finally …some diversity:
BAU282 Jindi Sanlin Office

recycling and beyond
BAU264 Shanghai Jiashan Market

an assemblage of difference:
BAU256 Shanghai Hongqiao Performing Arts Center

streets as shelters, bars as amphitheaters, landscapes as playgrounds:
BAU235 Jinqiao Community Bars

reduce, reuse, recycle:
BAU220 Shanghai Sculpture Space

binary oppositions defining a field of operation – all we wanted was a park:
BAU122 Xiamen International Exhibition Centre

the hotel as microcosm of the city:
BAU018 Marque Hotel

…very strange:
BAU016 Penny Lane

the beautiful and the extraordinary:
BAU013 Hopetoun Bush Resort

a dynamic yet stable vehicle:
BAU510 Suzhou Tram Co. Headquarters

BAU486A Docklands Park, Yangtze River, Jiangyin

innovation both inside and out:
BAU433 Zhangjing Nobel Lake Park & Network

exquisite corpse
BAU416 Genetic City Caofeidian

landscape becomes urban design becomes architecture:
BAU390 Duolan Dong Dong Mixed Use Complex

BAU386 Symbiotic City

repetition and difference:
BAU384 Kunshan Pavilions

no longer drowning – waving:
BAU339-2&3 Suzhou Creek Promenade

yet another point of view:
BAU339-1 Suzhou Creek Serpentine Park

ordinary not heroic, symbolic not monumental:
BAU318 Hangzhou Xiaoshan Government Headquarters

woven threads:
BAU234 Jiangyin Arbour Park

private precincts, public networks:
BAU226 Pudong Yangjing

creative networks:
BAU224 Chengdu Fenghuangshan

maximize commuication and cross fertilization:
BAU208 Linping New City Centre