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Made For China - Rapid Urban Prototyping Studio Spring 2011

Project Title: VarieGATE

Authors: Ellen Anderson, Alex Spautz Waterson

Class: Made for China, Spring 2011

Instructors: Mona El Khafif, Antje Steinmuller

VarieGATE is a strategic master plan for a four block mixed-use development in Wudadao, the British concession district of Tianjin, China. The development is situated between a busy 10-lane road to the north and lower-density historic fabric of Wudadao to the south. The master plan intends to stitch these contrasting conditions together with an intricate alleyway system. By combining the traditional Chinese use of alleyways, a new ecological efficacy, and public spaces on multiple levels, the plan is “variegated” in three dimensions. The four blocks act both as a “gate” to the neighborhood as well as new destinations of their own, encouraging an interactive experience through smaller unique neighborhoods.

This plan is defined by three main infrastructural components: Alleys, Stems, and Spines, which together form the circulation space around which the Parcels are built. The Alley is the ground level circulation and aligns with the north-south grid, but is offset at points create indirect paths through the blocks. The indirect path adds to the act of discovery and varies the otherwise vast blocks to create a sense of place.

There are seven Stems spread throughout the master plan, serving as the main vertical circulation for both people and storm water. Each Stem has a unique programmatic function and marks a central public space in a neighborhood. The Stems collect and filter storm water from the roofs of neighboring buildings, incorporating living walls and bioretention basins. Excess water is filtered to sub-grade cisterns.

The Parcel defines the built space (the solid) and is and is formed in response to the edges of the master plan circulation (the void). Each parcel is programmatically variegated, meaning that each parcel never has the same zoning type as its horizontal or vertical neighbor. Higher density parcels occur at the stems, which are attractors of density and public space. The circulation framework is always left open to the air, ensuring perforations through the Parcels, which increases sunlight within the block.

Lastly, the Spine is the primary path of public circulation for the upper layers of the built structure. The spine serves an upper level of the built structures, creating a east/west circulation artery and a secondary network of walkways, parks and plazas. The Spine is a vibrant public space, providing new opportunties for programmatic connections and views.

VarieGATE comprises many layers of interrelated systems, which all exist in three dimensions, liberating the master plan from serving only the street level with its public spaces. Instead, the environmental systems, public spaces, and programmatic activities exist in a system of layered and interwoven spines and branches, similar to the structure of a leaf. The Alleys permeate the blocks at varying intervals and are the backbone from which the rest of the system branches. The Alleys are then layered with additional green and public spaces, enriching the circulation beyond a typical alley by offering opportunities for the pedestrian to discover new spaces when they choose to take an Alley through a block. The third layer, programmatic activity, is the most dense at the Stem points, encouraging activity with related program. For example, at the Cultural Stem there is a large ecological learning center that partners with a children’s museum. The last layer is the built Parcels, which are clustered around the infrastructure and public space layers. A water infrastructure interweaves between all layers in the system, as buildings to the North of the Spine (which are taller) use the Stems to collect and filter water runoff from their roofs. Roofs below the Spine collect water have green roofs to collect and filter water. These roofs can also serve as public spaces if they are accessible from the Spine.

As the population in China continues to grow, it is essential to provide environmental systems that can accommodate this growth and even improve the conditions. VarieGATE intends to not only achieve sustainable growth through ecological systems, but also to create beautiful public spaces that encourage people to discover new destinations and interact with their neighborhood.