Article by Amrita Slatch – Vanke Cloud City Phase 2, by Lab D+H, in Guangzhou, China. It is very rare for mixed-use developments to cater to a specific group of people. But the Cloud City development by Vanke (China’s largest real estate developer) has taken the bold step of focusing on the younger generation, who come to live in extravagant first-tier cities such as Guangzhou, but wish to enjoy an affordable lifestyle. This project of 5,000 small apartments, combined with high-end retail areas, required a cohesive street infrastructure that would be interactive and add value to the space, but still be cost effective. It became essential for the developers to come up with an innovative solution. Considering the challenges involved, Lab D+H lab brought into the set-up to develop a strong landscape strategy.
Vanke Cloud City
A Modular Floorscape that Generates a Framework for the Overall Landscape Environment
When we are striving to be cost efficient, we tend to work within the geometrical or Euclidean limit, as it is easier to construct, assemble, and replicate that model. To augment this or tweak it with various permutations and combinations can be tricky. To base the entire floorscape on this thought was an amazing idea, as it not only guided the two-dimensionality of the space, but also amplified the three-dimensionality of it. How was it done?Within this floorscape, various zones or precincts are identified with different hues of gray, with a splash of orange in between, all meant to bring vitality to the space. To further bring more life to the space, the floorscape emerges into a softscape area in one precinct, street furniture in another, and an interesting landscape installation in yet a third. All of this only adds more variety and character to the overall landscaped space. In one move to cut construction costs, the designers used Vanke’s own precast concrete modules to create this dynamic floorscape, which also avoided over-exploitation of stone (a conservation issue in China).
Softscape Spaces that Warm the Streetscape
Softscape areas that hold celebratory yet mellow landscape touches, such as a Christmas tree along with grasses and sedges, have been implanted within the floorscape, keeping the module in mind. The entire landscape looks to be part of one singular language despite the textural erraticism. In some places, they give a comfortable ambiance tucked behind seating areas; in others, they are bold gestures in and of themselves.
Dynamic Street Furniture for the Young and Restless
The street furniture follows similar modular principles. It is created using two basic precast modules that can be assembled with various permutations and combinations, forming 20 options. These options work differently as well, forming group seating, single seating, lounge seating, and so on and so forth. In this way, the furniture is dynamic and resonates with the younger market much better than what a stand-alone furniture set would do.
Interactive Landscape Installation for the Young and Energetic
To further enhance the streetscape, it was essential to add fun and interactive installations that make the space more active and invite residents to spend some time in recreation and physical activity. A cloud line made up of tubular steel runs and bends continuously throughout the space, forming monkey bars, benches, and other fitness facilities.Another interesting installation, the Cloud Seat, literally emerges from the floorscape in an eclectic orange color, massing itself up vertically and horizontally and creating a fun space for kids and young adults alike. Made up of pre-perforated steel plate — a recycled item — it acts as a major attraction at night because of its stunning light effects.
Living in an Urban Delight
All in all, Vanke Cloud City supports an amazingly livable environment for the young, thanks to Lab D+H, which has so cohesively crafted the environment, keeping all of the linkages intact despite the challenges involved. The design very boldly works on a modular framework strategy for the floorscape, from which the landscape literally emerges.Further adding to the interesting mix of street furniture and installations is the fact that Cloud City achieves all this without breaking the bank. Designing amazing street infrastructure doesn’t have to be an expensive affair. Kudos to the Lab D+H team for being able to elevate the experience of the younger generation at Cloud City, providing a fulfilling landscape experience at an affordable price. How important is the role of street furniture in vitalizing a space? Do more cities require interactive and dynamic street furniture to enliven a space? Or do such streetscapes only work for the younger crowd? Can they work in cities with mixed-age populations? Let us know in the comments below.
Full Project Credits For Vanke Cloud City:
Project Name: Vanke Cloud City Phase 2 Project Location: Guangzhou, China Client: Guangzhou Vanke Landscape Architect: Lab D+H Design Team: Huicheng Zhong, YoungJoon Choi, Zhongwei Li, Jin Huang, Miao Lin, Liujun Deng, Nan Lin, Feimin Song, Hao Lan, Qin Zan Design/Construction: February-May 2016 Site Area: 4,000 square meters Photo Credits: James Cheng Recommended Reading:
- Becoming an Urban Planner: A Guide to Careers in Planning and Urban Design by Michael Baye
- Sustainable Urbanism: Urban Design With Nature by Douglas Farrs
- eBooks by Landscape Architects Network