Zhengzhou: Designing Critical Nodes for the “Urban Grids”

The fast-growing process in the Metropolis is associated with the large expansion of buildings and infrastructure, but also to the radical transformation of previous urban tissues that are considered useless for the new demands of the economy.

This studio will explore “intermediate scale”—meaning urban design—tools based on the “grid theory and transformative design experience” to better create richer alternatives to fast-growing realities.

Zhengzhou will be the studio’s experimental site. Zhengzhou is the capital and largest city of Henan Province, China, with a city population of 4 million and a metropolitan area of almost 9 million. As a metropolis on the south bank of the Yellow River, it is known as a “Gateway City” due to its locational importance. As the central hub of the Beijing-Hong Kong Railway, the Zhengzhou North Railway Station, which is called the heart of the Chinese railway network, began construction in 1953 and was completed in 1983. The new high-speed rail was added in 2011, completing the system. Zhengzhou put itself into the global urban planning and design discussion with the impressive 150km2 New District, which is home to 2.5 million people.

Such a large amount of construction and such a pace of urbanization urge significant support from an infrastructural system. The Zhengzhou Metro is expected to serve the entire Zhengzhou municipality. With the completion of Line 1 in 2009 and Line 2 in 2016, the city targeted a more comprehensive network consisting of 14 lines, which opened a new dialogue on how the urban infrastructural system can be better integrated and designed for the future.

The aim of this studio is to explore the design strategies able to restructure the metropolis. Among them, design priority will be given to Public Transportation Integral Nodes (PTIN) as hierarchical points of urban centralities. The study of a few “critical nodes” may give room to understand how the maxi-grid can allow development by “enclaves,” where the development of mixed-use programs and new forms of housing may be possible.

Work in the studio will take place within Revisiting Urban Grids, a field of research at the GSD, and should allow discussion of the tradition of urban grids in Chinese culture, contrasting them with other international examples. For this reason, the studio will be accompanied by a seminar on the theme of “revisiting the urban grid” to provide a theory basis that will enhance the experimental contents of the studio. Students in the studio are encouraged to enroll in the UPD-3472 seminar.

The studio will convene twice a week on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, from 2 to 6pm. 9 of the 14 weeks of the studio will be led by the main instructor. Individual development and meetings with the TF are scheduled for the other weeks. The site visit to Zhengzhou (China) is proposed for late February.