In the last 4 years, the urban design division of Urbis JHD has been involved in a significant number of unique projects as a result of success in international design competitions.
Some of the most significant projects such as Middle Reaches of Hai River in Tianjin, new urban development strategy for Nanning and Zizhu waterfront park (under construction) in Shanghai, offer a new perspective in relation to planning for urban development.
These projects appear to be symptomatic of a new paradigm – limitless urban sprawl without the usual green hinterland. As a result, the “nature” is designed and inserted into the city. The model of urbanisation emerging in many South East Asian countries, and in particular China, will eventually cover huge areas, resulting in overlapping conurbations.
This is a further challenge to the traditional concept of regional unsustainability, where cities rely on their hinterland for water, food, waste management, energy, and recreation.
With increasingly fine tuned, complete infrastructure systems, the natural ecology is being replaced with engineering solutions, elevating a risk of system malfunction.
This situation suggests a serious need to analyse and understand the future sustainability of these emerging urban systems in order to develop an appropriate response. In my opinion this is the most significant challenge to all experts as it challenges the most significant foundations of our urban development practice to date.
This article is based on a recent lecture given by Andrew Olszewski at Melbourne University. Andrew is Director of Urbis JHD.