A whole new city for 50,000 people will soon rise from an undeveloped waterfront site in Shenzhen, China. Urban design and innovation studio Tekuma Frenchman won the Shenzhen New Marine City International Design Competition with their plans for “Ocean’s Edge,” which was chosen out of more than 140 submissions from a variety of international firms attempting to demonstrate the future of marine-based sustainability.
Tekuma Frenchman consists of Kun Qian and Marwan Aboudib, two dual-degree students from the MIT Center for Real Estate (CRE) and the Department of Architecture, along with their professor Dennis Frenchman and urban designer Naomi Hebert. The firm’s other projects include the Seoul Digital Media City in South Korea and the Digital Mile in Zaragoza, Spain.
Ocean’s Edge is designed as a 21st century “ocean living edge” with integrated flood prevention strategies that will help revitalize the area’s coastal ecology even amidst a gargantuan development.
Much of the architecture and infrastructure will float or be built directly above the water, while some occupies the existing coastline. But all of it is set amidst replanted mangrove trees and other natural means of protecting the shore and creating more space for local wildlife. Putting so much of the city on piers, islands, and floating structures will also minimize the need to alter the coastal environment too much, which could disrupt the flow of water very easily.
The inclusion of the native mangroves is a key part of the Ocean’s Edge project, according to MIT. They say: “Tekuma Frenchman’s design will regenerate an indigenous mangrove forest to protect the shoreline from waves, retain soil, support biodiversity, and help clean the water. The design also provides a habitat for fish. The growth of the forest will be monitored by sensors controlling the mix of freshwater runoff with salt water, ensuring an ideal habitat for optimum growth of marine fauna and flora. In this way, Ocean’s Edge both senses and responds to the natural environment.”
“Sea-level rise and storm surge from the South China Sea is a concern in Shenzhen. Ocean’s Edge helps prevent flooding by using the regenerated mangrove forest as a natural protection from storm surge.”
“There’s a sustainable matrix into which this contemporary city is built,” Frenchman adds.
Another aim of the city is the promotion of a high-tech marine-based economy. An industrial area located on the water will house research and development for deep-sea exploration and resource extraction using autonomous undersea vehicles.
In addition to all the housing and amenities you’d expect to find in any other city, the marine development creates a new multi-level street network connected to an underground metro system, which itself separates freight and logistics vehicles from pedestrians through an elevated central spine and a peripheral ring that slopes toward the water.
The centerpiece of Ocean’s Edge is a pier that extends activities from the world’s largest convention center directly to the waterfront, hosting entertainment and exhibition venues like a deep-sea aquarium, clubs, water sports, and cinemas along with offices, restaurants, and a ferry terminal.
“Over the years we have been researching and implementing a new methodology to design cities that celebrate production, making places that are human-centric and productive,” says Kun Qian. “We believe that the future is moving toward a productive urbanism, where companies from all economic sectors also participate in the shaping of our public realm and creating unique experiences for people. The Ocean Edge proposal is a great testimony to this approach.”
Work has already begun on the site, with some of the most important foundations set to be constructed by 2022. Still, the city itself is expected to take about 20 years to fully complete.