CHENGDU SKY VALLEY
Location: Chengdu, China
MVRDV is revealing Chengdu Sky Valley, a competition entry for the Future Science and Technology City that fuses technology with nature, urban with rural, and modernity with tradition. It celebrates the dualities inherent to Chengdu and creates a unique symbiosis between them. Through a computational workflow developed by in-house tech taskforce MVRDV NEXT, Chengdu Sky Valley engages with multiple stakeholders to balance the competing needs of the area on the outskirts of one of China’s emerging cities.
The masterplan is located in an area that will become the Future Science and Technology City, a district focused upon research, education, and innovation and a key part of Chengdu’s Eastward Development Strategy. The area is well connected: it lies adjacent to the new Tianfu International Airport, and is linked to the airport and to Chengdu itself by the city’s Metro line 18. In spite of these connections, the site is resolutely rural, forming part of a cultural landscape unique to the Chengdu region known as Linpan: agricultural fields fill the wide valleys between low rolling hills, with scattered villages in between.
The preservation and enhancement of this picturesque landscape is at the centre of the masterplan’s ambitions. The dichotomy between the existing rural landscape and the future science and technology campus demands a solution that balances tradition and innovation, past and future, young and old, East and West, technology and agriculture. The design therefore preserves the agricultural valleys, incorporating this activity as a key component of the Future Science and Technology City. New buildings are clustered on the hills, and shaped in a way that amplifies the valley skyline, augmenting the appearance of the Linpan landscape. A network of gently sloping paths follows the topography of the area, while bridges between the peaks further connect the building clusters. These connections form a public space network that invites cross-industrial encounters and cooperation. MVRDV’s proposal therefore offers the chance for Chengdu to differentiate itself from other science and technology cities planned across China by focusing on cross-industrial research and innovation in food and agriculture.
The design places resilience at its heart. By retaining the agricultural landscape, it creates a more diverse community with a wider choice of lifestyles, including opportunities for self-building and developing self-sufficient lifestyles in harmony with nature. The proposal forms an intrinsically adaptable system that incorporates a wide variety of sustainable measures to deal with water, climate adaptation and future mobility. It aims for the Future Science and Technology City to be a “15-minute city”, with travel between any two points within the plan taking under 15 minutes.
To make these design aims possible, the project team worked with MVRDV’s tech taskforce, MVRDV NEXT, to develop a series of digital scripts to analyse and add to the existing landscape. By taking this parametric design approach, the result is not a fixed design but a system, which invites the input of the client and other local stakeholders. Adjusting the parameters can result in different infrastructure layouts, different building heights and shapes, and more. The resulting system could even be applied to other developments in the Linpan landscape, with parameters adjusted to accommodate different functions and densities.
“How can we transport the current qualities of this site into the future? What sort of city should we create here? These were the questions that drove us in this design process”, says founding partner of MVRDV Winy Maas. “We envisage Chengdu Sky Valley as a welcoming place that connects people across industries, cultures, and professions. By enlarging the hills, we dramatise the existing landscape, creating a city that works in concert with nature – where you can reach for the sky while being down to earth.”
Through this scripting process, the design was developed around three main valleys: the Knowledge Valley, the Experience Valley, and the Venture Valley. Surrounding these valleys, buildings are further grouped into 7 mixed-use clusters of distinct characters, with a transit-oriented development hub surrounding the Futian Metro station known as “Futian experience valley”, alongside the “education park”, “maker valley”, “learning village”, “talent heaven” and a cluster of labs and R&D.
The buildings themselves follow a simple framework for materials and colours, which creates two distinct atmospheres in Chengdu Sky Valley: the “earth” environment on the slopes of the hills, where traditional materials integrate into the existing landscape; and on the peaks, the “sky” environment, where modern materials and technologies create a high-tech feel. Within this framework – and within the overall shape of the building clusters resulting from the parametric process – the shapes and visual appearance of individual buildings are flexible. The proposal invites other designers to add diverse architecture, further adding to the diversity and community input within the overall design.