By David Jen

An ancient city famous for balancing development with natural features will soon build a new sustainable urban quarter complete with residential, office, and cultural amenities.

Aeriel overview
(Image copyright Foster + Partners)

Global studio Foster + Partners recently won the international competition to design a new urban center for Hangzhou, the capital city of Zhejiang province in China. The master plan for the city’s Yuhang District will create a “green and interconnected mixed-use quarter” in touch with the city’s history with water, according to press material from the studio.

Near China’s southeastern coast, Hangzhou sits along the Qiantang River and includes the historic West Lake. The temples, pagodas, and gardens surrounding the lake, a World Heritage Site, have “inspired famous poets, scholars and artists since the 9th century,” according to UNESCO.

A 2.5 km central axis running through the new district, landscaped to form a “leafy spine,” will anchor the varied uses in the area, writes Foster + Partners.

“The axis intersects with different bodies of water, generating five distinctive zones with unique characteristics,” says Bruno Moser, the head of urban design at Foster + Partners. “Each zone celebrates the city’s relationship with water in its various forms, from streams and lakes to canals and wetlands.”

Buildings on waterway
(Image copyright Foster + Partners)

Starting from a new public park in the north, the axis will travel south through cultural landmarks — such as a public library, exhibition hall, and galleries — before ending in a wetland area to the south.

This centerline, along with public transportation stations, will also inform the building density of the district. Renderings show the new skyline culminating in twin towers connected via an airy sky bridge spanning the axis in the middle of the district. Still in master planning, the studio could not yet provide details on the bridge.

two towers connected by a bridge
(Image copyright Foster + Partners)

“We are providing a rich mix of public amenities — including offices, nurseries, sports facilities, and a shopping center — in close proximity to vibrant, human-scale neighborhoods,” says Martin Castle, a senior partner at Foster + Partners, in press material.

Building at night
(Image copyright Foster + Partners)

With archaeological excavations dating settlements in the city to as long as 8,000 years ago, Hangzhou’s website describes itself as “one of the birthplaces of Chinese civilization and ranking among the seven ancient capitals in China.”

The present-day city of over 10 million people, home to tech giant Alibaba, has enjoyed recent growth in its digital-economy industry, which made up about 27% of the city’s gross domestic product in 2022, up from roughly 25% in 2018.

large room with wooden slats
(Image copyright Foster + Partners)

Preservation of Yuhang center’s existing wetlands, along with other carbon-sensitive strategies, including passive massing and rainwater reuse, will help the project toward its sustainability goals of “China’s 3-star green rating,” as well as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and WELL Community Gold certifications, according to the studio.

The new master plan will strive to create “a balanced 24-hour district, where people can live, work, and play,” says Castle.

This article is published by Civil Engineering Online.