American firm NBBJ unveils Net City, a smart district for China’s tech giant Tencent

NBBJ is designing a car-free district in Shenzhen, roughly the size of Midtown Manhattan, which will host houses, offices, shops and schools, with sightlines to nature and water.

by Meghna Mehta Published on : Jun 18, 2020

American architectural firm NBBJ recently revealed the masterplan for Net City, a car-free futuristic district to be created in Shenzhen in China. The new urban city that is to be created for Tencent, one of the largest Chinese internet companies, is roughly the size and shape of Midtown Manhattan. Tencent, which owns the famous messaging app WeChat, had organised a competition in 2019 to build a sustainable city from the ground up. Seattle-based NBBJ, which has previously designed for Google, Samsung, and Amazon, was chosen for the job.

The Net City is a two million sqm project in Shenzhen | Net City by Tencent | NBBJ | STIRworld
The Net City is a two million sqm project in Shenzhen Image Credit: Courtesy of NBBJ

Net City, a two million sqm project, to be built on a 320-acre peninsula in Shenzhen, intends to be among China’s first interconnected districts with office buildings, residential areas, public entertainment venues, parks and a waterfront. "In today's computer-driven world, we are free to imagine a highly integrated city that brings ‘work, live and play’ closer together to foster more synergy between people,” says NBBJ Design Partner Jonathan Ward.

Net City focuses on people and environment | Net City by Tencent | NBBJ | STIRworld
Net City focuses on people and environment Image Credit: Courtesy of NBBJ

The Net City’s buildings, blocks and open spaces have been made for humans without the distraction of motor vehicles and the noise, pollution and speed that comes with them. The open, porous campus offers plenty of public spaces and amenities as well as connections to the rest of the city via subway, bike paths and ferries.

Net City creates an open and porous campus with ample public spaces and amenities | Net City by Tencent | NBBJ | STIRworld
Net City creates an open and porous campus with ample public spaces and amenities Image Credit: Courtesy of NBBJ

The design attempts to create a human feel, organic experiences, and sightlines to connect people with nature and water as Net City features terraced buildings of different scales and heights that span one to 30 stories, interspersed across a series of green pathways. A full range of working and living environments — offices, living spaces, schools, retail and other amenities have been designed to offer a thriving community.

Tencent reimagines the future of cities with Net City | Net City by Tencent | NBBJ | STIRworld
Tencent reimagines the future of cities with Net City Image Credit: Courtesy of NBBJ

Sustainability is the primary driver of the design, from photovoltaic panels to sensors that track environmental performances and flooding to a comprehensive transportation network that prioritises pedestrian access, bicycles and public transit.

The Net City synchronises with the goals of China’s Sponge City to combat flooding | Net City by Tencent | NBBJ | STIRworld
The Net City synchronises with the goals of China’s Sponge City to combat flooding Image Credit: Courtesy of NBBJ

The design also tries to synchronise with the goals of China’s Sponge City initiative by collecting water on campus, managing run-off and flooding, and planting mangrove trees at the shoreline’s edge. Public green spaces have been scattered throughout the plan and include commons, groves, wetlands, and sports and recreation parks.

The project is expected to accommodate up to 80,000 residents and workers upon completion, which is likely to take seven years.

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