Design and urban research of the old town of Nantou + Architectural design of the place UABB / URBANUS

Factory Area Vego Plaza. Photo © Chao Zhang

Bird's eye view UABB.  Photo © Chao ZhangBaode Square B3 Surrounding street.  Photo © Chao ZhangFactory Zone Vego Plaza.  Photo © Qingshan WuFactory Area After Renovation.  Photo © Chao Zhang+ 51

Bird's eye view UABB.  Photo © Chao Zhang
Bird’s eye view UABB. Photo © Chao Zhang

Text description provided by the architects. Nantou Old Town in downtown Shenzhen, China was founded as a city over 1,700 years ago from the Jin Dynasty. In the last century, the old town gradually disappeared, while the village continued to expand. The exacerbation of urbanization in Shenzhen has resulted in an intertwined stratification with a complex pattern of the historic city embedded in the urban village, which is again encircled by the city – “village within the city, city within the village”.

Baode Square B4 Surrounding street.  Photo © Chao Zhang
Baode Square B4 Surrounding street. Photo © Chao Zhang
Baode Square B3-3 surrounding street.  Photo © Chao Zhang
Baode Square B3-3 surrounding street. Photo © Chao Zhang

In early 2016, the Urbanus design and research team began to engage in the Nantou Preservation and Regeneration Project and concluded that only by respecting the authenticity of history and by cherishing the cultural layers and historical traces of each period we can shape a vibrant and timeless urban community, rooted in local history and culture.

Nantou Concept Axone
Nantou Concept Axone

We see today’s Nantou not as a historic old town in the traditional sense, but as a historic heritage town, which perpetuates the history and culture of nearly two thousand years, and which preserves the spatial, social heritage and culture of Shenzhen through each story full stop. It is the only valuable sample of Shenzhen’s urban culture that displays both the cultural heritage of the millennium and all the optical spectral juxtaposition of China’s rapid urbanization over the past three decades.

Baode Square B3 Surrounding street.  Photo © Chao Zhang
Baode Square B3 Surrounding street. Photo © Chao Zhang
Cross street area section
Cross street area section
Baod Square.  Photo © Chao Zhang
Baod Square. Photo © Chao Zhang

Based on the preliminary study on Nantou, Urbanus proposed a development model promoting the rejuvenation of the ancient city with the orientation of the intervention, promoting the revival of the ancient city with cultural activities with the gradual activation from point to surface. Later, after sufficient field survey, urban design and research work at the initial stage, we came up with the idea to propose Nantou as the main venue of UABB 2017 in the biennial venue selection process.

Factory Area Vego Plaza.  Photo © Qingshan Wu
Factory Area Vego Plaza. Photo © Qingshan Wu

The theme of the Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture (Shenzhen) (abbreviated as UABB) is Cities, Grow in Difference. Further field investigations and research in the historical documents of Nantou helped us to find a narrative line on which the spatial renovation and the implementation of the exhibition could strongly coincide. Following the urban design strategy of preservation and regeneration while locating exhibition spaces for UABB, we sought to reconstitute a system of open public space which is very rare in Nantou. Serving as an exhibition route, this system consists of both architectural spaces and outdoor locations in the punctual distribution.

Factory Space.  Photo © Chao Zhang
Factory Space. Photo © Chao Zhang
Main locus axon
Main locus axon
Factory Space.  Photo © Chao Zhang
Factory Space. Photo © Chao Zhang

The exhibition venues are divided into five areas from north to south and extending east and west: A. Factory Area, B. Cross Road Area, C. South Gate Area, D. Historic Buildings Area and E. Chunjing Street Area. The whole spatial narrative of the exhibition is formed by seven intertwined themes “Introduction, Elucidation, Transition, Conclusion, Agglomeration, Openness and Seclusion”, such as opening, development, change and conclusion with the culminating structure and descendant of Chinese literature or theatre. The urban intervention of this UABB is very consistent with the regeneration plan of the old city, ensuring a smooth transition from one to the other.

Factory Area After Renovation.  Photo © Chao Zhang
Factory Area After Renovation. Photo © Chao Zhang

During the renovation of the main site, the design team selected a wide variety of suitable spaces, including factory buildings in a village integrated into the city, streets, squares, residential buildings, buildings historic and parks. We hope through the renovation of exhibition spaces and architecture, art with organized event interventions, to provide an alternative experimental opportunity for the regeneration of the old town of Nantou and the renovation of villages in urban areas in general. . Intervening in the current process of urban renewal in the form of an “organized urban exhibition” is a long-term strategy for the progressive improvement of urban spaces and the quality of urban life.

Baode Square B4 Surrounding street.  Photo © Chao Zhang
Baode Square B4 Surrounding street. Photo © Chao Zhang