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Old August 13th, 2012, 08:20 AM   #1
hkskyline
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SUZHOU | Projects & Construction

Reconstruction project looks suspiciously like destruction
Updated: 2012-08-13 07:49
By Zhang Kun in Shanghai (China Daily)

Is the 100-year-old Taohuawu neighborhood in downtown Suzhou, Jiangsu province, being renovated or destroyed?

That's a question now circulating on the Internet. The reconstruction of Taohuawu, which literally translates as "the Peach Blossom Dock", was announced two years ago. The project was intended to refurbish antique buildings, improve locals' living conditions and promote tourism.

But this past May, Song Weijian, an architect and vice-director of the Architectural Society of China's interior design branch, had an experience that cast doubt on whether those aims were being strictly pursued.

At a construction site, he came upon fine-crafted antique wood columns and screen doors with elaborate carvings. Curious about their origin, he later learned, to his disgust, that they had come from dismantled buildings in Taohuawu.

"They are pulling down historical buildings that should be protected," Song said on Tuesday. He took pictures showing destroyed houses and scattered debris in the Taohuawu neighborhood and posted them on his micro blog. He also condemned those who had removed parts of antique buildings.

His words and images attracted tens of thousands of comments and stirred up concerns about the destruction of Taohuawu and the historical buildings.

A house in the neighborhood has since become one of the chief topics of discussion related to the reconstruction project. The structure, No 4 Datie Lane, has a frame made of nanmu, a precious wood that has been traditionally valued in China, and dates back to the mid-1800s. The owners of the house, a pair of brothers named Ye Peiji and Ye Peikun, have refused to leave the residence to make way for the reconstruction project.

On Aug 6, the local People's Court of the Pingjiang district, Suzhou, held a hearing about the house. The government agency in charge of the Taohuawu reconstruction said it had a legal license to undertake the project and the Ye family will have to give up their house.

"Some rumors on the Internet said we are tearing down the house at No 4 Datie Lane, but that's not true," said Cao Qinliang, manager of the Taohuawu Development Co Ltd. "The people living there should be removed, but the house won't be."

Cao said more than 1,400 of the 1,503 households living in the neighborhood have moved.

"Some houses have to be dismantled to make way for road construction, parking spaces - necessary public accommodations," he said. "But no historical buildings will be removed."

He declined to say what the house will be used for after the reconstruction.

Ye Peikun argued that his family has legal ownership of the house, saying it is a historical antiquity and therefore should be protected.

"We are capable of protecting our own home, as long as the government allows us to."

Ye presented 150-year-old legal papers to the court showing his family has had legal ownership of the house since 1863. "Our ancestors purchased the house at that time, and the house itself dates back even further," he said.

Architectural Society of China's Song, an experienced architect who has worked on restoring numerous old buildings, said the Ye family should be allowed to stay on its own property.

"Protecting a historical neighborhood means you should keep its original look and original way of life," Song said. "Driving people away and keeping an empty shell of a house is almost tantamount to producing a fake."

Song said the construction company has removed many old structures and kept various "valuable" buildings.

"A few ancient buildings scattered among skyscrapers can't make a historical town," Song said.

No conclusion was reached in last week's court hearing.
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Old September 9th, 2012, 04:02 PM   #2
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Foreign-designed landmark in China mocked as giant long-johns


Source : http://www.rmjm.com/portfolio//gate-to-the-east-china

NANJING, Sept. 4 (Xinhua) -- It's the Arc de Triomphe with an oriental twist, but many Chinese netizens think it resembles a pair of long underwear.

The developer of a landmark building in Suzhou has come under fire for the unconventional look of the "Orient Gate" designed by the British architecture firm RMJM.

Suzhou, a city close to Shanghai, has been known for its idyllic courtyard gardens since ancient times.

Sina Weibo, the country's most popular microblogging service, on Tuesday compared the Gate in Suzhou to another controversial foreign-designed landmark building, the state broadcaster CCTV's Beijing headquarters, under the topic "long-johns vs. big boxer shorts." It is trending, with more than 516,482 comments posted just a few hours after the topic originated.

"Why does China look like the playground of foreign designers with laughable architecture ideas?" one blogger commented.

"No matter what kind of pants, it is good construction if it does not fall apart," another blogger wrote. "Otherwise, it will become open-crotch pants."

The 278-meter-high Gate was developed by the private firm Suzhou Chianing Real Estate Co., Ltd to accommodate offices, hotels, malls and apartments. The eight-year construction process is expected to be completed in 2012. The cost of the building was about 4.5 billion yuan (709 million U.S. dollars), according to the company's website.

Xu Kang, the company's vice executive of sales, defended the design, saying the linked-twin-tower structure is based on classic garden gates and ancient city gates in China.

He said the aesthetic features of Suzhou's gardens are so well incorporated into the structure that it "inherits the culture of the city to the maximum extent."

Xu said international big-name design firms participated in the bidding process for the Gate project, with RMJM surfacing as the winner.

The Edinburgh-founded firm has been commissioned for a number of projects in Europe, North America, the Middle East and Asia Pacific regions.

Zhou Qi, an architecture professor with Southeast University, said it is not a bad thing for a piece of architecture to spark controversy.

Zhou said he appreciates the design from a professional point of view. "The gate itself resembles the Arc de Triomphe, but it also has elements of Chinese culture."

But the professor also said big projects like this, especially those landmarks located in city centers, can avoid meeting with such controversy if the public is properly consulted in advance.

"Public involvement in decisions on major architecture projects in China remains very low," Zhou said.

Suzhou's Gate is not the first unconventional piece of architecture to spark controversy in China. Beijing became the focus of criticism for new city landmarks like the CCTV headquarters and the Paul Andreu-designed, egg-shaped National Center for Performing Arts, which sits near the rectangular Tian'anmen Square.
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Old September 14th, 2012, 04:20 AM   #3
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New giant tower branded "pants"



BEIJING, Sept. 3 (Xinhuanet) -- It is called the Gate of the Orient, a new 300 meter high skyscraper with an arc at the top which is due to be completed at the end of this year, but the new structure is already gaining a towering following online after being dubbed the "long underpants".

The 69 storey building, in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, has been ridiculed by Internet users with more than 3,000 comments mocking the structure.

One Internet user said, "It should be a great landmark for a cowboy city...Is it long underpants or a pair of jean? It's low-slung."

The Oriental Gate is 301.8 meters high and has 69 storeys. The construction started in September 2004 and was designed by British RMJM based on the ancient city gate of Suzhou for hotel, office, retail and accommodation space.

With an opening 246 meters high, the Oriental Gate is the largest gate-shaped building and also dubbed "the No 1 Gate in the world".

(Source: China Daily)
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Old February 16th, 2013, 05:42 PM   #4
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Photo taken on Feb. 5, 2012 shows a passageway linking the North and South Squares of the Suzhou Railway Station in Suzhou, east China's Jiangsu Province. A five-year renovation project at the Suzhou Railway Station was accomplished on Tuesday. With a total investment of 2.3 billion yuan (370 million U.S. dollars), the renovation project alleviates the transport pressure of the Suzhou Railway Station. (Xinhua/Wang Jiankang)



Photo taken on Feb. 5, 2012 shows the South Square of the Suzhou Railway Station in Suzhou, east China's Jiangsu Province. A five-year renovation project at the Suzhou Railway Station was accomplished on Tuesday. With a total investment of 2.3 billion yuan (370 million U.S. dollars), the renovation project alleviates the transport pressure of the Suzhou Railway Station. (Xinhua/Wang Jiankang)



Photo taken on Feb. 5, 2012 shows the South Hall of the Suzhou Railway Station in Suzhou, east China's Jiangsu Province. A five-year renovation project at the Suzhou Railway Station was accomplished on Tuesday. With a total investment of 2.3 billion yuan (370 million U.S. dollars), the renovation project alleviates the transport pressure of the Suzhou Railway Station. (Xinhua/Wang Jiankang)





Photo taken on Feb. 5, 2012 shows the South Square of the Suzhou Railway Station in Suzhou, east China's Jiangsu Province. A five-year renovation project at the Suzhou Railway Station was accomplished on Tuesday. With a total investment of 2.3 billion yuan (370 million U.S. dollars), the renovation project alleviates the transport pressure of the Suzhou Railway Station. (Xinhua/Hang Xingwei)
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Old March 3rd, 2013, 04:28 PM   #5
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Suzhou Industrial Park Sports Center / NBBJ

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Old August 20th, 2013, 11:35 AM   #6
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Website for Suzhou Taihu New Town
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Old September 21st, 2013, 04:19 AM   #7
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Pyramid building in Huaqiao, Kunshan, Jiangsu Province

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Old November 18th, 2013, 06:53 AM   #8
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China's Building Push Goes Underground
12 November 2013
Dow Jones

KUNSHAN, China--Twenty years ago, China's Communist Party leadership earmarked money for an expressway network modeled on the U.S. interstate highway system. A decade ago, they spent big on bullet trains.

As a fresh team of Chinese leaders gathers this week in Beijing to lay out broad economic goals, the effort to keep China moving has shifted underground, with dozens of cities spending billions of dollars on subway systems.

The amounts involved might ring warning bells that China is bingeing anew on infrastructure spending to drive growth--exactly what many economists say is an unsustainable strategy. But party leaders indicate that metros are different: They create more sustainable growth by making cities more livable, a trend political scientists say could be endorsed at the party meeting.

In the world's most extensive subway-development effort, at least 26 Chinese cities are constructing or expanding lines, according to the government's Transportation Technology Development and Planning Research Center. The think tank counts another 11 cities with urban railway plans.

History suggests the party conclave, known as the Third Plenum, is unlikely to produce directives specific to subways, or any specific development plan. Instead, the Nov. 9-12 plenum will be a venue for the party leadership that took over last November to signal its broadest economic priorities for the 10 years it plans to be in power.

China's new leaders are increasingly focusing on urbanization, including smarter cities. From an increasingly prosperous citizenry, they face pressure to reduce air pollution, provide housing that is cheap but livable and to unlock consumer spending. Metros dovetail with these quality-of-life challenges because they provide an alternative to cars and add convenience to life at the edges of big cities.

A case in point is a metro line that opened in mid-October to connect Shanghai to Kunshan, a small city in neighboring Jiangsu province where farmland became a factory outpost. It increasingly has the feel of a bedroom community.

On the first day as Shanghai's Line 11 called at three new stations in Kunshan, Zhang Yaping wheeled aboard a bag containing her white sewing machine for a $1.15, hourlong trip to a downtown Shanghai trade show where she hoped to sell her quilt work.

When the 50-year-old north China native heard about plans for the line more than a year ago, she moved out of a Shanghai rental she had struggled to afford and bought a $135,000 apartment in Kunshan. She said for that price, "I could only buy a bathroom in Shanghai."


Outsize infrastructure pushes have been a signature of Chinese rulers for centuries; think of the Grand Canal built to carry rice from the south to the north. Megahighway and rail projects reflected the nation-building ambitions of more recent leaders, many of them trained engineers such as former Presidents Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao.

But those projects focused on spurring industrial growth, and often came at the cost of widespread corruption.

Many economists argue China must move away from megainfrastructure projects. Resources spent with households and smaller businesses in mind, they argue, will create more sustainable growth. Commuter-rail systems promise to free up household cash that might otherwise be spent on cars or expensive addresses downtown.

Premier Li Keqiang, educated as an economist, trumpets "new urbanization, with people at the center." Mr. Li in July tasked the government with creating convenient mass transit, including subways and light rail, to improve China's urban environments. He also cited better water supply, garbage disposal and more sidewalks.

"The government reasoned that a modern city has a metro," says Jonathan Woetzel, a McKinsey & Co. director in Shanghai who has advised government officials around China on urbanization issues.

McKinsey calculates that more than 100 Chinese cities could conceivably build subway systems, given many have populations exceeding one million inhabitants. As a city grows, Mr. Woetzel says, a subway acts as a "skeleton" for activity and gives town planners ways of "directly improving the lives of the people in a city."

While theirs is technically an above ground extension of Shanghai's subway, Kunshan officials celebrated their city as the smallest in China with a metro, a $300-million, three-station line for a city of 750,000 people, about the size of Fort Worth, Texas.

"All the economic and social affairs will be stimulated by the opening of this metro line," Kunshan Vice Mayor Jiang Hao said during a test run for VIPs.

Along for the ride was a vice mayor of Suzhou, another Shanghai satellite city with a new subway now expanding, with a planned stop near a more than 1,000-year-old pagoda. The plan is for Suzhou's subway to eventually connect into Kunshan's line, further extending the Shanghai system's reach.

Several Chinese underground projects trace back to 2008, when authorities approved heavy infrastructure spending to power through the global financial crisis. A question now is whether that was money wisely allocated in a country where the grid of bullet trains is already the world's largest and where expressways are two-thirds the length of the U.S. interstate system.

Transportation infrastructure represented about 22% of the $1.76 trillion total indebtedness of Chinese cities in 2010, according to a national audit. Authorities say updated audit figures expected soon will only sharpen concerns governments overstretched to modernize.

Kunshan's new metro, its priciest infrastructure outlay to date, crisscrosses major highway arteries and runs parallel to two separate bullet train lines that call on the city's railway stations, including one built three years ago.

Costs are higher elsewhere. The central city of Wuhan said earlier this year it was spending over $15 million daily to build nine subway lines. "It is such a huge amount of capital and a prestigious project," declared Wuhan Metro Group Chairman Liu Yuhua in a speech in May, noting the system will be China's ninth longest when complete.

China takes a cookie-cutter approach to subways, with little differentiation between cities. To save time, contractors buy $5 million-plus tunnel-boring machines in only one of two sizes and in pairs so the coming and going lines can be dug concurrently, says Kiyomi Sasaki, acting general manager in China for Ohio-based equipment maker Robbins Company. "China applies a very simple standardized system," said Mr. Sasaki.

McKinsey's Mr. Woetzel agrees with China's urban planners and reasons subway construction will only get more expensive. Mr. Woetzel said the bigger concern is how Chinese cities intend to fund operations.

Fares won't likely pay the bills. New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority covered only about 73% of last year's subway expenses from $2.74 billion in fare collection, according to U.S. government figures. Subways in China typically close before midnight and typically charge a fraction of New York's $2.50 base fare: around 2 yuan, or 30 cents.

Subway construction started slowly. Beijing completed its first line in 1969 but took 15 years to open a second. In 1991, the World Bank frowned on a plan to build a subway in Shanghai, then a city congested by 6.5 million bicycles and 200,000 vehicles, mostly trucks.

It is "doubtful that such an expensive mode can be the core of the urban transport system," the Washington-based bank said in a report that suggested "less costly alternatives" such as aboveground light rail, bus lanes and priority for bicycles.

Shanghai ignored the advice. Two years later, it inaugurated Subway Line 1 and then built 12 more lines--hopscotching with Beijing to claim the world's longest system. With a million private cars on the road today in Shanghai, emphasis has shifted toward integrating the city's most distant points into the subway, including beyond municipal borders such as the extension to Kunshan.

Cities throughout China are trying to disperse their growing populations and take the heat off property prices downtown. Good transportation links, as Premier Li has stressed, augment services that can't easily move outside the center, such as major hospitals.

Chengdu's system marks the backbone for a new central business district on its south end. Glass boxes cover entrances to Tianjin's underground. Subway planning is also under way in Taiyuan, Changzhou and Hefei, plus Hohot and Urumqi, the capitals of Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang.

Fanfan Wang in Shanghai contributed to this article.
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Old April 4th, 2014, 12:46 PM   #9
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China chooses Suzhou as national pilot for reforms on urban-rural integration

BEIJING, Apr. 2 (Xinhua) -- Suzhou, a city in east China's Jiangsu Province, was selected as a national pilot for reforms on integrated development of urban and rural regions, according to an article released on the city's government website.

The article said that the city's plan to promote urban and rural integrated development received approval from the National Development and Reform Commission.

According to the plan, the city will promote reforms in eight areas, such as urbanization, ecology protection, land use, equalization in public services, and financial system for rural and urban regions.

By 2015, the city's urbanization rate will rise to more than 75 percent; the assets of collective economies in rural region will reach 180 billion yuan; and rural residents' net income per capita will reach 28,000 yuan.

In order to promote financial system reform, the city will expand financing channels for urbanization construction by introducing debt financing instruments, such as bond and mid-term notes, and gradually set up diversified capital mechanism for urbanization.

The city will encourage private capital to participate in investment and operation of public facilities and support state-owned banks and city commercial banks to expand their businesses in rural regions.

It will promote the establishment of rural credit system and agricultural guarantee system.
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Old April 5th, 2014, 05:39 PM   #10
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big dog....these pyramids....
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Old July 1st, 2014, 07:50 AM   #11
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Careful planning enables Suzhou to right growth path
30 June 2014
China Daily

Chinese livable city turns challenges into great winning opportunities

When the Chinese seaside city of Qingdao built a new commercial business district a decade ago, it rejigged the city. The trouble was that the new Central Business District competed with the old one and, for a time, empty offices and living spaces was the norm.

Beijing went through a similar process about a decade earlier and has continued to expand and grow, always outward. A city that was once encircled by four ring roads now has six, with a seventh under construction.

These cities came up with ideas for new areas, found land and went ahead with building. Planning was, if anything, an afterthought. And what planning was done was short term, a few years at most.

Suzhou did not have the luxury of much extra land, but it did have foresight. And it managed to turn this foresight into a vision that won the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize for 2014 earlier this month. The biennial prize, established by the Singapore government, "honors outstanding achievements and contributions that lead to the creation of livable, vibrant and sustainable urban communities around the world".

"Successful cities require cooperation and collaboration among the public, private and people sectors," says Kishore Mahbubani, in a note as chairman of the nominating committee.

Mahbubani is a professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, part of the National University of Singapore. He pointed out that the most successful cities have "a clear vision and an overall strategy to transform themselves at a city-wide level".

"At a strategic level, good governance and able leadership play a vital role in the city's development," he says.

Careful planning is often missing in Asia, where cities are huge and crowded and have had to deal with constraints created by rapid urbanization and fast-growing economies. And some kind of long-term vision is key for a large group of impressive buildings to come together into a cohesive and ultimately livable city.

The previous winner of the prize, in 2012, was New York City, which was recognized for its transformation since the tragic events of 2001 and a development plan that will take it to 2030.

Vancouver, often touted as one of the most livable cities in the world, won a special mention in 2012 as "an exemplary demonstration of strong visioning, community values and long-term planning".

Yokohama, in Japan, is another city that has turned challenges into opportunities. Specially mentioned this year, the city on the outskirts of the Tokyo metropolitan area has a revitalized waterfront and had managed to cut the amount of waste it produces by 43 percent between 2001 and 2010.

All these cities are often picture perfect - idyllic combinations of natural attributes and impressive architecture that facilitate living, rather than getting in its way.

Many cities in Asia, from Hong Kong to Manila and even the impressive Shanghai, too often feel like agglomerations of buildings built by developers whenever there is space.

In China, for example, the common approach to redevelopment has been to find a spot of land to build a new CBD and make it easy for developers to just go ahead and build, says Joe Zhou, head of research for East China at Jones Lang LaSalle, a real estate management company. Suzhou's approach has been different. Unlike most cities in China, the plan that has guided the development of the city has been in place for more than two decades.

This is difficult to do in China, for a couple of reasons.

One is that the country is managed through five-year plans, which makes longer range planning difficult for lower level authorities that may see priorities change.

Another is that economic and population growth in most of the larger cities in China has generally been too fast to make any type of long-range planning easy.

What Suzhou has done is reverse current practice and focus on building a city that can be enjoyed on foot. There are parks within walking distance of most residential areas and there are community shopping clusters also in walking distance.

"This is quite uncommon in China but it is quite common in Singapore. They copied that from Singapore," says Zhou.

This helps create a more livable city on many levels.

From an aesthetic point of view, green and open spaces are always a plus when compared to the crowded urban spaces of Shanghai, Beijing or Hong Kong.

From a practical standpoint, residents benefit as well. They can walk out of their apartment and head to a park for a stroll or some exercise. Or they can walk to a small and accessible shopping strip that focuses on their day-to-day needs more than it does on the need to stock Louis Vuitton purses or Montblanc pens.

Environmentally, the design of the city also helps because it does not promote driving. Fewer cars are, at least as far as the environment is concerned, never a bad thing.

Most cities in China have traditionally focused on big development plans driven by the real estate developers themselves. These developers have tended to find a large parcel of land in a suburban area somewhere, and then build a multi-purpose complex with a few skyscrapers for residences, a big mall and, somewhere, a park of some kind to meet urban planning guidelines.

But Suzhou does not have much access to suburban lands. It is surrounded by other cities and by lakes and rivers. The land it has at present is all that it will ever be able to use. So the city government has had to work with that. And it made peace with this reality a long time ago, planned around it and stuck with the original plan.

"I would emphasize very consistent planning over time," says Zhou.

Suzhou sits about an hour out of Shanghai, along the corridor that stretches out to Nanjing and represents one of the most heavily populated areas in the world. By no standard is Suzhou a small town.

It is difficult to put exact numbers on the population but according to some estimates, once the migrant population is taken into account, there are about 10.5 million people. The growth has been astounding. In 2000, there were fewer than 1.4 million people in this city famous for its canals.

And yet, Suzhou has plenty of parks surrounded by residential complexes and community shopping areas. These retail clusters are a deviation from the traditional approach most cities in China have taken. This has been to build massive shopping malls in preparation for the inevitable mass of drivers - a model perfected in the US where families have multiple cars and a penchant for driving to a hypermall and shopping at huge retail chains.

"Suzhou has been quite successful in terms of developing the new commercial business district while preserving the historical buildings," says Zhou.

The Suzhou Industrial Park, for example, is an example of long-range planning. The blueprints for the successful park were laid out in the 1990s and the park has grown thanks in large part to investment and planning from Singapore.

All this has helped Suzhou emerge as one of the largest recipients of foreign investment in China, which include multinationals like Procter & Gamble, DuPont, Siemens AG, Bayer AG, Philips Electronics NV and Tata Group.

The city's economic output in 2012 was 1.2 trillion yuan ($190 billion), or 114,000 yuan per capita. That is almost four times larger than the average across China.

Shanghai is the richest city in China with fiscal revenue in 2013 of 410 billion yuan, according to the China Investment Network. Suzhou is in sixth place (behind Beijing, Tianjin, Shenzhen and Chongqing) with revenues of 133 billion yuan.

But arguably, Suzhou is much more livable than any of its richer peers, although "livable city" claims are always debatable, depending on the criteria used. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, for example, named Zhuhai, on the southern coast of Guangdong, as the most livable city in China ahead of Hong Kong and Hainan Island.
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