LOOP - a project of micro-destinations in China
Originally known as Shanghai’s High Street, Yuyuan Road was once considered one of the city’s most prestigious areas. The lanes were home to numerous public figures and included much of the city’s iconic international concession architecture.
National figures such as renowned pianist Gu Shengying and prominent scientist turned politician, Qian Xuesen, lived there. And families of other local residents went back many generations.
However, much of the precinct’s public domain has become derelict over the years and in urgent need of repair. The complexity of this historic and fragile urban ecosystem called for a highly sensitive response that balances the community needs with modern development.
Multidisciplinary design studio, Gossamer, has won the contract to deliver LOOP, one of the city’s first community consultation urban regeneration projects. Driven by a multi-staged public engagement process LOOP will provide six co-designed micro-destinations, each tailored to the community. The project offers a new benchmark for placemaking in China.
The rapid urbanisation of China is nothing short of astounding and Shanghai is leading the country through its modernisation. However, public engagement and consultation is very much a new concept even in the country’s most progressive cities. In recent years views are changing and traditional ‘Shikoumen’ laneway housing is starting to be seen as much a part of city’s identity as the iconic Pudong Skyline.
As part of the project, Gossamer implemented one of Shanghai’s first community consultation campaigns with the aim of understanding the intricacies of these complex neighbourhoods and ultimately delivering a co-designed revitalisation outcome that ensures the long term preservation of local lifestyles and history. The sessions involved site tours, interactive workshop exercises and review sessions of ideas and strategies.
“LOOP is designed with the locals for locals,” says Gossamer founder and director, Jack Qian. “They know these lanes better than anyone else and consider these spaces as an extension of their homes.
“This aspect of lifestyle culture is a unique component of Shanghai’s identity to celebrate, embrace and preserve. From the onset, it became evident that we had to engage with the residents, but we found no precedents for public consultations of this nature in the city. Even though our team has had extensive experience in working with communities and stakeholders in Australia and the UK, it was also a first for us in China.
“When it all kicked off, we were pleasantly surprised by the level of engagement and interest from the public. The feedback gathered from the meetings and workshops was extremely valuable in helping us to understand and ultimately deliver a truly tailored outcome for the locals.”
LOOP consists of a series of integrated urban interventions guided by onsite observations, existing public life, local resident suggestions and ongoing feedback from the consultation process.
To ensure comprehensive site understanding the project leveraged the Gossamer Place Matters Spectrum to assess each stage of the design process. Through this process the team recorded genuine everyday uses by the local community for the successive design. Shopping for vegetables, chance encounters, meeting neighbours, drying clothes, playing mahjong and just sitting and relaxing under the shade of old London Plane trees were all considered as key insights and indicators of an existing rich laneway culture.
The result is a 1km circuit with six memorable micro-destinations intended to enhance the way of life within the laneways. To deliver a truly unique place the design offers a series of rest and relaxation zones, clothes drying facilities, mahjong tables, community gardens, historic interpretation, public art, leisure & exercise equipment and rain gardens.
The team also considered overall site circulation and designed improvements to; access, interface to retail, lighting, privacy, safety, waste sorting & disposal.
“We adapted our consultation and placemaking process from international practice specifically for the LOOP and Yuyuan Road community,” says Gossamer founding member and associate, Nicola Balch. “The workshops yielded extremely positive results giving us invaluable insight into how these communities use their spaces.
“Our client and the local government were very supportive and able to witness first-hand, the real benefits of public engagement and we hope to implement more of these into our future projects across China.”