Contemporary Architecture Practice (CAP, @cap_ny_sh), the New York- and Shanghai-based firm founded and led by Weitzman faculty members Ali Rahim and Hina Jamelle, has been selected to design Lijia Smart Park Innovation Center West District. At 510,830 square meters, the development in Chongqing, China, is the firm’s most complex project to date.
As Rahim and Jamelle describe their vision, “it brings together nature, morphology, calligraphy, big data and cutting-edge aesthetics in the shape of an urban icon that is a smart city.”
The master plan consists of 13 buildings on a plinth that connects all the buildings together into an iconic form. It includes a Big Data Museum, eight office towers and four research and development buildings.
Chongqing is a subtropical city set among dramatic mountains and at the intersection of the Yangtze and Jialing rivers. CAP made this a central feature of its master plan. The site of the project is a microcosm of Chongqing with its steep hills and large topographic drop to Hongyazhai Park. To connect the two entries to the site that are furthest apart, Rahim and Jamelle designed a new nature zone spanning from east to west with hard and soft surfaces, seating areas, and plazas that welcome all the people who work in and visit the area.
The morphology of the project responds to the dense gridded city to the north and the park to the south. Along the north edge are eight gridded high-rise office towers that undulate in plan and section. The south side consists of interconnected terraced buildings and landscapes that respond to the soft edge of the lake and Hongyazhai Park beyond. These terraced buildings are home to start-ups and incubators. All buildings have green roofs and/or terraces that allow nature to coexist with architecture while contributing towards an ecological environment. Water drainage is carefully managed and the lake is used as a retention pond to enable the grounds to work as a sponge.
The form of the project was inspired by Chinese calligraphy and landscape painting. The lines on the master plan traverse, turn, pause, lift, press and outline.
The 20,000-square-meter Big Data Museum is the “brain” of the site. It sits on top of a retail loop and connects all the big data-driven loops throughout the site, including smart mobility, smart utility, and smart infrastructure. These smart systems link the museum to each building, street, and plaza with a constant flow of information.
The smart systems include autonomous vehicles moving in conjunction with traffic level planning and traffic flow statistics. These battery-powered vehicles will travel throughout the site in four loops at three different levels, connected by 5G technology and interfaced by cell phones. A connection between information and material is realized, according to Jamelle and Rahim, contributing towards a vibrant experience.
For Rahim, who directs the MSD-AAD program at Weitzman, and Jamelle, who directs the Urban Housing studios in the MArch program, the project is about increasing economic viability through an interconnected design that respects the site. “It aims to contribute to life in the digital economy by activating an inspired new urban experience,” they explain.