City firm has designs on Shanghai

Design Collective wins competition for community in China

September 13, 2001|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore architecture firm beat several other American firms to win a competition to design residential and commercial buildings in Shanghai.

Design Collective, a 70-person firm with offices on Pratt Street, was chosen by a jury of Chinese and American architects in a process that lasted a year and a half, company officials said yesterday.

The firm won a $100,000 prize and the right to negotiate a contract with the Chinese developer that is building the site, said Richard Burns, a principal with the firm.

Design Collective has left its imprint on Baltimore in recent years. The firm has been either a master planner or urban planner for several redevelopment projects, including the Power Plant and Tide Point on the harbor, and the American Can Co. building on Boston Street.

Design Collective was one of 12 U.S. firms in a design competition for projects in Shanghai and Beijing.

The contest was part of a joint initiative between the Chinese Ministry of Construction and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that started during the Clinton administration.

"There's a tremendous demand for quality housing in China," Burns said. "Shanghai alone will need to build 80 million square meters of housing in the next five years, and that translates to about 800,000 living units ... and that's just Shanghai.

"That doesn't include the other urban areas in China."

Chinese and HUD officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Burns said the victory in the competition, which was announced last week, will help make Design Collective an expert on "a viable new urban neighborhood planning paradigm" that China is moving toward.

China's housing demands are escalating, he said, because its fast-growing economy is creating more affluent residents and attracting expatriates, and the government is trying to redesign dilapidated urban areas.

Called the Xinlicheng project, the 1.62 million-square-foot area in a section of Shanghai is being developed by local Chinese developer Shanghai Pudong Real Estate Group.

It is a six- to eight-phase project that has already completed phase one - including 1,100 residential units, some commercial units, an elementary school, community center and open space - without Design Collective's involvement, said Matt D'Amico, a senior associate with the firm who worked on the project.

Design Collective will be charged with designing the project's second phase: 1,200 residential units with ground-level storefronts and buildings of varying heights, D'Amico said.

"That's one of the problems with their suburban development: It's just five- and six-story buildings as far as the eye can see," D'Amico said.

"They have very little diversity of building heights, in terms of scale, height and mass ... for literally miles and miles."

D'Amico said the buildings had to be designed to accommodate all Chinese building codes, including a solar ordinance that requires certain rooms in residential dwellings to receive a minimum amount of sunlight.

"It was a tremendous amount of work," he said.

Company officials did not know the cost of the entire project and declined to say how much a contract for the second phase might be worth.

Nine worked for a year

Over the past year, a team of nine associates has worked on the Xinlicheng project, D'Amico said.

The other competitor for the Shanghai project was Sorg & Associates from Washington, he said.

Jeffrey Soule, policy director for the American Planning Association, said Chinese planners are increasingly looking to American planners for models and innovation.

"They're really looking at expanding their own capability," Soule said.

Exchange of expertise

He said the APA is conducting its own demonstration project - a cooperative agreement mostly involving education and information exchange - in a new 180-acre area outside Shanghai to "help the Chinese planners learn from the things that we found to be useful."

He added that "China has been creating cities a lot longer than we have, so there's something to learn in both directions."

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