The master plan calls for turning Wuxi Lihu Bay, an undeveloped area with origins dating back to the 11th century BC, into a vital contemporary city with both residential and urban life. Overland’s approach was to respond to the natural topography by creating a complex mixed-used plan that takes advantage of the city’s proximity to Lake Taihu and uses a canal system to connect existing creeks.
Overland’s solution to the overriding problem was simply to explain that, by responding to the structure of the natural topography, everything else would fall into place. Rather than adhere to a simple division into two distinct sections, the Overland team pointed out that the existing patterns of rivers and creeks would suggest a more diverse distribution of areas for housing, commerce, and recreation, and that green pathways and especially canals, similar to those in cities such as Chicago, Amsterdam, and San Antonio, could link these different components to one another and provide easy access from place to place. Rather than be a static grid, the topography-driven scheme will be visually diverse, with irregularly shaped lots, canals and parks of varying sizes, and a river walk that is distinctly human in scale.
When Wuxi officials saw diagrams for this proposal, they recognized how advantageous the plan would be for promoting a high quality of life for residents, while also attracting tourists and investors. According to Overland architect James Andrews, “I think they felt that they would be able to exceed many of their financial return requirements, but do it in such a way that it created a fascinating dialogue between water and people and buildings.”
Overland’s land-use plan will bring all the amenities of contemporary living—hotels, office buildings, restaurants, commercial venues, housing, museums, religious buildings, parks, and parking—to an already idyllic setting in the Yangtze River Delta. With an interconnected system of green pathways and canals, a beautiful cityscape, and luxurious areas of water within and without the city, Lihu Bay is likely to attract many new residents from nearby Shanghai. According to Andrews, city officials view the Wuxi Lihu Bay master plan as an “opportunity for a livable city, and they could really see themselves living there.”
IN ASSOCIATION WITH FORD, POWELL AND CARSON & CU OFFICE