A pristine rural environment for centuries, Chongming island sits just north of Shanghai at the mouth of the Yangtze River. Locals know it as “the last paradise of Shanghai,” and even as it faces major development in the near future, architects and planners are intent on keeping it that way. Over the past few years, the island has become a laboratory for new strategies in large-scale environmental planning. Skidmore, Owings and Merrill completed a master plan to sustainably develop the 1041-square-kilometer island in 2004, and the engineering firm Arup expects to complete the first phase of Dongtan, a sustainable eco-city, by 2010. The planning and landscape architecture firm EDAW recently finished two major planning projects that continue to push the boundaries of environmental design and planning—the Chongqi Channel Landscape Plan and the North Lake District Master Plan.
While providing needed transportation, highways often have caused major disruptions in both urban and rural environments. Hoping to set a new precedent, the Shanghai Municipal City Planning Administration hired EDAW in November 2006 to develop a plan for a green motorway that would integrate the new infrastructure with the surrounding environment. The Chongqi Channel consists of two bridges, a tunnel, and a 32-kilometer-long highway that will connect Shanghai to Jiangsu Province in the north. The motorway's main feature will be a 200-meter-wide landscaped buffer zone on either side of it. During the course of three phases, the surrounding forest will evolve into a rich and diverse eco-system, and a series of pedestrian and bicycle trails winding through the zone will invite locals and tourists. Another feature of EDAW's plan is a storm-water filtration system that will collect runoff water from the roads, purify it in a system of wetlands, and then steer it into existing canals along the highway.
In a separate project, EDAW has designed a master plan for the North Lake District to guide the development of a 34.5-square-kilometer area north of the island that surrounds a 7.7-square-kilometer saltwater lake, which is home to over 100 species of fish and birds. The project aims to improve the lake's water quality and create a series of communities and attractions to encourage tourism and economic investment into the area. The firm designed a sedimentation basin and a constructed wetland on the east side of the lake to treat the water that flows in from the north branch of the Yangtze river and the sea. Parks on the northeast and southeast sides of the lake will attract tourists as well as migratory birds on their way from Australia to Siberia. The master plan also includes three resort communities and two luxury residential communities, complete with a golf course, polo club, and health spa.
EDAW's two projects on Chongming Island show that large-scale development can be compatible with environmental sensitivity.