Net City: Tencent is building a Monaco-sized ‘city of the future’ in Shenzhen

Net City: Tencent is building a Monaco-sized 'city of the future' in Shenzhen
Adam D. Crook
Written by Adam D. Crook

Who wrote Oscar Holland, CNN

Technology giant Tencent has unveiled plans for an almost entirely car-free “city of the future” similar to Monaco in the Chinese metropolis. Shenzhen.

Its designers said the 2 million-square-meter (22 million-square-foot) urban development known as the “Net City” would be a priority for pedestrians, green spaces and self-driving vehicles.

Although primarily for Tencent use, most spaces and amenities are accessible to the public. Credit: NBBJ

The prestigious city-within-a-city is ready to conquer the reclaimed land into the Pearl River estuary. Designed to cater to a population of around 80,000, the site serves mainly Tencent, The conglomerate behind WeChat and China’s popular QQ messaging service.

In addition to providing the company’s residences and offices, the neighborhood is expected to operate stores, schools and other public amenities, and the rest will be connected by road bridges, ferries and the city’s subway system. NBBJ, the American company behind the master plan, hopes the new district’s entertainment venues, parks and waterside picnic areas will attract visitors from other parts of the city.

The site will be built on reclaimed land.

The site will be built on reclaimed land. Credit: NBBJ

Similarly, Jonathan Ward, design partner at NBBJ, said the plan was different from the enclosed campuses opened by big tech companies in recent years.

“It’s definitely a civic part of (and having) a destination,” he said in a phone interview. “It’s not an isolated, safe island – it’s a vibrant city. People walk through it, they connect … and it is a key hub for Shenzhen.”

Getting rid of the car

Working with an unusually large space, NBBJ – which won international competition for site design – was able to rethink the role of car in urban planning, Ward said.

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“Our main goal is to provide a space where innovation can really thrive,” he explained. “To do that, we tried to minimize the impact of the car as much as possible.

Going “car-free” is still a little challenging in our world, so we’ve spent a lot of time creating the city with as little impact as possible, removing (cars) wherever they are needed and focusing on people. ”

The Master Plan emphasizes pedestrians with limited access to traditional vehicles.

The Master Plan emphasizes pedestrians with limited access to traditional vehicles. Credit: NBBJ

The plan is centered around a “green corridor” designed for buses, bikes and autonomous vehicles, although ordinary cars can access parts of the neighborhood. The layout eliminates what Ward calls “unnecessary” traffic.

“You don’t need a block around the road – you can have eight blocks around the road and take out everything in between,” he said. “We are ‘clearing’ the roads in places where we think it’s very good for people to walk a couple of minutes away from a subway or a (taxi) drop-off.

“And, in those two minutes, you can see something exciting, connect with nature, or meet a colleague you haven’t seen in a while – everything you can see happening in the workplace environment can happen in the city.”

Interconnected Planning

In addition to connecting with the wider urban fabric of Shenzhen, NBBJ’s Master Plan is designed to be called “interconnected, human-centered organic ecosystem”. For Tencent employees, this could mean reducing the difference between their work and private lives – the idea has become even more relevant in light of the Kovid-19 pandemic, Ward said.

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“Traditional cities are very soft, even in dense cities where there is a lot of interaction and intermixing,” he said. “But what’s happening now is that you can start blurring those lines (between work and play) and bring more interaction between different parts of life.

“You see, for better or worse, more blurring of those lines. But I think we can make it better as we move this model forward,” he said.

Elsewhere, the Master Plan considers elaborate systems to capture and reuse environmental sustainability and wastewater with rooftop solar panels. Planners are looking at future sea level rise to ensure that buildings are well protected from climate change.

Transportation systems connect

Transportation systems connect “City-in-a-City” with the rest of Shenzhen. Credit: NBBJ

Tencent is not the only private company looking to create its own micro city. Earlier this year, carmaker unveiled plans for Toyota 175 acres of “woven city” In the Mount Fuji Mountains, it tests autonomous vehicles, smart technology and robot-assisted living. In Toronto, Sidewalk Labs, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, plans to transform the waterfront into a new neighborhood. The project has been canceled Citing the “economic uncertainty” caused by Kovid-19.
The Chinese government has dubbed it the “Special Economic Zone” since 1980, and many other large-scale developments have taken place in Shenzhen, a city that has exploded in size since the 1980s. The first phase of a new business district, called Shenzhen Bay Headquarters City, is also being built on reclaimed land, It is expected to be completed by 2022.

Tencent’s Net City will take seven years to complete, with construction expected to begin later this year. Dozens of individual buildings ranging from one to 30 stories high are designed by a variety of construction companies.

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About the author

Adam D. Crook

Adam D. Crook

Adam is a charismatic science communicator respected for his deep understanding of US S&T system. "New Frontiers in Science & Development' is the online platform he contributes to actively in addition to Science and Getty Images. He has won many national and international awards for his work. Explaining complexities of science in a simple language is his forte. He has extensive experience in reporting about the United State atomic energy program.
His pioneering work show casing US’s maiden mission to Mars and Moon has been applauded this aired in English for Television. In his two decades of writing for the prestigious American weekly Science, his stories have highlighted.

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