China is changing in terms of environment and sustainability and government directives are focused on landscape regeneration projects, with an eye to biophilic design

A China under the banner of sustainability is one of the most optimistic and unheard-of dreams of our time. If the one billion and four hundred thousand people who inhabit the second world power inhabited cities designed with biophilic design in mind, we could really begin to imagine a bright future. The good news is that China is indeed trying.

The mandate of President Xi Jinping, which began in 2013, has seen a succession of five-year plans devoted to the idea of ​​an ecological resurgence and development aimed at widespread well-being.

The idea translates into large investments of territorial regeneration, in urban projects focused on restoration and the relaunch of the city/nature/well-being relationship, in tax policies that support the eco-choices of entrepreneurs and individuals. In addition to the pressing news of visionary and pharaonic projects for Chinese megalopolises, the most tangible result is, as always, the financial one: China is the second country for Green Bonds, bonds that finance sustainable projects inspired by the man / nature well-being. Exactly what Oliver Heath preaches.

The pragmatic project of biophilic well-being

The change is concrete, visible. The tools are the ones we already know, but multiplied by size and economies. Cities like Shenzhen, one of the top three in terms of population, is experiencing an eco-mutation thanks to a masterplan that envisages the transformation into a sponge city capable of absorbing monsoon waters and re-establish local flora and fauna. Bihan, one of its suburbs, is preparing to become one of the first green sites built from scratch on an already urbanized territory.

Inside there is a completely self-sufficient neighborhood, both from an energy and food point of view. Guallart Architects designed it and was designed to cope with other pandemic crises. The Pritzker Price Wang Shu believes in the recovery of architecture rural. The Turen Architects studio, author of masterplans of urban areas and natural areas of several square kilometers, aims at the recovery of territories and the coexistence of cities, environment and biodiversity - one of the great issues that the UN will address this year in China. The seven most important cities, which alone gather 139 million people, have plans for the development or restoration of their urban areas which are unquestionably focused on cutting-edge environmental solutions.

Happy and regenerative interventions

In general, any construction or restoration is subject to the restoration of the natural environment and the integration of nature and the city. One of the more recent examples: Shanghai Tech University, which is also home to the China Science Academy. Inaugurated in 2019, it was designed by Moore Ruble Yudel Architects. The Chinese-German DLC Design instead signed the landscape project. Shanghai Tech is a sustainable building with a very low carbon blueprint. The mobility was organized underground, so as not to disturb the wetland park that surrounds it and which drains the water of the seasonal monsoons. Almost all cities are equipping themselves with wetlands designed to reduce pollution and accommodate excess water, transforming the suburbs into green areas with social and economic objectives.

The shock of turbocapitalism and the collective ideal

Yu Hua in “China in ten words” he writes: “a Westerner would have had to live four hundred years to witness the upheavals that the Chinese have seen in just forty years ”. The transition to turbo capitalism has indeed been a culture shock for the population. Aldo Cibic, who has been coming and going from China for about twenty years, explains that " China is a country that wants to carry everyone forward, eliminating poverty of all kinds is a diktat ". Putting together a more authoritarian government than the Western ones and a collective ideal that transcends individual well-being is really a difficult conceptual operation." Not it's up to me to comment. I feel very lucky: I witness significant changes, unbearable places that become beautiful and livable and remain so ".

Do we therefore have to hope for a more environmentally conscious China?

According to Cibic, it is right to be optimistic. "The impact is visible, measurable and planned: it is a society that evolves, moves at a very rapid pace and does not admit smudges", explains the architect. "Of course, there are still many macro fragilities, but I have never seen a country so capable of absorbing change and understanding its importance".

Cover photo: A Vertical ForestING project by Stefano Boeri Architetti, under construction in Nanjing.