A Cross Section through the City: Redevelopment of the Han Jiang Riverfront in Wuhan, China
Large tracts of valuable urban property have often been opened up for redevelopment adjacent to the centers of contemporary cities, as waterfront industries and port facilities of the earlier modern period have declined or moved away. This has certainly been the case in most well-developed western cities like Boston, Barcelona and Rotterdam, to name but a few, and is now the case in contemporary China, where urbanization has picked up rapidly and where cities are taking on a more profoundly service orientation. The issues to be faced usually require orchestration of competing claims among larger-scale entrepreneurs, local residents and businesses and various public authorities, often with very different views about how waterfront properties should be redeveloped. There is also intrinsic competition among different functions, including recreation, business enterprises of one kind or another, flood control and environmental management, as well as residential and associated living environments. Recognition of the past is also frequently an issue raising the question of what to preserve and how to balance the scope of that preservation, or conservation, with new development opportunities. In addition, waterfronts are parts of the broader natural system and places where environmental quality often comes to the public forefront, as well as being potential sites for public leisure-time activities. Furthermore, as marginal areas prior to redevelopment, waterfront properties often house populations who risk displacement, as new plans and projects are pushed ahead. Then too, waterfronts in their older modern guise typically cut the city behind off from the water, whereas, again with new plans and projects, they offer a potential vantage point to reconceptualize the city in a broader and more inclusive manner.Redevelopment of the Hanjiang – Han River – raises all these issues, plus the inevitably complex context of China in transition. The specific site for consideration is located at the confluence of the Han with the Changjiang – Yangtze River – around which the city of Wuhan is centered, incorporating Hankou to the north of the Han; Hanyang to the south and Wuchang to the east, across the Changjiang. About 20 kilometers in length, the site stretches through Wuhan from the Jianghan No. 3 Bridge, beside the confluence of the two rivers, westwards to the No. 5 bridge, with four river crossings in between. Today the cross-section of the Han incorporates both structural and non-structural approaches to flood control, always a dangerous matter of concern, especially during seasonal heavy rains. Adjacent uses vary along the length of the river, including a lot of old industry and perfunctory residential development, as well as agriculture. For redevelopment purposes, there are at least three general sections – one, immediately adjacent to Old Hankou and Old Hanyang, requiring substantial and dense urban reconsideration; another providing opportunities for better residential district making; and a third presenting the possibility for both recreation and intensive agriculture. Work in the studio will commence with an overall master-planning exercise for Wuhan, in order to place the site in a better context. This will be followed by an iterative process involving redevelopment strategies with both urban planning and urban-architectural dimensions, followed by development of specific proposals within the ambit of each particular redevelopment strategy. The studio is offered primarily for students from urban design, urban planning and architecture, although there is some scope for students from landscape architecture. A site visit will be made to Wuhan in October, with external sponsorship paying expenses for travel and accommodation, as well for a final studio publication.