• E’erguna City
    Sustainable Masterplan

/

    2012 | E'erguna, Inner Mongolia Region, PRC

    Land Area

    17 sqkm

    Client

    E’erguna People’s Government

    Field

    Planning / Sustainable Design

    Programme

    Mixed Use

    Partnership

    BDSP

    Credit

    Project by RM Studio of J.A.O. Design International

     

     

    A Laboratory for Sustainable Urban Development in Asia’s largest Wetlands.

    The environmental pressures, economic development and the unpredicted urbanization, have caused serious problems for Chinese cities in recent years and have given rise to a wide range of eco-friendly building programs. Each new campaign attracts eager media attention, yet realization too often falls short as projects are reduced, postponed or cancelled in the face of too great a size and ambition, unmet expectations, shifting interest, unclear objectives and a perennial shortage of funds.

    The E’erguna project on the other hand, is founded on three key principles that make it unique:

    The scale of intervention:

    The project offers an opportunity to transform an entire existing city into an eco-city. The planned area, approximately 20km2, is manageable from an economic perspective. The existing infrastructure currently serves less than 40% of the total area and thus offers substantial opportunities of intelligent and strategic intervention – upgrade and expansion – so as to turn the city’s infrastructure into both a greener and smarter means of serving the needs of E’erguna’s citizens and visitors alike.

    The culture in which the project is immersed:

    E’erguna, both for its location and role in history, is an incredibly challenging culture to face because it is not only the birth place of the Mongols, but it is where many ethnic groups coexist, creating a special atmosphere and cultural background, rooted on two main ethnic groups – the Russians and the Mongols. Their customs, dress code, food, music and other everyday life aspects reflect a great spirit of “sharing”. Such a welcoming spirit makes new ideas, approaches and development techniques easier to be explained and implemented.

    The environmental characteristics:

    The location of the strategic master plan is rich in water and wildlife including droves of free-roaming Mongolian horses, some 500 species of migratory birds, a birch forest that is nearly a quarter of the size of Manhattan, and the core of the largest wetlands in all of Asia, 1,200km2, about the size of Los Angeles. The city has a population of approximately 37,000 inhabitants in 20km2, whilst the entire area encompasses around 80,000 people in a land mass larger than Great Britain. The presence of such treasure suggests limiting as much as possible the expansion of the city beyond its current boundaries and focusing on densification.

    The main concepts/objectives that drive the strategic plan are:

    • Instead of the “massive urbanization” which has characterized China over the past 20 years, the focus is on “urban conservation” which not only leads the designer to look at new methods of construction but also to consider refurbishment options. As part of this process, an extensive “conditional survey” will need to be undertaken from an architectural/construction, social, demographical and infrastructural perspective, so as to be able to fully understand the status quo, which in turn will form the launching platform for any future urban design proposal.
    • The concept of a “learning city” dedicated to innovation. Being inspired yet critically learning from existing case studies of sustainable master plans, both inside and outside of China, but with the priority to anchor the solutions and the challenges within the local context, culture and climate etc. We must not blindly copy KPI’s applied to other eco-cities as these were geared to other contexts, size and climatic conditions, but learn from past case studies and generate our own rooted to the unique context of E’erguna.
    • The “learning city” dedicated to innovation is a “must” to make the system work in its complexity, drawing on awareness, participation and development, effectively developing the concept of a “laboratory” within the city of E’erguna. The starting point is for the designers and the planners to create an open platform of information and knowledge exchange, which is regularly updated with the evolution and feedback generated by the phased realization of the mater plan. This process can include academic and research institutions, NGOs, government agencies, schools as well as the citizens of E’erguna.
    • Placing tourism as a key business model for eco-tourists, researchers, ornithologists, ethnologists, anthropologists, and other nature-related professionals. Not only will the city gain advantage from its visitors by providing the required facilities and thereby generating income, but also advertise the feedback and experiences through various modes of media campaigns, inviting people to spend time and experience life in E’erguna.
    • Diversification and expansion of the existing industrial base. A dedicated industrial zone having an area of approximately 3km2 is planned on the south side of the city, subject to government approval. The proposal is to attract industries relating to the local flora and fauna. Such industries would focus on fair trade and ecological products that could include alternative construction materials such as sheep’s wool for insulation, cosmetics, textiles and other household consumables, as well as ecological food production; all subject to an environmentally approved process.
    • Ensure that every household has access to water, sanitation, heating and power; these are the basic living requirements for a modern and fair city.
    • In conjunction with this expansion and modernization of the utilities’ infrastructure, create a “smart” infrastructure which draws on urban informatics, effectively placing ICT at the heart of the city administration and planning and thus delivering a smart city.
    • Create a massive training and educational program, at all levels from the governors to the citizens, paying special attention to the younger generation who are the future of the city. To this end, specific action has already been taken by means of an anonymous survey sent to out to 3,000 citizens which received a very high level of positive feedback. A robust grassroots movement has mobilized both young and old and generated an exhaustive effort to keep residents informed and involved. Programs include: elementary school lessons for sharing best practices, protection of the wetlands, community events, exhibitions, essay contests, storytelling and public awareness campaigns through various media. The intention is to capture both success and failure as both have something to tell us. First signs show that the citizens of E’erguna are willing and interested to both share and participate in this transformation process.
    • Deliver a sense of identity of which its citizens are proud.
    • Review and promote cross and inter-departmental communication, maximizing the value of strategic investment.
    • Create a reliable information database (GIS) that works as a platform for strategic development and planning and enables monitoring and feedback of information.
    • Protection of the wetlands beyond the city boundaries.
    • Promote accessibility and pedestrian mobility within the urban block.