One of the key elements in Lisa Bate’s (BArch 1987) design for a new city centre in China is free and in abundant supply: blue sky. “I want people to notice the sky because right now in China, you can spend two days getting inland before you even see it,” she says, referring to the dense forests of high-rise buildings that block out the sun in cities such as Shanghai.
Last summer, Bate’s Toronto-based firm, Six Degrees Architecture and Design Inc., won an international design competition for a new two-square-kilometre administration complex in the city of Yichun, in the southern province of Jiangxi. The mammoth project is on an unprecedented scale for Bate’s relatively small architectural firm.
Bate’s concepts will help transform Yichun into an “eco-city.” The government buildings and surrounding cultural, retail and recreational facilities will incorporate principles of green architecture, using solar heating and natural light, while showcasing the surrounding river, mountains and valleys. Tentatively scheduled for completion by 2014, the project has a total construction budget of about $750 million US.
In recent years, China has shown a growing commitment to environmental responsibility, but the country still has a long way to go, says Bate. “We think of our design as a gateway to the environment, and we want people to recognize the inherent value of thinking about sustainability and their children’s children.” The Yichun project has led to more work for Bate in China. In November, Six Degrees won another international design competition for a transportation terminal in Hunan province. “I think our strength is that we’ve managed to respect traditional cultural practices, such as feng shui, while promoting environmental conservation,” says Bate.