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L&A design: Nantou Ancient Town (hereafter as: Nantou) is located in Nanshan District, Shenzhen. With a history of nearly 1700 years, it has witnessed the renewal and development of the historical city center in Shenzhen. Nantou is now a quickly developing urban village within the rapid urbanization and continuous immigrations, but it has a complicated out-of–date urban space structure. As an ancient historical site, it used to be the “first county in eastern Guangdong”. It is really a valuable relic of local cultural history. In the 1950s, Nantou, as the seat of local government, was the core area in Shenzhen.
The “Symbiosis” of Ancient Town and the Modern Urban Village
The year 2020 marks the 40th anniversary of Shenzhen’s opening. From a “small fishing village” to a modern metropolis, Shenzhen has undergone earth-shaking changes. However, the history of Shenzhen is far more than that. Behind this young modern city, lies a 1700-year-old Nantou Ancient Town. It is located at the end of Shennan Avenue in Nanshan District, Shenzhen, presenting a street pattern of “six verticals and one horizontal”. This is the only historical and cultural carrier in Shenzhen, as well as a valuable relic of the ancient Lingnan culture. It has witnessed the changes of Shenzhen since the Eastern Jin Dynasty and is considered to be the “root of Shenzhen-Hong Kong history and culture”.
Nantou Ancient Town has always been preferred among designers with its long history, rich culture and special urban texture. Whenever a major historical event occurs, Nantou Ancient Town would go through some history tracing and reforming—8 new antique buildings were built when Hong Kong returned to China in 1997; the main streets were greatly and newly decorated at the 2011 Shenzhen Universiade; and buildings were well integrated with arts at the 2017 Bi-city Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (Shenzhen). In March 2019, the Nanshan District Government launched the “Nirvana and Rebirth Plan” for Nantou Ancient Town, which was implemented by Vanke Group, and the L&A Design Team was also fortunate to participate in it.
The north and south main streets of Nantou Ancient Town were officially opened on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone. Looking at the renewed ancient town, Mr. Li Baozhang was deeply impressed, recalling the difficulties in the project process.
Nantou Ancient Town is just around the corner to embrace its brand new life!
Since the main venue of the 2017 Bi-city Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (Shenzhen) was located in Nantou Ancient Town, the world has focused on this place known as the source of “Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao”. After the development of various eras, it has almost become an urban village with walls.
The theme of 2017 Bi-city Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (Shenzhen) is “Cities, Grow in Difference”. Hou Hanru (the curator and critic), Professor Du and Master Meng (the partners of Urban Practice) hope to see a “multicultural, inclusive and dynamic urban ecosystem” in Shenzhen. This biennale attracted 230 groups of exhibitors from China and all over the world. During the three months of exhibition, more than 300,000 people came here to pay a visit.
Later, we probably know that the Shenzhen Municipal Government hopes to “make the ancient town alive”, and use modern creativity to renew its cultural vitality, making here a place for more creative young people to work and live, as well as an ancient and fashionable cultural landmark of the Design City.
The task of project overall coordination fell to the Urban Research Institute of China Vanke (without suspense) . At the end of September last year, we were very pleased to know that Vanke wanted L&A Design to participate in landscape planning and to design the landscape of important scenic spots. I saw their research report that was so complex, also the popular architects and their plans for this project. Everyone knows that this is the designer’s dream job.
Wish is always perfect. Reality, how to say, is also quite well. It has the dramatic process that is difficult to meet again! In the past ten months (including the days of the epidemic), I don’t know how many coordination meetings I have experienced. We stayed up late to revise drawings, saw girls crying on their noses and boys slapping on the table, and experienced the arguments among constructors, designers and managers. Finally, after several months, Nantou Ancient Town, which has been closed for construction, can appear in front of everyone again.
When you go to this ancient town, you will see the work of the L&A Design Shenzhen Team—the reconstruction of Guandi Temple, the design of South Gate Park and South Gate Square (in the design we protected the local historic sites), and the reconstruction of the main street of the South Gate, etc. Now, let me on behalf of L&A Design, thank everyone who participated in the Nantou Ancient Town project—our team, Vanke management team, all the design partners, construction parties and workers who worked day and night. We have completed an impossible task together!
Sunday, August 23, 2020 in Shekou
▼南头古城的历史风貌 Historical townscape of Nantou
Through the rapid development recent decades, this urban village has been favored and unreasonably developed by the booming commercial housing market and increasing house rental demand for its lowest living cost and most friendly human-oriented living ambience. However, like other ordinary urban villages scattered in the city, it was isolated by the rapid development and become a separated island. The buildings inside the ancient town began to “grow” naturally. The architectural styles of different ages are very different. New buildings have been heightened as the population moves in, hiding the old buildings among them.
With the continuous growth of immigrant population here, the style of the Nantou Ancient Town has undergone drastic changes. Like other ordinary urban villages scattered in the city, it was isolated by the rapid development and become a separated island. The buildings inside the ancient town began to “grow” naturally. The architectural styles of different ages are very different. New buildings have been heightened as the population moves in, hiding the old buildings among them.
Walking into the town, we could see that old people took out various seats from their homes and chatted in the alleys. There is no tea room or café. Not even a roof is needed. You can play cards and chess just in a shady place. The children born here can escape the stone puddles even with eyes closed. Everything here is so ordinary. People live in earnest, but they are far from the glorious world outside the ancient town. Occasionally, when a well-dressed gentleman walked into here, he would seem to be incompatible with the dusty, run-down and chaotic environment.
The texture of the interior of the ancient town is different from anywhere in the surrounding area. The streets here are narrow and winding, but it can meet the basic needs of communication and contact. Some small open spaces are enclosed by scattered houses, interspersed on both sides of these winding roads, and important street locations are occupied by various shops. However, this long-term disorderly development will inevitably lead to some problems.
It was a great challenge to renovate this ancient urban village for its complicated population and spatial structure, outdated infrastructure, difficulties of cultural relic protection, and lack of public space.
▼南头古城前期调研 Previous marketing research
The aboriginal population is about 30,000 in Nantou, of which 90% are low-income migrants. Compared with surrounding high-rise housing blocks, Nantouis absolutely an irreplaceable shelter for low-income migrants with its over60% cheaper house rental. Moreover, this ancient site is filled with different architectural styles with inclusive space layout. Both the architectures and lifestyles here are needed to be respect whether from historical factors or urban development.
▼南头古城一期二期设计范围 Phase Ⅰ and Ⅱ Design Scope of Nantou Ancient Town
Faced with the complex space system, L&A Design Team design from the perspective of “the root-seeking and regeneration of the city”. “Root-seeking” is to study and interpret the historical changes and folk customs of Nantou, to deeply understand the function, space and value of this ancient town, and discover its shining points. “Regeneration” is to transform history into contemporary, so that Nantou Ancient Town could be “lived”.
Faced with the complex space system, the project design well connects different areas from different viewing angles in a systematic way to build a diversified and inclusive community space by culture display, historic-axis connection and architecture revitalization. An activation mode was introduced to design cultural space, scientific innovation space and cultural innovation space, so as to achieve the active interaction between aborigines and immigrants, makers, tourists and other groups. Some tender feeling is spreading in this urban village when people are enjoying themselves in the social spaces integrated with local ancient features. It establishes a model of urban renewal to obtain the variety for existed monotonous structures of space and population here, and to enhance local cultural attraction, further to build an inclusive livable community with vitality and diversity.
▼视频：南头古城的更新活化 Video: Regeneration of Nantou Ancient Town
▼南头古城更新后鸟瞰 Aerial view after regeneration
Employ the Local Culture to Enrich an Ancient Town
入口界面 The Entrance
On the north-south axis of the ancient town, there are distributed key cultural relics protection units and historical buildings, extending from the memorial archway, Guandi Temple, and South Gate to the depths of the ancient town, forming a orderly spatial sequence. The memorial archway at the entrance is a symbol of Shenzhen’s long history and culture, and is also the starting point and facade of Nantou Ancient Town.
▼南头古城入口处牌坊 The memorial archway at the entrance of Nantou Ancient Town
During the investigation, L&A Design Team found that Guandi Temple was a high traffic area. On the way home from work, many residents would worship Guan Yu statue outside the wall when passing by. This is a touching and interesting story. Mr. Qian of the Urban Research Institute of China Vanke, found that local people will kneel down outside the Guandi Temple to redeem the wish when they pass by; if the temple is closed, it is not decent to do this on the street. Therefore, his proposal, to open the front yard, brought us inspiration and thinking.
▼改造后的关帝庙 Guandi Temple After Reconstruction
南门广场 South Gate Square
The memorial archway is the entrance to South Gate Square. According to the existed road on the site, the designers narrowed the open space on the south side into a linear space leading to the ancient town. And the existed shrubs on both sides of the road were cleared and replaced by orderly street trees and open green spaces.
▼南门广场上络绎不绝的人流 A steady stream of visitors on the South Gate Square
The South Gate Square alone has undergone three rounds of design and seven rounds of scrutiny, and finally chose the most ordinary and most lively plan. In the reconstruction, we retained the big banyan trees and scattered stones in the park, preserving the peculiarity of the Lingnan village entrance. L&A Design Team thought that adding six chipped ashlars in such a small space might seem very crowded, but when it was completed, it’s very relieved to see villagers and tourists actually using it.
At the end of the road, the gate square suddenly opened up. The designer set a boundary for the square in the form of barbican. The square was on the side of the gate, and the foundation of the wall was excavated as a historical relic, surrounded by guardrails for tourists to watch. The sharp contrast of the inside and outside were dissolved by the green plants on the wall. The soft light diffused on the city wall, making the gate itself a cultural relic exhibit.
南北主街 North-south Main Street
Entering the gate, there’s a space completely different from the outside. Roaming in it, you can feel the impact of multicultural integration. After the street was enclosed by buildings of different forms, the straight linear space become complex in levels. You would encounter fork roads from time to time. These fork roads are connected to narrower lanes, connecting the hinterland of the ancient town like capillaries.
The main street of Nantou was renovated segment by segment and stage by stage with clear classifications. The boundary between public and private spaces was divided by the steps in front of the shops on the street. The shop facades were strategically renovated according to the classified “with vacant land”, “without vacant land”, “only with steps”, and “with shared front space”. The existed step space in front of each shop was renovated as series seating areas for the passersby, and decorated with unified flower boxes to create a resilient streetscape full of vibrancy.
▼改造前后的古城街道 The Streets of the Ancient Town Before and After Reconstruction
The design of public areas was based on the grading of the main street and its lanes. Two paving materials with separate unified styles were selected for the street and lanes, so as to visually achieve clear spatial division. In addition, the historic buildings with distinctive local features were well preserved and decorated by energetic plants in a considerate way, also the flexibly functional space for activities was reserved.
Nantou is not only a densely populated urban village with complicated space system, but also an ancient cultural site with a long history. In order to better preserve and keep on local cultural vitality, the project design used the remaining materials of ancient buildings which had a hundred years such as Baode Temple building stuff. The ancient city entrance which is close to Zhongshan Park was designed to recycle these primordial materials. By combing with modern materials such as transparent concrete, a new natural and historical entrance landscape wall was dexterously formed.
▼入口景墙施工过程 Construction Process of Entrance Landscape Wall
At the boundary between South Street and North Street stands the majestic Xin’an County Office. As an important place to witness the historical changes of Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Macao, it shows the profound historical heritage of Nantou.
▼威严肃穆的新安县衙 The majestic Xin’an County Office
In addition, the traditional Lingnan paving materials and combinations are used in the street reconstruction. The drainage metal components and stone manhole covers on the pavement are also laid with materials that conform to the local style. At the same time, according to the characteristics of each building’s facade along the street, the designer built a landscape structure with different forms but coordinated styles for each section of the façade, finally giving the main street which carries the long history and culture a new life.
▼路面细节 Pavement Details
Infrastructure improvement is another key issue in this project. Actually, the main street was a north-south ramp with manhole covers of varying heights and disordered wires and pipes. The renovated seating areas in front of the shops are also functioned to balance the height difference between the main street and the entrances of buildings along the street, meanwhile, to hide the existed disordered wires and pipes, creating a pleasant streetscape for visitors and passersby. Classified trash cans and box-type outdoor fire hydrants are reasonably set on the street.
Horizontal linear interceptor ditches are installed with ancient-style metal drainage outlets to solve the drainage problem on the whole site. The plant palette is designed with planting pots and beds according to the thickness of soil cover by the site height difference. These designing measures not only meet the residents’ needs of contemporary daily life, but also greatly improve the quality of space environment on the whole site.
The Nature Outside and the Life Inside
恢复古城生活 Life Renewal
Through the investigation on local residents’ behavior patterns and lifestyles, designers found there were limited public spaces to meet their everyday needs here. Whereupon, in addition to the reconstruction of main street and the reparative protection of historic monuments, the existed important public open spaces were all renovated in a sustainable way with low interventions, such as South Square East Gatehouse, Guanye Temple, Baode Temple, etc.. Moreover, green infrastructure is pleasantly set on these public spaces to create a comfortable and cozy greenbelt for residents, endowing the ancient site with full of vitality.
In detail, the existing redundant shrubs on South Square are removed to build an open green space, and the large banyan and scattered stones are preserved to keep an ambience of reminiscence. Traditional scenes of everyday life, such as enjoying opera-and-tea time, dragon-lion dancing performance and trading fairs, all return here for local residents by the renovation of public spaces.
The renovated spaces also provide diverse platforms for various activities like exhibitions, artistic performances and creativity fairs. As a result, the renovation provides Nantou and her residents with ample space for diverse activities, and return local original life style to residents.
The project laid emphasis on the maintenance of historical sites and the renovation of this urban village, introducing various design elements for local activities such as traditional handicrafts, food, folk customs, creativity fairs, museum groups and themed exhibitions. As the birthplace of local culture in Shenzhen, Nantou becomes a landmark for people to appreciate and cherish its historical and cultural heritage. Through the renovations, it has successfully transformed from a low-end urban village into an urban symbiotic ecosystem with integrated cultural creativity, residence and commerce. Local residents still keep their original normal lifestyle, but they could now enjoy diverse activities in the more spacious public spaces.
In August 2020, the 330-meter-long North-South Street was officially opened. The renewed Nantou Ancient Town once again became an online celebrity check-in point after the 2017 Bi-city Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (Shenzhen). Various store celebrations and exhibition activities are also in full swing, endowing bright colors to the elegant Nantou Ancient Town in autumn.
With all kinds of activities, pedestrians coming and going, and families picnicking on the grass, the ancient town has naturally formed an atmosphere in which people old and young can both enjoy themselves. In the ancient town, we have seen a variety of spatial phenomena, scenes of returning to life, as well as the natural, highly efficient and human-oriented rooms, and even uncontrollable natural forces.
The renewed Nantou Ancient Town provides not only an ideal cultural and creative activity platform for newcomers, but also a high-quality livable space with low rent for low-income groups surviving in the metropolis with increasingly expensive land prices. With the south gate of the ancient town as the boundary, the inside of the town is in sharp contrast with its appearance outside. Inside, there are strong marketplace atmosphere and abundant life; outside, there are a natural public space and pleasant tree-lined avenues. Inside, there is a traditional urban village with a strong sense of history. Outside, there is a glamorous modern city.
▼城内是古城生活，城外是自然的公共空间 Inside, there is abundant life; outside, there is a natural public space
In the collision of history and modernity, tradition and fashion, old and new, we want to return to the present, and use every tree, every stone, every brick, every stool, and every native plant to create a beautiful life scene, to show the spirit of nature and the power of life, and to demonstrate the spiritual connotation of the “primordial” Nantou Ancient Town.
Nevertheless, the renewal of urban villages is a complex and continuous process, while this project is just a beginning. In the future, Nantou will explore a sustainable development mode itself in the complex modern city background, to lead the coordinated development with surrounding areas, with a view to providing feasible solutions for the urban-village renewal of other cities around the world.
集群设计其他单位(注明排名不分先后)：MVRDV / Tao迹 / 大域 / 都市实践 / 反正 / 坊城 / 非常建筑 / 华汇 / 集合设计 / 厘米制造 / 南沙原创 / 南粤古建 / 如恩 / Plus 8 / 竖梁社 / 武重义 / 一十一 / 营加 / 众建筑 / 梓集
采写 / 奥雅设计 研发中心
编辑 / Christine
摄影 / ACF域图视觉 林涛 韦立伟 上官静煊
翻译 / AOT 予言译术
Project Name: Nantou Ancient Town Activation and Utilization
Project Location: Nantou Ancient Town, Nanshan District, Shenzhen City, China
Client: Bureau Public Works of Shenzhen Municipality
Agent Construction: Shenzhen Vanke Development Co., Ltd
Planning and Design Management Team: Urban Research Institute of China Vanke, vaLue
General Contractor: Bowan Architecture (general partnership)
Landscape Design: L&A Design
Lighting Design: GD-Lighting Design
Curtain Wall Design: Shenzhen pengge curtain wall design Consulting Co., Ltd
Signs Design: Shenzhen Up Design
Other Units of Cluster Design (in no particular order): MVRDV / Trace Architecture Office / Dayu Design / URBANUS / Atelier FANZHENG / FCHA / Atelier FCJZ / HHDesign / Gace Design / CM Design / NODE Architecture & Urbanism / Nanyue Ancient Architecture / Neri&Hu Design and Research Office / Plus 8 / Atelier cnS / Vo Trong Nghia Architects / 11 Design Studio / IN+ Design / PAO / Fabersociety
Phase I Project Information
Design Time: June 2019
Completion Time: August 2020
Site Area: 44,000㎡
Building Area: 93,000㎡
Phase II Project Information
Design Time: September 2020
Completion Time: February 2021
Building Area: 9,500㎡
Written / R&D Center of L&A Design
Editor / Christine
Photo / ACF, Lin Tao, Wei Liwei, Shangguan Jingxuan
Interpret / AOT
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