From June 23 to June 27, the Urban Morphology Institute has participated to a design workshop organized by the World Bank in Tianjin. The workshop focused on land use and transport planning on three mass transit locations Tianjin has selected (Liuyuan bus terminal, Golden triangle area, Tucheng bus terminal) along the 44 km proposed bus corridor with high level of service (BHLS corridor). The land use along the BHLS corridor has rich diversities in terms of function and density, with many stations (and their surrounding areas) reserves great potential of integrated public transport planning, high-quality transit oriented development and place making. The feature of three sites are different, they locate in built-up area, urban fringe and future CBD region, respectively. The land scales, development parameters, and the expected roles in future mass transit system are all different.
This workshop has constituted a great opportunity to implement on demo projects the findings and policy recommendations of The Institute for World Bank and DRC State Council China Urbanization Study, and to develop a new series of 8 key urban design principles to complement the 9 key planning strategies.

The Institute has contributed to this TOD workshop through specific analytical work and through design of a project: a fully developed urban block with an innovative cluster of buildings and elevated gardens in Tianjin, Tianjin Green Triangle, developed by Serge Salat, architect.

Tianjin Green Triangle

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Tianjin Green Triangle, Serge Salat, Architect © 

The Green Triangle striking contemporary design will create flexible offices, safe residential communities, vibrant shopping and welcoming public spaces. What Tianjin Green Triangle offers by its unique combination of a green tower, an elevated garden promenade, a green amphitheater and a green triangular plaza is the opportunity to create in Tianjin a reference point at the entire city scale: an unforgettable urban experience associating the space of movement (the stations) and the places for people (the streets, the green roofs, the green amphitheater and enclosed plaza, the sharp triangular tower as a brand and an icon of green 21st century image of Tianjin, the buildings, with their elevated gardens, restaurants and luxury brand boutiques.
Tianjin Green Triangle is both a formal variation in triangular shapes offering astounding formal diversity and gradation in space within a coherent pattern, and a place for people to meet, simply look at other people or reinforce more complex and emotionally involved connections. This is what the Green Triangle is about: connecting people through place making and multiple experiences sharing.

Tianjin Green Triangle project aims at conserving the integrality of green space of the existing park and even adding to it. It enhances the global community by the creation of a strong focal point for social activities. It is the first step in a more global project to be carried further on to increase permeability of the superblocks, create elevated garden walkways above the arterials, create a series of connected gardens, linking the Green Triangle to the river and to the pedestrian commercial street. It is a powerful node for its strong image, physical and social amenities, diversity and variety of spaces and activities. It is a demo project of good development of a block, leading to further redevelopment of the neighborhood. Above al it is a linkage within the entire social and physical fabric of the community and it shows how such innovative and creative linkages can be created immediately to enhance the dynamism and economic vibrancy of Chinese cities.

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 Tianjin Green Triangle, Serge Salat, Architect © 

Tianjin Green Triangle is a green preserved island in a highly dense neighborhood. It preserves green space entirely: after project, there is more green space than before thanks to suspended gardens, green roofs and terraced gardens. 50% of the park is preserved at ground level; more than 50% is recreated in the form of elevated gardens. Perimeter block development leads to efficient land use. Perimeter block development reaches a FAR of 4 with medium rise buildings and 50 % of land preserved for inside green civic space. The project increases the permeability and connectivity of the urban fabric. The surrounding fabric lacks permeability due to the closure of the superblocks. By its multiple openings the project increases significantly permeability. A pedestrian lane connects BPS and subway lines through the Green Agora. Six public passages allow crossing the garden from adjacent streets and move towards the river. The green roof promenade will be extended at second stage towards the commercial street and will replace the existing overpass. The enhancement of Chinese urban fabric towards more people centered urban environment and higher value creation is achieved by applying 8 innovative design principles.

Applying the 8 design principles of good city form in Tianjin Green Triangle.

Tianjin Green Triangle creates a strong and vibrant node in Tianjin through the application of 8 key design principles derived from international best practice: imageability, enclosure, human scale, transparency, complexity, coherence, legibility, and linkage.

1. Imageability

Tianjin Green Triangle is a place distinct, recognizable and memorable. The triangular arrangements of its elements capture attention and create a lasting impression. Tianjin Green triangle plays on the innate human ability to see and remember patterns. Its elements are easily identifiable and grouped into an overall pattern. The triangular landmark tower is an element of imageability by its singularity and location, in relationship to its context and to the city at large. It is a visual termination point, an orientation point, and a point of contrast in the urban setting. It lifts a considerable area around itself out of anonymity, giving it identity and visual structure. The consistent characteristic triangular theme of the Green Triangle contributes to a cohesive sense of place and will inspire people to enter and rest in the space.

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 Tianjin Green Triangle, Serge Salat, Architect © 

2. Enclosure

In Tianjin Green Triangle, the Green Agora is defined and shaped by buildings, walls, and streets. The height of vertical elements proportionally related to the width of the space between them gives the Agora a room-like quality. Gordon Cullen states that “enclosure, or the outdoor room, is, perhaps, the most powerful, the most obvious, of all the devices to instill a sense of position, of identity with the surroundings. … It embodies the idea of here-ness”. Alexander, Ishikawa and Silverstein say that: “an outdoor space is positive when it has a distinct and definite shape, as definite as the shape of a room, and when its shape is as important as the shapes of the buildings that surround it.” In Tianjin Green Agora, lining the plaza with gently sloping building fronts creates enclosure. The buildings become the “walls” of the outdoor triangular room; the plaza becomes the “floor”, and the sky projects as an invisible “ceiling”.  The Green Agora is an astounding civic space.

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 Tianjin Green Triangle, Serge Salat, Architect © 

3. Human scale

In Tianjin Green Triangle, the size, texture, and articulation of physical elements match the size and proportion of humans, and correspond to the speed at which humans walk. The Green Agora size, smaller than 10,000 m2, corresponds to the scale of the most successful European squares. Moderate-sized buildings, and sequences of small spaces will create an intimate environment. Building details, pavement texture, trees and street furniture, will be further developed to contribute to human scale.

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 Tianjin Green Triangle, Serge Salat, Architect ©

4. Transparency

In Tianjin Green Triangle, people will perceive what lies beyond the edge of the streets and the public spaces. Many entryways in the Green Agora contribute to the perception of human activity beyond the street and foster interactions between indoors and outdoors. Tianjin Green Triangle assembles people and functions in time and space. It integrates, invites, and opens up rather than close in activities. Whether the public environment invites or repels depends of its degree of enclosure and of transparency, and how the border zone is designed. Flexible boundaries in the form of transitional zones are able to function as connecting links making it easier both physically and psychologically for activities to move back and forth between in and out. Contact through experience between what is taking place in the public environment and what is taking place in the adjacent residences, shops, offices and communal buildings provides an extension and enrichment of possibilities.

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 Tianjin Green Triangle, Serge Salat, Architect © 

5. Complexity

Complexity refers to the visual and social richness of a place. It depends on the variety of the social and physical environment, specifically the number and kinds of activities and buildings, the architectural diversity, landscape elements, street furniture, signage, and human activity. Complexity is related to the number of noticeable differences to which a viewer is exposed per unit of time. People are most comfortable receiving information at perceivable rates. Too little information results in sensory deprivation; too much creates sensory overload. Slow moving pedestrians require a high level of complexity to hold their interest.

6. Coherence

Coherence refers to a sense of visual order that leads to a high level of social integration. The degree of coherence is influenced by consistency and complementarity in the scale, character, and arrangement of buildings, landscaping, street furniture, paving materials, and other physical elements. Tianjin Green Triangle displays a high level of formal and geometrical coherence as the urban block is carved into smaller components following a set of consistent principles. Nikos Salingaros states: “Geometrical coherence is an identifiable quality that ties the city together through form, and is an essential prerequisite for the vitality of the urban fabric.” The social side of coherence is integration. Integration implies that various activities and categories of people are permitted to function together side-by-side. Integration of various activities and functions in and around public spaces allows the people involved to function together and to stimulate and inspire one another.

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Tianjin Green Triangle, Serge Salat, Architect © 

7. Legibility

The spatial structure of Tianjin Green Triangle can be easily understood and navigated as a whole. It provides people with a sense of orientation and relative location by physical elements that serve as reference points. Tianjin Green Triangle increases the overall clarity of the cityscape, the ease by which its parts can be recognized and can be organized into a coherent pattern. Lynch suggests that when faced with a new place, people automatically create a mental map that divides the city into paths, edges, districts, nodes, and landmarks. Tianjin Green Triangle has well-defined and memorable edges, a distinct landmark, and is a busy node that allows people to form a detailed and accurate mental map. The Green Tower visual termination creates a focal point for the community as well as provides a sense of enclosure on a large city scale.

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 Tianjin Green Triangle, Serge Salat, Architect © 

8. Linkage

Linkage refers to physical and visual connections – from building to street, building to building, space to space, or one side of the street to the other – and above all from people to people. Linkages can be defined as features that promote the interconnectedness of different places and that provide convenient access between them. Tianjin Green Triangle is intensely linked by roof bridges and a continuous architectural promenade unfolding on several levels. The block is divided into smaller buildings separated and united by the continuous elevated gardens and their bridges.

Linkage in Tianjin Green Triangle is achieved by elevated movement space.

These green connections link people and events. The fact that the possibilities for seeing other people and courses of events is limited to a distance between 20 and 100 meters, depending on what is to be seen, in practice place very great demands on the degree of linkage.

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Tianjin Green Triangle, Serge Salat, Architect © 

Vibrant public domains: an immediate strategy for a better future

Chinese cities can be vastly enhanced immediately by these 8 design strategies. They create well-designed public spaces and urban landscapes, which will form the seeds for future transformations and mutations towards a Chinese city constantly turned towards the future and constantly transforming towards a better life all along the 21st century. Within the over scaled environment of Tianjin recent urbanization, Tianjin Green Triangle offers the unique opportunity to link people together and increase land value.
TOD land value capture is about financing infrastructure through increases in land value. As demonstrated by London King’s Cross, land value increase is extremely high if boosted by creation of public space. London King’s Cross developer, Argent, has invested 2 billion £ on 26 ha for the creation of 20 new streets, 10 public spaces including new major squares (less than 1 ha to give them the maximum interaction potential): land value has skyrocketed. These operations are the first steps in redeveloping entire neighborhoods. Land value rise around this first development diffuses and allows redeveloping adjacent blocks. The 8 key design principles of good urban form allow to create good public space and to increase land value.

For further information on Tianjin TOD project, one leaflet and 4 presentations are available for download: