Health City Ruichang originated from an international competition in 2015 hosted by the International Union of Architects in Paris and sponsored by Huayan Group, a leading cultural investment company in China.
Chetwoods developed a masterplan for a new city based on a multi-generational model that would deliver ‘Blue Zones’ benefits to urban communities on a site on the outskirts of Ruichang, in Jiangxi province, for which the Huayan Group had secured development rights.
As China’s urbanization speeds up, the demand to modernize 2nd or 3rd tier cities and towns is also rising. But how should this be done? Health City has been dedicated to finding a smarter and greener solution.
A 270,000 sqm resort town of approximately 100 000 inhabitants, it will be an exemplar project which shows that it is possible to be self-contained and self-sustaining. It is a template for a more agile type of settlement, able to flex and to change when circumstances change.
The fundamental philosophy of Huayan Group is for Health City Ruichang to be a wonderful place to live, a healthy place both physically and mentally, and one where inhabitants can live a long and happy life.
The project received initial approval from the local government authorities. In the light of the Covid-19 pandemic, however, it was decided to adapt the design of the city to be able to flex to provide future pandemic-related quarantine, medical care and social distancing.
As the current pandemic evolved it became apparent that, as well as physical health, the mental health and welfare of populations was at serious risk, and the new city’s design has now been further adapted to include a transformative 10-storey biodome space to keep culture going safely as a pilot for remodeling tourism, recreation, sporting and cultural facilities into pandemic-proofed designs.
In plan, the architecture is based on contemporary interpretations of traditional Chinese Siheyuan and ‘Sky Well’ courtyards. The new buildings thus refer back to a tradition that is ideal for adapting into self-sufficient community isolation and shielding safely.
Outdoor space – both exposed and sheltered – and natural ventilation are maximised in the overall design concept.
Water is an important part of the landscaping strategy highlighting its therapeutic potential. The presence of water is also a nod to the ancient Chinese bathing rituals that predate those in the West and that can be experienced at Health City Ruichang’s state-of-the-art hydrotherapy pools.
Health City Ruichang will be self-sufficient in its food production ensuring only nutritious organic produce is sold at its food markets. Exercise is integrated into the daily rhythm of city life aided by picturesque routes for walking and cycling. These replace motorised transport except where this is essential.
In an age of excessive air conditioning, fresh air is highlighted in the design. The buildings have balconies or other semi-enclosed outdoor spaces that offer generous areas to convene with the benefit of natural airflow.
The City’s hotels, spas and therapy rooms can also be transformed rapidly to treat pandemic patients if and when required. Sophisticated partitioning techniques and self-cleaning materials throughout help to enable this transformation.
At the heart of the city, a giant 10-storey biosphere is not only the central hub for all the environmental systems which supply the city but also provides a multi-purpose space for residents and visitors alike to encourage social and cultural collaboration and stimulation. It will be a transformative space that gives the performing arts and other cultural and community events a hopeful future even when strict measures have to be put in place to limit mass gatherings.
‘Blue Zone criteria’ that define the world’s longevity hotspots have been used to make Health City Ruichang a multi-generational development that promotes lowering healthcare costs in populations and balanced, energetic lifestyles right through to retirement age. Recent advances in both nanotechnology and neuroscience will inform this approach incorporating biophilic design practices to manage emissions and improve our sensory experience of our surroundings.