NBBJ reveals master plan for sprawling ‘Net City’ in Shenzhen

Casting a Very Wide Net

NBBJ reveals master plan for sprawling ‘Net City’ in Shenzhen

Shenzhen-based internet giant Tencent is trying its hand at smart city development. (Courtesy NBBJ)

A master plan conceived by Seattle-headquartered global architecture firm NBBJno stranger to taking on transformative projects for online tech giants—for a massive “Net City” district in Shenzhen, China, has been revealed by Chinese internet behemoth Tencent. NBBJ had previously completed Tencent’s headquarters, a sky bridge-linked high-rise “vertical campus” complex in 2018, also in Shenzhen.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, Net City, when complete, will be roughly the size of Midtown Manhattan, encompassing a total of 21 million square feet spread across an undeveloped 320-acre peninsula on Shenzhen Bay. Tencent’s ground-up city building scheme was first announced in 2019 via an international design competition that ultimately resulted in NBBJ being tapped to design the master plan. Construction is expected to kick off later this year and be completed over three phases within a relatively tight (considering the size and scope of the project) seven-year timeframe. The architecture firms that will design individual buildings within the futuristic complex, which will include office space, apartments, sports facilities, parks, a waterfront promenade, entertainment venues, retail, restaurants, a school, and more, have not been announced.

illustration of planned smart city development in shenzhen
Considering its vulnerable coastal local on Shenzhen Bay, Tencent’s amenity-stuffed mega-development will employ numerous climate resiliency strategies. (Courtesy NBBJ)

“In today’s computer-driven world, we are free to imagine a highly integrated city that brings ‘work, live, play’ closer together to foster more synergy between people,” said NBBJ design partner Jonathan Ward said in a press statement.

In a lengthy domestic media release disseminated by Tencent, the project is referred to as China’s first “human life-oriented, interconnected organic metropolis ecosystem.” The translated statement goes on to explain:

“NBBJ conceived a future city based on Tencent’s leadership in technology and its corporate culture values. The unique framework of ‘Internet City’ will be used to connect the public, build communities, achieve innovation, and build a sustainable future. Its master plan is centered on people, and the design of buildings, blocks, transportation, and open spaces are all designed to focus on human experience, to avoid the interference of motor vehicles, and the accompanying noise, pollution, and fast-paced tension. The open and transparent park provides sufficient public space and supporting facilities, and is easily connected to other areas of the city by subway, bicycle path, etc.”

While many particulars of Net City have yet to be divulged, Ward has given some insight into the driving design considerations of the project, which NBBJ has envisioned as a “blueprint for a sustainable city of the future” per the Journal. (Not to say this will the case,e but sometimes, such grand city-building visions hatched by tech companies don’t always pan out as planned.)

illustration of a planned smart city development in shenzhen, china
Spread across a 320-acre plot of land, Net City will reportedly be roughly the size of Midtown Manhattan when complete. (Courtesy NBBJ)

Climate resiliency plays an integral role in NBBJ’s master plan, especially relevant given the development’s waterside locale that’s susceptible to sea level rise. Sustainability, as mentioned in the aforementioned media release, will also be realized through the development’s truncated building heights (squatter buildings require less materials and use less energy) as all will be terraced and shorter than 30 stories, and topped with photovoltaic arrays and green roofs.

Vehicular traffic will, not surprisingly, take a backseat as the master plan emphasizes walking and cycling within the development with easy access to neighboring ferry and subway lines and other modes of public transit that link to the rest of Shenzhen, which is China’s fifth-largest city and a major global tech hub.

AN will update this article accordingly when we learn more about this freshly revealed project.