Firm: SOM

Urban Design Award:  Merit


As the environmental and economic sustainability of rapid urbanization becomes a growing concern, the Chengu Tianfu Aerotropolis plan defines a dynamic, climate-responsive model for new city development in China. Adopted by development zone’s governing body in 20XX, this far-reaching urban design plan anticipates the completion of a second international airport serving Chengdu, Sichuan’s capital city. The plan establishes a systems-based approach, where environmental resiliency, economic vitality, individual wellbeing, and local culture are mutually reinforcing drivers.



Prevailing planning practices in China generate megablocks, siloed land-uses, and skylines of soaring towers. In contrast, the plan for this 668 km2 (257 m2) area of environmentally impacted land relies on extensive analysis of the site ecology, local culture, and regional economics to advance six innovations:


Urban Form and Ecology  A framework of green corridors encompassing the Jiangxi river corridor and other waterways, forested hills, and agricultural lands define a series of compact development zones. These low- to mid-rise districts align with the site’s topography to enhance natural wind flows, improving air quality.


Performative infrastructure These green corridors along with city parks, plazas and streetscapes and other performative infrastructure provide abundant recreational and educational opportunities, mitigate flood risks, improve air quality, and sustain the area’s unique urban habitat.


Low-Carbon City Careful integration of land-use and transit catalyze the local economy while also reducing carbon emissions. Mixed-use districts, still rare in China, blend commercial, educational, tourism, and residential programs to define a vibrant, human-scaled urbanism—walkable and social, yet dense enough to support efficient, district-scale utility strategies and a robust transportation network.


Human Mobility  A fine-grained network of streets, alleys, and open spaces combines with a multimodal transit system to enable 80% of trips to by walking, cycling or other non-auto transportation. High-speed rail, subways, and autonomous shuttles provide crucial city-wide and regional connections.


Health and Wellness Urban form and street alignments work together to enhance air-cleansing wind flows. The open space network provides residents with easy access to parks and nature as well as locally grown produce. In this virtuous cycle, the high quality of life attracts new residents and vitalizing economic investment.


Heritage and Identity  Urban design and architectural principles build upon existing urban fabric and design traditions. In Sancha Village, the plan extends and highlights the district’s network of intimate alley ways, and translates the region’s vernacular details and indoor-outdoor way of life into a contemporary architectural language.



Extensive engagement with decision makers and experts—including a week-long workshop—helped build critical support for this ambitious plan while its implementation is designed to provide early validation of this climate-responsive strategy. Currently underway, a core area of development and pilot projects will demonstrate the environmental, economic, health, and cultural benefits of this integrated approach, creating an example for the city, the region and all of China.




AIA California
AIA California
AIA California is dedicated to serving its members, and uniting all architecture professionals in the design of a more just, equitable and resilient future through advocacy, education and political action. It celebrates more than 75 years of service and, today, is composed of more than 11,000 members across the state.

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