Students design rec for Chinese city

Kelsey Henninger

Teams of architecture seniors practice making eco-friendly buildings

Fourth-year architecture majors are designing an eco-friendly recreational center for a carbon-neutral city in China.

Dongtan will be the first carbon-neutral city in the world, and is located at the mouth of the Yangtze River on the third largest island in China.

“Everyone’s waiting to see what happens,” said Ross Clites, senior architecture major. “If it works, it’s a template for other cities.”

Clites’ teammate, senior architecture major Lainey Castelli, said the project is exciting.

Each team of two students designs every aspect of the 60,000 square foot rec center and the complementary additional 40,000 square feet.

Energy conservation is one of the primary focuses for this project. The students consider the smallest details like which direction different sides of the building will face for temperature purposes and then place complementary recreational activities in theses areas, said Jonathan Fleming, fourth-year design studio coordinator.

Team members must also attract people to the recreational center. One team substituted traditional heavy lifting activities for more interactive ones.

Another team incorporated traditional Chinese methods of health by including a spa.

With China’s social and industrial development, 300 million people will be moving from the countryside into urban areas in the next 20 years. Therefore China is making room without destroying the environment, according to an April 30, 2006 article on

Sidewalks and public transportation powered by hydrogen fuel cells will help the city achieve close-to-zero vehicle emissions.

Castelli said this project is a good introduction to the new direction of architecture. She said it will help her incorporate environmentally friendly architecture into her future practice.

Fourth-year architecture professors and students agree the industry is turning towards more eco-friendly designs.

“The Chinese care about sustainability and the building surviving through time and different conditions,” said Hallie DelVillan, senior architecture major.

Despite enthusiasm students predict complications for the city’s success.

“It’s a great idea on paper,” said Joey Knott, senior architecture major.

Chris Diehl, Knott’s teammate and senior architecture major said, “The challenge is implementing the idea into functional structures.”

Knott added “Here, we have green everywhere, like in vehicles. This is the first time it’s implemented in a whole village.”

Dongtan will transform wind, solar, bio-fuel and recycled waste into energy.

“This class gives students a comprehensive vision about what architects are doing. It is oriented professionally and deals with accreditation,” Fleming said.

The students gain appreciation for mechanical, structural and electrical consultants because they work with professionals during class, Fleming said. They turn in multiple schemes for the site throughout the semester with each one adding more detail to their final project.

A jury of outside faculty and architects judge finished projects for an in-house competition. The winning team receives prize money from the Architecture College but none of the students’ creations will be built.

DelVillan thinks China is a good place to develop this city because of their disciplined culture, and their society would be more devoted to its success than Americans.

“Nothing to this scale would happen in the U.S.,” said Knott. “We could implement the ideas into our already developed cities.”

The first phase of Dongtan will be completed by 2010.

Contact the Architecture and Interior Design reporter

Kelsey Henninger at [email protected].