Eco-Tourism, China Style

One of China’s historic tourist destinations is set to get a new, “super green” makeover. The architecture firm Woods Bagot has won an international design competition to transform the XiXi Wetlands region outside the city of Hangzhou in southwest China.

Hangzhou has been a tourist hub for centuries. Its famous West Lake was a favored haunt of the Chinese Emperors, and now the city wants to make the Xixi Wetlands a second tourist magnet. The Woods Bagot design, spread over 12 square miles, includes hospitality facilities, residential areas, and public spaces, all clustered around five square miles of wetlands. There will be an “entertainment zone,” complete with a humongous outdoor movie screen; a “cultural zone” with suitably futuristic-looking buildings; and water features everywhere.

But the development’s key feature will be its low carbon footprint. A wide network of roads exclusively for walking and cycling has been planned, significantly curtailing the use of vehicles with heavy emissions. This infrastructure will be combined with renewal sites and wetland ecology schemes to reduce water consumption. The city has high expectations from the development: they hope that it will create new jobs for locals, while bringing Hangzhou some tourist revenue through its new eco-caché.

Woods Bagot opened a new office in Shanghai last year, further expanding its presence in mainland China. Pulling off the Xixi wetlands project will certainly be an impressive green feather in its cap.

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