From CREATING INTELLECTUAL COMMUNITIES, Volume 1, Number 2, 2007
In today’s global economy, China and India are emerging as new economic superpowers. This status has created a rapidly growing workforce in both countries, which has, in turn, created a huge demand for higher education and well-trained professionals. As both countries struggle to meet this demand in terms of quantity and quality of education, their universities have turned to a variety of models and consultants for the answers.
Guangzhou University City, China
In 2003, United States firms Ayers Saint Gross and Steffian Bradley Associates teamed to provide design consultation for the creation of a university city and a new university campus in Guangzhou, China. Guangzhou and its surrounding province are experiencing the addition of approximately 100,000 students each year to their higher-education system. Thirty-six colleges and universities are currently located in this city of nine million people. In order to free existing land in the urban areas, the province is creating a university city on the 10,000-acre Xiaoguwei Island in the middle of the Pearl River just south of Guangzhou. When complete, the city will house seven university clusters with multiple institutions sharing common facilities. The total build-out will involve more than 100 million square feet, including educational, commercial, cultural, residential, and retail facilities, to accommodate a total of 250,000 students.
The central district of the island includes the Eco-Park, which provides sports and cultural facilities, including a stadium for 35,000 people, a hotel/conference center, a library, a recreation center, and major lakes and gardens. The park forms the literal and symbolic center of the university city from which knowledge and water flow.
Within the university city will be Guangzhou University, which will provide seven million square feet for 20,000 students and 5,000 faculty and staff. Unlike the United States, China customarily provides housing for all students and a large portion of the faculty and staff. In order to accommodate this and optimize the beauty of the island, the master plan takes advantage of the spectacular frontage and views of the Pearl River, while connecting the campus to the central area of the island through natural open spaces and greenways.
Due to the urgent mandate for higher education in the region, administrators have adopted an aggressive five-year timeline for the completion of this project. Although numbers and schedules such as these are unheard of in the U.S., they demonstrate the unyielding commitment of administrators and government officials to meet China’s exploding educational demands.