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MVRDV's tech taskforce takes a parametric approach for chengdu sky valley proposal

MVRDV has revealed its competition entry for a masterplan in china that fuses technology with nature, urban with rural, and modernity with tradition. the proposal — named the ‘chengdu sky valley’ — has been designed for an area that will become the future ‘science and technology city’, a district focused on research, education, and innovation and a key part of chengdu’s eastward development strategy. although the location is well connected, with an airport and metro line nearby, the site is currently rural with agricultural fields and low rolling hills.

MVRDV chengdu sky valley
image © atchain | video © MVRDV



MVRDV explains that the preservation and enhancement of this picturesque landscape is at the center of the masterplan’s ambitions. the proposal keeps and incorporates the site’s agricultural valleys, while new buildings are clustered on the hills to amplify the valley skyline. a network of gently sloping paths follows the topography of the area, with public bridges that allow for cross-industrial encounters and cooperation connecting the building clusters. unlike other science and technology cities planned across china, this design focuses on cross-industrial research and innovation in food and agriculture.

MVRDV chengdu sky valley
image © MVRDV



by retaining the existing landscape, the masterplan forms a more diverse community with a wider choice of lifestyles. this includes opportunities for self-building and developing self-sufficient lifestyles in harmony with nature. the development forms an intrinsically adaptable system that incorporates a wide variety of sustainable measures to deal with water, climate adaptation, and future mobility. importantly, the proposal seeks to be a ’15-minute city’ with travel between any two points taking less than a quarter of an hour.

MVRDV chengdu sky valley
image © MVRDV



to make these design aims possible, the project team worked with MVRDV’s tech taskforce, MVRDV NEXT, to develop a series of digital scripts to analyze and add to the existing landscape. by taking this parametric approach, the result is not a fixed design but a system, which invites the input of the client and other local stakeholders. adjusting the parameters can result in different infrastructure layouts as well as different building heights and shapes. the resulting system could even be applied to other developments, with the parameters adjusted to accommodate a range of functions and densities.

MVRDV chengdu sky valley
image © MVRDV



to create the initial outlines of this parametric system, the first step was to analyze the site’s topography to determine which areas should be classified as agricultural valleys and which should be hills for development. next, a script was created that determined a network of paths to efficiently connect the building clusters, while never exceeding a slope of 4% — ensuring accessibility across the entire site.

MVRDV's tech taskforce takes a parametric approach for chengdu sky valley proposal
image © MVRDV



a further script was created that helped to define the shape and height of the amplified hill peaks, thus determining the envelope within which buildings can be constructed and setting unique building height limits for every point within the masterplan. a final script determined the most effective way to connect the peaks together with bridges, determining which connections would be desired by pedestrians and again ensuring the slope on the bridges never exceeds 4%.

MVRDV's tech taskforce takes a parametric approach for chengdu sky valley proposal
image © MVRDV



through this scripting process, the design was developed around three main valleys: the knowledge valley, the experience valley, and the venture valley. surrounding these valleys, buildings are further grouped into seven mixed-use clusters of distinct characters, with a transit-oriented development hub surrounding the futian metro station known as ‘futian experience valley’, alongside the ‘education park’, ‘maker valley’, ‘learning village’, ‘talent heaven’, and a cluster of labs and R&D.


image © MVRDV


the buildings themselves follow a simple framework for materials and colors, which creates two distinct atmospheres: the ‘earth’ environment on the slopes of the hills, where traditional materials integrate into the existing landscape; and the ‘sky’ environment on the peaks, where modern materials and technologies create a more high-tech feel. the architects say that within this framework — and within the overall shape of the building clusters resulting from the parametric process — the shapes and visual appearance of individual buildings are flexible. the proposal invites other designers to add diverse architecture over time.

MVRDV's tech taskforce takes a parametric approach for chengdu sky valley proposal
image © MVRDV

MVRDV's tech taskforce takes a parametric approach for chengdu sky valley proposal
image © atchain



project info:


location: chengdu, china
year: 2020
surface area: 4,600,000 sqm
client: chengdu high-tech investment construction development co., ltd
status: competition
programs: educational, mixed use, offices, research, masterplan


architect: MVRDV
founding partner in charge: winy maas
director: enno zuidema
design team: kristina knauf, yunxi guo, chun hoi hui, laura huerga, ming jiang, kevin loftus, fatemeh mahmoudyar, peter mensinga, vanessa mitteldorf, isabella suppa, halina veloso e zarate
MVRDV NEXT: leo stuckardt, yayun liu
visualizations: antonio luca coco, luca piattelli, angelo la delfa, jaroslaw jeda, luana la martina, kirill emelianov
project coordinator: monica velasco
images: © MVRDV © atchain
copyright: MVRDV 2020 – (winy maas, jacob van rijs, nathalie de vries, frans de witte, fokke moerel, wenchian shi, jan knikker)


partners —
co-architect: CSWADI
programming: drees & sommer, max makers
mobility: mobility in chain, chengdu branch of sichuan DECHEN urban planning and design co.,ltd

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