Metrostudio Associates Shenzhen

While staying in Shenzhen, China I had the chance to visit the office of Metrostudio Associates, a design studio engaged with architecture, urban design, landscape, interior and industrial design. Initially founded in Salerno, Italy, the firm has opened a branch in Shenzhen in late 2009.

Landscaped detail next to the entrance of the Metrostudio office.

During my visit I was talking to Metrostudio principal Antonio Inglese about the firm's design process,  philosophy, expansion into the Chinese market and current projects in China. Inglese describes Metrostudio as "a collective of ideas between European, specifically Italian designers, and Chinese designers, the number is not important, as everybody can come into the office, have a look, share a thought, give a sketch, take a drink, have a laugh...whatever. In fact my main goal [...] was to create an open office; it would have been nice to set it up outside into a plaza, having meeting with clients on a bench under a tree, but due to weather reasons, I had to give a roof to this design plaza."

The Metrostudio portfolio in bar code style on the office walls.
Salerno Sport and Landscape Park, Salerno, Italy. Metrostudio with Auböck&Karasz. (image courtesy of Metrostudio)

Toledo River Park, Toledo, Spain. (image courtesy of Metrostudio)

Wuhan University Campus Plan,Wuhan, China. (image courtesy of Metrostudio)

For Metrostudio the design process in reciprocal exchange with Chinese clients is very different to their routine in Europe. In Europe the studio is mainly concerned with urban design, landscape design, landscape master plans but as well interiors and restoration; while their Chinese projects are mostly of larger scale, dealing with landscape master plans, urban design and large scale strategic planning. While Inglese notices a European contemporary design process which is engaged with developing ideas by removal and destruction, the Chinese context often makes it necessary for the designer to add programs and functions into the projects. Interestingly, Chinese clients appear as very keen on understanding the process of the designer and therefore demand sketches and a thorough research-based design presentation. Case studies is what counts in China to be able to underline design ideas and successfully communicate them to clients.
Layered ideas and design evolution drawn by hand on tracing paper.
Impressive watercolor images are produced in-house at Metrostudio.
The history of Metrostudio Shenzhen began when Inglese cooperated in 2006 with the Shenzhen design studio L+A on an urban design competition for the 'Baoan Central District Waterfront Park'. The design came in first and the client insisted on building the proposal which won the competition. This made it necessary for Inglese to spend more time in Shenzhen working on the further design of the project which is now executed in phase I and II.
Baoan Central District Waterfront Park. Metrostudio and L+A. (image courtesy of Metrostudio)
Subsequently Metrostudio joined up with Chinese partners in autumn 2009 to form a new branch in Shenzhen. For this stage both sides of the venture were vital: (I) A European counterpart bringing foreign ideas and expertise, and (II) A Chinese counterpart bringing Chinese design expertise, cultural understanding and networking skills. 
After a first phase of primarily competition entries and a large number of introductory meetings with potential clients the office has been  steadily growing in a Shenzhen-like speed to about 40 in 2011. This pace of growth - from 3 people to 40 people within 18 months - is sometimes still scary for Inglese, but a very interesting and a rewarding challenge. Nowadays Metrostudio Shenzhen is managed by its three principals focusing differently on marketing, management and design, being supported by an own in-house financial department for accounting.
One wall in the Metrostudio office features images of Metrostudio associates in both Europe and China
Multi-media landscape work: tracing paper, watercolors and keyboard.

Metrostudio's emphasis on landscape as a medium to process urban design proposals and large masterplans grew naturally with the nature of the commissions which the studio was working on. For the different projects they seek to develop a unique approach in terms of formal language, accompanied by a solid, research-based background and additional expertise by outside experts.

Here I want to present some insight into three current projects by Metrostudio which show the scope and quality of their work in China.

BaoAn Centre District, Shenzhen, China (Design Development Phase) 

The aim of the BaoAn central district plan design was to give the right urban design vision for the nest stage of the development of BaoAn port area into the third and latest CBD in Shenzhen.

The proposal by Metrostudio Associates employs a strategy which multiplies the concept of a genius loci to different 'genii locorum' which give identity and diversity to a new part of Shenzhen.

One central element of Metrostudio's proposal is a huge platform almost one sq km in size which offers the nesting of hundreds of different under-spaces in various scales ranging from large scale to human scale.

Dongying City Wetland Park, Dongying, China (Concept Planning Phase)
The wetland park will emcompass an area of 3000+ hectares which Metrostudio proposed to structure into conservation area, central area, wetland and green belt. Different levels of intervention, functions and ecosystem types were devised to program these areas. Core of the proposal is a scientific and cultural use of the wetland allowing people to access the wetland and learn about the value of the ecosystem. (image courtesy of Metrostudio)

Land use map of Dongwing wetland area showing the park area (white outline). (image courtesy of Metrostudio)

Pixelated mapping of opportunities and threats for the Dongying wetland area. (image courtesy of Metrostudio)

Longkou Mtinan West Coast Artificial Archipelago and Land Territory, Longkou, China (Competition entry 2nd prize)

The competition called for a design of six new artificial islands which were developed by Metrostudio along three axis: water axis, green axis and stone axis. (image courtesy of Metrostudio)

The proposed strategy was to create a modern Venice-like environment where high-quality living next and on the water would be possible. Additionally tourist attractions and landmarks should provide a unique identity for the development. (image courtesy of Metrostudio)

Landscape as medium for urban design development. Sectional perspective showing the interconnectedness of urban fabric, green fabric and waterways. (image courtesy of Metrostudio)

New types of urban life such as water-markets would find place according to the proposal. (image courtesy of Metrostudio)

The proposal included a renewable energy system and green transport system developed by the Spanish company savenergy. (image courtesy of Metrostudio)

Closing this blogpost, I want to thank the team of Metrostudio and Antonio Inglese for their time and warm welcome at their Shenzhen studio and wish them all the best for their work in China and Europe!

No comments: