Duke Avenue — Completing Kunshan West’s Vibrant Core Loop

December 8th, 2020
Kunshan, China

Kunshan West is widely recognized as a growing district that serves the major metropolises of Shanghai and Suzhou with an emerging tech industry of its own. Developing next to Kunshan’s Old Town core, Kunshan West is an innovative hub reinforced by the newly opened Duke University and several tech campuses currently under development.

PLAT Studio spearheaded Blue Kunshan, Kunshan West’s city-wide master planning efforts. This plan envisions a new livable innovation district by integrating ecological, recreational and cultural layers of landscape infrastructure. The goal of the design is to implement a strong urban framework that achieves a dynamic urban realm and promotes a healthy outdoor lifestyle for its residents and workers, while still prioritizing the health of the existing hydrological network.

Duke Avenue is a key piece of the Blue Kunshan plan, running East-West to connect two North-South corridors and linking Duke University to Kunshan Forest Park. Altogether, these corridors will form a central open space eco-loop. This loop connects residents to nature and neighbors by restoring canal health and creating opportunities for activities throughout the journey.

Currently, the site creates isolated conditions for pedestrians and cyclists: sidewalks and bike paths are not linked or consistent; the road is four lanes wide; the canal is 25m wide; and the campus is walled off. These circumstances leave the public realm empty of people and full of fast-moving vehicles.

Duke Avenue’s design will reconnect the street to its context and create a vibrant and healthy environment to attract pedestrians and cyclists. By building amenities and connecting bike trails and pedestrian circulation to nearby attractions, the space will become accessible and facilitate a rich public sphere.

The design also focuses on connecting the urban fabric across the wide street and canal to facilitate North-South circulation. By prioritizing bridges across the canal and pedestrian safety across the road, the Avenue creates an urban realm that is friendly to students, tech workers and residents alike.

Referencing Duke University, the space extends the campus character into the public realm with social pockets, bold features and identity signage, and mini marts. Visitors can rent bikes, socialize, rest or observe nature. Green infrastructure is incorporated into all layers of design, from ecologically restored canals to water-cleaning streetscapes, the site is as forward-thinking as its neighboring campuses.

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