Frank F Sabouri, AIA, LEED, AP, SVP at BMP Projects, Shanghai

China is now at the turning point of a major transformation, with more than 50% of its population living in cities. The metropolis is one of the greatest achievements of mankind; a concentration of possibilities, resources, common joy, sorrows, aspirations and most importantly, synergy of minds. Cities are also the greatest sustainable act in nature in terms of preservation of natural resources, stewardship of nature and respect for the environment. With this said Eco-Tourism can contribute in a deeper understanding and refining of values in creating new places on fragile ecosystem.

Through the millennia’s, many ideas have been tested which concentrate on variations of a sense of place (geography) and zeitgeist (history). Over time, urban growth has changed the face of the earth and the condition of humanity. The Art and Science of Architecture, Urban Design, and City and Regional Planning have reached a point wherein we can identify, explore, and apply forces that enhance LIFE in cities and respect ECOLOGY in its widest definition. This notion resonates within the definition of “Eco-Tourism” established by The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) in 1990 which states that Eco-Tourism is “Responsible travel to natural areas that conserve the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” At BMP, we are expanding on this definition and applying it as a methodology in conservation of local cultures and educating people in understanding deeper aspect of Ecology, Biodiversity and Uniqueness of Place. Decision makers, designers and stakeholders must acknowledge this and consider deeper responsibilities in rapid urbanization.

Some examples of the recent projects at BMP, a multi-discipline firm in Shanghai.

At the Jingning New Town (south of Dianchi Lake and Kunming), reviving local WETLANDS and Lake Purification Process has been its expressive criteria and design engine for Ecological Tourism channeling vitality and sustaining economic forces. This approach expresses fragility of its living environment to this New Town, tourism to unspoiled nature and mitigation of natural resources; all with minimal impact on the environment (see the pictures).

In XiangShuiHai New Town in Wendeng, we integrated existing abandoned shrimp/fishing farms in its design, bearing in mind its local character and rich heritage of flora and fauna. Local energy sources (solar, wind, geothermal, tidal) have been integrated into the architectonics of this very unique place as a major attraction (see the pictures).

In the suburbs of Chongqing at the bank of Jialing River, we designed a large exhibitions complex featuring a convention centre, hotels and a living village. In doing so, we selected a hilly site to connect the new exhibition town to its neighboring across the Jialing River and integrate Flying Galleries which are always open with free access offering urbanisation to the local communities. This is an offering of Ecological Tourism with unique attributes of place (see the pictures).

In developing of an abandoned golf course community in Yanzikou, north of Beijing (and at the foot of Jundu Mountains), our design integrated the Old Village in the mountainous site by designing a new multi-use corridor which edges the village and creates cascading plazas and gateways to the village. Thus Local Culture and Natural Forces intermingle and become a timeless magnet for Eco-Tourism. (See the pictures)

In Hubei Province, we designed Lordly Fragrance Aromatic Fields Industry Park, expressing natural and man-made processes in aromatic agriculture and global boutique outlets, integrating with an artistic village, picturesque colorful valleys becoming a global ecological tourism attraction with sustainable and unique Sense of Place (see the pictures).

Will it be possible to limit the physical impact of cities and new towns on the global environment? Cities of the new millennium could be energy and resource efficient, people friendly and culturally rich with active democracies assuring the best uses of human energies. Prudent investment in infrastructure could enhance employment, improving public health and living conditions. Eco-friendly urban development could well become the greatest challenge of the twenty-first century, not only for human self-interest, but also to create a sustainable relationship between cities and the biosphere and larger Ecosystem. Ultimately that cannot be done without changing the value systems underpinning our cities. In the end, it is only a profound change of attitudes and deeper knowledge with spiritual and ethical change that can assure that cities become truly sustainable.

At BMP, our goal is to understand the “Story” of each place and bring joy and happiness to development by leveraging the uniqueness of each place and applying biodiversity preservation, local social-economic benefits, and environmental impact consciousness. We understand the depth of this great challenge.