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Beijing developing $500bn 'smart city' designed to cope with future pandemics


Today: Shoppers in China wear masks. PHOTO: TINGSHU WANG/REUTERS

Today: Shoppers in China wear masks. PHOTO: TINGSHU WANG/REUTERS

Today: Shoppers in China wear masks. PHOTO: TINGSHU WANG/REUTERS

A new "smart city" in China is to have a state-of-the-art neighbourhood designed to cope with a future pandemic outbreak.

Architects working on Xiong'an, a new metropolis outside Beijing, have been commissioned to make blocks of apartments specially equipped to allow residents to continue to function under lockdown conditions.

Each flat comes with a large balcony to allow access to the outdoors and communal work areas big enough to maintain social distancing.

Vegetable gardens, greenhouses and rooftop solar power will help residents maintain self-sufficiency in the event of large-scale disruptions to food chains and electricity supplies.

Past pandemics have played a major role in urban design. The cholera outbreaks of the 1800s, for example, where infected water lay in haphazard, unpaved alleyways, influenced the grid-design system of modern American cities, whose neat layout also made water piping simpler.

The Chinese project is the invention of Barcelona-based Guallart Architects, which claims the neighbourhood will mark the start of a style of post-Covid urban design, in which residents thrive "even in moments of confinement".

"We cannot continue designing cities and buildings as if nothing had happened," said Vicente Guallart, its founder.

"Our proposal stems from the need to provide solutions to the various crises that are taking place, in order to create a new urban life based in the circular bio-economy."

Championed personally by Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, the city of Xiong'an is being built to relieve pressure on Beijing and will enjoy high-speed rail links and 5G broadband.

The pandemic-proof neighbourhood consists of blocks designed for entirely integrated living and working during an epidemic.


The gardens will all be equipped with sufficient soil to grow vegetables during emergencies, and there will be space for additional "farming" areas on the rooftops.

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Inside the shared work spaces, 3-D printers will be on hand to manufacture 3-D replacements for missing or broken items in the event of disrupted supply chains.

Drones will be used for deliveries to free up the roads, while a special "neighbourhood app" will send residents alerts about lockdowns and other health information.

Up to $500bn (€425bn) is expected to be invested in the creation of Xiong'an over the coming years.

Mr Xi hopes that most of its industry will be cutting-edge technology firms, making the future city a would-be rival to California's Silicon Valley.

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