A futuristic project designed for Shenzhen’s Bao’an province, the design for the world’s first drone highway is a multi-modal and multi-storey highway that accounts for cars, bus rapid transit (BRT), pedestrians, and drones, as well as a subway line. Designed by the U.S.-based Avoid Obvious Architects and the Hong Kong Tetra Architects and Planners, the highway was part of a competition to re-design the city’s G107 highway. Looking to transform the district from a manufacturing hub into a sustainable tech center, city officials in Bao’an invited architects to re-design the city’s 30-kilometer long (18-mile), 12-lane G107 highway – an area longer than Manhattan – in order to allow for more efficient transit.
The rising district of Bao’an is one of six that comprise the Chinese industrial city of Shenzhen. Located north of Hong Kong, Shenzhen has gone from a market town to major financial center and one of the busiest container ports in the world over the past 30 years.
According to Avoid Obvious’s website, the team began the challenge by questioning the role, efficiency and dated-ness of highways, which led them to explore multi-modal transit systems that can accommodate drones, autopilot vehicles and high-speed transit.
The concept includes elevating the G107 into two four-lane enclosures to allow for pollution and noise control, and promises to reduce the city’s dependence on cars. “Instead of treating the traditional highway as a fixed piece of infrastructure, we will design a smaller, more fluid, multi-layered, thoroughfare that will be a spectacular starting point of growth for an organic smart city.” The highway will also connect the city’s western waterfront area to the eastern mountain ranges, creating an urban landscape that is reminiscent of the district’s rural origins. More importantly, the plan promises to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2045.
The re-designed G107 will have an at grade enclosure, an above grade enclosure and a below grade enclosure, creating three levels that will accommodate residential areas, recreational areas like parks, as well as water features.
The vision seeks to make the G107 more attractive to young talents by transforming it into the breathing heart of a more sustainable city and improving the quality of life and job opportunities, transforming Bao’an into a Green Manufacturing City. They seek to do this by celebrating “…the new sharing economy by introducing facilities like transparent factories, drone ports for deliveries, open platforms for experiments, mobile offices and natural amenities to share.”