BIG, Hijjas and Ramboll are selected as winners of Penang State Government’s international competition to design a masterplan for Penang South Islands, providing Penangites with approximately 4.6km of public beaches, 600 acres of parks and a 25km waterfront. Our masterplan proposal – BiodiverCity supports the Penang2030 vision with a clear focus on livability, on stimulating a socially and economically inclusive development, and on environmental sustainability for future generations. BiodiverCity will be a new sustainable, global destination where cultural, ecological and economic growth is secured and where people and nature co-exist in one of the most biodiverse places on the planet at the southern shore of Penang Island.
Penang’s vast biodiversity spans various topographies and protected environments which in recent years have seen its coastal zones and natural habitats disrupted by urban developments. In contrast, BiodiverCity is conceived as an Urban Mosaic of three diverse islands, and a set of urban design guidelines for mixing programs, addressing pedestrian and mobility networks, building sustainably and harvesting resources. The three islands bring together mixed-use districts of 15,000 to 18,000 residents across 50 to 500 acres, and a continuous 50 to 100m buffer around each district, establishing habitat connectivity and supporting edge ecologies in reserves, parks, corridors and urban plazas.
The Channels, BiodiverCity’s first island, is constructed in three complementary phases: in Phase 1, Active Destinations include a wave pool and technology park; in Phase 2, a Civic Heart establishes governance and research institutions in the area; and in Phase 3, a Cultural Coast builds upon the heritage and vibrant creative energy of Penang’s George Town to create a regional and international draw.
As the heart of the district, the Channels’ 500-acre digital park includes spaces for research, development and local business opportunities. Malaysia’s newest public destination will be the future home for conferences, education centres and a family-oriented park where locals and guests can explore the world of technology, robotics and virtual reality.
The Mangroves, BiodiverCity’s second and central island dedicated to businesses, is organized around a network of sheltered urban wetlands, creating suitable environments for its namesake Mangrove forests— an important natural infrastructure that doubles as effective powerhouses for sequestering more than four times as much carbon as a typical forest.
At the centre of the Mangroves, the Bamboo Beacon hosts meetings, conferences and major events—broadcasting the knowledge developed in BiodiverCity out to the world. In addition, civic amenities are distributed throughout the city to promote inclusive growth and participation in urban life.
The buildings in BiodiverCity will be designed to perform efficiently and will to a large extent be constructed by low-carbon materials such as bamboo and Malaysian timber in combination with green concrete, a sustainable alternative comprised of industrial waste and recycled materials.
By encouraging green roofs, facades, public and private open spaces, the islands can form a nearly continuous habitat mosaic feeding back into the forests, beaches, riparian zones and estuaries at the island’s edges.
The Laguna, BiodiverCity’s westernmost island, is an oasis for ecological living, organized around a central marina. Eight smaller islands form a miniature archipelago, where floating, stilted and terraced housing takes advantage of the natural setting of Tanjung Gertak Sanggul, and where fisherman landing points can easily access the open waters by navigating each of the island’s waterways.
Meanwhile, newly established marine habitats support biodiversity underwater by providing spawning grounds for native species, and recreational points and hatcheries support the local communities along Penang’s southern coast.
A web of ecological corridors connects forest reserves to coastal beaches while supporting habitats and communities across the islands. Within human-populated areas, animals are given safe passage through the continuous canopy and waterways, and within natural habitats, people can safely access elevated boardwalks.
Name: BIODIVERCITY PENANG
Status: In Progress
Size: 4500 acres
Project type: Competition
Client: Penang State Government, Malaysia
Local Architects and Planners: Hijjas
Project Manager and Engineer: Ramboll
Geotechnical and Structural Engineering: Web Structures
Sustainability: Web EM
Economic Advisor: Ernst & Young
Real Estate: Knight Frank
Quantity Surveyor: KPK
Ecology and Conservation: Green Growth Asia Foundation
Marine Engineer: Universiti Teknologi Mara
Visualizations: Lucian R
Location Text: Penang, Malaysia
BIG is a Copenhagen, New York, London and Barcelona based group of architects, designers, urbanists, landscape professionals, interior and product designers, researchers and inventors. The office is currently involved in a large number of projects throughout Europe, North America, Asia and the Middle East. BIG’s architecture emerges out of a careful analysis of how contemporary life constantly evolves and changes. Not least due to the influence from multicultural exchange, global economical flows and communication technologies that all together require new ways of architectural and urban organization. We believe that in order to deal with today’s challenges, architecture can profitably move into a field that has been largely unexplored. A pragmatic utopian architecture that steers clear of the petrifying pragmatism of boring boxes and the naïve utopian ideas of digital formalism. Like a form of programmatic alchemy we create architecture by mixing conventional ingredients such as living, leisure, working, parking and shopping. By hitting the fertile overlap between pragmatic and utopia, we architects once again find the freedom to change the surface of our planet, to better fit contemporary life forms.