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    Designing an airport for birds: McGregor Coxall's Adrian McGregor

    Adrian McGregor is the founder and CEO of McGregor Coxall, a multi-disciplinary design firm located in Australia, China and the UK.

    McGregor has been nominated as one of Sydney’s 100 most creative people and is currently writing a book about Biourbanism as a platform for designing the cities of the 21st century.

    Architecture and Design spoke to McGregor about the Migratory Bird Airport project, being involved in Chinese projects and biourbanism.

    McGregorCoxall_Adrian-McGregor.jpgThe Migratory Bird Airport project is the first of its kind. Can you tell me about some of the unique challenges of the project?

    Delivering such a large and complex project of this kind in China presents a number of challenges. The site itself is an artificial constructed wetland, or novel ecosystem, made possible through landfill for urbanisation along the Tianjin shoreline. To increase critical bird habitat in this artificial environment we need to manage the engineering systems so that they function to support the new ecosystem.

    Of the key challenges for the design is to manage the competing interests of visitors and the habitat requirements of the birds. Humans and birds require a degree of separation in order for the nesting and feeding activities to be protected from interference. Environmental design processes have enabled these competing interests to be optimised such that humans and birds can coexist.

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    What were some of the challenges in building the airport in a Chinese context?

    Projects in China are often very large in scale and move rapidly. Our landscape architecture and environmental team collaborated from Australia and Shanghai in a global studio ensuring that an international design approach was integrated with local cultural perspectives.

    One of the key challenges we encountered was navigating the different interests of the client group. One part of the client group desired a very active landscape four use by people from the surrounding urban development and the other part of the client group was focused on the creation of a bird sanctuary. Striking a balance between these differing requirements was the key to achieving a successful outcome.

    What solutions did you come up with for some of those challenges?

    The master plan design response organises the functions of the rectilinear site along a gradient of activity zones from complete ecological conservation to active green space and visitor facilities. The placement of bird hides in strategic locations enables people to enjoy a walking loop around the perimeter of the site and also appreciate the visiting birds close up. Part of a green necklace of new parkland for the city of Tianjin, the project will deliver green infrastructure including constructed wetlands, parkland and urban forest. These parks will help improve air quality for the city.

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    Can you tell A&D about the book you're writing about Biourbanism?

    Nine billion people, one earth and more than 4,000 cities. This is our planet in the second decade of the 21st century. But can our cities continue to support us into the future as the world’s population continues to grow and gravitates towards city living? Cities are the cultural and economic centres of the world generating 70 percent of global GDP. I am currently writing a book about Biourbanism as a platform for planning sustainable cities in the 21st century.

    What motivated you to start writing the book?

    My motivation for writing this book is derived from more than 30 years of practice and involvement in the design of cities. It is clear that modern cities need to transform the way they are planned if we are to meet the climate and population challenges of the 21st century.

    Do you think it's a topic that designers think about enough?

    I think our current thinking in urbanism is now outdated as it fails to account for the radical disruptions to economic, manufacturing and energy processes that are being caused by digital technologies. I think that Metropolitan planning processes need to be restructured and that the design professions are failing to consider the quantum shifts that will occur to our cities in the next 10 years.

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