De-Stressed Streets, Shenzhen, China
SmithGroupJJR

The stimulating built environment within megacities causes citizens additional stress that is detrimental to their overall health. Equitable access to quality open spaces will encourage social engagement and reduce stress. The incisions of publicly accessible open spaces will de-stress overpopulated streets, reclaiming them for the improvement of health for all citizens.
 
The number of megacities has doubled over the past two decades and an estimated 70% of the world’s population will live within cities or megacities by the year 2050. This mega-urbanization will have a negative impact on the quality of life if open spaces are not designed as healthy environments. 
 
In 2015, the total length of Chinese urban roads reached 365,000 kilometers, quadrupled since 1990. With an area of over 7,200 square kilometers, Chinese urban roads can contribute to 15.6 square meters of open space for each citizen. Unfortunately, most of these streets are not built for people. Located in the southern part of China, Shenzhen is a megacity that experienced rapid growth in population and infrastructure after its designation as China’s first Special Economic Zone in 1980. Shenzhen demonstrates the need to focus on reclaiming streets for open spaces to improve health and create destressing environments. 
 
The street system of the city is like a human body; the health of the people within reflects the health of the city. Prototype for reclaiming streets within this megacity has been explored through various scales: System - megacity; Urban Cell - neighborhood; Incision - building. These prototypes are designed to invoke relaxation responses through breathing, contact with nature, physical sensation, social connection, and spiritual union. 
 
A cohesive network of de-stressed streets supports a connected system of urban green spaces, corridors, and incisions forms. Intersected by streets and open spaces, the urban cell is a cluster of smaller scale buildings serving as the center of the community. Encircled by a ring of pedestrian accessible open space, it reintroduces a neighborhood into a megacity and reduces stress through regular social interaction with neighbors.
 
Incisions are design interventions strategically placed within the urban cell to enhance the wellbeing of its citizens, reduce their stress, and improve quality of life through access. The congregation zone serves as a multipurpose gathering place that reduces stress by providing a place for social interaction and spiritual worship. As the center for learning-based economy and a public destination for educational opportunities, the learning locus provides appropriate cognitive stimulation to balance the high stimulus environments of a megacity. The vertical farm is a self-sufficient incision supplying fresh produce to the neighborhood that also reduces stress by providing connection with nature as well as increasing air quality of the micro-climate. The health home offers convenient, local access to prevention-based services that slow, stop or reverse the long-term progression of stress and diseases. 
 
De-stressed streets within megacities focus on rethinking streets to reduce stress and improve the health of their citizens. Reclaiming overpopulated streets with incisions of quality open spaces will make a city that is a living, breathing healthy body.
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