Dutch architecture in China

Urbanization and development are terms that come to mind at all after a visit to a country as China, where day and night is built as far as the eye is rich. The country has 16 cities with more than 5 million inhabitants and they are far from being developed. This offers plenty of opportunities for Dutch architecture and architects. In Shenyang, a city with more than 6 million inhabitants located in northeastern China, well-known architects Niek Raheem and Robert ten Elsen have shaped and made this concrete urban jungle liveable.


Dutch architect design in Shenyang

Niek Raheem, for the first time in 1998, set foot on Chinese soil to design and realize a Holland Garden for the Kunming Expo in 1999. After Kunming, he worked with several Chinese offices and institutes. With them, he has designed many green projects in cities.

These include city parks, recreation areas, theme parks, river banks, and nature reserves. In 2005, he was invited by the city of Shenyang to also assist in the development of the new Expo of 2006. This was the beginning of a close and very successful collaboration with the city, where Niek Rahman has also set up its own design office in China since 2013. Meanwhile, he has celebrated his 10-year cooperation with Shenyang.

On the question of what makes the work in China so fun and challenging, according to Niek is: “The scale, the freedom of design and the self-accountability you get in China. After 17 years of working in China, you get more and more beautiful and special assignments. ” As an example, he mentions the design for the mains in the new Hunan district in the city of Shenyang. This is a 4.5 km long park centrally located in the urban sprawl. “It was a fantastic project to work on, especially given the full confidence we received from the city government for this assignment.”

The greatest success that Niek Raheem and his team hope to achieve with their work; To contribute to the awareness of the importance of green cities and the real greening of cities and to make them enthusiastic about the qualities of existing landscape, the beautiful nature, and the existing buildings. In addition to his design work, Niek advises a group of 50 young designers in the city of Hangzhou. Every two months he takes on new projects with them.


More Dutch influences in China

Robert Ten Elsen can also call himself an experienced architect in China. In 2010, he first came into contact with this country. Through Niek Raheem, he ended up in Shenyang where they worked together on a number of projects.

His contribution to the various design and research projects was very inspired by the Dutch design principles. In this, he took into account the cultural and historical aspects of the Chinese community to ensure contrast in this tight city.

Together they made designs for the Underground Commercial Street, a shopping mall. But also for Wu’Ai Block, an extension of the commercial shopping center of Shenyang of about 160,000 m2. The main objective was to enrich the distinctive character of cities. The recognition from China was great because U&A Studio(the firm where they worked for) acquired the independent Business license as Creative Design Company of the provincial government. This meant a lot to them, so they are able to participate in projects that require the highest level of architecture.

Chinese Cities are looking for their own identity. In the million Chinese cities, this happens on a scale that cannot be imagined in Europe.

Opportunities for Dutch architects in China

In China, a notorious real estate bubble is now present in the northeast of the country. The focus will therefore also be much more to improve and restructure existing areas and city parks in large cities. The development of tourism and construction of large “green” theme parks just outside the cities are also trends that are playing everywhere in China. To play a role as a foreign architect, it is important that you distinguish yourself from the local players but also build a stable network on the spot and connect with the right local experienced partners. The modernization, the increased standard of living and the immense growth in traffic will be the biggest challenges in today’s Chinese cities. But at the same time offer wonderful opportunities for Dutch entrepreneurs.

Dutch companies earn their money to a large extent over the border. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is therefore actively committed to the interests of Dutch companies abroad.




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