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Turenscape’s Yanweizhou Park, China: Resilient and Dynamic

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on November 24, 2015 at 01:27 PM

Often dismissed as only peripheral to the mainstream of the architectural design discipline, landscape design and its potential begins to amaze when the colossal consequences of its responsible practice driven by an awareness of our immediate and outer, natural and manmade environment are displayed. It has the potential to touch many more lives, human and others, can help sustain much larger spheres of existence and generally be much more exciting and fun filled than any building project can be. And, this is precisely what Turenscape’s Yanweizhou Park project in Jinhua, China elucidates. This winner of the Landscape design prize at the World Architecture Festival held at Singapore performs the function of providing an interesting and comfortable outdoor retreat for the people of Jinhua city, using references to cultural traditions in the design grammar, while revitalising the lost ecology of its wetlands and incorporating the dynamics of changes likely to take place over the seasons and years.

© Courtesy of internet resources

Located at the point of confluence of two rivers forming the third Jinhua river, this 26 hectare wetland called Yanweizhou park in the heart of a densely urbanised Jinhua city is undoubtedly its precious green reprieve. Turenscape International, a proven hand at designing ecologically restorative and popularly interactive wetland parks, was commissioned by the Jinhua municipal government in around 2010 with the project, which was completed and opened to the public in 2014.

The task at hand for the designers was to connect the north, south and wetlands (where the opera house was located) of the city separated by roughly 100 m width of each of the three rivers. They also had to revive the wetlands which were degraded due to existing sand quarries.

Turenscape designed a 5 m wide (the width changes at points, to go with the ‘flow of people’), 2,300’ long steel pedestrian bridge (images 2 – 6) which snakes across the rivers between the three land parts to connect them by foot. Using the idea of dragon latticing, a traditional practice where people from different villages join colourful benches from their homes on the roads to build a seemingly endless dragon that connects subsequent villages, the railings of this bridge are made of alternating bands of bright red and yellow, enhanced at night by lighting. Being raised above the 100 year highest flood mark and having a bamboo flooring makes the bridge resilient and user-friendly even during the frequent floods that inundate the area. This is also helped by multiple ramps provided to enter the bridge placed at different locations to create dynamic entry points in tune with the flooding patterns at different times.

The boardwalks (images 7,8) all along the banks around the wetlands provide more walkways which, being elevated above the 100 year flood level can also be used during the floods. Three parallel elevated viewing pavilions have also been provided overlooking the parts of the wetlands that get inundated, further encouraging people to visit the park even during floods (image 9).

The rest of the landscape is designed in concentric paving bands and curvaceous pathways, around the existing opera house, which is oval in plan, creating circular planting beds and curved seating areas as well as alcoves for couples and small groups. The brightly coloured fibreglass seating and concentric paving bands encircle circular bio-swales (images 14,15) planted with water resilient tree and plant species native to the wetland region. Even vehicular routes and parking areas around the opera house are paved with permeable concrete to allow natural draining.

The sand quarries on the riparian edges have been made use of in the design by cutting and filling with local soil to form terraced embankments (image 11), after doing away with the existing floodwalls. These terraces are again planted with native plants and grasses, with paths meandering (image 13) in between to walk on during the dry season. Special efforts have been made to enhance and preserve the biodiversity of the region by planting native and resilient species additionally.

The gravel dug out while building this park has been reused on the terraced embankments, the pathways as well as the edges of the inner pond (image 12), enabling river water to permeate to the pond to keep it clean. The entire inner area of the park is, in fact, permeable leaving only the opera house and its facilities flood proof. The floods bring in and leave layers of silt on the terraces, which further helps the growth of plants, making these terraced embankments a replicable tool in flood management anywhere in the world.

The park opened in 2014 and ever since has proven to be a thumping success, with the people of Jinhua ‘going crazy about this one bridge’. The design befriends natural phenomena like floods, instead of trying to avoid or avert them, and working around the natural flow of river currents and of visiting people, presents a friendly, futuristic, dynamic, sustainable and ecologically restorative solution. Kudos Turenscape!!

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