NATURE TAKES CENTRE STAGE
In a bid to expand or improve our living settlements, we have been encroaching the water’s edge along rivers and seas. In recent years, the rise of blue-green infrastructures has played a vital role in striking a balance between built structures and natural water bodies. In this section, we showcase two projects where the waterways were revitalised by incorporating strategies to amplify the natural elements and building site-sensitive structures and systems while retaining the original topographies. Not only do these serve as sanctuaries for the public within metropolises, they also improve the water network to bring about a healthier ecosystem.
QUZHOU LUMING PARK
Strolling along the Quzhou Luming Park, one might not have recognised it for what it used to be. The once-abandoned floodplain is now a multifaceted public space that sprawls over the landscape and offers a ‘breathing’ oasis in the dense urban setting. Fields of crops cover the terrain, coating the site in the seasonal colours of canola flowers in the spring, sunflowers in the summer and fall, as well as buckwheat in early winter. Located on the west bank of the Shiliang River, in the West New District of Quzhou City, Zhejiang Province, an elevated network of pedestrian walkways, platforms and pavilions has transformed a deserted landscape into a dynamic park.
The site is surrounded by intensive urban development, and there is an elevation drop of 20 metres from the road to the floodplain and a sandstone cliff at the waterfront. The conventional approach to developing a large new urban district is to level the site—this was the method used in the surrounding landscape for urban areas and parks, where a rugged terrain is not considered valuable or aesthetically pleasing, and the cultural landscape elements are deemed insignificant. The common practice of levelling the ground simplifies the mechanical and engineering processes and facilitates the installation of infrastructure such as roads, water supply and storm water drainage.
Rather than follow the common route, the landscape designer sought to preserve the site’s geological features and original vegetation, using creative concepts while incorporating the client’s request for a multifunctional green space that provides recreational opportunities. He aimed to realise the potential of an urban park that also serves as an ecological infrastructure, where a productive blue-green landscape can offer the benefits of a holistic ecosystem.
TANGSHAN NEW CITY
Rising from the ashes of the tragic earthquake in 1976 that almost decimated the whole city, Tangshan is now a bustling economy—a comprehensive transportation hub with rich resources and advanced industries. Its resilience was recognised when it was awarded the UN Habitat Scroll of Honor in 1990 for its reconstruction efforts as “an outstanding organisation that contributes to human residence”. Tangshan also won the Dubai International Award for Best Practices to Improve the Living Environment in 2004.
Today, the city continues its progressive journey as it seeks to connect and rehabilitate the natural habitat along the 3.8 kilometres of riverfront that runs through its heart, where past development, farming and industrial activities had scarred the landscape. As such, a master plan was commissioned to rejuvenate the natural habitat: a gateway river park with pedestrian bridges, a promenade that stretches across the Tangshan River, as well as parks and plazas in the new central business district. It is hoped that the hospitality offerings established are sensitive to the waterfront’s ecosystem.
Located 30 kilometres east of Nanjing, Tangshan—translated to “soup mountain” in Mandarin—has an abundance of historical attractions, resorts, waterways and hot springs; it is well known for its natural thermal mineral waters. In order to maintain this sanctuary, a long-term strategy was devised to improve the health of the local ecosystem by revegetating the waterway, integrating Green infrastructure in the riverfront hardscaping, as well as introducing bioengineering solutions to the river. For example, bio-retention systems such as rain gardens (planted depressions) and swales have been integrated throughout the parkland and along the promenade to provide natural collection points that filter surface run-off from impervious urban areas (roofs and walkways, etc.) before it enters the river system. Within the river, aquatic plants will increase the stability of the riverbank over time as their root systems develop, and provide a host of environmental benefits that include an improvement of the overall water quality and wildlife habitat.