Quarry Park is a 20-hectare public park developed within a new residential community north of Hangzhou. Built within a former stone quarry on the side of a mountain, the park has become a popular weekend destination for local residents. The design reflects and bridges the divide between rural and urban cultures while remaining respectful of both at what is a critical juncture in China’s development and transition from countryside to city living. The park management includes educational programs focused on food production and is hopeful in fostering a sense of stewardship for the park. The role of the landscape architect included initial ideas for what to do with the quarry and agricultural site, park programming, concept design and detail design through construction. The design concept builds on existing patterns and materials recomposed in a contemporary way and constructed with great attention to detail and construction quality.
Quarry Park is a new typology of park for China built by a Chinese developer on the large difficult strip of hillside between a newly planned residential community and a stone mountainside ravaged by decades of quarrying, but with its own eerie beauty. Local government had rezoned parts of the abandoned quarry site as a food production zone, and local farmers had started to grow small garden beds and crops on makeshift hand-made terraces, putting pressure on the developer of the adjacent site to rethink its potential role with regard to the neighboring farms and farmers.
Attitudes and relationships within China’s Special Economic Zones can be perplexing, and like everything else they change at a dizzying pace, creating along the way some tensions that can be puzzling to outsiders. One such tension, a byproduct of urbanization, has been diminishing respect for both farming and farmers; even home cooking has declined considerably in the last couple of decades. Now the pendulum is swinging back the other way with a renewed interest in agriculture and all things rural particularly as concerns for food security and health are on the upswing among young sophisticated urbanites, like those residing in the neighboring community known as Liangzhu Cultural Village. Recycling centers, farmer’s markets and “e-cards” for spending in local shops and accessing neighborhood amenities are but a few of the and green-tech initiatives proposed. Residents are largely white-collar commuters to Hangzhou, their children and retired grandparents looking for a healthy quality of life and connection to rural nature. With the “farm-to-table” movement finding a foothold in certain Chinese resort communities, the design team set out early goals for Quarry Park: to embrace the makeshift farmland, continue to grow food in a more managed way, and to use the hand-crafted stone terrace walls as inspiration for further park improvements, thus reconnecting residents of the new community and visitors with a positive image and experience of farming through design and programming. Further, the design team encouraged the developer to assume an active role in the park’s operations and management going forward.
There are two main anchor portals to the park from the neighboring communities, one is the primary public face, the other more resident oriented. From the southeast the public is welcomed through the cultural center and its event terrace. The building, designed by the landscape architect, can host tasting parties, cooking classes and a host of activities relating to the park’s central agricultural theme. A series of highly abstracted terraces and ramps with corten steel retaining walls lead up to the farmer-built fields above. Plantings here are permanent or perennial though still focused on fruit-bearing, however the Chinese bias toward extreme tidiness in the landscape is at its most prominent here at the most public entrance to the park. The farmer-built fields and walls remain.
Nestled into the hillside, is a large adventure play area with an amphitheater, custom designed play structures and a terrazzo slide built directly into the slope. The primary resident’s gate at the park’s northeast corner leads to a grand staircase that meanders up the hillside through a dense bamboo forest. At the top is a large event lawn, which retains the remnant shape left by the quarry work. Surrounded by terraced strolling flower gardens and community garden plots, the event lawn is large enough to host community festivals and includes outdoor kitchen and cooking classroom facilities. The higher arable ground in the park is reserved for the bold geometric pattern of tea plantations with curated tea houses dotting the hillside. Higher still up the mountainside, the development of a “stone park” will take full advantage of the quarry setting as background, media and subject matter for art along a scenic trail. Some remaining elements of the stone quarry are treated as art by introducing a neutral planar surface as backdrop to unusual remnant outcroppings while also creating overlooks to the fields and gardens below, enhancing both scene and experience and allowing for rotating installations. Quarry Park bridges some of the gaps that open whenever new development occurs; in the same way that landscape architects often bridge gaps in the design process by looking at things through a wide lens and inserting themselves in-between projects and the issues that surround them. In this case, to build on the philosophies underlying the development of Liangzhu Cultural Village of artful, healthful living by reconnecting residents and visitors to the essentials of feeding the body, mind and spirit from the land.