Shenzhen is a place of utter newness, a city born in the 1990’s. It is the cradle of tech innovation in China and regards itself and its urbanism as entirely future focused. The people of Shenzhen are from all over the country, as such it is a city comprised almost entirely of migrants, most of whom are looking to the future and the part their new city will play in it.
Newness is not Shenzhen’s only defining factor. Shenzhen also yearns to establish a sense of history and belonging. Buji, the name of the district in which BAM’s project is located, by origin is a Hakka word, and used to be a settlement to this ethnic group in the past. However, Shenzhen’s spirit for innovation is inescapable. The planned economic experimentation which originated in Shenzhen was the spark that led to China’s great economic miracle and forged the city’s identity as a place for experimentation unbound by the cultural baggage often found in cities with thousands of years of continuous history. BAM’s project in this highly topographic green enclave of Shenzhen continues to push the boundaries of Shenzhen’s rapid acceptance culture of almost any form of experimentation.
The project site is set within a mountainous region of Shenzhen, resulting in dynamic height differences of up to 16 meters. This in conjunction with stringent emergency vehicle access requirements, typical for Chinese residential projects, results in what at first appears to be very little remaining space for the landscape. Within these restrictions and confines BAM found opportunities to create stark visual contrasts between soft and hardscape materials that articulate various spatial conditions.
The landscape of the project consists of two entirely different types of landscapes, an undulating streetscape that traverses drastic sectional conditions which encircles the flat central landscape from which the residential towers emerge. At the lower level of the site, the streetscape provides access to retail and a small bus terminal tucked below the overhead landscape podium containing recreational gardens for the residences towering above. The podium level landscape is unceremoniously cut in two by the required emergency vehicle circulation. BAM adapts this element into a zigzagging pathway which serves to tie the two sides together by camouflaging the vehicular road through aggressive and insistent patterning. This zigzagging path at once, is the primary factor which divides the site, while also bringing it together, meanwhile acting as the main circulation leading residents to their open-air tower lobbies.
The design leverages the different microclimates on site. North of the zigzag path, the hilly side of the project receives greater sun exposure and is dedicated to the active play gardens, shaded by various features and planting. The five main playgrounds are interlinked – the hedge maze playground leads to the slide and swings area, which connects to the toddlers circus, and then to the vertical playground, a cross between a playground and skyscraper dubbed “The Playscraper” eventually culminating in the more adult oriented physical activity plaza equipped with various outdoor exercise and stretching equipment. To the south of the zigzag path lies a series of relaxation gardens, tucked into the shaded spaces between the buildings and shrouded in planting, creating significantly cooler and quieter spaces for the less active or elderly residents.
BAM’s playground project in the Buji district of Shenzhen is a constructed testament to the experimental nature of not only Shenzhen as a city, but its inhabitants. It is not common even in China, that a series of interlinked playgrounds would become not only the central organizing feature of an entire development. The mere existence of such an explosive gesture of planting, patterning, color, and materials which has become so quickly absorbed into the culture as common place, typical, or even generic, is a true testament to Shenzhen’s progressive nature and rapid future-oriented development.
Other landscape architecture offices involved in the design of landscape:
PT Landscape Architecture
Architecture offices involved in the design:
The Shenzhen University Institute of Architectural Design & Research
Buji District, Shenzhen
Design year: 2017
Year Built: 2019