Courtyard under Mount Qingcheng is a private property development in the Cultural Tourism town of Dujiangyan. 2000 years history of the Dujiangyan Irrigation System is a prime example of local’s profound research into civil engineering projects of water utilisation, and their wisdom in co-existing with nature that has become part of their life. The Courtyard project offers a new interpretation of drainage system and terrain, and explored the intersection of nature and modern design. The new living space reconnects human and nature. Co-dependent on each other, painstakingly arranged constructions and local flora groups created a profound feedback to ecology, and formed a courtyard that belongs to the locals.
The City of Dujiangyan is situated by the foot of Mount Qingcheng, named after the super irrigation system of ancient China (256 BC). The Courtyard is located by the Minjiang River that flows past the Dujiangyan Irrigation System, which serves the purpose of flood control, irrigation, and shipping. Over 2000 years people have lived and thrived by its side. Locals tend to have deep understanding of water and soil engineering, which has deeply rooted in their lives.
Western courtyards carry passion and romance, like a room that forms part of home. In the East, courtyards are oriental sentiment that runs deep. The project spans 20,000 sqm as an island surrounded by urban roads. Houses appear to scatter across the piece of land. Terrain design drew inspiration from the shape of the Mount Qingcheng afar, setting off the houses. Waterways wriggle along the valleys. Interplay of water and mountain is at the core of the philosophy of Chinese living space. Walkways are added on top with considerations for nature and functions, providing a variety of natural experiences, including open water surface to free interaction with forest.
Along the north-south terrain within the project, a complete water system that works as water drainage bio-filtration feed the entire ecological system here. The drainage measures 200 meters long, including a small stream and a series of cascaded ponds. Water flows down along the reformed terrain, creating sound of joy and tranquility.
The open water surface appears to be a quiet pond but is a complex bio-filtration strategy. Landscape designers collaborated with local water consultants, use wetland plants and microorganisms to filter the water. Water from lower levels is pumped to the top, enabling bio-filtration behind the cascading scene. When there’s heavy rainfall, overflown water will be further processed before being discharged into Mingjiang River.
Viewing water waves is a local folk custom, one of the reasons why the Dujiangyan irrigation system have become a must visit of the city. We designed a viewing spot by the pond with the lowest water level. It’s a viewing gallery with one end reaching to the bottom of the pond. With water-proof glass walls, the gallery allows visitors to walk under the water and appreciate the ebb and flow of water, as well as the forest underwater. Dim natural lighting within the gallery creates an interesting yet mysterious atmosphere. The gallery provides a great space for people to feel the changes of light and shadows, think, and meditate.
Dujiangyan is situated in the Minjiang River’s drainage basin in western Sichuan, with ample rainfall and rich soil. The designers envisioned a flora garden of the courtyard. They researched on the soil, flora, and climate of the Dujiangyan region, and carefully selected plants with diversity and horticulture value. Across spaces of woods, wetland and grassland, vibrant flora groups flourish and form their mini climate. There are 10 kinds of trees, more than 20 kinds of shrubs, and many ferns, grasses, wildflowers that are curated to create different experiences with seamless transitions. Extra attention is paid to both above-ground and underwater biodiversity to ensure healthy living and development of the different groups of plants.
The courtyard’s design emphasised use of nature-based materials. The fusion of wood, stone, water, and plants creates a rich and immersive experience. Surrounded by these materials, people’s senses are easily drawn to the texture of the stones, the shadows of trees, and the marks time has left.
Project Location: Dujiangyan Sunac Cultural Tourism Town, Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China
Design year: 2019
Year Built: 2020