Dawn Horizon—The renewal of a lower income community’s central plaza by

2024 Public Projects / China / Built in 2023 /

Historical issues

Today, many cities with a population of one million in China still have a large number of residential areas built during the governmental intervention economy era. The collective housing allocation system used by the communist government had left such communities with an extremely uneven population age structure and unimaginable residential densities. This type of community was left trapped in the dilemma of outdated infrastructure and the exponential influx of motor vehicles. After wealthy families and small businesses left the area, community populations were dominated by low-income families having difficulty obtaining many basic public services and conveniences, the one they lacked the most is safe and equitable outdoor spaces for kids.


The Suojin community built in 1984 is typical of this type of residential area. This completed project was the first children’s playground built in this community in 40 years. It provided an unprecedented outdoor activity space for nearly 2,500 kids under 12 within 1km². Strict epidemic control delayed the implementation of the project, which took 3.5 years from reaching community consensus, financing construction, design cooperation services, and final construction. Since its opening on Sep.1 2023, it has become an example and inspiration for the renovation and construction of such historical communities in Nanjing. The incredibly high number of visits (peak daily average of 1,200 visitors on October weekends) has brought pressure and challenges to the facility’s capacity and equity of use. The design team continues to make small-scale updates and repairs to the project. The project’s success earned the community more attention and funding. The second phase of the 400m² construction project planned by the design team for the community will be completed in 2024 and has raised $210,000 in funds. We look forward to solving the public space demands of the ageing population who also face environmental injustice.

Neighborhood consensus

As a design team that also lives here, we fully understand the community’s problems and potential, and hope to use public space as a catalyst to enhance community vitality and economy. After 2 years of repeated communication and consensus with various stakeholder groups in the community, in 2022, community members, government and community enterprises, as well as designers jointly proposed a five-year plan to improve underutilized areas in the community through low-cost space renovation that provide healthier and more equitable outdoor spaces for first and foremost, children.

Fair design

The square’s news display boards, as well as all trees and some shrubs, were determined to be retained after consultation. Limited funds will be prioritized to build safe, strong, low-maintenance children’s play space and add solar equipment to enhance site sustainability. The project consists of 7 design zones, each with unique characteristics and serving different community needs. It includes non-limited play facilities for children of different ages, and walls built with recycled old masonry to support diverse sport experiences.

Community repair and refactoring

The high flow of people attracts various types of mobile vendors, making a positive contribution to the community’s small business economy. The novel spaces and facilities attract frequent visits from residents of similar surrounding communities, further increasing the site’s usage. Abnormal behaviors, such as competition for space use rights, vandalism of public facilities, and theft of game materials, occur frequently. Additionally, despite the selection of strong native plants and the team’s repeated replanting, excessive trampling by large numbers of children running around killed all ground cover plants, even including weeds.

The design team worked with community managers to raise funds and organized multiple facility renovations and joint construction projects with residents. By organizing charity sales, replanting projects, sign painting and other activities in kindergartens and primary schools, we hope to use children as an opportunity to increase family participation and create new community connections.


The success of the project increased the enthusiasm of community managers and residents to participate in public services and restored their confidence in the future. The design team will be fully involved in the implementation of the community’s five-year plan, and will make up for the community’s historical difficulties through the restoration of spatial relationships. Children running happily in the park will be the starting point for all these beautiful visions.

Location: Suojin South Road 8 , Xuanwu District, Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, China

Design year: 2020

Completed: 2023

Designer: Shuyue He, YM Peng, K Zhang, MX Zhang, K Xiang, JH Peng, YH Shi, QN Yan, SM Qi, MX Chen, M Li, X Gao, S Huang, YM Wang, LB You, XY Yang, M Cheng, XQ Zhang, SQ Wu, YX Wang, HC Wang, LZ Liu

Builder: Jiangsu DR Construction Engineering Co., Ltd

Photographer: S Hua, CX Huang,92 Design Crew

Translator: YX Huang


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