Forest Heart: Campus Landscape Regeneration for Beijing Forestry University by +

2022 Campuses and Corporate / China / Built in 2021 /

The project is part of a series of campus regenerations undertaken by Beijing Forestry University. It is in the very center of the campus, with a total area of about 13500 square meters. It is surrounded by the university’s museum, administration building and other important buildings. The western half of the site used to be home to the university hospital for the past several decades, while the eastern half was an abandoned, low-lying green space that was underutilized. After a thorough study of the university’s history, culture, discipline composition, and student and faculty needs, we decided that this site should become an outdoor green classroom and laboratory. At the same time, it should serve as a connector between people and nature, building a more intimate and reciprocal relationship between the two and become the spiritual center of the university. Therefore, e selected “Connection” and “healing” as the themes of design.

  1. 1. Public Participation

The project adopted a public participation strategy to solicit input from all students and faculty during the design and construction phases. After the project was completed, the designer helped to establish four “Forest Heart” volunteer teams to monitor and maintain the ecosystem, water environment and plants in the area for a long time to ensure the healthy and sustainable operation of the green space.

  1. 2. Ecological rainwater recycling system

The design uses a LID strategy to build an elaborate rainwater harvesting and water recycling system, which collects about 15000 square meters of surface runoff from the southern part of the campus into an underground storage tank. The collected rainwater gushes out from the east and west outlets– the “Light Fountain” and the “Rain  Fountain ”, depending on the terrain, creating water landscape types such as drops, streams, and ponds, allowing the rainwater to be aerated and purified, while aquatic plants such as reeds, irises, and water lilies filter pollutants. A volunteer team from the university has monitored the water and ecological environment for two years and verified that the system collects about 4000 cubic meters of rainwater per year and effectively improves water quality. The water system has revitalized the ecology of the area, the plants are growing better, and the pond is gradually forming a self-circulating ecosystem with careful placement of native aquatic plants, fish, frogs, and various benthic organisms. At least four species of birds have also been migrated to the woodland after it was constructed.

  1. 3. Everything is connected

Through innovative Internet of Things technology, different systems in the area are connected. There are sensors for water quantity and suspended matter in the rainwater storage pond, sensors for NH4+-N pollutants in the pond, reed light installations at the pool’s edge to show changes in water quality by color, and an automatic weather station set up in the site. All these data are collected and displayed in the screens of the “Gallery of Forest” and can be used by different teams for scientific research. Relying on artificial intelligence and high-performance servers, we have designed and customized several interactive art installations, through which we can listen to the breathing and heartbeat of the trees, we can perceive and experience the divinity of the forest, reconstruct a more intimate and original emotional connection between people and nature. 

  1. 1) In the center of the western lawn, the light pillars arranged in a spiral are connected to the trunk moisture sensors on 11 of the oldest trees on campus. With the change of light color, people can sense the rhythm of life of the trees in real time. When 10 people stand around the light pillars with hand by hand, the AI human posture recognition sensors will automatically recognize them and the pillars will present a gorgeous light show and A melody called ‘Living’, from Florian Bur, the talented piano composer. This is a salute to the great forest.
  2. 2) The six cloud lights in the “Gallery Forest” emit the sounds of wind, rain, birdsong and insects, which are collected from six national nature reserves in China. By listening to these natural sounds, one can feel like walking through time and space in those distant forests.
  3. 3) In the “Whispers of the Forest” on the north side of the arc arcade, people can pour out their hearts to the green pipe rising from the land. Under it, there is a underground boiler room. when the red button is pressed, there will be fire and burning sound to burn out the heart. When the green button is pressed, the sound will be recorded and can be played back at any time by entering the password. 
  4. 4) On the north side of the pond, among the spruce forest, a stone path with fragrant plantain lilies and ferns growing on both sides leads to the “Stonehenge Theatre”, which is engraved with ancient symbols of the sun, big trees and deer. People can use Bluetooth to connect to the speakers in the center of the stonehenge to play their favorite music. The “Stonehenge Theatre” and the pillars of light in the west form two mutually reflective hearts of the forest, lush and open, primitive, and modern, mysterious, and grand.
  5. 5) At the entrance to what was once the university hospital, a path peeks into the pond, where you can sit on a stone platform at the end of the path. When a pulse sensor at the edge of the stone platform senses a heartbeat, a spring will spring up in the pond, pulsating at the rate of your heartbeat. On the site of the university hospital, one can drive the fountain with his or her own heartbeat, and the fountain promotes the circulation of water to keep the pond ecosystem healthy. This is the most hidden heart of the forest, which connects the history of the campus, nature, and people through the heartbeat of people, and the three heal each other and coexist in harmony.
  1. 4. History and Culture

The design inherits and continues the historical culture and site characteristics of the campus as much as possible. To preserve all the large trees on site, the entire site was scanned using a 3D scanner and an accurate model of the site was constructed as a design reference. The shape of a pond, which then disappeared from the campus’ history, was projected into the forest swamp. Plant specimens collected by students from all over China were installed in 192 rotating light boxes with plant descriptions on the back. At the same time, the light box can be cleverly turned into a wall of slogans, and the plant specimens are transformed into human language. Students express their friendship and vow love here, and every day a different scene is presented here, and the site takes on a narrative character.

we designed a small plum garden and set seven pillars with the name of the plum blossom species. On the top of every pillar, there is a glass prism engraved a 3d model of plum. The sunlight penetrates through the prism and scatters rainbows over the lawn. This art installation implies that Beijing Forestry University decoded the DNA map of plum.

  1. 5. Communication spaces

Communication is the core function of the campus, and we have built many communication spaces of different scales, which are surrounded by beautiful plants or structures to form a comfortable spatial atmosphere. Many students and teachers communicate and study here every day, fully stimulating the vitality of the outdoor space.

  1. 6. Plant design

The project adopted a planting design strategy that combines localization and scientific research, mainly selecting native species that grow well in the North China Plain. Above the underground boiler room on the north side, we designed nearly 6 meters of mulch to form a “Floating Mound” botanical garden with natural topography. To combine the scientific research and popularization of plants from Beijing Forestry University, we introduced special species such as cork oak and peony, as well as some rare plants transplanted for the construction of the Beijing Winter Olympic Mountain Skiing Stadium.

7. Conclusions

The design establishes the spiritual core of a university through green open space regeneration. “Connection” and “healing” become the design themes throughout the site. The design continues the history, culture, and memory of Beijing Forestry University, restores the vitality of the area and enhancing the vitality of the space through innovative strategies and techniques, allows people to sense the rhythm of the forest, and creates a spiritual garden where people and nature can heal each other. This is even more meaningful now that COVID-19 is rampant. The strategy adopted in the project is also of great value to the future construction of small-scale green open spaces in high-density urban environments using modern technology.

Beijing forestry university, Beijing, China

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