During the initial site visits in 2014, the design team experienced the harsh summer conditions of Chongqing, realizing the importance of shade and a hint of breeze. The low water level of the Jialing River that summer provided an opportunity to assess the riverbank and understand its significance to the local community. With a narrow plot of land that expands during low water periods, the park required a resilient design to accommodate the fluctuating water levels caused by seasonal flooding.
Unlike other hard-edged riverside parks in Chongqing, Golden Shoal Riverfront Park offers a blend of urban and natural elements, inviting citizens to relax and find balance between the two. The park’s “soft interface” between the river and the city strengthens the bond between humans and the environment. Construction began in 2016, focusing on meticulous tree planting, resulting in a restored forest and trails for visitors to explore.
In 2020, the park faced a severe flood that tested its resilience. Despite the inundation, the park’s resilient ecology withstood the conditions, and after the waters receded, the woods and trails were fully restored. The park’s trail system responds to the changing water conditions of the Jialing River, transforming into a waterfront promenade during high-water periods and a forest trail during low-water periods. The paving concept for the main trail was inspired by fish patterns in Chinese ink paintings, creating a connection between the river and pedestrian movement.
The park also features overlooks with spacious trellises, providing shade and wide sight lines. Below the 186-meter elevation point, a system of secondary trails and platforms has been installed, reinforced to resist erosion and offering a place for recreation such as BBQing, picnicking, and fishing. The lush native vegetation in the park results from careful restoration, stabilization of the bank slope, and the use of flood-tolerant tree species.
Golden Shoal Riverfront Park serves as a sanctuary for ecological restoration, promoting a connection between people and the natural world. It inspires designers to approach their work with humility, creativity, and a deep understanding of the site’s unique features and culture. By creating urban spaces that reflect and enhance their surroundings, the park contributes to the health and well-being of the local ecosystem. With its emphasis on ecological conservation and sustainable development, the park not only offers recreational opportunities but also educates visitors about the importance of preserving the environment.
Park construction involved restoring disturbed topographical features by maintaining the original topo and implementing a stormwater drainage system with biofiltration gardens. These gardens collect and treat stormwater before releasing it into the river, minimizing erosion and water pollution. Creating a cool microclimate within the park was crucial, considering Chongqing’s hot and humid climate. Shade structures and dense forest planting help provide a respite from the heat, making the park accessible and enjoyable to the public. Additionally, the park’s location near a metro station enhances its accessibility and popularity.
One of the park’s significant contributions to the community is its provision of access to the region’s unique riparian ecology. By preserving and enhancing a large riparian fluctuation zone and a new riparian forest, the park promotes biodiversity and habitat. It connects to ecological corridors, serves as the green heart of a network of open spaces, reduces the urban heat island effect, and offers a range of open space experiences for residents. A new 10,000-tree riparian forest with a dense, natural design that sequesters 25 million kilograms of carbon over 50 years, equivalent to driving around the earth ~8,000 times. The forest consists of resilient tree species that provide shade and reducing soil erosion. It recreates the riparian forests that once existed in the region before being cleared for agriculture.
The project demonstrates the successful integration of large-scale ecological restoration and urban development, showcasing the potential for achieving regional ecological goals while meeting the needs of the community. Golden Shoal Riverfront Park not only focuses on rehabilitating and restoring the regional ecology, but also emphasizes public accessibility. It offers a picturesque green space for recreation and serves as an educational platform to raise awareness about ecological conservation and sustainable development.