Constitution Park is located in the cultural centre of downtown Kunshan, home to the metropolitan government buildings and plaza as well as the science museum and city park. The park is designed to offer a spatial experience of the history and spirit of the Chinese constitution and its relevance to Kunshan and its citizens. Our task was to retrofit an existing park to take on new cultural and imaginative significance in the city. We needed to envisage a park that could accommodate a significant symbolic narrative; and formal, ritualized events as well offering space for socializing and relaxation. With only three months from design to construction, we worked intensively to produce a memorable site.
Core elements of the park reflect the role of the constitution in the lives of the citizens. Since constitutions are dynamic and live, the design of Constitution Park adopts a sequence of narrative spaces, elucidating the history, the present and the ceremonial process that binds officials to their duties. The design at once popularizes the constitution and commemorates the historical events associated with it, whilst also thematizing the ritual of oath-taking and presenting a contemporary urban landscape. We did not want the park to be a museum: to simply offer artefacts of the constitution. Instead, we wanted it to offer spaces for reflection and embody the temporal process of history and law. The final product is energetic, interactive and distinct.
At the heart of Constitution Park is the meditation courtyard, which contains the current text of the constitution written on a mirror that is submerged in a water feature, which serves to integrate the image of those reading the constitution with its contents. An evergreen tree grows from the water feature, its branches and leaves symbolizing the government and people who are rooted in the constitution.
To reach this courtyard, one must journey across the Constitution Bridge or the “constitution cornerstone,” walking through a winding alley that represents the seven constitutional changes that have occurred since 1954. This alley symbolizes the dynamic nature and process of constitutional amendments and the history of text. A water channel extends from the meditation courtyard to the ceremonial glade, which symbolizes the spirit of the constitution moving between reflection and ritual. The ceremonial glade also provides an arena for ceremonies and where government officials can take their oaths.
Fountains bring an active energy into the space and the design offers visitors spaces to relax, socialize or play. When the sun shines, inspirational phrases are projected onto the paving through the arches that flank the water channel. As the sun travels across the sky, the phrases move across the ground, reflecting the movement of time and thought.
The ceremonial glade is sheltered from the world outside the park by a large mound and dense trees, which facilitates the solemn and reflective mood of the park. The design of the park, incorporating history, spirit and oath, reflects the “eternal circle” at the core of Chinese traditional culture, which represents unity, harmony and integrity. Concentric rings built into the mounds provide seating where family and friends can watch oaths being taken. The oath monument wall stands in the east, and the direction of the monument represents the country and the people.
The Oath Plaza serves as the main multifunctional space of the park. The plaza offers an arena for events such as assemblies, speeches, oath-swearing ceremonies, or entertainment. Elevated terrain surrounds the circular space, which can serve to create a solemn atmosphere in important activities or a dynamic enclosed space for visitors to mingle.
IPD Design Team: Marius Brits, Shaoping Gu, Yuanjun Zhang, Jia Li, Guglielmo Prata, Jiaheng Huang, Qianqian Liang, Zheng Wang, Zhuoran Wang, Ning Gu.
Project location: Changjiang Road, Kunshan, China
Design year: 2019
Year Built: 2019