Leave the Door Open

STARTING POSITION

It is a small sunken garden located in the corner of a huge monolithic building in a large city park,and originally a vacant lot on the edge of a parking lot that no one cares about. This long and empty flight of steps is framed by the floor-to-ceiling windows of a large conference room in the building. The owner of the conference room is the Children’s Palace in Jianye District, Nanjing City. The room is surrounded by a variety of small classrooms. The teachers there hope to provide a small outdoor garden for the children who attend classes in the building, with outdoor classes related to nature education in addition to science, music, art and craft classes.

OVERVIEW

The area of this small garden is only 143 square meters, and the construction cost of the whole project is RMB 100,000(Approx. £12,040). The design work began in September 2020 and was completed in November, and then the construction started in February 2021 and was completed in mid-April. The garden was not officially put into use until mid-August after the project was completed. During this period, Nanjing, China, was under intermittent city control due to the COVID-19 epidemic, as a result of which city construction projects were terminated, and classes at the Children’s Palace were suspended.

PLANTS

The garden is divided into two space types, indoor and outdoor by the greenhouse. This simple greenhouse is directly connected to the interior space of the building. Inside the green house there is no heating and cooling equipment, and the original staircase steps in the site are transformed into benches for children’s classes.  A combination of flower racks is designed on both sides of the interior of the greenhouse, where various potted flowers and seedlings are placed. The two sides of the greenhouse run through the north and south of the site, making the whole site unobstructed. The arch trellis area on the south of the site is equipped with a total of 8 continuous round arch climbing frame made of galvanized steel pipes, which come in groups of two, for a total of four groups. Each group of fames is connected by climbing net made of twine providing spaces for different climbing plants at different times of the year. The passage under the arch is 2.45M wide, and planting boxes of different heights are designed on both sides in which selected corps or flowers are planted according to the planting plan set out in the nature education curriculum.

COURSES

The sunken small garden is adjacent to the building and the daylight conditions are somewhat affected. The planters in the terrace area, which receives full sunlight, are mostly planted with light-loving plants, while shade-tolerant plants are mostly grown in the planting box near the glass curtain wall of the building. Within the limited planting space, the annual planting plan, covering over 60 varieties of vegetables and fruit, has been design to correspond to the nature education curriculum of the 24 planting solar terms (the traditional crop planting calendar of the Yangtze River Basin in China, which is used for the Chinese Spring Festival, Dragon Boat Festival and Mid-Autumn Festival each year) for the nature education courses. The courses are offered about once every 2 weeks, lasting 1.5 hours to 2 hours each time, and usually include the planting and harvesting of crops. In addition to explaining traditional farming culture, a teacher will lead the children to make delicious dishes out of the harvested vegetables and fruits to share with their families. The activities will be announced online two weeks in advance, so that families who want to participate can register by appointment, and there is no extra charge for on-site activities. Nearly a dozen successful events have been held, gaining wide spread community-wide love and overwhelming comments on social media.

SPONTANEOUS PARTICIPATION

This exquisite little garden still has been vacant for most time, except for the bi-weekly festival sessions. While the staff and teachers of the Children’s Palace were also very fond of the small garden next to their workplace, we have worked with them to make several small-scale updates to the site since the initial design was completed in 2021, including the addition of night lighting, toolboxes, various decorative objects hanging between the climbing frames, two sets of water drop landscapes and the renovation of the compost bin area, exhibition of the framed children’s drawing-which was done in art classes -around the planting box, etc. On the Mid-Autumn Festival of 2021 (September 21), the teachers and staff of the Children’s Palace joined together to organize a party in the garden, giving the area a simple name: the Edible Garden.

PREVIEW

Even though it has only been a year since its construction, our Edible Garden is full of interesting, touching and chastening stories. Surveillance facilities have clearly captured the nocturnal visits to the garden by small mammals, the tall sunflowers and corn in the planting boxes that have been completely destroyed and fallen over by a storm, the security guards and housekeeping aunts in the outer park who are willing to come and help with the garden every now and then, the ripe berries that are always the first to be harvested by the birds ……

PROSPECT

The story of this small Edible Garden continues, and we are keeping an eye on the site.  The garden’s outdoor water connection line has been interrupted due to the latest 2022’s epidemic prevention policy. The next design in collaboration with the Children’s Palace is a 3m³ underground water storage cellar on the north side of the site, which will channel rainwater from the roof of the adjacent building through a downpipe into underground storage for the garden’s watering needs. only a partial deep excavation is required due to the existence of a suspended floor of 1m below the original site,, and the water cellar will be equipped with a ladder to reach the underground, so that children who come to the Children’s Palace can go down the ladder and see the amount of water stored in the cellar through a transparent viewing window. The construction budget for the whole project is RMB 60,000 and is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.

ATTITUDES

“Design” makes the city life better, we strive to use “design” to plant a seed called “nature” in the hearts of more children, so that they will cherish all their lives and love our earth home in their future life.

The Landscape Design Team:Shuyue He, Yihui Shi, Yimeng Peng, Qining Yan, Shaomin Qi, Mingxin Chen, Ming Li, Xin Gao, Sheng Huang, Yumeng Wang, Lanbin You, Xiaoyun Yang, Min cheng, Rui Zhang, Xinyu Zhao, Xinqi Zhang, Suoqi Wu

The Constructing Consultants: Min Zhang, Fei Wan

Project location: Yangzijiang Avenue 228-1, Jianye District, Nanjing,Jiangsu, China

Design year:2021

Year Built:2021

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