In 2001, in preparation for the Youth Olympic Games that were held in Nanjing, the government decided to develop Hexi New City as the future city center. Hexi New City enables greater protection of the historical city whilst providing space for the future development of Nanjing. As the biggest event in the history of Nanjing city construction, the Youth Olympic Games venues and supporting facilities became the driver for new administrative centers, commercial buildings, residential communities and new city center.
The brief was to create Nanjing Hexi Urban Eco Park as a Lake Park to the civic center of a new city linear green space axis.
The site is located in the Yangtze River floodplain area, surrounded by water, the average elevation is 7m. Nanjing receives ample rain through the year, but with uneven rainfall in different seasons and multiple storm events. The design team needed to consider how to protect the future urban center from flooding.
The park also sits to the north of the Qinhuai River, well known throughout Chinese history – a place where merchants run business along the riverfront, a place where literati and poets gather. Many well-known historical poems were composed when poets cruised along the river. However, a flood embankment built along Jiajiang and Qinhuai River cut off the connection between people and the water. Therefore, the key problem was how to restore the cultural connection to water.
Hexi Urban Eco Park project is the first phase of the green axis and covers 21.7 hectares at the center of the district. Adjacent to the new Government Center, the Lake Park is a gateway to the green axis and Waterfront Commercial Street which leads west to the Yangtze River.
The park is accessible by electric tram and the Nanjing Metro, integrates civic functions and urban flood protection whilst celebrating Nanjing’s historic relationship to water through a new urban ecological waterfront space. The Lake Park portrays the district vision by incorporating urban forest, wetland, celebratory plazas and amenity parkland. Zero-carbon lifestyle and demonstration pavilions for community associations and education groups add landmarks connected by a feature pedestrian bridge.
The bridge, a highlight of the park, crosses the central lake and creates a dramatic spatial experience by providing east-west facing balconies that provide elevated views the emerging district and partial enclosure to observe urban ecology through playful window galleries.
The confluence of the Yangtze, Jiajiang and Qinhuai Rivers had already established a ‘Fish Mouth Wetland Park’. From this park a planned green axis and Waterfront Commercial Street would lead to Hexi Urban Eco Park linking the River confluence to the government and new civic center.
The design team proposed a water canal that runs through the high-density urban center and connects the Fish Mouth Wetland Park with the Lake Park. A bold concept in the local context, the proposed water canal not only connects the existing water system but also creates a large area for collecting the surface runoff into the Lake Park. It also re-imagines of the water culture of Nanjing city, whilst creating new urban waterfront for residents.
The celebration plaza connecting to the central plaza in front of the government building becomes the most important venue for citizen gathering in big events and festivals. The shallow pool in the plaza is an extension of the central lake, mapping the high-rise buildings around the site, the beautiful landscape bridge, and the arriving people become a mirror of the city. In the hot summer, when the mist feature is switched on, the dry fountain becomes a significant attraction. During a big city event, the dry fountain is switched off to enable a large-scale gathering place.
The migration of fish and the river are the source for inspiring shapes, forms, and phenomena of the bridge. Simulating a dancing fish flying over the site, the bridge becomes a dramatic spatial experience for visitors. When walking on the bridge, visitors can look out through openings in the walls to enjoy framed views of the park – tall vertical Metasequoias, playing ducks in the lake, wood structure of ecological architecture – each view a beautiful picture. The traditional Chinese garden-style framing technique is adapted to this modern landscape bridge, providing people with different perspectives to observe the park and the city.
Benches and bridges along the extensive network of public paths provide places to stop and observe the landscape through the seasons. Partially shaded lawns create open and magnetic public spaces that students, visitors, local residents and staff can use in warmer months for sitting, picnicking, and playing.
The learning center in the park provides a quality enrichment programming and environmental educations classes to visitors. The Wetland district close to it is an outdoor classroom for the visitors, which shows them how the purification system of wetland works.
Taking into consideration Nanjing’s climate and soil conditions, deciduous broad-leaved forests and evergreen broad-leaved forests within the park are formed using highly ornamental plants selected from local breeding stock. By integrating a reasonable selection and the use of typical indigenous species, the plant palette is one of low maintenance and cost and yet of high ecological value. For the lakes, a selection of diverse aquatic plants is used to develop a rich coastal vegetation system and artificial wetland to purify water and rebuild ecological habitats. Through the appropriate stocking of fish and amphibians, it will achieve the water ecological balance, enhance water conservation, biodiversity, ecological buffering, and strengthen the land birds habitats.
With the completion of phase one, Nanjing Hexi Urban Eco Park has attracted a large number of local residents, strolling, fishing and camping being some of the favorite recreational activities. The feature landscape bridge is a landmark for the park, attracting a variety of tourists throughout the year and creating an essential connection between public transport facilities and new communities. In future, people can also commute on water via the water taxi along the green axis from the Lake Park to the Fish Mouth Wetland Park.
The project is worthy of an award for restoring and celebrating Nanjing’s historic relationship to water whilst integrating urban flood protection and ecological waterfront space.
Entrant office name: AECOM Limited
Other design firms involved: No
Project location: Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, China
Design year: 2013
Year Built: 2016
Project Title: Nanjing Hexi Urban Eco Park