The Hill Residence is a 1,000-unit condominium complex located in Chongqing, a city born in the mountains. The vision of this project is to reimagine the typical gated collected housing development in China. The Hill Residence is located in an existing hill, which was brutally flattened by the original master plan. A 60-feet-high retaining wall at the site boundary was created, separating the site and the other part of the hill. Instead of accepting the masterplan, landscape architects boldly suggested to regrade the site and renegotiated the masterplan with the client and the architect. The returned hill is transformed into a community corridor with numerous living programs. Also, a stormwater management system is created based on the newly graded topography, together with educational initiatives. This innovative design strategy offers not only nature to the community but also a unique lifestyle embedded in the city.

Return of the Hill 

Chongqing is a city innate in the mountains. People in Chongqing have developed their own way of using lands with topography and have shaped unique urban landscapes and lifestyles. However, capital-driven real estate growth has posed a huge challenge to the vertical landscape of the city over the past ten years. The vision of this project is to reimagine the typical gated collected housing development in China.

Hill Residence, which sits on a hilly site, is originally based on a master plan with leveled site; hence, a 60-feet-high retaining wall was created at the site boundary. Landscape architects bravely proposed a landscape strategy – Return of the Hill, which initially faced challenges from clients and architects. A sequence of well-considered solutions was designed (and finally agreed by all parties): 1. Regrade the site to follow existing ridge topography as much as possible; 2. Restore a nearby connection between the site and adjacent nature; 3. Transform the returned hill into a community corridor with various programs, such as ridge deck, overlook, terraced garden, playground, and hiking trail connected to the other part of the hill nature (which was turned into a park after the project was built). 

Corridor as Ecological Stepping Stones 

The Hill Residence occupies an entire area of 27 acres, which is as big as the nearby Bijin Park. The ridge corridor linking the hill and the community has a length of 600 feet and a width of 140 feet; it works as a linking path as well as a micro eco-corridor. The micro biotope in the seasonal creek and Metasequoia along the hill trail serve as stepping stones for birds and amphibians.

Stormwater Management System

Based on a newly graded site topography, a stormwater management system is put in place, which arranges storm water runoff effectively and reuses water smartly. In collaboration with the stormwater management expert, landscape architects came up with two main strategies to collect rainwater runoff: 1. via a sloped seasonal creek beneath the elevated trail, which will be guided to the rain garden at the center of the community; 2. via creation of a bioswale network in front of unit entries which links to the rain garden. Besides high-performance function, the storm water management system works as an educational landscape which delivers residents opportunities to learn how this natural system works. Educational illustration points are designed to integrate with this system, making sure the landscape will be understood by the residents, especially children. Water after purification is stored in a central water tank for reuse, such as in water feature and kids paddling pool. Fifty percent of the site’s hard surfaces are permeable pavers, including pourable concrete, pourable brick, and gravel.

Design Language

The design language is “innovatively found” instead of “created”. Zigzagging trails are intended to achieve slope-friendly convenience. Ridge decks are created for amphitheater and reading gardens with the integration of planting terrace. A bridge cross is created based on site topographic alteration for overlooking above and shaded recreation beneath. Topography between buildings is preserved with designed seat terrace and bar table. A playground is sided by a sloped creek with water interactions. Through the introduction of these designed topographic spaces, a unique way of living is grown.

It is never easy for landscape architects to challenge a masterplan. Return of the Hill reimagines the typical gated collected housing development in China. The responsible design strategy offers not only nature to the community but also a unique lifestyle embedded in the city.

Name of the project: Return of the Hill

Project category: Residential Project

Role of the entrant in the project: landscape architect

Project Location: Chongqing, China

Design year: 2017

Year Built: 2019


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