Landezine
International
Landscape
Award
Shortlisted in Residential Housing Projects in 2021:
Return of the Hill

The Yuhu Apartments is a 1,000 unit apartment complex located in Chongqing, a city born in the mountains. This 10.7-ha site locates in part of an existing hill, which the original master plan brutally flattens and creates a retaining wall of 17-meter-high at the site boundary, separating the site and the other part of the hill. Instead of accepting the masterplan, landscape architects boldly suggest to regrade the site and renegotiate the masterplan with the client and the architect. Lastly, this site-specific landscape strategy brings a win-win situation, which is appreciated by all stakeholders.

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 created a huge challenge to the vertical landscape of the city over the past ten years.

In the project of Yuhu Apartment, which sits on a hilly site, landscape architects start their commission from a master plan in which the natural topography of the site is leveled. Therefore a 17-meter-high retaining wall is created at the site boundary. Landscape architects bravely propose a landscape strategy – Return of the Hill, which faces challenges from clients and architects at the beginning. A sequence of well-considered solutions have been designed (and finally agreed by all stakeholders): 1. Regrade the site to follow existing ridge topography as much as possible; 2. Restore an 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 is turned to a park after the project is built).

Community as Ecological Patch 

The Yuhu Apartments occupies an entire area of 10.7ha, as big as Bijin Park, a park nearby. The ridge corridor linking the hill and community has a length of 170 meters and a width of 40 meters. It works as linking path as well as a micro eco-corridor. The micro biotope in the seasonal creek and Metasequoia along the hill trail serve as the Stepping Stones for birds and amphibians.

Stormwater Management System

Based on a newly graded site topography, a stormwater management system is created, which arranges storm water runoff effectively, and reuses water smartly. With the collaboration of a stormwater management expert in Seattle, landscape architects have come up with two main strategies to collect rainwater runoff: 1. The sloped seasonal creek beneath the elevated trail collects rainwater from the hill, which will be guided to the rain garden in the central of the community; 2. Sequence of the bio-swale network in front of unit entries which links to the rain garden is created. Besides high-performance function, the storm water management system works as an educational landscape, which delivers residents opportunities to learn about how this natural system work. Educational illustration points are designed to integrate with this system, making sure the landscape will be understood by residents, especially children. Water after purification is stored in a central water tank for reuse, such as water feature and kids paddling pool. Besides, 50% hard surfaces of the site are permeable pavers including pourable concrete, pourable brick and gravel.

Design Language

The design language is “innovatively found” instead of “created”. Zig-zaging 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 overlook 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 introducing these designed topographic spaces, a unique way of living is grown.

It’s never easy to challenge a masterplan by landscape architects, Return of the Hill is a brave design practice that successfully renegotiates the masterplan, by bringing a responsible design and special lifestyle to the community.

Other landscape architecture offices involved in the design of landscape: Chongqing Landiao (Local Design Institute)

Project location: Chongqing, China

Design year: 2017-2018

Year Built: 2019

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