The Emerald Garden is a semi-private garden for a high-end residential project in the new livable neighborhood Hexi, located in Nanjing, China. The client asked for a pilot project that demonstrates the future livable community created through scientific approaches. The site was adjacent to a busy avenue. Therefore, another challenge was to create a hidden sanctuary in an urban context.

Microclimate Laboratory

Our approaches to increasing livability were to create more comfortable outdoor environments manipulating landscape elements.

We tested approaches that physically alter the microclimate in terms of temperature and humidity. During site visits, we discovered that Nanjing was a city with hot summers and slightly cold winters. It was also a city deeply connected to water.  Therefore, we chose water as the primary study object. We used the site as one of the “Experimental Gardens” series to study how the proportion of waterbody in a certain area affects its microclimate. The site was 1440, parameter selected was 10% of the site area, making approximately 144m² water surface. Studies show that a less fragmented squared waterbody is the most effective in reducing the surrounding temperature. To fit within the site, we created a single water surface with a ratio of 1.2:1. We also noticed that by increasing evaporation, water features including fountains and waterfalls could enlarge the covering area of temperature drop. Therefore, we included these elements in multiple areas.

We took advantage of the area within 2m distance to the waterbody, which is believed to be one of the most comfortable areas for human activities and designated the lounge spaces. By overlaying the spaces with sun analysis, we identified required tree spots for maximum summer shading. Shrubs placed around the water, activity spaces and on floating islands were also effective in reducing heat.

Another physical improvement approach was multiple layers of barriers to create wind corridors, reduce street noise, and capture dust. We placed a 55m long wall at the street interface as the first layer of noise and dust barrier. An incaved backdrop wall enlarges the entrance plaza and forms the second barrier. Finally, tall shrubs work as the third barrier. The vertical elements progressively tranquil the space.

Temperature and humidity improvements were recorded, implying a more pleasant microclimate, thus, a more livable environment.

We also tested the meditational effects of landscape elements considering lush green, sound, light and shadow. Fountains with the consistent sound of running water were placed around decks, a wind-driven art installation jingles in the breeze. The walls set a white undertone. The simplicity of the pure white wall with elegantly curved resin wall navigates the stroll towards inner peace. Light passing through the translucent resin illuminated the area, creating a refreshing emerald luster. Native plants with seasonal flowers and colored foliage were carefully selected, providing year-round delights. Users gained uplifting experiences, finding the garden to be calming and appealing.

Place Making

Combining “Mass in A Minor,” the traditional Chinese garden’s philosophy with contemporary landscape approaches, we created a richer experience in the small site. The design cherished “seclusion,” Nanjing’s spirit through the hidden entrance and celebrated water, the city’s essential element.

Material& Quality

Our designers and service team were involved in the whole process from design to construction to realize all details and achieve the best quality outcome. We carefully selected all materials at the supplier, searching for the best shade of grey to match the local planting and light conditions. Samples of resin were tested for the best composition harmonize with water and light in terms of texture, color, curvature, thickness, and permeability. We cared about the 5mm difference in size for the assembling pieces for the art installation and finally created what jingles perfectly.

We hope that this experimental garden leads a step further towards scientifically creating a more enjoyable outdoor environment, in the meantime, makes unique memories for the residents.

Architecture offices involved in the design: Shanghai Tianhua Architecture Planning & Engineering

Project location: Shuangzha Rd & Youyi Rd, Jianye District, Nanjing, Jiangsu, China

Design year: 2020

Year Built: 2020


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