The municipality of Chongqing, in China’s southwest, is home to more than 32 million people who live in a dense megalopolis. As is the case in many Asian cities, increased density comes with reduced access to meaningful public open space and proximity to areas for recreation and for the community to come together.
The Ring, which sits at the centre of a large and growing residential area, offers the tens of thousands of people who live nearby a community space where they can connect with nature. The project couples a series of major public spaces with a commercial development – and in doing so, demonstrates the kind of inventiveness, generosity and strategic thinking required by landscape architects and urban designers in China to create work that improves people’s lives and repairs the city’s relationship with nature.
In this dense urban context, the reinsertion of nature back into urban life requires an imaginative solution. ASPECT’s design spins a narrative inspired by the natural environment, with visitors embarking on a multi-dimensional voyage from the moment they arrive.
This journey begins in the urban arrival park, which mimics the dreamy undulations of the sea current. Locally sourced materials have been incorporated to reflect oceanic characteristics and movements. A metaphorical school of “manta rays,” transforms into the groupings of experiences, spaces, lookouts and shaded seating planters, and reflects the idea of community whilst providing public facilities. This crucial space establishes The Ring’s public spaces as being something more accessible and more tangibly public than other spaces associated with commercial developments.
Reflections of these narrative elements have also been used as a metatextual design tool in mitigating the significant level changes that divided the site. Across the project, these complex levels were resolved by pulling the transitions apart to create more deliberately defined layers allowing accessibility from multiple approaches steps, ramps, escalators and terraces. This connective transition stiches together and connects each space. In the arrival park, for instance, the impression of light fading into the depths of the ocean is represented in the tonal transitions of terraces, steps and level changes, creates a series of usable and accessible community spaces, including areas for art, exhibitions, community gathering, shaded relaxation, passively cooling water displays and active water play.
From the urban park visitors travel to the community plaza, an event and gathering space framed on either side by elevated lookouts and sculptural art works and enclosed by terrace seating. The interactive sculptural artwork mimics the form of a seashell, allowing visitors to explore as they traverse a cave-like space to reach the lower level and take in the delightful view of a 20-metre-high dancing fountain. As a major gathering community events space for the surrounding community of over 50,000 residents, it’s the new heart for community, gathering, events and celebration overlay with a place to meet and celebrate holidays and festive events.
The northern edge of the plaza contains a lookout space which floats out of the terrace, allowing people to explore the planting which acts as a refuge in the shade of the trees.
At the core of the project, reflecting the connection between ocean and land, visitors find themselves within an open-air dining street inspired by a forest valley. Here, surrounded by dense planting displays, visitors can experience and explore nature on multiple levels. Misting systems and a valley water feature provide a passively cooled environment and a unique setting for visitors to enjoy the many cafes and restaurants set among the planting, creating a place to relax, connect and explore.
At the highest point of the development, the Sky Gardens provide a peaceful retreat from the busy levels below and an environment for people to meander and explore drifts of seasonal and flowering plants. These also offer a much-needed resource for pollinating insects and wildlife. More generally, most of the plants installed across the entirety of the project’s 50,000 square metres are local species, requiring lower maintenance and less water.
The Ring is a demonstration of how landscape architecture can recontextualize city life, by addressing critical urban challenges and mapping out the future of this location. By focusing on people and community and providing meaningful publicly accessible open space over short-term gain and commercial dominance, not only have much-needed public realm facilities been delivered, but also an inspirational and unique destination for people of the city to explore and inhabit.
Role of the entrant in the project: Landscape Architect
Architecture offices involved in the design: PHA (Architect), Hongkong Land (Client)
Project location: Intersection of Hu Cai Road and Jin Zhou Avenue, Yubei District, Chongqing, PRC
Design year: 2017 – 2020
Year built: 2021