Chongqing is an inland city famous for its extraordinary mountainous and hilly urban landscapes. Located at two rivers’ confluence, its adjacency to water and its topography increase the city’s humidity level and give its name- “The City of Fog.” Evolving and being with nature is the essential highlight of the city.
DESIGN CHALLENGES AND STRATEGIES
Vanke Art Center Park is an urban park at Chongqing, which includes a four-stories art center building and series of landscape spaces inspired and evolved from the traditional culture and native landscape of Chongqing. As the first step of the community development, the project aims to promote the area as the new town’s center of art and culture.
The site is a 600-meter-long linear area along the south edge of a residential community. The art center building is proposed at the west highest end of the site adjacent to existing natural wood with the premium site view. The design challenge is to create a sequence of walkthrough spaces crossing 16-meter’s elevation change and provide a varied and connected experience through site design. It also wants to reinterpret the city’s historical characters in the contemporary design language and social needs.
Three distinguished and connected landscape spaces- the entrance plaza, the cedar corridor, and the floating bridge, are proposed on the site associated with the design principle of culture, geology, and vegetation preservation.
THE ENTRANCE PLAZA
The entrance plaza is proposed at the existing lowest flat terrace at the east of the site adjacent to a major road intersection to attract visitors. The design transformed it into a welcoming plaza under Chongqing native metasequoia wood’s canopy to mitigate public open space deficiency and recreate woody habitat in the city. An 18-meter-tall bell tower is placed at the plaza’s front as a local cultural representation to grant the space with ritual and formality, to create the community’s core public space for events and social activities. In Chongqing’s history and even today, bell towers have always been the neighborhood’s landmark. In the context of contemporary culture, the plaza becomes the temple of the new era’s community essence, the dialogue between tradition and modern lifestyle, and the music chord blending bell sound and bird chirps.
THE CEDAR CORRIDOR
The cedar corridor is a slopped walkway linked the east entrance plaza to the west floating bridge. It locates in a narrow linear area between the residential community and the major road. The challenge is to create an exceptional and impressive pathway with limited site width, to incorporate road buffering function using plants and structures. The design team is inspired by the traditional alley space in Chongqing, which is unusually narrow between high historical building walls and squeezed by topographies. The design recalls this spatial notion artistically by creating a 270-meter-long alley with varied widths formed by tilted sound buffering walls on each side that are layered by the traditional roof tiles in graphite color to memorize historical texture. Two rows of tall cedar trees are planted in intervals along the alley to extend the existing natural wood texture at the site’s west. The walls and the trees together create a fog basin channel. In the morning, the visitors could meander in the alley passing through layers of white mystic fog between textured cedar trunks in the backdrop of the tile wall. Through immersed with the familiar scent from the tree, the tile, and the humidity, the experience resembles and reminds the visitor of the deeply inherited memories of old day’s Chongqing. The alley links between the spaces, the present moment and history, and the ephemeral and eternity.
THE FLOATING BRIDGE
The cedar corridor will eventually lead the visitor to the floating bridge linked to the art center building. The floating bridge is elevated up 13 meters to preserve the existing natural wood and connect to the site’s top. It creates a continuous path crossing a vehicle road and leading visitors directly to the art center building’s roof platform for the site’s best view. The bridge route is shifting angles to explore different outlook perspectives and displaying the site’s topography’s unique characteristics and the lush woody vegetation. At the end of the journey, the art center building reveals itself as an open and translucent box hovering over the wood. Along with the view platform, they present the destination highlight.
The project successfully created an excellent artistic walkthrough experience to connect the new art center with its existing urban context. The design team creatively combines the design strategies with its native materials, plant species, and cultural characters to resolve the site’s complexity and nature preservation challenges. It is a statement of echoing vernacular landscape in contemporary culture to respond to nature in harmony.
Architecture offices involved in the design: Lacime Architects
Project location: Gongyuan E Rd & Yuegang N Rd, Yubei District, Chongqing, China
Design year: 2019
Year Built: 2020