The fast-paced development of high rise buildings built in the early 2000s created a vehicular dominated streetscape and fragmented public space known to the Wangjing District. The district is comprised of large-scale residential towers, office buildings, hotels, and retail spaces with imposing architectural features. Over the years, the residential towers became disconnected from the public landscape. the street was dominated by vehicle parking and congestion. The hardscape environment created areas inundated with stormwater after heavy rains, discouraging pedestrian use and activity.
Beyond the complex site conditions, the design team recognized the immense diversity amongst its users. The surrounding area was bustling with workers commuting to their offices, people shopping in the retail establishments, and residents traversing from their homes. The majority of residents originated from Korea, Japan, Germany, and other cities of China with incomes of all levels. This wide diversity of people, culture, and activity led to the concept to create a space that not only bound the adjacent land uses, but also the people that were a part of it. The site conditions, surrounding context, and diverse population inspired a design that connects people to landscape, art, and community. The concept is anchored in three major spaces of the project: the streetscape, an urban plaza, and a garden.
The garden, located in west part of the site, was the first renovated public realm in 2018. The original site was utilized for overflow parking and experienced several flooding events throughout the year. The planting scheme was developed to provide a generous amount of shade from trees and the opportunity to interact with varying plant textures. The planters serve as a visual barrier to the adjacent parking lot and also direct surface run-off into a rainwater collection area comprised of permeable stone, resulting in a 45% reduction of stormwater runoff. It has not experienced any flooding conditions since the renovation.
The garden’s success in transforming underutilized public space into an activated landscape catalyzed the swift implementation of the two-level, 3.7 acre urban plaza. Completed in 2019 and located at the center of the retail complex, the plaza was conceived to be a flexible open space with multiple stages, outdoor dining space, and viewing opportunities. The combination of interactive art, fountains, seating, and polished stainless steel planters are woven together with the use of striated pavement materials highlighting the plaza’s circulatory patterns. The harsh structural elements of the buildings were reimagined as canvases for additional art and color, transforming their previously obtrusive nature into enlivened edifices.
The first level allows for not only passage to adjacent retail establishments but also relaxation and communal enjoyment. Shade trees, flowers, and ornamental grasses soften the hardscape and are accentuated with glowing LED lights during the evening. The sunken level was designed to provide opportunities to entertain, spectate, and interact within the landscape. Theatre spaces were intentionally woven into the flexible design and ample seating was incorporated for optimal viewing. An alternating art exhibition space sponsored by the government promotes continual interest.
Previously prioritizing the vehicle, the street was redesigned as a pedestrian promenade in 2020 to seamlessly and safely connect adjacent properties. Although vehicular access is maintained for emergency situations, it primarily functions as an outdoor space designed for people and events. Closing the street activated the retail establishments, attracting visitors as they pause to enjoy the public space.
Three design approaches transformed the street from its drab uniform appearance into a vivid corridor of lifestyles, in collaboration between the artists and our design team. The first approach focused on invigorating the space with the careful placement of memorable art installations. Secondly, the street was proposed to operate as an event stage designed to be flexible in use when shows and exhibitions were not programmed. The third approach utilized the varying levels from the building edge to the street center to create series of seating terraces for event audiences and restaurants’ outdoor dining.
the pedestrian promenade includes fountains, outdoor cafes, seating, space for street vendors and entertainment, and four art installations. Since its opening, the space has hosted more than 30 exhibitions for cars, fashion, sports, as well as daily enjoyment.
The project ability to inspire diverse groups of users to engage with the urban landscape. It holds a prominent role in Beijing’s urban evolution history as the first urban revitalization project to successfully integrate complex systems, achieved through the effective collaboration and support from the government, developer, community, and design team. Its success was also accentuated during the pandemic, providing an opportunity to recreate and interact safely within an urban space surrounded by a dense population. Additional retail establishments have flocked to the popular area and land value of both commercial and residential properties has substantially increased. Careful planning to mitigate construction impacts to the existing businesses and residents during and after construction preserved the district’s diverse character, while the final design accentuated its attributes. As the area’s economic stability and quality of life has increased, a larger movement to incorporate walkable, dynamic, and sustainable landscapes continues. A half mile street redesign is anticipated to begin construction soon with plans to integrate the design concept throughout the district over the next few years.
landscape architect:Ying Lou, Li Jingyi, Mazen Mao,Xian Wu, Lina Sun, Yufeng Liu, Zijun Su, Shengyang Liu
Project location:Chaoyang ,Beijing ,China