Yantai Mountain Urban Micro-Renewal: The Restoration of a Historic District in Fuzhou

The revitalization of the Yantai Mountain community is urban renewal on a micro-scale. The design approach is restrained by respecting the history of the site. Exploration of the site’s cultural lineage resulted in the restoration of the original space and the preservation of native plants. This project respects history and celebrates the past. The design team undertook a comprehensive survey to ensure the accurate restoration of the historical spaces at the site. Instead of obliterating all traces of the past, micro-renewal can honor the history of Yantai Mountain while still improving both the natural environment and the resident’s quality of life. The design team carefully followed sustainability principles and created a healthy and modern community. Demolition waste was reused as building materials. The design combines the best features of sustainable restoration methods for the historic mansion with the procedures used in the public realm. It helps maintain the historically significant parts of the past, yet still injects new interpretations of the present for contemporary residents.

Numerous historical sites and large residential communities have varying requirements for renovation methods. The reconstruction of the public space presented a fundamental challenge for the designers. After the design team had done a comprehensive survey of historical documents and interviews with residents, a strategy was adapted. The large-scale historical district with the intervention of landscape micro-renewal was restored here. The design team carefully fused restoration methods applied at the historic mansion yards with adaptive reconstruction in the public space. This combination of old and new elements preserves and celebrates the site’s historical significance while also injecting new interpretations.

The road network of Yantai Mountain consists of the main road and multiple bypasses. To stimulate activity and improve local conditions, the designers added a series of recreation areas along the branches. These open spaces are defined by the paving which forms a stay area and a passage area. The locals are guided by the main road to enter the pocket parks. Many pocket parks have been created in the alleyway’s dead-end spaces. Additionally, revitalized open spaces provide additional recreational space.

The design of the stone steps dissolve the complex difference in terrain within the original site and cleverly link the upper and lower levels. The ancient leaning tree works as an important and unique landscape landmark within the site. Plants soften the buildings’ coldness and provide a harmonious environment. The road network links the pocket gardens. Walking along the streets, signages and stone inscriptions are connected along the way. People can naturally interact with others and their surroundings in the process of moving up the hill. It enhances the vitality of the space and promotes community engagement. Lequn Road serves both as a vehicular road and a pedestrian walkway.

The design team followed the principles of sustainability to restore the Yantai community. Thus, some waste materials from the site were reused as building materials. The masonry rubble paves the sidewalk, tiles are transformed into light-transmitting windows, and sisal stones are turned into planting bowls for the site. The local plants and materials maximize the feeling of historic heritage by linking the present with the past in the design.

Ancient banyan and ginkgo trees line Lequn Road. The design ensures the protection of the ancient trees and other local plants. A complementary and supportive relationship between the landscaping design and the overall design for the site provides the protection of these ancient living treasures. In the public realm, the historic Nine Alleyways’ alignment was retained, and restoration of the stairs and pathways was accomplished. When the original granite steps were reused, gaps between them were filled with custom-made replacement stones. Paving followed the same principle. Original granite pavers were collected on-site and combined in a mixed paving palette with new granite paving stones. Local retired artisans were invited to join the restoration team and share their knowledge of traditional tools and methods. The original closed wall was modified into a semi-permeable barrier, taking advantage of the height difference to protect the residents’ privacy. It also allows many plants to penetrate through the wall, which creates a unique semi-enclosed space. The redevelopment of Yantai Mountain not merely preserves the site’s tangible heritage that is now enshrined in the layout and the materials. Most significantly, the intangible legacy of the site is captured by local artisans using traditional methods.

The renovation project involved the repairing and remodelling of ten historical structures. The Stone Church, the American Consulate and the Min Customs Tax Division have been completed, while construction continues on the remaining seven.

In the process of the renovation of Yantai Mountain, traces of the restoration work are hidden in the design of the site. The landscape team not only restores the original historical appearance of the area, but also engages the people with the site. Yantai Mountain revives its vitality after a long century of change but thoughtfully uses local resources.

Project category:  Public Landscape Project

Project location: Fuzhou City, Fujian Province, China

Design year: 2018

Year Built: 2019

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