Enjoying a backdrop of a modern harbor city and shipping port, Zhanjiang Wharf Park is a new city landmark, linking communities, preserving heritage and improving ecologies. Zhanjiang Bay (Kwangchouwan) has been an important port city of Southern China since the 1800s and is one of the key trading nodes along the “Maritime Silk Road”. Zhanjiang Wharf Park is a landmark revitalization project, transforming the sea-port into a vibrant mixed-use precinct. This project exemplifies one of the first maritime urban renewal initiatives for the city. In contrast to the adjacent new commercial areas, the waterfront park is a celebration of the site’s heritage through a much needed open space for the new precinct community.

A Chinese Sea-Side Experience

Being a harbor-side city, the locals of Zhanjiang had historically shared close ties with the sea and have relied on the port industry for many decades. Prior to the 1960s, the river’s edge was a vibrant fishing village, later, through the city’s modernization, the riverside was developed into a large scale port precinct predominantly for trade. Many of the local communities were subsequently relocated to other parts of the city. Following the city’s modernization, public open space became scarce and heavy industry created polluted areas unfit for urban life. As part of the recent re-zoning of the sea port precinct, opportunities have been created for new commercial developments and public domain projects. Within this context, the Zhanjiang Wharf Park is an exemplar for local industrial regeneration, reinstating communities to the water’s edge.

The site is located at the southern terminus of People’s Avenue – the main arterial road in the city. Bordering the original urban core and the industrial port precinct, the site faces south with extensive bay views and solar access. As part of a new bustling residential and commercial zone, the Wharf Park is envisioned as a community catalyst for the district. Furthermore, the park intends to have a wider scale regional impact and attract visitors beyond the local district. A major requirement of the brief was to integrate the site’s natural seaside character and historical industrial heritage. The design incorporates and re-purposes the original port machinery, railway tracks and shipping containers in a variety of uses to promote intrinsic seaside port characteristics.

Celebrating Heritage & Culture

At the center of the project is a remnant lookout tower that is re-purposed into an iconic landmark for light shows and a public viewing area. An LED screen on the top level displays community news, weather, time and art. As part of the masterplan, the tower was repositioned to align with People’s Avenue, creating a powerful landmark entry point experience.

The main waterfront promenade is peppered with retained port infrastructure, integrated into the park through paving, signage, furniture and art. Original mooring bollards are re-purposed to become seating and remnant buoys and ship anchors become sculptures. Overall these historic elements add to the maritime theme and present as reminders to the site’s heritage as a trading port.

The park also celebrates historical events and memories of Zhanjiang Port. The team’s art strategy aims to combine interpretive sculptures/signage that also serve as furniture. These pieces curate the movement of visitors and define an informative walk of local history along the water’s edge. Weathered steel, perforate steel panels and recycled timber were chosen to echo the materials used in and around the site, as well as providing the additional benefit of low maintenance. From the central lookout tower and plaza, the park diverges into two wharf walks; one facing the ocean and the other facing the current, still operating, port bay. Resting areas and tiered promenades serve as an auditorium to expansive bay views. The team designed ample formal and informal resting spaces parallel to the wharves creating extensive areas for seating, dining and local board games. Old ship anchors are re-purposed into sculptures for play and seating. At night the park is awash with people, enjoying interactive lighting and art sculptures. The overall programming, therefore, promotes both day and evening usage, providing a valuable public asset to a community returning to its waterfront.

The Grass Field

Before construction of the park, parts of the site became contaminated from industrial use. As part of the development phasing, this large parcel of land was left for future development. As an interim measure, an expansive grass field is established on the site until the next phase of work begins. The Grass Field is also a strategy to remediate the soil whilst still providing amenity and a unique experience along the harbor. Rather than fencing off the future development parcel, the design proposal for the Grass Field provides an alternative path amongst dense fountain grass to the waterfront. Fountain grass (Pennisetum spp.) was chosen for its effectiveness in phytoremediation and tolerance to the coastal environment. The mass planting, located next to the lookout tower, adds an experiential dimension of movement and change to the project. Considering much of the project is designed for a harsh maritime environment the Grass Fields complements the adjacent plaza’s geometric forms, creating a ‘wild-grown’ aesthetic in fitting with the post-industrial concept of the site.

Project location: 5 Youyi Road, Zhanjiang City, Guangdong, China
Design year: 2017
Year Built: 2018


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