The project transformed an obsolete street-side green buffer into a pedestrian-friendly, ecological, interactive public space. The 9.8-acre linear site connects diverse properties and reintroduces its history in a span of 1 kilometer along Zhongguancun Avenue, on which top universities, libraries, and pioneering I.T. companies are located. Without massive demolition and construction, fresh outdoor experiences as well as the increased land value have ultimately benefited the community after 3-year implementation.

Its success also includes intricate coordination among 31 government and private entities authorities, the intention of least impact on the existing use, and a fast but precise construction under restrictions during the pandemic.

History Background – ‘Main Street’ of Qing Dynasty and China’s ‘Silicon Valley’
Zhongguancun Avenue, formerly known as “Baiyi Road”, was a historic path for the Royals of the Qing Dynasty’s expedition to the Summer Palace from the Forbidden City. Nowadays, it is linking well-known destinations such as Peking University, the National Library, Lenovo, etc. Zhongguancun Avenue is not only a street but also seen as a symbol of the booming development of economics and technology in past decades. It is also the only venue in China that was included in the book ‘Great Streets’ by Allan B. Jacobs ( Former Chair of the Department of City and Regional Planning, UC Berkeley), cited as “a great boulevard formed by poplar trees”.

Key Problems Before
1. Damaged ecology and insufficient sustainability due to undermaintained plantings and old infrastructure.
2. Pedestrians didn’t have the right of way and the sidewalk was barely not walkable.
3. Very little occupiable and programmed space for people.
4. Lack of identity, culture, and history.

Restoring the ecology
Over 500 original big trees including the poplar trees mentioned in Allan Jocobs’s Book, are preserved, creating a continuous green canvas in the distance while offering a cool and pleasant walking experience at human scales. The site becomes more permeable after lowering 65% of soil grade and removing unnecessary curbs/elevated walls. More drought-tolerant plants are used to replace the original lowerground plantings and to save water.

Prioritizing the pedestrian
The parking space along the curb was relocated so that the space along the street, including the sidewalk, is entirely returned to bicycles and pedestrians. Besides the new sidewalk, a meandering 0.85-mile promenade as a spine of the park is introduced to increase the quality and efficiency of walking through the site.

Weaving the Scattered Pocket Space
The original abandoned pocket spaces are activated again by the central promenade. They are revitalized into a series of meeting rooms, kids’ playgrounds, outdoor workstations, event plazas, amphitheaters, etc., which are more modern, accessible, and inclusive for the surrounding residents, workers, and shoppers. It not only reconnects the scattered space but also inspires people’s new lifestyle and social vitality.

Reminding the public of history
A small portion of the Emperor’s Royal Path is reinstalled in identical width and with paving materials, which reminds the history of the site. Another feature is the labyrinth paving on the event plaza, which is engraved with the key milestones of the development of Zhongguancun Avenue in the last 50 years. In addition, provided by adjacent I.T. companies, advanced technologies such as solar panel recycle bins, sustainable outdoor workstations, and interactive lighting fixtures are integrated into the project to offer up-to-date user experiences.

Precise Construction Management and Community Involvement
During the pandemic, the project solved the conflict to existing use ( pedestrian circulation, adjacent business, vehicle flows), by segmenting the construction by street blocks and prioritizing the implementation of the promenade/sidewalk. We insisted that the project was for people and the adjacent community. Through 2 rounds of surveys, 7 community meetings, and other forms of feedback, their demands were fully understood and incorporated with the project to make sure everyone is a key partner of our living urban environment.

Location: Zhongguancun South Avenue, Haidian District, Beijing, China

Design year: 2019-2022

Year Completed: 2023


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