Crossroad Café Zone
Community Gardens Orchard Playground Boathouse
Sports Courts Flexible Open Space Playground
New Jiading Library
Government & Civic Centre
Mixed Use Mixed Use
Government & Interpretive Centre Zone
Amphitheatre Sculpture Garden Artist Studios
Interpretive & Community Centre Choreographic Fountain Skating Rink
Drawing courtesy of Sasaki Associates
Jiading Central Park by Tan Chin Hwa Joel
ocated in the Jiading district of Shanghai, Jiading Central Park (JCP) was developed as part of China’s nationwide effort to develop liveable cities. It is an 83-hectare urban park that provides amenities for the nearby neighbourhood as well as the restoration of natural systems within this rapidly expanding district. JCP’s site was adjacent to fallow agricultural fields and abandoned light industrial buildings that degraded the district’s water quality through years of poor practices. US-based Sasaki Associates was in charge of developing and constructing the entire master plan (see sidebar interview with principal landscape architect and senior associate). The project was awarded the merit award in Parks and Recreational Facilities Design by the Boston Society of Landscape Architects.
Designed to serve as a social and ecological catalyst for Jiading, JCP acknowledges human activity as an intrinsic and complementary component of the larger natural system, creating a sense of ‘wholeness’ between the urban development and natural environment. The project forms a desirably synergistic and reciprocal relationship with Jiading’s natural systems through its restoration of the ecological system. In the initial stages of planning, principal landscape architect Michael Grove and his team identified local and regional water contamination as one of the primary issues on the site. Local contamination occurred as a result of poor agricultural practice and neighbouring industries pumping sewage into the 1 Site plan 2 Zoning plan
3 & 4 Amenities available in the urban park
New mixed-use development
Jidaing Central Library under construction
Transit-Oriented Development with direct park access
Metro Line 11 to Shanghai
Jiading Book Store
Drawing courtesy of Sasaki Associates
Canoe & Kayak Rental
Image by Qianxi Zhang
Image by Xiaotao Gao
projects 5 Native trees and shrubs were planted to support the wetland and woodland environment 6 & 7 The park serves as a green corridor that facilitates wildlife and pedestrian movement by connecting the urban fragmented neighbourhoods and integrating them into the surrounding landscapes
Image by Qianxi Zhang
Image courtesy of Shanghai Jiading New City Development Co Ltd
Image courtesy of Sasaki Associates
Interview with Michael Grove, principal landscape architect, and Tao Zhang, senior associate, of Sasaki Associates. by Tan China Hwa Joel
JT: When this park was developed, was ecological restoration the main objective?
MG: To add a point, the idea behind the two categories is to create zones that were off limits to humans. This was done in hopes that the natural zones could mature in a wilder way and be less impacted by on-site human activities.
MG: The primary intention was to create a recreational park. However, we felt that it was essential that the park also functions as it were part of the original Shanghai River Delta. Conversely, the site had been heavily manipulated and had no memorable natural or human history. Thus we had to reimagine what the native condition could have been.
JT: How important is it to understand a project in relation to its bigger regional system? TZ: Yes, it is very important for us and it is an ongoing process. We always look at the broader region to uncover the existing environmental, social and cultural factors that give the site its character to understand how they have shaped the site and how our design can tap into them to make the project more site-specific. An example will be the 100 percent use of native plants. By understanding the Lower Yangtze Delta, which is dominated by wetland, it provided us with a larger pool of species to pick from and also speaks of the project as part of a larger ecological system.
TZ: The concept of restoring a site to its original ecological condition is very abstract and is a highly debated issue in ecological restoration. You will choose the most feasible and plausible scenario to restore the landscape. In the case of JCP, the site was originally a flood plain and it was only after human manipulation that canals were constructed. So we decided to use a scenario that was both culturally relevant and ecologically sustainable. This represented an interesting situation where multiple historic conditions of the site had to be considered before deciding on an appropriate reference point. JT: Compared to working on a natural site, the urban context creates additional challenges in the restoration of biodiversity. What were the challenges that Sasaki faced? MG: The biggest challenge was in fact the site’s connection with the larger regional hydrological system. The site was naturally connected to the canals upstream that had output flowing through the site, thus we had to creatively develop restorative wetland approaches that could clean the water while being part of an open system. As for upland vegetation, the site had no natural condition; therefore we had to plant over 21,000 native trees in hopes that tree canopies could encourage understorey development that would support the growth of the woodland environment. TZ: At 80 hectares, the site is relatively large and this allowed an accumulated positive impact to be produced from the collaboration of wetland design approaches such as terraced or natural edges that maximised the interaction between water, vegetation and land to maximise wetland infiltration. As for the woodland, the park was divided into two categories; some areas were more naturally focused with forests that introduced layered habitats and other areas were designed with an emphasis on urban recreational activities.
JT: Did the client have any requirements on how much water had to be cleansed by the park?
existing canal, leading to degraded water quality with little biological value. On the regional scale, through extensive research and site analyses, the team identified upstream discharge into the site as the most significant source of contamination.
MG: Multiple inputs from canals upstream have made it difficult to effectively design the project’s required cleansing capacity, thus manifesting the need to better understand the larger regional hydrological system. One of our solutions was to create independent closed water systems. Our ecologists and civil engineers calculated that these closed water systems could easily deal with the storm water from the park and the adjacent urban context. Information gathered by Tao and the researchers from East China Normal University over the course of one year uncovered that the phytoremediation approaches implemented along the canal had positive impacts on water quality but they were not as effective as those employed in the closed water systems, which reported better water quality and sighting of wildlife.
The designers acknowledged that the site was embedded within the bigger Yangtze River Delta and the far-reaching effects of poor water management practices upstream on the development demonstrates a clear understanding of the systems thinking. As a result, the project was designed to act as a living-filter wetland that would function as part of the larger Yangtze delta region on a site where decades of land manipulation have rendered the land completely different from its original ecological state. In addition, poor planning decisions at the larger district scale resulted in the original site being fragmented by nine intersections. This significant move allowed for the park to serve as a green corridor that facilitates wildlife and pedestrian movement by connecting the fragmented urban neighbourhoods and integrating them into the surrounding landscapes.
JT: The return of wildlife is an indication of restored biodiversity. What were some of the wildlife that has been identified on the site? MG: Herrings, egrets and pollinators like butterflies and dragonflies have been sighted within the site. The return of dragonflies, fishes and frogs provides further indication of improved water quality.
Since JCP was a complex combination of landscape architecture and urban infrastructure, the design process took a multi-disciplinary approach with architects, civil engineers, ecologists, and planning and urban designers collaborating to uncover the park’s potential.
TZ: In the near future, we are interested in conducting a wildlife survey to identify the species of wildlife that use wildlife land bridges to move throughout the park. We hope to identify and catalogue what species are active on-site.
Park construction was a catalyst creating value for adjacent development
Landscapes for people
12 hectares (30 acres)
Landscapes for wildlife
6 hectares (15 acres) of new wetland habitat
Impact on the environmental system Through JCP, wetland and woodland areas were introduced to the site. Both wetland and woodland were designed by introducing layered habitats. Approximately 21,000 trees and shrubs—all native to the region—were planted to support the wetland and woodland environment. This use of species native to the Yangtze River Delta helps to broaden the biodiversity of the park, reduce the need for maintenance and establish the site as a functional component of the larger hydrological system. Some zones within the wetland and woodland were sowed with specifically selected younger plants and rendered off limits to humans. Isolating these regions allowed for better control over the conservation of the natural environment, providing the site with a stronger chance to restore its biodiversity naturally.
13 km (8 miles) of non-motorised paths
Images by Qianxi Zhang
Various types of wetland were implemented to maximise the incorporation between water, vegetation and soil in open and closed systems to boost the filtration capacity of the wetland edge. The wetland also serves the surrounding urban context by doubling as a storm water catchment area.
Impact on social system JCP was designed to create a liveable environment within an otherwise desolate urban setting. Spaces were developed to cater to recreational activities and for better connection to adjacent developments. The park’s diverse programmes targeting users of different ages, interests and schedules makes it cohesive for communities to interact with one another and enjoy the serenity of nature through the seasons and at any time of the day. It is noted that, as with many projects in Mainland China, there was a lack of community stakeholder engagement. Typically, the design practice in China does not include a public outreach mechanism. Specific to JCB, since this was a new district, there were also no existing residents to engage prior to the start of the project. However, stakeholder involvement came in the form of strong government involvement. Trained as a designer, Mayor Sun Jiwei, who led the project for the district, provided a critical understanding of the long-term value of the project and encouraged the design team to make Jiading meaningful and impactful for the public. This insight allowed for the design team to benefit from the perspective of a local designer, in addition to the client’s valuable point of view.
Project Data Project Name Jiading Central Park Location Shanghai, China Completion Date 2013 Site Area 70 hectares (175 acres) Client/Owner Shanghai Jiading New City Development Company Architecture Firm Sasaki Associates Principal Architect Michael Grove Images/Photos Qianxi Zhang; Xiaotao Gao; Shanghai Jiading New City Development Co Ltd; Sasaki Associates
Shanghai China Sun Path
21st Jun Equinox 22nd Dec
8 & 9 Some regions are rendered off limits to humans for better control over the conservation of the natural environment 10 The park creates a liveable environment within the urban setting and connects to adjacent developments—a cohesive place for communities to interact
As part of the project’s objective to connect the entire site, wildlife land bridges were constructed to facilitate wildlife movement throughout the project. Herrings, egrets, fishes and frogs as well as different species of pollinators observed indicated improved water quality that support amphibian and aquatic life. FUTURARC 55