The surrounding buildings are therefore not only part of the existing situation, but they determine layout and zoning of the sales office. In order to achieve the own requirements, wall planes were created for screening the views from outside in, opening the views from inside out, and creating an interior space at the same time.
Option one: Sea Waves
A meandering path leads into a peaceful quiet park. Gradually, a reflecting pool appears on both sides of the trail. Water bubbles show up on the pavement, telling visitors that they have arrived at a sea world. Two bar seating areas are set like birdcages into a quiet reflecting pool, adding interesting experiences to the sales office.
The crisp white form is conceived as a lightweight cloud. The reflective pool emphasizes the apparent weightlessness of the structure which is immersed in the natural surroundings.
Facing the seaside, large windows and their shading louvers can selectively fade out the sea-view, or integrate sea, beach and sunshine into the room.
Option two: The Frame
A white box, and a wonderful viewing platform as well. It leads the visitor through a sequence of spaces from the green shade into the white box. Empty and solid spaces interpenetrate, setting viewing frames properly as the space changes. Using the traditional Chinese landscape design method of framing and inflating the views, the visitor walks through the setting while his views from the windows are directed and focused on the sea.
The outdoor reflecting pool avoids the view of the existing wrecks in the sea. A gap at the bottom of the box lets the whole box appear floating upon the water. The white box itself is very simple in shape, but the spatial changes between the inside and outside fills it with a deeper, meaningful sense.
Seeing the industrial heritage of the past as a chance to form attractive, creative, innovative spaces, is still not much developed in China. Singular and successful attempts in the biggest cities, Shanghai and Beijing, are exceptions. In Changchun, RhineScheme made a variety of proposals in the form of feasibility studies and business/usage concepts of how to keep and integrate a suitable amount of the old factory halls and revive them with new functions.
Some of the iconic factory buildings as well as typical, unique, sometimes peculiar industrial relics of the past have been seamlessly integrated. A number of fascinating artefacts found in situ have been transformed into artistic sculptures. In the same way landscape elements – mainly the immense rows of big trees having grown on the plot for over 60 years – could be preserved and become part of the new ‘commercial landscape’. Even if a complete conservation of the old building structures was not always possible, brick materials have been re-used extensively in facades and pavements, and great efforts have been made in reshaping buildings that resemble the local findings.
This exceptional commercial area is tailored to local culture and conditions and also to Changchun’s specific urban planning history with Russian influence.
The project is an outstanding case study and one of the early examples in China transforming an abandoned industrial site into a successful mixed-use area. Especially in the evening and night hours ‘Changchun 1948’ unfolds a special charm and magic atmosphere.
As a result of the competition, a design team under the leadership of RhineScheme’s landscape architects – together with urban planners and architects from the international scene – has created a dynamic set of cultural spaces, indoor and outdoor, that are connected and unified through the artful use of water as the core design element.
The site encompasses an area measuring about 90 ha with a 10 ha lake at the centre. A vast urban promenade winds through the site for 700 meters, with its focal point and simultaneously the most dramatic viewing point along the 150 meters lakeshore front of Tianjin’s new Opera House.
Like the contrasting sounds of a symphonic crescendo and the unobtrusive melody of a flutist’s solo, the landscape experience of Tianjin’s cultural centre will capture the attention of its visitors.
An ecological park, gardens, plazas, and terraces are surrounding the lake and connect visitors to fine and performing arts as well as science and history, to museums, theatres and library as well as a retail and youth centres.
Yet, the emotive landscapes dedicated to promoting cultural pursuits also provide the simple pleasures of sport and recreation including skating areas, picnicking sites and a host of other opportunities for generations to interact. The grand design concept also includes intimately human-scaled spaces allowing visitors to the park to enjoy meditation in the quiet and serenity of the gardens.
So, while the Culture Park is an international destination, it is designed with the people of Tianjin at its heart.
The urban concept is on the one hand profoundly European and by that connected to Tianjin’s historical heritage, but inspired as well by the traditional North Chinese hutong.
Thanks to a relatively compact arrangement of the residential buildings, saved space could be used for a diverse mix of intimate green and urban spaces: courtyards, gardens and plazas which are at the heart of mini-neighbourhoods and distinguish important pedestrian intersections.
Each neighbourhood has its own recognizable personality. The variety in small scale is held together by an overall landscape idea that has its roots in the site itself and its agricultural heritage. Existing orchard trees – up to 200 years old – have been entirely retained and integrated into the design. Also the typical irrigation channels of the former farmland have been kept and extended to form a whole decentralised storm water management system, with swales and channels and memorable water features.
Finally, as part of the ecological efforts in ‘Society Hill’, a 30 meters wide polluted irrigation canal has been restored as a quasi-natural river over a length of 1 kilometre. The banks have been softly moulded and planted – a flourishing ecology is helping to rebalance the natural biology of the water so that it can cleanse itself after years of receiving industrial and agricultural pollution.
Accessible by boardwalk, steps and ramps, the restored ecological integrity of the river-canal helps to make it a community treasure and a focus point for leisure and socialising.
The story of transformation starts in a distant past, when this place was a natural plain of grasslands and rivers. A rolling landscape with trees and plants creates a picturesque beauty eroded and sculpted by water and wind, forming a green park axis for the residents.
The heart or engine of the new ‘urban factory’ is the public commercial centre reborn with civic amenities like plazas, cafés, restaurants and clubs, in which old and new are dynamically combined. In the more private – merely residential – community area, footprints of the old buildings are preserved and reborn as new focal points of community activity, in the form of courtyards, playgrounds and gardens. Relics are also an integral part of a third layer of ‘Changchun Hills’, an exciting urban fabric of mixed-use development and open space, creating an ideal outdoor living environment. These three inter-connected layers together establish an exemplary centre of vibrant urban life.
Moving through the landscape along a connecting ‘timeline’ carved into the continuous green park axis, several ‘Gardens of Time’ offer a variety of experiences that make time spent outside here memorable and unique.
Each garden is inspired by the different ways time can influence us, whether it be with activity or relaxation, reflecting on the past and tradition or discovering new and exciting experiences.
The ‘Gardens of Time’ at ‘Changchun Hills’ are places that allow the individual as well as the community to grow and enrich together.
Foremost aim of this architectural and landscape proposal has been to create an architectural landmark that solves all functional aspects and serves the citizens, strong enough to be an adequate counterpart to the monstrous station building.
A whole string of hybrid buildings is lined up in front of the station, offering a very urban mix of uses and a (semi-)public interior atmosphere along a sequence of functions. Pedestrians can walk through the cluster and pass by shopping-malls and retailers, restaurants, cafés and tea houses, service and cultural facilities, exhibition and show rooms, hotel lobbies and such of business apartments and offices. A system of pedestrian paths is crossing and interconnecting the buildings and the main plaza, making it a permeable connection from the city to the station, equipped with open green spaces for the public and for the users of the buildings.
The overall idea is to form a ‘window to the city’, by the buildings’ architectural shape, by their function and in their façade design. A building volume forming the elements ‘frame and window’ is floating above a two-storey podium with a variety of uses for the public. The ‘windows’ – more or less transparent – will enhance the visibility and interaction between plaza activities and interior universe of each building. Moreover, these ‘windows’ can be used as multimedia screens serving for information, entertainment, and public events. They will indicate significant locations for public urban activities and welcome guests and visitors.
The railway station itself is focus and starting point of future development, with its plazas facing the south-western and north-eastern urban areas as linkage and connection. Both plazas serve as entrance to the city and functional hub for several traffic systems, but with different characters.
The squares will be vitalized by an attractive use of the encompassing buildings, and by their sophisticated landscape. Around the (Western) Main Square a sequence of smaller plazas and landscape features will be implemented to interact with various traffic elements, like subway access, bus terminal, taxi stand, car parking, ‘kiss & ride’, etc. The entity of squares is serving as forum and platform for numerous urban functions and activities, emphasizing the stay qualities along with the function as traffic hub.
The linear structures of the plazas are anchoring the Railway Station as their central element. A water axis is the connecting element between the two plazas. As ‘slow lane’ with rather calm character it is contrasting the ‘fast lane’ for traffic affairs. Tree groves serve as spatial structure and frame setting to create proportionate and human-scale spaces. Finally, a sequence of green spots and pocket parks are implemented as rest areas during the day, supported by an adequate lighting concept at night.
The overall building shape is reduced and simple.
The generously glazed sales area is organized in the ground floor. Its glass facades are covered by metal posts, extending the building as 3-dimensional frames into the open space, and generating splendid light effects by interlacing sunrays and shadows.
The sample apartments are located in the second floor. Two volumes of different height and width are marking the 2 single-level and the 3 double-height (loft-type) sample apartments. The volumes are wrapped by metal panels – the bigger one in golden, the smaller in silver colour, like two surrealistic space ships floating in the air.
The landscape concept takes its inspiration from some of Paul Klee’s paintings. Plantings and paving are arranged in a geometric way by parallel stripes that are perpendicular to the broad main road, leading the way from the public road to the building. Each stripe is made of a different material or element – like water, timber, sand, gravel, stone of different colours, grass, shrubs, flowers etc. Next to the building, these stripes and materials become flat, solid and more precious.
The connection between site and surroundings always plays a critical and guiding role. In Caofeidian Eco-City this aspect is expressed in the overriding design idea of ‘From Mound to Sea’. The sea has a direct environmental and cultural significance to the site, influencing the physical conditions as well as the lifestyle of the residents.
Several challenges existed on site that have been capitalized and overcome with sound, sustainable design tools. Among them, the storm water management system plays an outstanding role at many levels: Firstly, it helps to capture and clean the runoff, and – where possible – reuse it for artistic water features and irrigation of the urban green spaces. Secondly, the presence of water in surface storm-water management features, such as bio-retention swales and cleansing biotopes, will help to improve the local microclimate, the air quality and the overall temperature. Thirdly, by establishing a connected storm-water system which encourages surface drainage and vegetation growth, the design helps as a whole to improve bio-diversity – even within a rather dense urban area.
Apart from that, the site has marine conditions with direct influence from ocean salt water to the groundwater. In order to achieve the desired aesthetic and environmental quality, local soils will be amended over time by allowing constant infiltration of storm water down into the ground and stopping the upward movement of saltwater from the sea.
In Caofeidian Eco-City, urban design and storm water management are intrinsically linked, each one influencing form and function of the other. The urban spaces are “living eco-machines” which improve the environment as well as the life quality for the residents, all through simple yet aesthetic design features. Pedestrian Boulevards are linking a series of public open spaces as urban axes. Public and private areas are joined by human-scale transition areas – in the form of open courtyards, landscape park corridors, or artfully shaded pergolas where residents can gather.
Distinct design features strengthen the individual character and identity of each cluster.
The start-up area of Tangshan Eco-city is a prototype for holistic sustainable design combining functional and aesthetic urban spaces with an integrated and ‘on-the-surface’ water management system.
RhineScheme’s design tasks in this project – amounting to an overall landscape planning area of 350,000 m2 – were manifold and included major landscape elements aimed to create an identity of the new community, like Entrance Park and Central park, landscape axes and green belts, but also open space design for the residential clusters.
Furthermore, the research of ecological hydrology and its technical planning was integrated part of the overall landscape concept.
The area is among those with the highest development potentials of Tianjin City.
The approved Controlling Detailed Zoning of the area had defined the mixed use functions: international conference centre, featured tourism and recreation district, lakefront commercial zone, as well as high-end residential areas with advanced ecological standards.
Dongli Lake has an immense variety of potential uses for residents’ and visitors’ enjoyment and relaxation. In the future, water taxis and private boats will connect points of interest and provide changing perspectives of water and cityscape.
The urge and incentive of creating a better place for people to live and work, has been the fundamental force which motivated the overall landscape and waterfront design. This approach also needed a strong commitment to human sensitivity in design. Furthermore, a series of recommendations and guidelines for environmental and ecological improvements have been set up.
The design team’s vision was to develop a memorable waterfront with an identity that celebrates the natural beauty of the local urban eco-system.
This waterfront will serve as a premier tourist destination, new urban catalyst, as dynamic gathering place and diverse cultural community, as distinguished educational resource, as bustling commercial center and vibrant recreation hub, as well as a symbol of Tianjin’s role as a creative city in a new millennium.