Riverfront Aite Park is located at the north shore of Suzhou Creek, a suburban area five kilometers north from Shanghai Hongqiao Airport. Located in the grey zone between residential area and factories, the site was a dump ground for construction waste, occupied by overgrown and surrounded by dusty trucks. No one had ever imagined it would be a welcoming public social space in this community until it is revitalized through an innovative design approach. The park re-utilized a large amount of existing earthwork to form new topography, and waste materials were packed into galvanized metal gabion baskets and piled up as landscape installations.
The most iconic landscape in this park is the 202-metre long and 5-metre high gabion wall at the south side, blocking this cosy communal space from adjacent cement factories. Along with a 350-metre long jogging trail, exercise facilities and other gabion installations, this site is successfully turned into a community park. Before actually participate in the design of this park, we were commissioned by the local government to do a concept urban design scheme of north Suzhou Creek waterfront, in collaboration with URBANUS from Shenzhen, ONE DESIGN and FAN's STUDIO from Shanghai in 2014. This suburban area used to be a dump site full of construction waste from adjacent urban development sites. This remains to be an environmental problem without any specific policy nor budget to deal with. Another serious source of pollution sits at the south, a huge cement plant. The whole team have a good understanding of adjacent environmental problems from preliminary research, so we focused our design proposal on environmental management by suggesting ways of soil remediation and water purification.
This project was initiated when residents keep complaining about the condition and putting pressure on the government. The government was planning to transport these materials to another place at the beginning. However, we proposed a totally different strategy: how to revitalize this place and make it better for the community? Our design starts from this point: how to deal with the construction waste and how to use the site to screen the dust produced by the cement plant?
When visiting the site, we found it had a quite close relationship with the community and locals have to pass by the dump site taking in the polluted dust. Therefore we decide to restore a good resting space and a community park for the neighborhood
Our design strategy is try to rearrange and reuse all the waste onsite. There is a kind of material that is often used in hydraulic engineering projects called gabion basket. We used that idea and packed all the stones, tiles and other waste materials into gabions to form landscape installations with certain amount.
Between these landscape elements, we start to plant trees and design facilities for the community, and we intentionally left some open spaces for residents to enjoy the communal environment. We designed a 200 meter-long gabion basket wall stretching from the east to the west with three open passages. They are supposed to connect the site with a larger riverfront park at the south, which will be developed as the second phase in the future. Besides the wall, we apply the same logic to pile platforms. There is one high ground among these platforms we designed for people to climb up and look back at these Monuments of Waste which had been formed in such a short time.
During the construction process, we realized the amount of earthwork was much more than what we expected. To solve the biggest problem of balancing the volume of earthwork, we have to modify our design elevation again and again according to the site condition. After years of piling, the landscape seems almost naturally formed. Some people even climbed up to sit under the tree on the top of a small mound. Our last step in the design was to keep this mound in the park. We plant more trees to compensate for those have been pushed over during construction. A small pavilion is designed on the square at the foot of the mound, we use laminated bamboo structure and polycarbonate panels as main material to build a very light structure.
The park design has a lot of details: rustic stone finish, paving material and lighting design. We choose large trees to create little shaded environment. For the facilities, seatings were designed by our team and made onsite. To some aspect, we are trying to show our respect to the design of traditional parks a few decades ago. Nowadays, people are used to buy ready-made facilities for public space, but we prefer to design them and build them with our construction workers. We hope our residents will feel the consideration from our design at a human scale.