Taking city events as the drivers to city development, this project has created a well-developed green space system closely related to other city functions for the New Town and provided a new garden show development in China. Recognizing the cultural landscape and combining modern garden show functions with the site fabric, this unique Garden Show Park has created conditions for this event and laid a sound foundation for the city development in future.
Xiamen, a beautiful city located at the southeast coast of China, won the competition of holding the 6th Garden Show for 2007. The site is located at the Almond Bay. According to the urban comprehensive planning, the Almond Bay area will be developed into a new town. The Garden Show will give the new district an impetus to develop.
With the speedy urbanization process, Xiamen is overwhelmed by both the city development and the increasing number of people so that it is necessary for her to sprawl out into the bay areas, such as Almond Bay. Streams originating from surrounding mountains meet at the Almond Bay. A sea wall makes the bay a reservoir for the urgent water supply of the city. However, a large number of fishponds either along or inside the reservoir have been constructed by the local people for economic profit. The site area is approximately 676ha (approximately 1670 acres). In addition to a linear motor road, there are 2-meter-deep fishponds on most parts of the site. A hot spring was found there a few years ago and a number of simple cottages were built up among the fishponds.
The Complicated Situations to be Dealt With
(1) The Garden Show Park and the Safety of the Reservoir
Fishponds on the site have largely impaired the reservoir’s capacity for storing and discharging floodwater. Polluted by these fishponds, the reservoir failed to meet the requirements of the city water supply and was considered a hidden peril. Replacing those fishponds with the Garden Show Park, this project will help prevent water pollution. As the physical edge of the water has been destroyed by those fishponds, both the flood flow and the storage capacity of the reservoir had to be taken into account to define the area of water and land.
(2) The Site Features and the Garden Exhibition Functions
The percentage of the planning area that is water is more than 70 percent and the land percentage is less than 30 percent. Most of the land consists of the paths along the fishponds. However, the garden show demands a vast expanse of land to arrange the exhibition and accommodate a large number of visitors. This project wrestles with how to accommodate the exhibition, given the lack of available land.
(3) The Short-term Benefit and Long-term Development
In 1997, the first Garden Show was held in China. What makes the Chinese Garden Show different from those in other countries is that they are often built as permanent features and later serve as theme parks with few changes. Such exhibition models have brought about many problems, one of which is that such parks require a large investment of land and funds, and still fail to remain open public spaces after the 10-month-long exhibition. By taking both the garden show and the city long-term development into account, this project intends to provide guidelines for such events in future.
Analysis and Strategies
(1) The Scale of the City
Xiamen is bound to change from an insular city into a bay-based city. Although it has not been well-developed to attract city people, the convenience of public transportation and the nearby location of the city will enable Almond Bay to be easily molded into a new town of comprehensive functions. The Garden Show Park will help make this new district an attractive place for urban residents to live and work, while helping to relieve the population pressure of the insular city.
(2) The Scale of the New Town
Based on thorough studies of urban development, we made the Garden Show Park the green nucleus of the New Town. By establishing the linkage with the peripheral areas and providing a livable environment, it will become the core of the public open green space system. With plentiful natural resources, this area has the potential to become a dynamic urban area and tourist resort.
(3) The Scale of the Planning Area
Located at the reservoir region, the site area is 676ha. Collaborating with the water utilities department, we have determined that the surface area of the reservoir in the planning area should be 300ha for safety. The rest of the site (376ha) could be transformed into land for the Garden Show Park. By reviewing many case studies, we came to the conclusion that the area of 100ha should be big enough to meet the demands of the garden show and the area of 376ha would be too large. In the long run, a central green space of such a large scale would be too extravagant for the new town. Thus, we advised the city decision makers that urban development should also be taken into account for this site. Land remising will help to raise funds and the Garden Show Park will be the only project completed for the opening of the garden show. As it would effectively alleviate the local government’s burden, this advice has been accepted.
Considering the multi-functions of the planning area, we came up with an archipelagic structure, i.e. different functional areas are arranged in different islands. This distinctive structure is a metaphor of the geographical features of Xiamen and is good both for flood control and for implementation by steps. It also provides a large number of waterfront spaces. Nine islands, one peninsula, and one waterfront area have been laid out on the site. The land area is 354ha. Two islands have been used for the garden show, another two small ones for ecological bird habitats, and one island as an arboretum for the nearby university. The rest of the islands and land area were reserved for real estate development (residential communities, office buildings, hotels, media centers, resort facilities, commercial and recreational activities). The waterfront will be developed into an integrated public open space system, acting as the regional green infrastructure. As a matter of fact, this decentralized green space was much more accessible and effective than a large green space.
(4) The Scale of the Garden Show Park
Eventually, the total area of the garden show was fixed at 107ha, consisting of the Garden Show Island, which accommodates most of the exhibition activities, and the Cultural Island, which is the subsidiary area for exhibition, as well as a promenade, which connects the two islands as indicated above.
The existing landscape of the site is characterized as boundless fishponds. This site feature has been developed into a design language, which made the context continued and reduced the budget, as well as brought about a unique space structure. Some of the fishponds have been re-used as the landscape elements, such as ponds and lakes; some of them have been filled up for construction. A fair proportion of the fishponds have been transformed into sunken exhibition spaces with parterres or gardens. Each fishpond is a separate exhibition space. The paths between the fishponds naturally separate these areas and form grid circulation systems. Special terrain provides visitors rich visual experiences and three-dimensional itinerary for tours. The existing linear road has been renovated to a 2000-meter-long Garden Show Promenade, acting as the backbone of the archipelagic structure. Other spaces and facilities, such as the garden show plaza, show areas, exhibition halls, amphitheatre, café area, and a footbridge have been laid out too. Replacing the exhibition gardens and flowers with trees and lawns after the event, the Garden Show Park will be transformed into a central park of the New Town, providing recreational places for people.
5. Highlights of the Project
Taking city event as the drivers to city development and integrating the park with the city, this project has turned the unfavorable site conditions into a unique landscape form. By extensively studying the city, New Town and various complexities of the site, and by further continuing the context, this project turned out to be a park with striking artistic forms and a core structure of the New Town. The planning adequately coped with various challenges associated with the project and perfectly solved the problems in an artistic way. It was an effective plan for the city decision makers and provided a model for projects of its kind in the future.