1. Project Description A series of singularly designed gardens form a L-shaped linear open space, namely The Bridged Gardens, located in between the city and a big man-made naturalistic park (The Qiao Yuan Park), in the northern coastal city of Tianjin, China. The site was heavy polluted, littered, deserted, and scattered with slums and temporary structures. While both the Park and The Bridged Gardens were built simultaneously, this landscape as a whole was designed to not only improve local water and soil conditions, but to create an environment that celebrated the local culture and landscapes, and provide recreational opportunities for the surrounding communities of more than ten million residents.
Positing in between the city and the man-made natural park, and being at the water front, this L-shaped linear open space is exposed to multiple challenges and opportunities: How to make the landscape adaptable to the site condition of soil and water? How can the city be connected to the nature? How to make the flat and boring landscape interesting?
The solution is Bridged Gardens, featured with Hilled Gardens, City Windows, Sunken Gardens, Terraced Water Front and a Skywalk, which all together created a composed band of landscape that provide multiple ecological, recreational and and aesthetic services.
The regional landscape is flat and was once rich in wetlands and salt marshes, but had been mostly destroyed by decades of urban development and infrastructure construction. Though it is difficult to grow trees in the saline-alkali soil, a thick layer of soil was needed in order to provide a stable base for trees, an approach widely used in the region. However, uniformly raising the soil level would have blocked the view to the waterfront lake edge from the city. The architect approached this problem by creating a series of city “windows” that “cut” into the raised level soil and gave form to a wave like skyline. At the valleys, the sunken gardens take place and at the crests the hilled gardens can be found.
Therefore a band consisting of 9 sunken gardens, 10 hilled gardens and a waterfront, interconnected by a red elevated path that intersects 10 watch towers, link the city into the nature gradually; a transitional space given to the community for recreation, exercise, education and cultural activities to enjoy.
The hilled gardens are gradually sloped from the city edge into the waterfront, where its pavement level reaches 5 meters above the water surface, allowing the park users, especially the elderly and the handicapped, easily climbed up the hilled gardens and the skywalk from the urban street.
At the waterfront edge cascading planters show different plant species creating a unique atmosphere and preserving a rhythm in the overall design. The inclined stone retention walls are also a symbol that relate to the different rocks excavated in the region. The sum of references of the park to the place makes it symbolic of it own place and culture.
The city “windows” allow not only the view to the waterfront but also open the view to nature, recovering the meaning of the traditional Chinese window; opposed to it, hilled gardens take form, transitioning smoothly into the city and allowing an elevated view of the waterfront. Finally a continuous red bridge link each hilled and sunken garden with a watch tower while giving a different perspective of nature and the gardens, allowing a unique visual experience which links the spaces along the gardens and across from the city into natural park of Qiao Yuan.
The sunken gardens, 20 meters by 8 meters in size, are inspired by the local land patterns: water borders, crop fields, harvested farmlands, flowing rivers, marsh, meadow and pasture. The designer re-interpreted these patterns with sustainable materials and contemporary designs that allow allow people to make playful use of the space.
The skywalk is a connecting element and a linear observation platform, which place the observer in a line between the city and the park. Large observation walks run the length of the entire site at five meters above the main garden level, and provide ideal points of observation and connection between the various small gardens and the context of the large park, with a vista of the water and other small gardens around, and beyond that, the city of Tianjin.
This project helps to define the urban public open space that provides multiple ecological, cultural, recreational and aesthetic services, through the creation of multi level grounds and diverse garden spaces.