In Beijing’s crowded Central Business District, a new park
creates space over a street.
By Ron Henderson
Courtesy of Naoto Ishida
A new urban park in Beijing is an example of turning a
liability into an asset. Beijing’s new Central Park of Modern Art was originally
planned as 10 hectares in the northwest quadrant of the master plan for
Beijing’s new Central Business District (CBD). As constructed, the size of the
park shrank to one-third of the master-planned area—3.6 hectares—as the
municipal government sought to maximize building area, and a local street was
extended through the space, cutting the park in two. To make matters worse, the
planning of the park was challenged by a mix of residential (north side) and
office (south side) uses distributed among four different developers.
After unsuccessful attempts by other designers, Chinese
landscape architect Zhu Yufan advocated that the park build up and span the
road so that a large public space could be constructed.
The Central Park of Modern Art achieves a spatial layering
and material richness that are rare in China, or, for that matter, in any
country. The landscape architect’s insistence on connecting the two halves of
the public space by constructing a bridge over the street is admirable and
speaks to the power of the landscape architecture profession around the world
to influence the design of cities.
In 2000, the Beijing
Planning Bureau designated the intersection of Jianguomenwai Avenue and the
Third Ring Road as the location for Beijing’s new CBD and held an international
invited competition for its urban planning. The proposal by the American
architecture firm of Johnson Fain Partners was selected as the winning design.
It was organized in four quadrants bisected by Jianguomenwai Avenue and the Third
Ring Road. Public parks were designated for each of these four quadrants. The
four parks have evolved in area and configuration since the competition, and
they are currently in various stages of construction and design.
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