Weishan Wetland Park



Weishan, Shandong Province, China | AECOM, Shanghai | Client: Wei Shan Wetland Investment Co. Ltd


Weishan Wetland Park sets a new paradigm for large parklands and the balance between water remediation, wetland conservation and tourism development in rapidly changing societies. The site – Asia’s largest lake wetland – was falling into decline from years of poor agricultural and aquaculture practices. One of the key design goals is to restore water quality and environment of the regionally significant wetlands. The park transforms a rural wetland site into a significant destination for science education and ecological tourism, stimulating economic development in neighboring urban areas while contributing to environmental protection of waterways along China’s ambitiously engineered South-North Water Diversion Project. Since its completion, local wildlife previously rarely seen have returned, testament to the health of restored waterways, ecosystems and habitats.


Site and Context

The wetland park, located in the south of Weishan County in Jining, Shandong Province, forms part of the eastern route of China’s South-North Water Diversion Project, a multi-decade infrastructure project to provide reliable water supply to China’s arid north. Situated away from major economic centers, the site has limited transport connections to neighboring urban areas, and lacks tourism infrastructure and supporting services. Ecological and environmental conditions at the site were relatively undisturbed, but ecological connections with the wider region are poor and the presence of agricultural activities has resulted in significant environmental pollution in some areas. There are abundant natural resources and diverse landscapes within the site but landscape character is relatively indistinct.

In 2008, the team was appointed by local county government to develop a tourism development and environmental conservation master plan and landscape design for a wetland park. Landscape planning of the project covers a research area of approximately 40 square kilometers, with a first phase design area of approximately 2000 hectares. Construction began in May 2010, with an estimated cost of $42 million (approximately RMB 260 million). Stage one of the park development – the Weishan Wetland Park – was completed and opened to public in May 2013. In the same year, it was voted one of the most attractive wetlands in a nationwide poll by China’s State Forestry Administration and CCTV.

Design, Analysis, and Planning

Led by landscape architects, a multi-disciplinary team brought together master planners, environmental planners, ecologists, economists and architects to plan and design a new paradigm of parkland for this part of China. Given the complexities and ecological fragility of the site, the team conducted thorough research, analysis, field investigations and evaluations to understand the site conditions before developing suitable strategies and a comprehensive master plan. The project was realized in the following sequential phases:

  1. Analysis of ecological resources, habitats, hydrology, planning and development strategies, cultural characteristics and spatial forms (of the site and adjacent regions);
  2. Develop project vision and positioning; outline areas for ecological protection, restoration and wildlife habitats;
  3. Formulate economic development, ecological conservation, landscape and architecture design strategies;
  4. Develop master plan and development guidelines;
  5. Consultations with relevant stakeholders including government departments and members of the public;
  6. Design revisions after consultations;
  7. Design development and design documentation;
  8. Coordination during site construction.

The design of the park brought together comprehensive planning, nature conservation and ecosystems management to maximize the potential of existing ecological resources and achieve operational flexibility. By weaving in local cultural elements with low-impact design strategies across scales, the team created a "poetic wetland of the north", in local phraseology, which celebrates vernacular landscape and cultural characteristics, to achieve an aesthetically pleasing and sustainable low-carbon development. The result is a beautiful park and attraction that artfully integrates waterway improvements, ecological conservation, habitat restoration and tourism development.

Five landscape zones

A total of five landscape zones were drawn up in relation to their ecological functions, areas each for core protection, natural restoration, limited human activity, development and a preserved village community. Several new and restored habitats were created: a manmade wetland, riverine wetland, permanent freshwater marsh, parkland, meadow, restored natural wetland, fishpond, farmland, and a water and development area.

Optimized water resource managenment

The site’s hydrology is influenced by the existing Weishan Lake, with high flood levels and considerable seasonal water fluctuations, which poses a significant challenge in landscape design. The water system design carefully considered existing topography, pond and river configurations, to create a living water network with high flood-safety, water connectivity with smooth flow. To optimize water environments, treatment wetlands were proposed at the inlet and the outlet to ensure not only the influent, but also the effluent, were of high standards. Meanwhile, best practice stormwater management was also implemented to maximize the control and removal of potential pollutants from the surface runoff.

Wetland restoration with local planting

By analyzing current environmental conditions such as water bodies, vegetation and topography, and also potential pollutants from future human activities, a wetland purification system was established in areas with high pollution risk to ensure the water treatment. Created with local plants, multiple structured wetlands optimize purification efficiencies and landscape quality.

Multiple wildlife habitats

A key goal of the plan was to establish a biological habitat network with a core habitat that would then anchor surrounding habitats of emerging ecological value. The team created multiple habitats (woodland, farmland and wetland) that optimize the riparian ecosystem and increase and intensify animal diversity. Typical local waterfowls such as Ciconiiformes, Gruiformes and Anseriformes species will have a higher probability to be observed in the future, and some bird nesting behavior and activity has now also become visible, which enhances the tourists’ desire to seek out the novel and ecological educational value of the park.

Low impact materials

Wooden trestles that act as corridors for bird viewing are placed across the wetland. These light structures of wood and steel are gently placed in the landscape to minimize their footprint on the area. New soft soil revetments on the site were built using a simple system of existing willow twigs and retained poplar piles. The twigs embracing the timber piles will sprout and immobilize the surrounding soil levels. Battery lanes and major footpaths are paved in permeable gravel; and, isolated small service facilities run on solar and wind energy that powers their illumination.

A car-free attraction

The plan strictly controls vehicular access in the park. All visiting cars must park outside the park by using an existing road that has been separated from the resort and protection area to minimize impact on habitats. Most roads in the park have non-motorized vehicle lanes and footpaths, and there is provision for water-based transport. The road and water transportation systems form two circuits, serving as the main modes of transportation in the north and south respectively while achieving different transfer modes. As some of scenery spots can only be viewed by boat, motorways are mostly located nearby major functional zones. Finally, the plan modified and optimized existing roads to reduce their impact on environment.

Enhancing plant diversity

Site habitats such as water bodies, wetlands and forest are protected and optimized by improving the current relatively lower land plant diversity, mitigating the phenomena of exotic algae species invasion in the area’s aquatic territory; we deployed native plant species in the forest and wetland restoration, further improving the plant community’s ecological value. A diversified plant community structure (of trees, shrubs and grasslands) help to create a seasonal green space landscape feature that enriches the park’s natural diversity.

Sustainable architecture

Along with the rest of the design, the architecture of the visitor’s center utilizes green roofs, and its form mimics the terrain along the slope downward, creating a mesa drop rain gardens where roof rainwater is collected and processed and then discharged into water bodies near the bottom of a wall using local natural stone masonry. Small independent service facilities all use solar and wind power as the power source for lighting.

"We can’t do a lot about the air, but when it comes to water remediation, landscape architects own this."

- 2015 Awards Jury



Matt Chu, ASLA
Qindong Liang, Principal-In-Charge
Tao Lian, Project Director
Hu Yan, Project Manager, Zhou Jin, Project Manager
Jin Zhou
Qijie Huang
Ming Jiang
Benjamin Fisher
FanYe Wang
Tao Zhu
Agnes Soh

Advisors: Ju Heng
Lee Yi

Landscape Architects: Enrique Mateo
Xiaodan Daisy Liu
JiRong Gu
Li Zoe Zhang
YinYan Wang
Yan Lucy Jin
Wu Kun
Wang Jing

Environmental Planners/Water Resource Engineers: Jiang Ming
Shouling Chen
Gufeng Zhao
Junjun Xu
Shuiming Rao

Economists: Changxia Li
Donald Johnson

Contractor: Shanghai Machienery Complete Equipment (Group) Co., LTD


Wetland Consultant: Shandong Environmental Protection Science Design and Research Institute
Sculpture Consultant: UAP
Contractor: Shanghai Machinery Complete Equipment (Group) Co., LTD



Site alluvial soil


Local brands by Contractor


Shanghai Machinery Complete Equipment (Group) Co., LTD


Shanghai Machinery Complete Equipment (Group) Co., LTD


Local brands by Contractor


Shanghai Machinery Complete Equipment (Group) Co., LTD


Local brands by Contractor


Local brands by Contractor

Parks/Recreation Equipment

Local brands by Contractor


Shanghai Machinery Complete Equipment (Group) Co., LTD

Water Managment/Amenities

Shanghai Machinery Complete Equipment (Group) Co., LTD

Green Roofs/Living Walls

Shanghai Machinery Complete Equipment (Group) Co., LTD

Plant List

Existing poplars (Populus spp.)
Lombardy poplar (Populus nigra 'Italica')
Chinese sand pear (Pyrus communis)
Bean pear (Pyrus betulaefolia)
Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)
Chinese ash (Fraxinus chinensis)
North America birch (Betula nigra)
Japanese persimmon (Diospyros kaki)
Glossy privet (Ligustrun lucidum)
Green ailanthus (Ailanthus altissima)
Chinese wingnut (Pterocarya stenoptera)
Chinese hackberry (Celtis sinensis)
Hankow willow (Salix matsudana)
Flower of Japanese pagodatree (Sophora japonica)
Hankow willow (Salix matsudana ‘Umbraculifera’)
Chinese honeylocust fruit (Gleditsia sinensis)
Common papermulberry (Fructus broussonetiae)
Chinese jujube (Zizyphus jujuba)
Chinese hawthorn (Crataegus pinnatifida)
Apricot (Prunus armeniaca)
Cherry (Prunus avium)
White mulberry (Morus alba)

Shrubs & Groundcovers
Chinese photinia (Photinia serrulata)
Glossy abelia (Abelia grandiflora)
Shrubby lespedeza (Lespedeza bicolor)
Fructus forsythiae (Forsythia suspensa)
Negundo chastetree (Vitex negundo)
Kerria (Kerria japonica)
Swida alba Opiz (Cornus alba)
Giantfalsespiraea (Spiraea thunbergii)
Purpus privet (Ligustrum quihoui)
Threelobe Spirea (Spiraea trilobata)
Multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora)
Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)
Daylily (Hemerocallis middendorffii)
Dutch iris (Iris tectorum)
Bigflower coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata)
Mexican creeping zinnia (Sanvitalia procumbens)
Violet orychopragmus (Orychophragmus violaceus)
Japanese iris (Iris ensata)
Leonunus sibiricus (Leonurus artemisia)
Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri)
Pokeberry root (Radix phytolaccae)
Japan buttercup (Ranunculus japonicus)
Green bristlegrass herb (Setaria viridis)
Maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis)
White cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica)
Drooping sedge (Carex pendula)
Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon japonicus)
Chinese fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides)
Dwarf pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana 'Pumila')
Common reed (Phragmites communis)
Burma reed (Neyraudia reynaudiana)
Iris sanguinea (Iris sanguinea)
Common Rush (Juncus effusus)
Narrowleaf cattail (Acorus calamus)
Chinese arrow-head (Sagittaria sagittifolia)
Calamus (Acorus calamus)
Water chestnut (Trapaceae bicornis)
Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera)
Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)
Softstem bulrush (Scirpus tabernaemontani)
Waterdropwort (Oenanthe javanica)
Water fringe (Nymphoides peltatum)
Water lily (Nymphaea spp.)

Lawn & Meadow
Mix-sowing turf
Meadow (White cogongrass + mix wildflower)
Local lawn