American Society of Landscape Architects ASLA 2006 Professional Awards
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The master plan and the potential flooding pattern of the drainage basin provide an ecologically sound alternative solution for storm water management. A wetland system both inside and outside of the riparian plane was designed. This natural landscape becomes the background upon which gardens of human elements can float. (Image courtesy of Kongjian Yu.)
A former view of the existing site: Before Yongning Park was designed, the riverbank was lined with concrete and the process of canalization of the whole river was underway. (Image courtesy of Kongjian Yu.)
The park under development: Concrete was removed, diverse terrain on the river bed and along the riparian plane were laid to create various habitats for native plants, and the river bank was graded, allowing for people to access the water. (Image courtesy of Kongjian Yu.)
The ecologically recovered riparian wetland conducive to the natural processes of flooding and native species is also accessible to people. (Image courtesy of Kongjian Yu.)
Native grasses were used to consolidate the riverbank and to create an attractive setting for visitors. (Image courtesy of Kongjian Yu.)
Native grasses were used to consolidate the riverbank and to create an attractive setting for visitors. (Image courtesy of Kongjian Yu.)
An environmental installation of columns tells the story of martial art (gong fu), for which the town Huangyan is famous. The columns allow water to drain during the flooding season and create a lively atmosphere for visitors to enjoy. (Image courtesy of Kongjian Yu.)

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The Floating Gardens — Yongning River Park, Taizhou City, Zhejiang Province, China

Peking University Graduate School of Landscape Architecture and Turenscape, Beijing, China

"Arresting architectural forms playing off natural vegetation create a sensory experience. Nice work!"

— 2006 Professional Awards Jury Comments

Narrative Summary:

In July 2002, Taizhou City asked the landscape architect to design a 21-hectare park along the Yongning River, the mother river of the historical city at the east coast of China. At that time, most of the park site along the riverside was already embanked with concrete as part of the local flood control policy.

In meeting the needs of designing this park, the landscape architect had to provide a concept that would be accessible to both tourists and locals, while also providing an alternative flood control and storm water management solution to be used as a model for the entire river valley.

The result was the Floating Gardens.

1.The challenges that faced the landscape architect were:
(1) To convince the local authority to stop channelizing the river with concrete. Not only is this process ecologically destructive to the fragile edge conditions of the inter-tidal zones, but it is also culturally and historically insensitive to the traditional symbolism and place of the river with respect to the lives of the local inhabitants. Additionally, canalization of the river is an expensive measure that uses up valuable public funds, which could be allocated to other public projects.

(2) To design an alternative flood control and storm water management solution, which would be used as a model for the entire river valley management. As a part of the speedy urbanization process in China, almost all rivers in China are finding the same fate; single-minded flood control projects based on concrete engineering and damming are canalizing their banks. Vis--vis this prevailing trend, this design would become a model not only for the Yongning River, but also a visible model for all the river treatment and flood control projects in China.

(3) To design a functioning park, which unlike a natural bird sanctuary which can flood and serve wildlife, must also be accessible and serve tourists and locals.

2.The design solutions: The Floating Gardens
The concept of Floating Gardens was developed to meet the above challenges.

The park is composed of two layers: the natural matrix overlapped with the human matrix---- the floating gardens. The natural matrix is composed of wetland and natural vegetation designed for the natural processes of flooding and native habitats. Above this natural matrix, float the gardens of humanity composed of a designed tree matrix, a path network, and a matrix of story boxes.

The design draws on the following aspects:
(1) A regional and drainage approach: a storm water process analysis showed the flood security patterns at every 5, 20, and 50 years' level. These analyses become the basis for the site design of the park.

(2) An alternative flood control solution: a wetland system, based on the regional flood security pattern analysis enabled flood control and water management to become an integral part of the park design. The whole site along the river becomes a multi-functional project under the leadership of the landscape architect.

(3) The matrix layer for the natural processes: composed of a restored riparian wetland along the flood plain and an outer wetland (lake) outside of the river bank that runs parallel to the river, the entirety of the park is covered with native communities. During the monsoon season, both the riparian wetland and the outside wetland are flooded. During the dry season, the outer wetland will still be submerged from both the retained water and fresh water from the inlet located in the upper reach of the river. Year round, water is accessible to park users.

(4) Native wetland plants, trees and bamboos are massed along the riverbank and throughout the design not only to ensure successful establishment of the vegetation, but also to promote continuity of the design with the surrounding ecosystem.

(5) The upper layer for the humanity which "floats" above the seasonally flooded natural matrix, is composed of groves of native trees, a network of paths extends from the urban fabric downwards the park, while a matrix of story boxes which allude to the culture and history of the native land and people punctuate the landscape at strategically placed points, among them are a box of rice, a box of fish, a box of hardware crafts, a box of Taoism, a box of stone, a box of mountain and water, a box of citrus and a box of martial arts. The use of boxes is a design approach to frame a human scale scene for a special theme within a large landscape background.

3.The significance of the park
This park demonstrates an ecological approach to flood control and storm water management, while also educating people about other solutions to flood control beyond engineering. This park further demonstrates the value of the native plants and common trees, which were often neglected.

The Floating Gardens is a park that incorporated minimum design techniques to create an accessible and interesting landscape dominated by nature.

Project Resources


Construction Management:
The Government of Hungyan Districts



A strong contrast exists between the native grasses and designed art work installed on the riparian plane. (Image courtesy of Kongjian Yu.)
A floating box above the riparian wetland, one of the eight story boxes that use a minimum formal and spatial language to tell the unique stories of local people and their land. (Image courtesy of Chao Yang.)
The native grass in front of a simple and pure yellow box. (Image courtesy of Kongjian Yu.)
A story box of stone that displays the unique type of rock found in this region: the yellow rock, for which Huangyan town was named. The yellow box sets up a frame to display this native common rock, making it both special and memorable. (Image courtesy of Kongjian Yu.)
The man-made wetland (lake) outside the riverbank runs parallel to the river. A network of bridges and paths, dotted with story boxes, is overlaid. (Image courtesy of Kongjian Yu.)
A square floating above the man-made wetland allows water to go underneath during the flooding season, and facilitates the enjoyment of the site year round. (Image courtesy of Kongjian Yu.)
A teahouse in the park is in dialogue with the natural setting. (Image courtesy of Kongjian Yu.)
One of the lanes that creates the path network is lined with bamboo. The landscape architect allows common material to appear fresh and innovative. (Image courtesy Kongjian Yu.)
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