American Society of Landscape Architects ASLA 2006 Student Awards
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Restoring Chengde
Daniel Affleck, Student ASLA, Mariana Rovzar Orvañanos, Student ASLA, and Daniel Friedman, Student ASLA
University of Pennsylvania, Penn Design, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Faculty Advisor(s): Laurie Olin, FASLA, and Tony Adkins

"Promoted the role of the landscape architect in preserving cultural landscapes in a way that works for good development."

— 2006 Student Awards Jury Comments

 In the next ten years, Chengde City expects a population increase that is, in itself, the size of Seattle.  Improved highway connections to greater China encourage growth, but limited land for development places a strain on the environment, which was traditionally the link between Manchuria and Beijing.  Steep cliffs in every direction confine building to the long green river valley that runs from north to south.  The once mighty Rehe River is now heavily dammed and the river banks are filled with mud and trash.  Prairie grasses once grew everywhere along the river and the horizon was famous for its picturesque rock formations.  Increasingly, high rise apartment buildings are the dominant feature of the valley and they threaten to obstruct the mountain views.

Originally the summer residence for Qing Emperors from 1644 to 1911, Chengde was China's administrative center north of the Great Wall and the Emperor's hunting lodge.  The city is famous for the imperial gardens of the Summer Palace, which were intended to impress the emperor's subjects.   The emperor imposed on his landscape a sense of transition between various pavilions and visual connection with the greater setting from within the walled imperial residence.  Every summer, the once private imperial resort is filled with tourists from China and abroad, who come for the history and the beautiful scenery.

We believe that development is unavoidable, but must be conducted in way which accommodates social needs and respects the historical scenery. Our solution is to push the development down, push the mountains up, and make the river alive again.  We designed a green infrastructure in the historical core from the Summer Palace to the Buddha Mountains.   Structures for commercial and residential development are concealed under the ground plane, which is planted with native trees and grasses, restoring the original continuity of the Chengde landscape.  The river's edge is regraded and planted with water tolerant species so that locals and tourists may utilize this valuable land for rest and recreation.

The design is divided into four zones.  Adjacent to the Summer Palace wall is an area of derelict housing built in World War II. For this area we propose an Event Park for soccer, basketball, tennis, swimming, track and outdoor theater. The park is characterized by a curving landform which provides seating for spectators.    Between the SummerPlace and the River is a neglected park in a crucial area.  We propose angling the park upward towards the Buddha Mountain.  Under the park are cafes, clubs, restaurants and banquet halls.   The area of usable open space can be greatly increased by colonizing the river as parkland for walking, Tai Chi, kite flying, fishing and picnics.  There will be no structures in this area and the original flood wall will be preserved.  Finally, we propose that the abandoned manufacturing zone across the river be transformed into The Buddha Center: a mixed-use development with commercial and residential zones, museums and conference centers.   The roof of the Center is planted with prairie grasses and trees and visitors can walk along the roof, joining the city to the Buddha Mountain trails.


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