American Society of Landscape Architects ASLA 2008 Professional Awards
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The Great North Region of Chongming Island is considered one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in the world, given its vicinity to the burgeoning population Shanghai, China.
Seasonal hydrological cycles in the Yangtze River Delta create a globally-unique ecology that is artificially protected through the development of historic levees.
Sedimentation data describes historic land accretion and sea bed rise of over eight meters over the last century.
The master plan embeds the clients' program into a landscape structure that provides an ecomomic framework for the open space system implementation.
The proposed redefinition of strategic zones along the edge of the island reintroduces globally-important coastal wetlands.
The creation of coastal wetlands and various uplands habitats captures a series of new ecologies at the edge, creating educational and interpretative landscapes.
The combination of new tidal inflows and reinvented levee conditions secures the site's uplands while generating a dynamic ecological system.
A complex hydrological system that includes wastewater recycling, tidal inflows and stormwater management promote a rich, diverse and healthy ecological condition.


New Terrain for the North Lake Region of Chongming Island, Shanghai, China
SWA Group, Los Angeles, California
client: Shanghai Urban Planning Administrative Bureau

"This project has a great deal of potential for good and is a valuable demonstration of what might be done anywhere in the world. The landscape architects deserve recognition for the humanity they bring to this project."

— 2008 Professional Awards Jury Comments

PROJECT STATEMENT: The master plan for the North Lake Region of Chongming Island, in Shanghai, China, provides for the redevelopment of 34.5 square kilometers in the northern portion of the world’s largest alluvial island. The plan physically addresses global issues of sustainable development, carbon sequestration and wetland restoration, while providing for the educational and recreational needs of the residents of Shanghai. It provides several innovations in dealing with ecological and economic sustainability.

PROJECT NARRATIVE: Chongming Island, has an area of 1,042 square kilometers and is close to Shanghai, China. The North Lake Region of Chongming Island sits within a master plan that seeks to create a world-recognized sustainable development for the people of Shanghai. Located at the mouth of the Yangtze River Delta, substantial habitat degradation, wetland destruction and water pollution have reached a point of critical concern to the Delta’s overall ecosystem. The North Lake Region is zoned by the City of Shanghai for eco-tourism, ecologically sensitive agriculture and a strategic open space reserve.

The design of the landscape architect proposed innovative strategies for landscape restoration that met or exceeded the current economic income of existing agricultural practices. These strategies manifest themselves in carbon offsetting programs as well as research and development partnerships. Throughout the planning process, questions of how to blend urbanity with nature resulted in the symbiotic idea of “Cultured Ecology/Ecological Culture,” the conceptual premise to the final master plan.

Reclaiming the ecological integrity of the North Lake Region is dependent on a clear understanding of the landscape systems throughout the site. In collaboration with a local scientist and an international environmental engineer, the landscape architects identified the regional context, hydrology, sedimentation, historic land creation, vegetation and agricultural uses. These studies assisted in understanding the pre-development conditions of the largely engineered site.

During the data collection phase, it became clear that there was a fundamental conflict between what was best from a regional hydrologic perspective and how farmers were currently using the land. The creation of wetland habitat called for the removal of levees, something that would severely impact farmers’ traditional farming methods. This required further research into the feasibility of using afforestation and carbon offsetting programs to economically compensate farmers for the replacement of traditional rice fields.

Planning and Design Initiative
The goals for the planning and design of the North Lake Region were as much tied to the implementation strategy as they were to the physical layout of the plan. Five prevailing goals assisted the landscape architect in addressing the City of Shanghai’s program:

1. Create a landscape structure that restores ecological function while adequately providing economic alternatives to impacted farmers.
2. Achieve the City of Shanghai’s program of having a nature-based refuge for the benefit of citizens and tourists.
3. Connect the land to existing and proposed regional systems throughout Chongming Island.
4. Create an open space program of environmental restoration that will eliminate the impact of the historical building of large-scale levees.
5. Develop an open space system that will also support ongoing international research regarding wetland creation and community-scale environmental interpretation.

The build-out of the master plan includes the following critical programs and elements:

1. Farm resort and agricultural research facilities that allow Shanghai urbanites a destination to reconnect to their agrarian history while supporting a culinary institute focused on organic culinary arts. The small agricultural research facility provides an opportunity to monitor experimental agriculture.
2. An organic agriculture and sustainable aquiculture operation that helps to meet human food needs of the project area as well as the larger Chongming Island.
3. A biological wastewater treatment facility and associated wetland treatment zone that collects wastewater and storm water from the project and adjacent villages to recycle water for toilet flushing and landscape irrigation at the lake resort and to promote groundwater infiltration.
4. A 20 million kWh wind farm using 1.5 megawatt wind turbines designed to provide power for all site energy needs and a surplus for the larger Chongming Island grid.
5. An engineered salt water lake to allow inflow during the winter months where high saline and low sediment percentages create a blue lake to improve water quality.
6. A 130,000 square meter lake resort facility for Shanghai visitors which includes a hotel and conference center, fitness facility, food services and shops, active landscape spaces, a series of floating gardens, marina, amphitheater and a parking structure.
7. A health spa that is primarily accessed via boat transport and capitalizes on the organic herbs and medicines grown on the site.
8. An “East Wetlands Interpretive Zone” and “Research and Development Area” that is dedicated to a professional collaboration between East China Normal University and an American research institute to develop restoration strategies for urban wetlands. The partnership will establish various methods of wetland creation and pay rent from research and educational grants from their respective federal agencies and ministries.

Implementation and Administration
The landscape architects identified four implementation strategies that will help to promote the initiatives within the master plan.

1. The initial strategy, “Redefining Public-Private Partnerships,” responds to the ownership of lands within the project. A land transfer of individual ownerships will allow high and dry land to be exchanged for low wetlands in order to achieve the appropriate development as well as proliferate the creation of wetlands throughout the site by the Shanghai Planning Bureau, (SPB).

2. The second strategy, “Partnerships for Growing Ecological Lands,” is focused on the benefits of planting and maintaining forests for economic sustainability purposes, beyond intrinsic environmental and social benefits. The afforestation program is based on the economic model of a carbon offsetting program. As an economic crop, regionally similar forests have yielded $120(US) per hectare/year for planting and $45(US) per hectare/year for health maintenance. Extending this to the upland areas of the “New Terrain,” a conservative estimate for afforestation is approximately $50,000 (US)/year for the area dedicated to forest in the master plan.

3. The third strategy, “Evolving Crops,” sets in motion a partnership between the international research community and local agricultural landowners. Specifically, the University of Massachusetts’ Marine Research Center in Boston has identified the site as an important landscape for wetland creation research. The University has indicated that the rent paid to use this land for experimentation would far exceed the current yield of rice production, $40(US) per hectare/month.

4. The final strategy capitalizes on the abundance of sediments in the Yangtze River and the innovation of population-based programming by the City of Shanghai. This program introduces site densification through the accretion of sediment and the creation of high land. The City of Shanghai Planning Bureau has identified a land use ratio of one person for every 0.65 hectares. The strategy called “Adding Land – Adding Program,” is based on the understanding that population-based programming is related to the total area of high land. It creates high land, through sedimentation catches, where more program can be built to provide for more economic income. These programs would reduce the vehicle miles traveled and its associated carbon emissions.

“New Terrain for the North Lake Region” is a plan that provides for the restoration initiatives needed to improve a degraded ecosystem while setting in motion a set of implementation strategies that address the economic issues surrounding large-scale improvements to the landscape. The project focused on gathering critical environmental data, understanding current and historic socioeconomic conditions and providing planning concepts that solve problems of ecological and economic sustainability. This framework provides a vision for developers, city officials, designers and planners to use in order to create open space and address critical environmental issues that we collectively face at a global scale.


SWA Group Team Members:
Patrick Curran , Gerdo Aquino, Ying-Yu Hung, Youngmin Kim, Takako Tajima, Leah Broder, Mio Watanabe, Hyunmin Kim, Dawn Dyer, Pamela Barger, Lynn Kiang, Kui-Chi Ma

EOS Ecology, Christchurch, New Zealand



A rich landscape condition provides benefits to the built program as wella s the overall ecological health of the land.
The inherent ecological charactrer of Chongming Island coalesces with the built program, serving as an urban respite for the city of Shanghai.
Extensive forests and coastal wetlands define the open space program and the economic framework for large-scale landscape development.
High, dry land is transferred to the developer while lowland is placed in public ownership as ecological lands.
Creating the right partnership opens the opportunity for open space as an economic generator.
On a long term basis, the value of proposed ecological lands will far exceed the value of growing rice.
The population-based program introduces site densification through the accretion of sediment and the creation of high land.
New terrain for the North Lake Region of Chongming Island.
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