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American Society of Landscape Architects


April 2007 Issue

Making Friends with Floods
An ecological park reclaims a degraded stretch of a Chinese river.

By Graham Johnstone and Xiangfeng Kong

Making Friends with Floods Photo Courtesy of Turenscape

China is rapidly becoming an urban nation. According to UNESCO, the majority of the population will be living in cities by 2050. Amidst this massive rural–urban migration, officials in China’s provinces are pondering how to manage natural and human-induced disasters in light of the fact that existing urban-development policies have wrought drastic environmental and social harm: New dam projects have submerged the homes of millions of people, and cities have lined riverbanks with concrete and filled in wetlands. For the most part, this industrial approach to development has steamed ahead with little regard for heritage, culture, or aesthetics.

Against this backdrop, in 2002 the government of Taizhou City invited landscape architect Kongjian Yu, International ASLA, founder of the Beijing-based firm Turenscape and a professor in Peking University’s Graduate School of Landscape Architecture, to design an urban waterfront park on a 21-hectare site (about 52 acres) along the Yongning River. A city of about 5.5 million people on China’s southeast coast, Taizhou lies about five hours’ drive south of Shanghai. Yu’s earlier analysis of Taizhou’s growth pattern based on ecological infrastructure has become the master plan for the city’s development, providing him with an informed background from which to plan this new project.

Most of the river on the site was already embanked with concrete, or "channelized," as part of the local flood-control policy. City officials asked Yu and his design team, landscape architects Yujie Liu and Dongyun Liu, to come up with a concept that would be accessible to both tourists and local residents while also providing alternative flood-

control and stormwater-management solutions that could be used as a model for the entire Yongning Valley. The result was a striking synthesis of art and technology called the Floating Gardens.

Yu, who earned a design doctorate from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University, applied a typically integrated approach that involved Turenscape’s main disciplines of architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design, following the firm’s environmental design principles. This national flagship project promotes the restoration of local biodiversity along the country’s waterways and the protection of cultural identity within new urban settings.

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