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American Society of Landscape Architects


January 2008 Issue

Over Traffic
In Beijing’s crowded Central Business District, a new park creates space over a street.

By Ron Henderson

Over Traffic Courtesy of Naoto Ishida

A new urban park in Beijing is an example of turning a liability into an asset. Beijing’s new Central Park of Modern Art was originally planned as 10 hectares in the northwest quadrant of the master plan for Beijing’s new Central Business District (CBD). As constructed, the size of the park shrank to one-third of the master-planned area—3.6 hectares—as the municipal government sought to maximize building area, and a local street was extended through the space, cutting the park in two. To make matters worse, the planning of the park was challenged by a mix of residential (north side) and office (south side) uses distributed among four different developers.

After unsuccessful attempts by other designers, Chinese landscape architect Zhu Yufan advocated that the park build up and span the road so that a large public space could be constructed.

The Central Park of Modern Art achieves a spatial layering and material richness that are rare in China, or, for that matter, in any country. The landscape architect’s insistence on connecting the two halves of the public space by constructing a bridge over the street is admirable and speaks to the power of the landscape architecture profession around the world to influence the design of cities.

 In 2000, the Beijing Planning Bureau designated the intersection of Jianguomenwai Avenue and the Third Ring Road as the location for Beijing’s new CBD and held an international invited competition for its urban planning. The proposal by the American architecture firm of Johnson Fain Partners was selected as the winning design. It was organized in four quadrants bisected by Jianguomenwai Avenue and the Third Ring Road. Public parks were designated for each of these four quadrants. The four parks have evolved in area and configuration since the competition, and they are currently in various stages of construction and design.

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