In the urban heart of Jinhua, China, a city with a population of more than one million, one last piece of natural riparian wetland of more than 64 acres remains undeveloped. Located where the Wuyi River and Yiwu River converge to form Jinhua River, this wetland is called Yanweizhou, literally meaning “the sparrow tail.” Beyond this tail, riparian wetlands have already been eliminated by the construction of an organically shaped opera house.
The three rivers, each of which is more than 100 meters wide, divide the densely populated communities in the region. As a result of this inaccessibility, the cultural facilities, including the opera house and the green spaces adjacent to the Yanweizhou became underutilized, and the remaining 50-acre riparian wetland was fragmented or destroyed by sand quarries. Additionally, the existing wetland is covered with secondary growth dominated by poplar trees and Chinese Wingnut that provide habitat for native birds like egrets.
Enter the Yanweizhou landscape project, which had the goal of connecting these communities. The project posed four major challenges to the landscape architect:
- How can the remaining patch of riparian habitat be preserved while providing amenities to the residents of the dense urban center?
- What approach to flood control should be used—prevention with a high, concrete retaining wall or cooperation by allowing the park to flood?
- How can the existing organically shaped building be integrated into the surrounding environment to create a cohesive landscape that provides a unique experience for visitors?
- Finally, and most importantly, how can the separated city districts be connected to the natural riparian landscape to strengthen the community and cultural identity of the city of Jinhua?
The end result is a truly connected space. Water resilient terrain and plantings are designed to adapt to the monsoon floods. A resilient bridge and paths system are designed to adapt to the dynamic water currents and people flows. The bridge and paths connect the city with nature and connect the past to the future. Resilient spaces are created to fulfill the need for temporary, intensive use by the audience from the opera house, yet are adaptable for daily use by people seeking intimate and shaded spaces. The river currents, the flow of people and the gravity of objects are all woven together to form a dynamic concord. This is achieved through the meandering vegetated terraces, curvilinear paths, a serpentine bridge, circular bio-swales and planting beds, and curved benches.
The project has given the city a new identity and is now acclaimed as its most poetic landscape.