GVL Gossamer has released images of their design for a 19 kilometer stretch of waterfront along the Jing River in Xi’an, China. The proposal, a finalist in an international design competition, celebrates the site’s history at the origin of the Silk Road through strategies that tap into ancient and enduring histories of traditional architecture, merchant trade, and agricultural innovation. These enduring histories are woven with contemporary influences such as responses to major climatic and environmental challenges.
The design proposes a “Three Skin” approach. A “Guardian Skin” offers climate resilience and flood mitigation, an “Ecological Skin” supports onside water treatment and biodiversity, and a “Cultural Skin” captures the rich traditional history of Xi’an. Reflecting on the region’s architectural lineage of carving channels, mounding earth, and building into the terrain, the project features the sculpting of the earth as its primary driver, establishing a design language for 12 destinations along the river.
The “Guardian Skin” responds to the challenges posed by flood seasons, increased erosion, and biodiversity reduction brought forth by deforestation and river corridor alteration. Three raised pathways, The Protector, The Dreamer, and the Sleeper, delineate four unique landscape zones that meander along the river corridor, allowing planting and activities to be chosen based on climate resilience, biodiversity, and recreation.
The “Ecological Skin” offers a biodiversity regeneration strategy to reinstate native habitats and clean pollutants. A network of ponds, swales, and creeks capture, store, and clean water in a sponge city network. The proposed Wild Goose Lake leverages this strategy with a beach, and water activities, while a terraced lakeside aquatic center features saunas, spas, and pools. Regenerative wetlands and farms correspond with primary agricultural corridors, incorporating fish ponds, orchards, and farmscapes.
The primary 1-in-100-year Protector dike breaks away from traditional flood walls concepts to promote opportunities for adjacent activities. Landscapes and architectural structures activate the river edge, with distinctive cultural hubs fusing the existing urban fabric and water edge. A Museum of Earthen Architecture merges with the Protector dike through a series of landscape buildings, while further west, a Merchant Village established an urban center for events and activities. The village responds to traditional massing and brick materiality to create a landscape of arches, laneways, sunken courtyards, and plazas, while the modern vaulted brick aesthetic is continued in a series of stilted eco-lookout pavilions and bridges.
Location: Xi’an, China
Site Area: 20 km2 (19 km long)
Client: Shaanxi Xixian New Area Development Group Co., Ltd.
Service Scope: Urban Design, Landscape Architecture, Sponge City
Images: GVL Gossamer