- Design Team : SHUISHI Urban Regeneration Centre – Yang Zhou, Yijia Dong, Yang Yang, Songshan Sheng, Zhuojun Qian, Yang Yang, Lei Jin, Guozhen Zheng (Intern)
- Signage Design : SHUISHI Graphic Design Studio – Yiyuan Zhang, Hewen Chen, Qiang Liao, Min Shao, Yu Cao
- Design Consultant : He Shen
- Plant Consultant : Wenzhen Wang
- Construction Team : Shanghai Zhitong Construction Engineering Technology Co., Ltd
- Client : Xinghua Subdistrict Administration Office, Changning District
- City : Shanghai
- Country : China
Text description provided by the architects. We hope to create a natural and poetic space in urban concrete jungles. Through the power of space, people could release from the busy city life to a quiet natural garden, where people can take a walk, sit at leisure, enjoy the exhibition, and admire the beauty of flowers.
The project locates on Xinhua Road in Changning District, Shanghai. As there are tall, thick Chinese parasols and historic houses shaded by the trees on both sides, The road is praised as “the No.1 Garden Road in Shanghai”. The site is a 22-metre-long alleyway between two buildings. The widest part of the site is less than 4.2m. In the past, an illegal building – a noodle restaurant was seated on the site. The site turned to be an unoccupied space after the noodle restaurant was demolished. Therefore, our client, Xinghua Subdistrict Administration Office, hopes that the space could be transformed into a pocket park, which serves the neighbouring residents.
First visit to the site
At the end of July, we made the first visit to the site. Half-metre-tall weeds wandered from the floor of the original kitchen to the outside bushes. When walking in the knee-high weeds, We realised that it is precious to keep a public, open, and green space in Shanghai – a metropolitan city with rapid urbanisation. After the discussion with our client, we defined two functions for the 100-square-metre alleyway, a pocket park that serves the neighbouring communities, and a street gallery that meets the requirements of flexible exhibitions in a long term. We want to reactivate the forgotten space in the city and make it serve the community once again.
After the research of the site, we decided to take three design moves to intervene in the site contexts. First of all, the mirror-finished stainless-steel system was equipped on the side walls of the alleyway, which was the core move of the design. The garden would be reflected by the side mirrors infinitely. When pedestrians pass the alleyway, the space turns into an infinite natural garden. It is a rare experience in such a metropolitan city. The one side of the mirrors are rotatable. Removable exhibition boards are at the back of the mirrors. the space can transform into a street gallery with the rotation of the mirrors. Visitors can experience infinite exhibition room online after scanning the QR codes on exhibition boards with their phones.These mirrors are like screens. The reflections record the continuous change of floras in four seasons. A scenery of time is presented with interactions between different groups of people, mirrors, and plants. In terms of urban governance and safety, the space is far away from the main roads and comparatively closed. We hope to function the reflection of these mirrors as a warning, in case of the alleyway becoming an urban crime space.
Secondly, the entrance is constructed of weathering steel, where there is a permanent exhibition about the historic architecture on Xinghua Road. As we consider Xinghua Road as a vivid museum, the entrance would become a small-scale lobby presenting the introduction to a large number of precious historic buildings. The old visual effect of weathering steel makes the response to history, and, at the same time, can intervene in the city streetscape naturally and subtly.
The last thing is the plant system in the garden. We realize that the atmosphere of plants and the maintenance are of great significance. The plants have three different heights – under 40cm, 40-80cm, and over 80cm. The combination of floras enriches visual hierarchy and interactions between human bodies. When walking in the garden, visitors may have a strong feeling of immersing in an endless sea of flowers, as the knee-high plants would bring people the sense of closeness. Sage, baby’s breath, dwarf pampas grass, and pink muhly grass…… The combination of various plant species mimics the atmosphere of wilderness, which turns into a precious natural landscape in the city and a vivid presentation of timeliness.
In the end, we hope to present scenery of time, which is changing endlessly. The natural garden shows different scenes due to the seasonal cycle. The mirrors are screens alike, recording the interactions between different participants and this space. The space is an infinite natural garden. It could also transform into a street gallery for continuous exhibitions.