Architects: Atelier Liu Yuyang Architects
- Area: 2892 m²
- Year: 2021
- Concept Design: Yuyang Liu, Leung Edward, Zehong Liu, Qilin Wu (Intern)
- Developed Design: Yuyang Liu, Congbao Wu, Zehong Liu, Jiarui Xu, Mingming Zhao, Yu Liu, Yin Wang, Zheng Qian, Yuang Sun (Intern), Ruifei Hou (Intern)
- Site Supervisor: Yuyang Liu, Congbao Wu, Zehong Liu
- Project Management: Congbao Wu, Zehong Liu
- Client: Caoyang Xincun Sub-district Office of Putuo District Municipal Government
- Signage: Vanguard Design Studio
- Structure And Mep: East China Architectural Design & Research Institute Co. Ltd.
- City: Shanghai
- Country: China
Overall Concept and Goal. Once carrying the branch line of Zhenru freight rail and later Caoyang Farmers’ Market, the near to 1-kilometer-long and 10- to 15-meter-wide site has been re-programmed as a fresh, multilevel, and mixed-use park, walkable and community-centered, shortly after the market’s closure in 2019. Conceived as ‘3K Corridors’, Caoyang Centennial Park brings art to community life, echoing the theme of 2021 Shanghai SUSAS. Site contexts were discovered and scenes reimagined, so as to design a vine-and-melon-like walking belt, from north to south, to reshape the streets’ grassland system, giving a further step of organic renewal of Caoyang Community. The special linear site, having served as a railway land and then a market for over 20 years, is a typical left-over space in megacities. We realize at first sight that even in a familiar city are there unexpected and surprising offcut spaces, and we must consider how to recycle them in the time of urban redevelopment.
Background and Opportunity. Caoyang Xincun, the earliest planned workers’ community by the PRC’s government, bears special collective memories and historical processes of that age. Close to workers’ residences were market houses built along the abandoned railway on the site. To improve standard of living and spatial quality of Caoyang, the district government and its sub-district office adjusted the place to a city park for future leisure, cultural, and daily events. The project was on a tight schedule: 2 days to sketch a design and 2 weeks to improve and firm it up. After that, under the coordination of several departments, all works were carried out smoothly, the design followed by drawings, and concreting by steel-framing. Within 1 year the idea of park is becoming reality and put in use.
Design Strategy and Scenarios. Through a multilevel strategy, the narrow site expands itself threefold for different use by different people in nearby residences, schools, and offices. With the limitation on distances to underground tunnel basis and building of surroundings, it is excavated just 1 meter deep for a semi-basement. The first level is raised to 1.4 meters to spare more space for the semi-basement as a social ‘container’ for temporary programmes like artist exhibitions, community activities, creative markets, etc. Besides, the Highline way is limited to 3.8 meters high to avoid the public space possibly disturbing surrounding residential houses.
In the 880-meter-long park, divided into the north and south parts, 10 scenarios are conceived to serve public functions such as gathering, activity, entertainment, leisure, sports, etc. Spreading from the middle to the north and south ends, the corridor connects social energy and forms multilevel spaces in separation from yet with dialogue each other. The north gate is the main entrance. With the nearby Lianong Building’s and Zhongqiao Tower’s façade design integrated, the ground floor level and the Highline define together the entrance, facing Caoyang, like a city hall, where visitors can stroll and overlook. In the middle passes a double-line highway over Lanxi Road, integrating the park’s walking experience on both sides. Life on streets with walking residents and running cars all together then consists part of scenes in the park. A circular corridor connects two ways of the Highline in the south section, with two hackberry trees standing through voids among the structure. With branches stretching and leaves tangling, visitors can touch the green while walking on the Highline. We hope for as much green as possible in the park. Planting some trees, some grass, and some flowers makes it an ivy of steel.
Three important linear public spaces designed by ALYA: Aite Riverfront Park along Suzhou Creek, Pudong Minsheng pier connection project and Yangpu riverside connection project along Huangpu River. The latter two served separately as the 2017 and 2019 Shanghai SUSAS exhibition sites. We summed up the experience of these projects in the design of Caoyang Centennial Park, which, however, differs from riverside spaces. It is located in such a typical context, a worldly community while playing an untypical role likely to be neglected. The project is an important revelation for us to study and work out in the next step how to creatively exploit potentials and harness energies in these left-over spaces.
Color Match. We took a long time in color matching, with no clear idea at the beginning. We hoped it mild and fitting on the whole, while worrying that mere silver or grey color cannot convey the energy of communities. We tried more than 10 schemes of color combinations and finally decided to keep the main structure silver-grey and paint the inner sides orange, in hope that the color comparison would express a sense of vigor. We considered especially space under 1.4 meters high. The semi-basement, differing from light and open ground floor space, is dark and narrow. We chose the combination of silver-white and yellow for the dark to make it harmonize with places above the ground. The silver-white color is somehow like pearl, mixed with much metal powder, looking apparently different from the silver-grey color painted on the structures above. We weighed the experience in the semi-basement over the unitarity of colors, a decision unlikely to be made by most architects. This challenge is unprecedented for us and demands some breakthroughs.
Arc Canopy: Reminiscent of Railway Platforms. We consciously designed a series of lightly structured arc canopies, membraned for sunshade. The membrane is not waterproof out of two considerations: first, we encourage to feel the nature in such a linear open park; second, technically, the canopy would bear more wind load if membraned waterproof, making the structural comparison invalid of lightness of canopies and heaviness of the Highline. Arc canopies are reminiscent of railway platforms by which traditional trains slowly pulled in. There were many forms of railway platforms, and we chose one of the simplest and colored it in five different ways. With the same form but changing colors, the light structures afford clear zoning for the park. Blue here and pink ahead, visitors can easily locate themselves through these arc canopies.
Wall as Boundary and Connection: to Dialogue with Communities and Institutions. Our design team, together with the sub-district office, have had earnest dialogues with each residence nearby. 11 residences and several public institutions surround Centennial Park. The setting boundary between the formers and the latter actually needed communications, through which we got to know their requirements and problems, thus able to connect in a better and more suitable way. While designing walls for Centennial park, we worked out no less than 10 combinations of walls and gates. Some are block walls finished with washed stone, some steel structure that permits eye contact between two sides of the boundary, and others are a combination of the above two. We offered different schemes to show respect to community, in hope that through discussion we, together with the residents, would co-create the connection between and boundary of the park and their residences. Some residents like block walls and no gates, while some prefers steel ones that enables plants in the park to grow into their residence. Therefore, the change of walls can be seen while walking along Centennial Park.