Zhongshan Shipyard Park

August 25, 2014

 Zhongshan Shipyard Park

Zhongshan, Guangdong Province, China

11 hectares (27 acres)

Designed June 1999 to May 2001; completed May 2001


2009 Global Award for Excellence, Urban Land Institute

2009 Asian Pacific Award for Excellence, Urban Land Institute

2008 Excellence on the Waterfront Award, The Waterfront Center, Washington, D.C.

2004 Chinese National Gold Medal of Fine Arts

2002 Honor Award, American Society of Landscape Architects

Project ideas:

Value the ordinary and recycle the existing

At the beginning of the new millennium, China changed dramatically. Urbanization accelerated, state-owned factories went bankrupt, and millions of workers lost their jobs. Together with other old buildings and the vernacular landscape, old factories that occupied central urban space were being demolished for new development, less because their land had high value than because they were considered outmoded and ugly.

At the same time, city governments were becoming rich largely because of the preceding years’ open economic policy. China’s “City Beautiful Movement” heated up, mixing European Baroque and traditional Chinese imperial aesthetics.  Vernacular landscapes were replaced with landscapes of ornamental horticulture and rockery copied from Chinese classical gardens, along with deliberately odd-shaped buildings and structures. The Cultural Revolution was a sensitive, undiscussed topic. Parks were still gated gardens with entrance fees maintained as places for holidays and special events.


When Kongjian Yu returned to China in 1997, he criticized as wasteful the country’s City Beautiful urban design and ornamental gardening and called for the preservation of vernacular heritage landscapes, including the industrial.  Shipyard Park offered the first chance for him to express his values and aesthetics.


Shipyard Park demonstrates Yu’s integration of ecological, social, economic, and cultural considerations: (1) value the ordinary and even the outmoded and consider the socialist industrial heritage of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s to be as precious as that of ancient traditional culture; (2) make the park integral to the urban landscape and open to the public  free of customary fees for local citizens and tourists; (3) establish a new aesthetic favoring untrimmed and “weedy” native, low-maintenance plants; and (4) design the park to aid in flood control, adapting it to water-level fluctuations.


Project description:

This park was built on the site of an abandoned, polluted, and dilapidated shipyard (erected in the 1950s and bankrupt by 1999) dotted with old docks, cranes, rails, water towers, and machinery. The design shows how landscape architects can turn a derelict site into an attractive, meaningful, and functional place, and thus contribute to urban renewal.Since the park’s lake connects through the Qijiang River to the sea, water levels fluctuate up to 1.1 meters daily. A network of bridges was constructed at various elevations and integrated with terraced planting beds so that native “weeds” from the alluvial wetland could be grown and visitors could feel a hint of the ocean.

Regulations of the Water Management Bureau required that the river corridor at the east side of the site be expanded to eighty meters from sixty to manage water flow. This meant that more than ten old banyan trees were to be cut down. Turenscape instead dug a parallel ditch twenty meters wide on the other side of the trees, leaving them intact. Since remnant rusty docks and machinery are largely nuisances for local residents, three approaches were taken to artistically and ecologically dramatize the spirit of the site using preservation, modification, and creation of new forms.

Native habitats, water, and cultural elements were preserved as found; existing structures, materials, and forms were reused for new functions. Vegetation along the old lake shore was preserved and modified, as were the rails, water towers, and dilapidated machines. New forms included a network of straight paths and green boxes (using figs trees as living walls), and a large red box that dramatizes the character of the site. Functionalism is evident in the network of paths linking key locations and exits, in the reuse of dock structures to provide tea and park services, in the light tower made from a former water tower, and in the paved areas under trees where tai chi can be practiced.


This park is environmentally friendly, educational, and full of cultural and historical meanings. It calls people to pay attention to previously neglected culture and history. It is for and about the common people, and asserts an environmental ethic that weeds are beautiful.

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