The Aranya Park is a 4.6-hectare park in Qinghuangdao – a large-scale coastal development centered with ecotourism in northeastern China. The park presented a solution to restore the damaged nature and transformed the legacy of the green buffer from a liability into a common asset. While ecotourism has become an increasing economic drive in China, the project is an experiment and a valuable example for creating development strategies without compromising the ecosystem.
Project Name: Aranya Park
Studio Name: Z+T Studio
The landscape in the coastal area in northeastern China has been traditionally delicate due to the harsh climate and the salty and sandy soil conditions. Fifty years ago, the local government of the city of Qinhuangdao launched an environmental enrichment project to reforest its coast. Over fifty years, RobiniaPseudoacacia, as the most common tree planted in the sand dunes for land restoration, has grown into a unique coastal woodland ecosystem, however, very fragile. The mission of the enrichment project fifty years before was singular and didn’t consider the heavy human activities. Fifty years later, following the booming economy, tourists and vacationers from the nearby metropolises have poured into the coast of Qinhuangdao. While the coast is experiencing such significant change, it is an urgency not only to preserve the existing ecosystem, but also, more importantly, to develop an ecosystem that can integrate the new reality and further grow sustainably.
The Aranya Park includes a hilly area planted with RobiniaPseudoacacia. Over the years, the site condition has degraded with soil salinization and sparse windbreaks due to insufficient ecological remediation and maintenance. The aspiration of the project is beyond a provider of recreational program with the low impact to the nature for the community but a missionary undertaking to restore fragile coastal woodland ecosystem. Accordingly, the landscape architect developed and implemented a series of strategies.
Woodland Preservation: The study showed that walking through the woodland area directly on the sandy soil had been one of the major causes to damage the ecosystem. The landscape architect proposed a boardwalk system to accommodate the foot traffics while to limit the direct contact with the soil in the woodland. At the intersection of the two paths, the Lighting Ring, a circular boardwalk creates a 360-degree experience of the woodland forest. The circle is enclosed with the translucent acrylic pole screen. As space-wise the array of acrylic poles forms a meditative courtyard environment, the translucent screen captures light and shadow as well as the subtle sound of the wind. It is a dramatic experience of the forest.
Soil Remediation: The systematic restoration involves the preservation of the windbreaks, the reinforcement of the native plants robiniapseudoacacia, biochemical soil amendment, irrigation and drainage to restore barren soil and scrubland. alThe result has proved the system has remarkable environmental benefits. The crumbling soil in the woodland area has stabilized and the quality of the environment has improved significantly.
Low Impact Recreation: The concept of the design here is not to impose a new program over the existing but to look for the opportunities given by the existing. In the past, by harvesting the sand and soil for the construction incurred a narrow stripes cliff between the sand dune woodland and the road. It is an invitation of soil erosion and instability of the sand dune woodland. Taking advantage of the landform, the design combined the engineered measures to protect and stabilize the cliff with the recreational components like slides, sandpit, wetland garden, waterplay, etc.,
Environmental Education: Considering most of the visitors are from the urban area, the park introduced a mini vegetable farm that offers rare and hands-on experience for all age groups on vegetation and farming. Playful components were inspired by the marine creatures and elements, such as the Starfish Flower Field, the Fishbone Pavilion, and the Wave Canal. By merging the natural and man-made components, providing the opportunities of the intimate experience with the unique landscape and participating in the process of the ecosystem, the park becomes a unique and memorable public realm.
Z+T Studio was founded by Mr. Dong Zhang and Ms. Ziying Tang in Shanghai in 2009. Since then, the studio has gained solid and critical reputation for its design, diverse works and unique design approach. Z+T Studio’s portfolio includes master planning, research centers, public parks and city furniture. Z+T Studio has received numerous national and international awards, including the ASLA General Design Honor Awards.
Situated at the cross-road of the landscape architecture itself and in the increasingly urbanized environment, Z+T understands the profession has evolved beyond the traditional focus on aesthetics and gardens, becoming a catalyst and engine to encompass and enrich the area’s diversity, self-esteem and self-identity. With a strong emphasize on the most basic elements of nature, Z+T has used its novel approach to ratify its core values —— to connect nature to community well-being and strengthening landscape resilience and social ecology sustainability.
Prior to founding Z+T Studio in Shanghai, Mr. Zhang and Ms. Tang had extensive academic and practice experience in the U.S. and China. Such an experience laid the foundation for the firm to embrace the perspectives and sensitivities of both West and East.
Z+T Studio is a consortium in a landscape design atelier, an Art Workshop and a Biophilic Lab with design professionals, artist, fabricators and horticultural specialists and ecologists. The unique structure and multi-disciplinary collaboration not only enables Z+T to take on sophisticated projects, but also to transform the firm into an engine to initiate innovative and cutting-edge design ideas. Even while accepting complex and large-scale projects, the two founding principals of Z+T have maintained an intimately-sized atelier and hands-on working method for their commitment to each project.