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Aranya Park


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Location: China / Type: Edible / Forest / Parks / Playgrounds / Built: 2018 /
Show on Google Maps / Published on June 21, 2023

The Aranya Park is a 4.6-hectare park in Aranya – a large-scale coastal development centred with ecotourism in northeastern China. The aspiration of the project is beyond a provider of the recreational program with the low impact to the nature for the community but a missionary undertaking to restore fragile coastal woodland ecosystem. The park dedicated eighty-five percent of the site for the preservation and restoration while integrating low-impact recreational programs into the rest fifteen percent of the land. The project was also to develop and implement a system to restore the woodland before and after the construction of the park. By engaging artistic and experiential installations and a participatory mini farm the park offers diverse experience of the landscape. 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.

Site and Context

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. Robinia pseudoacacia was the most common tree planted in the sand dunes. It captures rainwater from the very top layer of the sandy soil and only grows very shallow roots into the sand dunes. Robinia pseudoacacia’s leaves decompose into the ground and add a thin layer of new soil. Over fifty years, it has grown into a unique coastal woodland ecosystem, however, very fragile. Fifty years later, following the booming economy, tourists and vacationers have poured into the coast of Qinhuangdao. Many people from nearby metropolises like Beijing and Tianjin have bought a second home on the coast for the weekends. While the coast is experiencing such significant change, it is urgent 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 Robinia pseudoacacia. Over the years, the site condition has degraded with soil salinization and sparse windbreaks due to insufficient ecological remediation and maintenance.

Strategies

Woodland Preservation: The landscape architect proposed a boardwalk system to accommodate the foot traffics while to limit the direct contact with the soil in the woodland. With the new trail, the experience of the woodland goes further and deeper. 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 creates a dramatic experience of the forest.

Soil Remediation: A series of ecological recovering practices were implemented, which include reducing land salinization and desertification, and improving fertility of the soil. The systematic restoration involves the preservation of the windbreaks, the reinforcement of the native plants robiniapseudoacacia, biochemical soil amendment, seeping irrigation, and shaft irrigation and drainage to restore barren soil and scrubland. After years of restoration, 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 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, sand pit, wetland garden, waterplay, etc.,

Environmental Education: The Aranya Park is also a host for the environmental education. The design team introduced a mini vegetable/flower farm that offers rare and hands-on experience for all age groups on vegetation and farming. The park also created a functional water system that connects the water play area, the wetland garden, the irrigation system of the mini farm. It demonstrates how the water system works in reality and invites the visitor, especially the children, to participate in the process from pumping water to irrigating the farm. Many playful components were inspired by the marine creatures and elements, such as the Starfish Flower Field, the Fishbone Pavilion, the Wave Canal, the Octopus Slides, the Conch Sculpture and the Shell Café.

Throughout the 4.6-hectare land, 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.

Project Data

Landscape Architecture: Z+T Studio

Design Principal: Dong Zhang, Ziying Tang
Landscape Architect: Qing Zhang, Yifan Chen, Xinjun Gu, Qixi, Yupeng Yang, Qi Wang

Year completed: June 2018

Photo credits: Hai Zhang, Zaiye Studio

Manufacturer of urban or play equipment: Z+T Art Studio: Hongchao Liu, Chuan Sun, Jialin Zheng, Yanjie Fan, Yihao Hu

Environment Specialist: Mo Wang

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