DLC: The ‘Former French Concession’ in Shanghai China was a ‘foreign’ populated part of the city from 1849 through 1943 and expanded progressively in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Retaining its distinct old charm today, the Former French Concession has become a unique historic urban area within the heart of Shanghai and still remains the premier residential and retail district in the heart of the city. Low and mid-rise mixed-use neighborhoods offer a great diversity of building typologies for both residential and commercial uses. Spatial connections between public and private spaces are enriched by a dense network of alleys and lanes, narrow cross streets, small parks and shaded sidewalks with outdoor seating. It is the un-gated space between buildings and its ‘slow traffic’ that gives this area social and cultural inclusiveness.
On the corner of Huai Hai Road and Dong Hu Road nestled in 5,000 sqm of lush landscaped grounds of 100 year old Camphor trees, government owned hotel villa’s used by officials and dignitaries allowed little access to the public. Aware of the challenges the municipality of Shanghai has with creating more needed open space and parks, especially in an area rich in history and culture, demolishing the underused hotel villas and removing imposing iron gates gave opportunity for the residents of this celebrated district to utilize the space as a neighborhood pocket park.
Connecting the north and south park entrances of Hua Hai Road with the intersection of Dong Hu Road, a sinuous wooden Wisteria structure, designed to weave around old Camphor and Maple trees, narrate a botanical journey through some of China’s best known native flora of Rhododendron, Peony and native grasses. A ‘Wisteria marquee’ symbolizing a gateway into the former French Concession continues through the park as an urban botanical passage guided by a wooden frame that occasionally swoops down to become a long wooden bench.
Inspired by the paintings of Wisteria by Qi Baishi (1864-1957), the ‘twisted’ trunk of Wisteria is reflected within the movement of the arbor. Red clay-brick paving, a new open neighborhood park, a strengthened local community and a more improved and attractive place to work and live hint of a bygone 1920’s Shanghai’s former French Concession charm.
Landscape Architect: DLC Design
Client: Xuhui District Planning and Land Administration Bureau
Project location: Huai Hai Road, Shanghai, China