UCL Pro-Provost wins American planning research award for Chinese sustainable park

27 April 2009

Virtual farming from your armchair

Professor CJ Lim (UCL Bartlett School of Architecture and Pro-Provost for Canada, Mexico and the USA) has won a 2009 Great Place Planning Award from the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA), USA for his project Guangming Sustainable Park, Shenzhen, China.

The 2.4 square kilometre park plan was commissioned by the Chinese government in 2008.  Eschewing conventions of traditional urban parks, the plan seeks to create a framework for sustainable engagement with the urbanisation of a previously agricultural area, bringing organic farming, art, recreation, and energy production into the centre of Guangming New Town.

The plan outlined the phased construction of the park in conjunction with the development of the city.  A philosophy of “do more by building less” places importance on the preservation of existing landscape qualities by organising the park around clusters of flexible program elements. Elsewhere, the topography is sculpted into contoured zones using recycled waste and soil extracted during construction of the city.

Professor Lim incorporated the existing farming community into the plan, by  employing them in the construction of the new landscape and helping sustain it once it is built.  Every two years residents will be selected by lottery to farm publicly owned vegetable plots, while existing farmers are allowed to keep their land.  Localised food production will establish a strong sense of community empowerment and help reduce energy consumption.  Solar collectors, located throughout the park, will also harvest the sun’s energy. 

Grand challenges

The park will also offer a year-round program of art and music and education.  Topiaries, giant sculptures, and digital media displays will sit alongside fields of fresh vegetables, and the farming areas will provide opportunities for education, research, and preservation of local traditions.  Other recreational opportunities, such as special art displays, summer concerts, lychee-picking festivals, and bird watching, will be organised in conjunction with local schools and the tourism board.

The jury praised both the plan’s design and the fact it has already encouraged a conversation on sustainable planning between the Chinese government, local communities, and environmental agencies.  Its inclusion of both agriculture and cultural activities, recreation and energy production, provides a model for park design in China and other fast-urbanising areas of the world.

EDRA is a national American organisation of design professionals, social scientists, scholars and practitioners. Its conferences and publications explore the relationship between people and their physical surroundings, suggesting how environmental design can be more responsive to human needs.

Image: Professor Lim’s plan enables democratic ‘virtual gardening’ from the armchair

 

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