Jinan, the capital city of Shandong Province on China’s east coast, is a major political, economic, and cultural center of the region. It is located at the inclined plain between the Yellow River, the cradle of Chinese Civilization, and Mount Tai, one of the Five Great Mountains of China. Jinan has a rich history which dates back to the Spring and Autumn period, or 771–476 BC. The city is marked by willows and lotus, Jinan’s official tree and flower, and boasts several seasonal festivals and historic districts. Incorporating rich symbols that correspond to the region’s natural and cultural resources, the landscape design of its new Central Business District seeks to create a new identity for the city through the creation of a vibrant park system and a newly branded urban district.
Dubbed “Shanshui Enlightenment Park,” the design employs two driving concepts, “Mountain” and “Water,” which are intertwine together to create a culturally diverse, and ecologically and spatially multi-layered experience for the park users. The design also references to traditional Chinese calligraphy throughout, in details and landscape gestures. Reclaimed steel structures, harkening back to the site’s history as a steel mill, dot the landscape.
The Mountain imagines a continuous ridgeline that swells and shrinks, manifested as the main passageway through the site. A continuous approach to the vegetation on this north-south path creates a processional experience along the ridge, where seasons are celebrated at different moments. Certain areas of the park intensify with each season, allowing visitors, standing in one place, to experience one season, while strolling through the park reveals the transition between seasons. The ridgeline transforms itself programmatically and spatially from north to south. Sometimes narrow, sometimes wide, it folds down into an amphitheater; becomes the roof of a café; slopes down as a lawn; or extends as a bridge feature. It is not a singular consistent width, but instead morphs to accommodate various programs and changes of season along the park.
With 72 natural springs, Jinan is known as the “City of Springs.” The design scheme, “Water,” highlights the cultural significance of these urban springs. A series of artificial springs are woven together to form a continuous line of water which appears, disappears, and reappears throughout the park. The simulated springs take on the form of terraced pools that perform various programmatic uses in each season. They create areas for skating in the winter, collecting peach blossoms in the spring, and cultivating lotus petals or swimming in the summer. The park’s various water features double as terraced sponges for stormwater that mitigate flood risks, as runoff from nearby mountains travels towards the Xiaoqing River, which runs through the park.
Running east-west through the center of the site, a new landscape corridor seeks to tie together the natural bookends of Wuding Maoling Hill to the west and Daxin River to the east. Wuding Maoling Hill will serve as a major wildlife habitat and recreation destination. Existing vegetation on the hill will be preserved and enhanced as strengthened areas for habitat.
New “sponge terraces” serve as storage during major storm events and double as programmable terraces and event spaces during drier periods. The Willow Garden is a major pedestrian and ecological corridor, linking the park system with green infrastructure to the east and west. A major rainwater filtration and detention system along the streets complete the “sponge city” network, and contribute to the restoration of the riparian landscape along the seasonal Daxin River to the east.