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Introducing a riverfront corridor that is ecologically valuable, culturally memorable, and economically viable

Pingshan River Blueway

Pingshan City Management Bureau
Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, China
283.3 hectares
Landscape Architecture
Additional Services
Design Development Phase
International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) Asia-Pacific Region, Honorable Mention in Environmental Category
The PLAN Awards – Winner, Public Space category

Inspired by its beautiful natural landscape, rich Hakka heritage, and comfortable waterfront lifestyle, the Pingshan River Blueway Master Plan proposes a resilient and vibrant riverfront corridor that is ecologically valuable, culturally memorable, and economically viable to the region. 

As a close collaboration within a multidisciplinary team and local residents, scholars, and various government agencies, Sasaki’s plan for the riverfront corridor adapts three overarching strategies to holistically improve the Pingshan River landscape: ensure safety and restore the ecosystem to build a resilient waterfront; enhance cultural landscapes to better engage with and educate local communities; and integrate with the city to sustain long-term success.

Challenges and Opportunities

The engineering of the Pingshan River channel in the 1960s resulted in low flood resiliency and significant loss of habitats. Since the early 1980s, accelerated economic development exacerbated the river’s environmental degradation, as industrial wastewater was discharged into the river, and unplanned development and oversized water conservancy projects encroached riverbanks. As a result, the river was separated from the community, causing the Hakka people to shift their traditional riverfront living into apartment buildings in the surrounding city.

Since 2019, a multi-disciplinary team of designers, hydrologists, ecologists, and engineers have been working on the Blueway master plan which spans the 9.56-mile long mainstream of the Pingshan River. The plan presents an opportunity to create continuous public riverfront access, celebrate local culture, minimize flood risks, and guide the adjustment and transformation of surrounding urban and industrial uses.

Three Overarching Strategies

Following site visits and interviews with all stakeholders, the design team proposed three design strategies to create a vibrant riverfront corridor.

1. Ensure Safety and Restore Ecosystem to Build Resilient Waterfronts

Besides transforming existing hard edges to soft landscapes and providing extra room to sustain flooding, the plan also establishes a comprehensive water management approach to mitigate the impact of climate change and restore the river ecosystem.

The plan suggests adapting the river’s natural form, retaining a low water trough, locally constructing deep pools and shallow shoals to enrich the riverbed profile and improve the river’s hydrophilic nature, and integrating fish channels with existing backwater facilities to assist with fish migration. The low water trough system will help increase biomass in the river and create more opportunities for people to access the water. Two new lakes will be introduced to ensure the river’s environmental flow, extend the length of the water course and improve the river’s water surface ratio, with five existing reservoirs as supplemental water sources.

The ecological network will be restored with native plant communities and through leveraging natural succession. With a comprehensive blue-green system, including mountain corridors, foothill corridors, riverbank corridors, and green parks connecting the corridors in the north-south direction, the network creates a variety of habitats.

2. Enhance Cultural Landscape to Celebrate Local Identity

A new cultural symbol of Pingshan, distilled from Hakka heritage, was developed through the planning process. It will be incorporated in the design of all buildings, site structures, bridges, roads, paths, and site furnishings, bringing them into a system framed by Pingshan’s natural landscape and human history while creating a coherent visual effect.

Inspired by indigenous Hakka culture, the plan also proposes planting native species associated with Hakka settlements and blue dye along the Blueway and key public space nodes, promoting Hakka culture in the new public realm. The concept of blue dye, resembling the unique blue fabric in Hakka clothing, is also embedded in the designs of pavilions.

3. Integrate with the City to Sustain Long-term Success

The plan proposes new public connections along the river, making the Blueway continuous and accessible for everyone. By incorporating new pedestrian bridges, underpasses, and floating paths, the project reconnects existing breaking points along the river. In addition, the project establishes a complete bike path system to seamlessly connect with nearby public transportation, facilitating a low-carbon lifestyle.

The Blueway will continuously interact with the city by establishing a series of 15-minute green-life circles along the river, where green spaces can be accessed at any given point within a 15-minute walking distance. With reference to the district-wide urban regeneration plan, the land around the river can also be integrated to optimize the interfaces between the city and the river, revitalizing riverfront communities and increasing land value.

A four-part gallery experience celebrating Hakka identity

The Pingshan River Blueway will provide a gallery-like experience between the mountains and river, supporting the integration of modern life with Hakka culture and the pioneer spirit of the region. It includes four characteristic segments: the Gateway to Mountains and River, the Journey of Time, the Convergence of City and Lake, and the Joys of Farming and Reading.

The plan will be implemented in phases, coupled with development sequences of the surrounding land, which allows for flexibility, correspondence to local industry iteration sequences, and coordination with changes on the larger master plan of the city.

Currently, the design development of the 1.3-mile-long pilot area has been completed, and project construction will start in October 2023. A beautiful scroll of Pingshan life will soon start to unfold, beginning at Pingshan River.

For more information contact Tao Zhang or Dou Zhang.

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