Shaheyuan Park

Chengdu, China

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Shaheyuan Park has historically been an important waterway hub for wood transportation in Chengdu. In the 1950s, the urban construction of Chengdu brought with it increased waterway transportation activity.

Thousands of logs were transported by waterway day and night, which further promoted the unprecedented prosperity of Chengdu Wood Industry. In 1953, the Chengdu Log Yard was formally established, and in 1998, was officially renamed the Southwest Lumber Mill. However, the log market itself appeared inconsistent with the development of the city and its economy. A conflict arose between the spatial structure and the social environment, and the dispute between historical relics and development updates began, making the site an abandoned part of the city. In 2012, the renovation project in the north part of Chengdu began, and the Southwest Lumber Mill was moved out of the city. The original site was planned for redevelopment as an urban complex integrating residential, commercial and park spaces.

Shaheyuan Park first opened in June 2019, providing citizens with a new public open space. The project fully maximized and maintained the site’s cultural memory and preserved the original ecological environment, while integrating urban functions that adapt to modern lifestyles. Specifically, the project integrated the site’s wood culture into the design, reshaping the relationship between human and nature and creating a people-oriented, multi-functional space. Additionally, as part of the Jinjiang Greenway planning belt, the establishment of Shaheyuan Park is aligned with the development of continuous urban green infrastructure in Chengdu.

Design Goals

Based on the perspective of urban sustainability, the park’s design merged the site’s legacy, ecological and environmental management and integrated urban functions for modern lifestyles. The Shaheyuan Park project has retained the cultural memory of the Southwest Lumber Mill and successfully transformed the abandoned area into a unique, green space.

Design Concept

After fully researching the historical evolution of the lumber mill, the design team advocated a concept called “forest-wood-human.” In addition to reshaping the connection between the site’s memory and human interaction, the park’s design rebuilt an energetic space with unique cultural references to the site’s heritage.

Design Interventions

Wood was chosen as the main element of Shaheyuan Park’s design. Having witnessed the development and evolution of the site, wood represents the feelings and memories connected with the land. It is used in the narrative to translate the history and memory of the site. The evolution of the site, from being a historical water transportation hub to a lumber mill, was depicted through the wood succession transformation cycle called ”forest-lumber-transportation-processing-storage.” The relationship of “forest-wood-human” has also been infused into the park.

The design maximized the remaining railway that used to transport wood, connecting wood culture nodes and serving as a remembrance of the area’s transportation heritage. The park features a log-pile maze, log-pile entertainment park, river corridors for wood-storage and educational exhibits which provide natural play opportunities for park visitors. The wood framework preserves the site’s wood culture in another form, becoming a gathering space for neighboring residents, and serving as a connecting link between the past and future of Shaheyuan Park.

Reshaping the relationship between people and nature

Shaheyuan Park serves as an important node of the urban green corridor. The park’s design uses low-impact and low-intervention measures to optimize the original ecological environment. To preserve the existing mature trees along the riverbank, the riverside plant community was rehabilitated. This was done for the migratory corridor enhancement of native flora and fauna in line with the following four aspects: ecosystems, seasonal changes, spatial perspective and plant color.

In the aspect of water circulation: firstly, water from the Sha River was diverted to connect to the urban water system. Allowing water to enter and be retained in the site ― particularly during floods ― alleviates pressure on rivers and also reinstates the site’s previous floodplain function. Secondly, rainwater runoff goes through a bioswale, rain garden, ecological wetland and ecological stream to replenish the ecological lake, also ensuring that overflow water returning to the river is filtered and of higher quality. Additionally, the design of the underwater forest at the bottom of the lake provides the conditions for aquatic biodiversity and has both landscaping and ecological value.

Creating people-oriented and multi-functional space

In the past, vehicle-oriented urban development led to the northern municipal bridge mainly serving truck traffic. However, due to the transformation of the site function, the renovated bridge replaced the unnecessary vehicle lanes with bikeways and a pedestrian-friendly platform, adding green spaces and seats, while guiding pedestrians and cyclists into the park — creating a safe and comfortable repurposed gateway bridge.

In addition, during the functional transformation of the site, there is a trend that diversified and differentiated populations would gradually gather in the surrounding residential areas. Therefore, to satisfy the requirements from different groups of people, provisions are made for families, toddlers, children, elderly and adults throughout the park.

Every detail of the Shaheyuan Park project is based on the unique site history and the principle of sustainable development. By expressing unique characteristics with a special design developed from its historical legacy, It celebrates the value of wood, embraces a people-oriented philosophy and is blended with the rapid development of the city.