By Peiwen Yu
“Really, tactical urbanism is how most cities are built. Especially in developing nations,” Mike Lydon says. “It’s step-by-step, piece-by-piece.”
In many fast urbanizing regions, the presence of various temporary open spaces is crucial to meeting the overwhelming needs of public parks in dense urban core; although often constructed with modest budget and designed to have short life span (a few months to a couple of years), their value to improving the livability of urban outdoor space should never been underestimated. In cities that are in constant state of flux like Shenzhen, small-scale and incremental improvements benefit the city-making by engaging up-to-date social and cultural structures, providing a testing ground for novel, short term or even risky ideas that may lead to renewed lifestyle in long term urban transformation.
One of the early posts on Shekou’s historical fishing harbor transformation featured a design proposal – “High Ground Harbor Park”, that is envisioned to be constructed after the adjacent large scale mixed-use development “fisherman’s wharf” may receive local planning approval and take place a few years from now. While the long term vision is to reclaim the harbor for city life, the land use adjustments and harborscape reconstruction will inevitably implement step by step due to the complicated land ownership around the harbor. In the meantime, the vacant block of Fish Harbor Green is calling for an improvement solution that may temporarily meet the desire for quality leisure space at the heart of the this busy harbor – a much needed park with a couple of years of life, before the permanent park scheme may implement .
Analyzing the programmatic needs through decoding the social DNA at overall waterfront leisure belt, the design generated a highly contextual place making scheme that aims to engage the energy of both dynamic fish harbor life and the daily activities of those who live in nearby residential towers or tour the waterfront. A place for fun sports, social interaction and harbor events watching. Application of color and graphics design with less expensive material introduces ease and freshness into the green space, activating uses and interactions.
While the asphalt paved roller skate plaza surrounded by a series of stacked wood seating steps forms the heart of this park, smaller playgrounds, ball courts, fitness plazas, bike rental station and shade shelters are proposed throughout the park space with convenient access and rich activity programs. Playful paving and curb elements with vivid colors, fishing boat and fish barrel inspired wooden seats and shade structures infuse memorable fish harbor context into park building. Programmed rooms invite activities of multiple age and interest user groups, ranging from casual stroll and exercise that many urban Chinese always enjoy, and particular types of sport that started to become popular among local young people.
Park place is open and connected with harbor front loading dock and water edge. Uniquely designed barricade elements define zones of leisure and fishing operation while keeping the edge porous to allow pedestrian movement and view connection. On the harborfront side, newly proposed fish harbor service pavilion and a market plaza activate the originally boring edge with improved seating, shade structure and new pavement. The pavilion with café and shop in it provides fishermen who live on boats convenient access to working supplies and food, while the plaza in front of it serves as a potential market place to buy and sell fresh seafood, and weekend mobile food vendors from surrounding popular seafood restaurant. As food truck culture just started to get attention of Chinese young people, public spaces to operate such events will soon become in demand.
(above is the built images of fish harbor park)
Strolling through the harbor green, it engages people through encountering playful moments along the way. With plenty of seating, balanced areas of both sun and shade, the park design intends to render a flexible and informal ambiance that inspires lots of daily fun activities and spontaneous social events. And its big seating steps create a theater-like setting where simply seating and watching the dynamic harbor scene becomes a RenChi attraction.
Photo credit: David Lloyd, Peiwen Yu
Graphics by Peiwen Yu, Kunkook Bae