Bringing it all back home: The art of creating suburban parks
By Momo Pan
With the rapid speed of urbanization, more farms, rivers and vil- lages have faded frommemory. However, for Jiading locals, thatfamiliar homeland with fresh air and clean earth is coming back with Jiabei Suburban Park due to open to the public in 2017. It promises fields of golden wheat, secluded bamboo for- ests, flowing rivers and ancient villages for citizens to enjoy the rural views and experience country life.With a total area of about 14 square kilometers, the park will be constructed in two phases.The first-phase construction involves 9.3 square kilometers, of which 5 square kilometers will be opened in 2017. The land renovation work of the first-phase construction of the park began on December 5 last year and will be completed by the end of next year. It’s a huge project, involving farm renovations, river cleaning,digging water channels and planting greenery.Meanwhile, the construction organizers and authorities of Waigang Town and Juyuan New Area are cooperating in vari- ous ways to protect the existing resources.The relocation of local residents is a tougher task. The reloca- tion for the first-phase project is divided into two parts. The first part involves 1,346 rural families and 125 enterprises.So far, 96 percent of the rural families and 67 percent of the enterprises have signed reloca- tion agreements.The whole design of the park takes full consideration of the area’s history, such as its historic buildings and ancient trees.Local authorities are also collecting information about buildings, celebrities and folk tales to enrich the park’s cultural environment.To help more citizens learn about Jiabei Suburban Park, Cheng Xijun, the chief engineer of the construction headquarters, gave an interview recently.
Q: Four designers participated in the bidding process. Why did you choose the China Academy of Art?
Cheng: The China Academy of Art provided us with the concept of subur- ban Garden-style Park, which we think is the most suitable positioning for Jiabei Suburban Park’s style and Jialing’s local culture. It will diversify a lot from the other suburban parks in Shanghai. Be- sides, the China Academy of Art is quite experienced as it was the main designer of Hangzhou Xixi Wetland Park.
Q: How will this park benefit Jiading?
Cheng: It will be significant in improv- ing Jialing’s ecological environment. As we know, rapid urban development has cost us a lot in environment. Smog is just a good example. The city now needs greening to refresh the air. Citizens are also more and more concerned about quality of life, and the suburban park will offer them a chance to get close to nature, enjoy leisure time and experi- ence rural culture.
Q: The construction process of Jiabei Suburban Park is probably the fastest among all the local suburban parks. How is it going now?
Cheng: Since the municipal government initiated the construction of suburban parks in 2012, Jiading District attached great importance to this project. In the recent two years, we completed a series of planning and designing works as well as land renovation. So far, we have completed 647,000 square meters of land reclamation, 650,000 square meters of land formation, 21,000 meters of river cleaning and built 62,000 meters of kennels.
As one of the first suburban parks of Shanghai, what’s the difference of Jiabei in positioning, functions, services and landscape features from other suburban parks?
Cheng: The first five suburban parks in Shanghai have different features. Jiabei will focus on farms, ecological forest, wetland, natural village and historic sites. Through land renovation, relocation of industrial enterprisesand reconstruction of villages, it will improve local ecological environment, promote agricultural production and optimize urban arrangements.
Q: During the construction, the district is also studying Gangshen Culture, which formed in Jiading more than 7,000 years ago during the Neolithic period, as well as other cultural heritages. What’s the specific process?
Cheng: After we launched the park project, we gathered local experts of Jiading’s culture and history to collect information on celebrities, cultural rel- ics, old pictures and intangible cultural heritage. The results of the study will be displayed to citizens in various forms.
Q: What’s your current focus?
Cheng: We are doing some research on similar tourist projects and parks around our park. We have found that some attractions have beautiful views and complete facilities but still attract very few visitors. This is our biggest concern about Jiabei Suburban Park. So we are making plans for tourist events to learn how to satisfy market demands and achieve sustainable development.
Q: The construction of the park involves many villagers. How do you protect theirinterests?
Cheng: All the villagers involved within the range of the park will be relocated into new and better houses. In the future, we will introduce mechanized operations onto the farms in the parkso that the unit income will go up, and villagers through dividends will share the income. Meanwhile, the park will also create many jobs, which will benefit local villagers.
Q: Is there any successful example that you can learn from?
Cheng: Of course there are many sucessful examples, either in China or in foreign countries such as Singapore and the UK. However, most of the cases can- not be simply copied. We have to make our own plan for Jiabei Suburban Park based on those cases.
About Jiabei Suburban Park:
The 14-square-kilometer Jiabei Suburban Park will be located in the northwest of the forest surrounding the Jiading urban area. Shenhai Highway will encircle the park in the east, Jiasong Road N. in the west, Jia’an Road in the south and Milin Road in the north, and it covers Waigang Town, Juyuan New Area and Jiading Industrial Zone. The park will be built in two phases. The first-phase project is south of Huyi Road with a total area of 9.3 square kilometers, of which 5 square kilometers will be open to the public in 2017