Background: The park is located on the outskirts of Nanchang in the southern Chinese province of Jiangxi, about 25 miles from the city center. The project site covers an area of about 16 hectares. Mainly characterized by a stratum of lateritic soil known as reticulated red earth, it also features large areas of Masson’s pine forest and grassland. Surrounding the park is the ancient village of Anyi, while the Meiling Mountain National Forest Park can be seen in the distance to the east. With the construction and development of this nature park, the local government hopes to protect not only the site, but also the characteristic local landscape and environment. Furthermore, the park can serve as a place for the public to reconnect with nature and to receive an environmental education. Despite featuring this unique red earth relief and native vegetation, the site has also experienced heavy soil erosion and lacks in plant diversity, resulting in a fragile ecological balance. Reticulated red earth is a typical geological stratum found along the middle and lower reaches of China’s Yangtze River. Its formation differs from ordinary red ferruginous soils. During the Quaternary glacial period, reticulated red earth was washed out of the moraine amid the increasingly hot and humid climate. It has a history of about 100,000 to 500,000 years, and its cross section is characterized by red soil layers of different ages mixed with vermicular white spots. Due to its adhesive and dense composition, rain doesn’t easily infiltrate the soil, instead running off its surface, slowly washing away the soil and resulting in red deserts crisscrossed by gullies. Sites of reticulated red earth hold a great significance for the study of the paleogeographical environment, neotectonic movements, and ancient glaciation. Through an in-depth analysis and detailed inspection of the site's current conditions, the design team discovered that the state of its soil and water loss is becoming increasingly severe, while the vegetation is significantly monocultural. It was necessary to restore and protect the site using reasonable design strategies. Purpose: The design aims to protect this red earth site and transform it into a nature park open to the public. Thereby, it can play a role in ecological protection, geological science, environmental education, and natural experiences — allowing people to understand the natural beauty of the earth. Design Method: Based on an in-depth analysis of the local conditions, the design team proposed three design strategies. Firstly, to restore the biotope according to best practices in ecological restoration, and to propose a targeted forest succession and water conservation plan. Secondly, to implement a design with low-level interventions that strictly controls the design intensity, and installing a continuous system of boardwalks targeted at reducing the impact of visitor traffic on the current vegetation, landscape, and rainwater flow. And thirdly, to create diversified spatial nodes that highlight the rustic natural aesthetics and wilderness of the site, and additionally provide a space for localized experiences and environmental education. 1) Ecological Restoration Strategy According to the current state of the site’s monocultural vegetation and soil erosion, targeted forest succession and water conservation were put forward as ecological reconstruction strategies. During the forest succession process, the pioneering species like Robinia pseudoacacia, Fagaceae and other native plants were introduced and planted together in patches. Over time, the growth and competition between these various species will gradually improve the pH levels of the soil, allowing for a diverse and balanced vegetation to emerge. The site will also slowly transition into a broad-leaved evergreen forest suited to the local subtropical climate, and thus providing a habitat and breeding ground for native wildlife. Furthermore, due to the overall terrain and slope of the site, the surface runoff during the rainy season has caused a significant amount of erosion in the red earth. Therefore, in the water conservation strategy, the design team planted hygrophilous xerophytes such as Phragmites communis and Cortaderia selloana in the gullies to reduce the soil viscosity, improve its permeability and its ability to hold back and infiltrate the surface runoff, to buffer the direct erosion of the red earth during the rainy season, and to consolidate the ground to preserve soil and water. 2) Low-Level Intervention Strategy To fully respect the local vegetation and landscape, the design team strictly controlled the design intensity and introduced a boardwalk system with minimal impact to the natural site. It connects the attractions in the park, while also cautiously avoiding existing trees in the walkway layout. The boardwalk is slightly elevated using only a shallow foundation to ensure a smooth flow of surface runoff. 3) Natural Experiences and Environmental Education Inside the park, locations with a good view were chosen to set up viewing platforms of different sizes and facing different directions. Some overlook the magnificent red earth landscapes, while some provide vistas of the distant Meiling Mountains. Simultaneously, “nature classrooms” featuring natural experiences and opportunities for environmental education were set up, integrating the existing woods and allowing visitors and students to understand and learn about nature while being out in nature. In a center located on a grassland within the park, the design team introduced a pavilion where visitors can slow down to listen to the sounds of the surrounding environment and interact with it. 4) Traditional Craft The park entrance features a 4-meter height difference between inside and outside of the park. The cliff wall showcases distinct layers of reticulated red earth from different time periods. Inspired by this cross section, the team chose to create a layered rammed earth retaining wall at the entrance using the reticulated red earth. By returning to traditional construction methods, the beauty of simplicity is conveyed. Conclusion: As the result of China’s accelerated urbanization process, a fast pace of life and increased work pressures have strengthened the desire of urban residents to return to the countryside and reconnect with nature. This project not only provides a natural recreational space for the public, but also protects the local natural landscape and ecological environment, while serving the purpose of environmental education. It advances the conservation of reticulated red earth, while enhancing the public’s awareness of the matter, increasing their understanding of nature and environmental protection. The endless stream of tourists, students, and social groups has also helped to develop rural tourism in the surrounding ancient village, thus having a positive and extensive impact on the local people and the park itself. We want to establish a connection between humans and nature, as well as humans and places. This connection is a dialogue and response to a site. We hope to respond to the sculptural beauty of nature with veneration and simplicity.
Credits: - Greenland Group - Designer - Min Lei - SHUISHI - Designer - Quan Xu - SHUISHI - Designer - Yuqi Chen - SHUISHI - Designer - Xiaodongyang Zhao - SHUISHI - Design Director - Gang Deng - SHUISHI - Designer - Jiayi Chen - SHUISHI - Design Director - Songhao Zhang - SHUISHI - Plant designer - Wenzhen Wang - Greenland Group - Design Director - Mingang Wu - SHUISHI - Designer - Zuoming Xiang - SHUISHI - Design Director - Chong Sun - SHUISHI - Chief Designer - Feng Qi - SHUISHI - Designer - Dai Shi - SHUISHI - Designer - Zhuoying Tian - SHUISHI - Design Director - Li Shi