Yingzhou Central River
Reshape an Urban Waterfront: Yingzhou Central River Transformation
River channelization using concrete and hard materials is ubiquitous in urbanized China. This project meets the challenges of limited budget and available land, as well as combining flood control with transforming a rigid and barren waterfront into a user and eco-friendly, biologically productive, and aesthetically pleasant green corridor.
The project is located in the center of the dense, newly developed Yingzhou District of Ningbo in Zhejiang Province. Typical of this east coast, monsoon-affected province is the network of water courses shaped through hundreds of years of use for both irrigation and drainage. This water system once supported a multitude of ecosystem services, including spaces for biodiversity, recreation, cultural expression, and aesthetic pleasure. During the rapid recent urbanization process, water courses have one by one been filled or channelized with concrete, resulting in rigid and lifeless ditches which function only as drains. As an appealing alternative, the Yingzhou Central River Transformation project restores a channelized river to its former ecological productivity.
The site presented several challenges. The central district provided just one square kilometer (247 acres) of land for the project. All the surrounding and connecting water courses are channelized. The distance between the adjacent roads and the water course ranges from only 50 to 80 meters (55 to 87.5 yards). Along one bend at the water’s edge were 10 to 20 meters (11 to 22 yards) of concrete and granite pavement. Beyond this bend was a green strip recently planted with trees. Flood control regulation stipulated that the drainage capacity of the channel not be reduced through the new works. And because the budget was small, no large-scale earthworks were possible.
The design solutions were to retain as many of the recently planted trees as possible to reduce costs and to remove the upper part of the concrete wall while keeping its base to prevent erosion of the earth bank. The riverbank was partially reprofiled so that a wetland zone could be created where lotuses are grown and their tubers harvested in the fall. In order to allow for access, a boardwalk was constructed in the middle of the wetland, surrounded with lush lotuses, and a bench was installed that doubles as a fence. Nine semi-enclosed 30 by 30 meter (33 by 33 yards) courtyards at intervals of 150 meters (164 yards) along the boardwalk create spaces to linger. One of these courtyards makes use of granite tiles like those found as paving in vernacular courtyards in local villages; native grasses grow there. Double steel panels shield another courtyard where bamboo was planted. A wooden screen creates a sheltered place to sit down.
This project showcases an alternative solution for the design of urban waterfronts, one that harmonizes the relationship between nature and city.