A Fairy Tale Tribute To The Ocean | Yantai, China | AECOM

A Fairy Tale Tribute To The Ocean won the 2022 WLA Awards – Award of Excellence in the Built-Small category

“Starfish land” is a landscape feature, located on a seawall plaza along Yantai golden beach, part of the children’s activity area. The design is abstract, spiritual and imaginative, using natural organic forms of marine organisms, a combination of starfish and octopus, from children’s perspective to capture the unique charm of Yantai coastal life. The inner shell is made of resilient durable material, while the skin looks soft and dreamlike, by hand-crafted glassy mosaic bricks and terrazzo, to capture children’s rich imagination of nature. This creates an explorative and fun playground and a unique landscape landmark for the Yantai oceanfront. It is not only a public art that is joyful looking and memorable but also an interactive and interesting play space.

Starfish land takes children as the scale reference to foster a sense of control over the venue. Natural and organic forms, abstract and sparkling rich colors and cave space that can capture light and shadow are more responsive to children’s curiosity, imagination, and perception of the world. The “central body” of magic starfish is a good place for small kids to enjoy storytelling and play hide and seek with adults; the “tube foot” is a slide, net rope, and barrier, but also a climbing tower that enables climbing to a high look-out place; Inside the “arms and feet” is a climbing net designed for older children. The whole starfish is a friendly, encouraging playmate, providing a fun place for children in the “space-sensitive period” to climb, crawl, slide, burrow and hide, and cultivating their courage and need for discovery and exploration.

The internal and external structure of the whole feature is full of safe curved surfaces, presenting the dynamic beauty of marine creatures with organic and abstract lines. A Fairy Tale Tribute To The Ocean was constructed using handcrafted techniques. Careful consideration is given to children’s safety and maintenance. The mosaic and color pay tribute to nature and reflects the subtleness of natural beauty. Small-scale glass mosaic bricks are glittering and translucent as shells are used to present the fantasy color of the ocean and the illusory skin of marine organisms. The whole body takes the gradual change of deep-sea blue and coral-powder pink as the main tone meanwhile using more than 20 hues of blue and pink gradient particles and complementary colors such as green, red, yellow, orange and purple to present a strong artistic expression through manual free cutting craftmanship.

The mosaic skin is handmade in the factory and then assembled on site. Hundreds of experienced workers tested configurations of mainly 1.5cmx1.5cm mosaic tiles for weeks to get the subtle pattern and color right. The three-dimensional surface was a big challenge to the on-site craftsmanship, especially for all the edges, despite the tiles being small. To make sure the mosaic skin is safe for children’s hands, the surface was finely polished for a smooth finish. Special translucent mortar is used to glue tiles together tight, and prevent cracking, as the feature has to stand up to direct sunlight in summer and harsh winter in Yantai, with below freezing temperatures and gale force winds up to 10.

Through the in-depth exploration of the site characteristics and local culture, combined with the unique design of public art and play space, starfish land has become a popular destination for tourists and citizens, for children and families, significantly improving the citizen’s sense of belonging and pride, and demonstrates positive benefits for the society, economy, and environment. Post occupancy surveys indicate the attraction has become the most recognizable landscape landmark in town.

A Fairy Tale Tribute To The Ocean

Location: Yantai, Shandong, P.R. China

Landscape architect:AECOM
Participants: Liang Qindong, Jane Huang, Deng Miao, Cynthia Wang, Zhao Feinuo, Sarmiento, Xu Jing


Artistic sculpture collaborator:UAP
Participants: Wilson ChenPan Zhanjie

Mosaic craftsmanship collaborator: Shanghai artistic plant decoration materials Co., Ltd
Participants: Wu Xueying, Teng Yajie, Chen Mingtao

Main construction collaborator: Yantai Chaoshi Environmental Art Engineering Co., Ltd
Participants: Jia Fuquan, Yuan Bo, Li Xiaodong

Client: Natural resources bureau of Yantai Economic and Technological Development Area

Text Credit: AECOM

Photography Credits:
Natural resources bureau of Yantai Economic and Technological Development Area
Shanghai artistic plant decoration materials Co., Ltd

About Damian Holmes 3233 Articles
Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/damianholmes/