Fish Tail Park is in the city of Nanchang, within the Yangtze River floodplain in east-central China. Turenscape transformed a badly abused 126-acre landscape into a dreamlike floating forest that regulates stormwater, provides habitat for wildlife, offers an array of recreational opportunities, and gives local residents a new way to connect with nature. All of this has lent a unique identity to the New District, serving as a catalyst for urban development in the surrounding area. Fish Tail Park offers a replicable model of designed urban nature for regions with monsoon or variable climates that can address the multiple challenges of floods, habitat restoration, and recreational demands. The project is part of a larger effort by the landscape architect to show that it is possible to open up new space in cities, not just for people but also for nature and for powerful forces like monsoon storms that drive critical natural processes.
Transform an urban dumping ground into an island-jeweled lake
Inspired by the ancient concept of farming atop marshland and by simple cut-and-fill techniques such as the Aztec Chinampas, or floating garden system, the coal ash dumped on site was recycled and mixed with dirt from the fish pond dykes to create numerous islets.
At the same time, a lake able to accommodate two meters (6.5 feet) of the water-level rise was created, providing the capacity to catch a full 1 million cubic meters of stormwater inflow.
A flood-adapted forest at the heart of the Park
Inspired by Poyang Lake’s native monsoon-flood-adapted marsh landscape, the firm selected tree species that are able to survive fluctuating water levels, including Taxodium distichum, Taxodium distichum var. imbricatum and Metasequoia glyptostroboides. Because fluctuating water levels often expose barren muddy shorelines, perennial and annual wetland plants were planted along the shorelines and island edges, and lotus plants provide highly efficient lake cover.
A recreational waterfront where the city and nature meet
The central forest on the water, which is submerged during the annual monsoon floods, provides opportunities to explore nature and a “messy,” immersive marsh experience. Meanwhile, the waterfront at the periphery of the park is designed to accommodate 20-year floods and to provide a zone that can meet the recreational needs of the local population, including natural playgrounds, beaches, fountains, and lawns. There are also terraced constructed wetlands designed to filter urban runoff.
A flood-resilient boardwalk and spots for immersive contact with nature
A bike route and service road follow the park’s periphery. A network of pedestrian paths and platforms surround the lake and provide access to the forested isles, offering visitors a myriad of opportunities to explore. The boardwalk is designed to be submerged during 20-year flood events and annual monsoon floods, which can render the central part of the park inaccessible for several days at a time. While the circular pedestrian and bike paths are above the 20-year flood event line, the boardwalk and platforms are made of prefabricated concrete, detached from the ground or floating above water, and can be easily washed clean after being submerged, along with the benches, which are made of aluminum.
Contemporary design and inviting focal points
Bridges, platforms, pavilions, and viewing towers are carefully placed to provide attractive focal points. Their contemporary design helps to infuse the ancient city, which dates back well over 2,000 years, with a sense of modernity and progress. Perforated aluminum plate is the main material used for the installed structures, creating an arresting contrast with the natural setting. At the park’s main entrance, a cafeteria is integrated with an overpass across a six-lane road, connecting Fish Tail Park with the neighboring Aixi Lake Park.
A Floating Forest: Fish Tail Park in Nanchang City
Landscape Architect of Record/Firm: Turenscape
Lead Designer: Kongjian Yu
Client/Owner: Nanchang Gaoxing Zhiye Property Development Investment Co. Ltd.
Design team: Kongjian Yu, Design Lead
Landscape Architect: Yu Hongqian, Fang Yuan, Tong Hui, Jia Jianmin, Wang Dezhou, Wang Haixu, Wen Xuanying, Chen Lingxue, Wang Rui, Bang Minghui, Chen Yunying, Zhang Chao, Liu Jiahao, Wang Xiaoming, Zhang Fan, Jiang Jingri
Engineer: Yu Fumin, Zhang Wei, Chen Rao, Lu Ang, Li Bo, Huang Songtao
Photo credit: Turenscape