Guangzhou Shipyard Park Phase One | Guangzhou, China | SWA

Guangzhou Shipyard Park Phase One won an Honour Award in the 2022 WLA Awards – Built Urban Design category

Guangzhou Shipyard Park Phase One: Industrial Heritage Germinates a Comprehensive Landscape Program

Background

Guangzhou Shipyard Park, on the west bank of Guangzhou’s Pearl River, is a post-industrial urban revitalization benchmark. Over the past 100 years, the site has evolved from a military fortress to a ship-building factory, and is now poised for conversion into a mixed-use urban center.

To provide gathering and recreational places for surrounding communities, the city proposed a pedestrian green loop to connect existing scattered public spaces. Guangzhou Shipyard Park, in concert with adjacent steel and paper factories across the river, forms an important heritage axis oriented toward the city center. The first phase of this reclamation process connects the riverfront space with industrial parks slated for future reclamation.

Social Equity and Programming

This multifunctional park builds upon disconnected public space by organizing various spaces that leverage previous factory footprints. Meanwhile, the park adds new programs to meet the needs of nearby users of all ages. Rain gardens provide intimate “conversational” space for office workers and students. Small social gatherings can now be hosted under tree bosques, complemented by a slipway-shaped pavilion for elders. Young people can jog along the riverfront promenade or gather to “work up a sweat” on the sports field. Parents and children can connect by exploring in the ship-themed playground. Lastly, a multi-purpose lawn and central plaza, capable of supporting more than 2,000 people, invites community activities and commercial performances. The entire park is accessible and welcomes visitors with disabilities.

Sustainability and Health

Given the site’s shipbuilding history, treatment of contaminants was essential for park visitors’ health. Phytoremediation strategies employ local species, including flowering poinciana, hoop pine, and ryegrass to absorb remaining contaminants from river soil and atmosphere. Grass swales and rain gardens improve stormwater management; a portion of treated runoff is also collected and recycled for regular irrigation. The park is also highly resilient when facing extreme weather conditions, with more than 70 percent of its pavement being permeable − an approach far exceeding local policy requirements. 

Historical Inheritance and Innovation

Shipbuilding facilities and warehouses were demolished before redevelopment, but their distinctive artifacts were reused. Tower cranes have become an iconic gateway for the park, as well as an important framework for a city festival light show. Ship structures have become informal seating elements and “launches” from which younger visitors can jump. Diamond-shaped, hollowed-out ship parts were converted into trash receptacles in the sports field. Old gear cogs used to decorate the waterfront flood wall, also form portholes at eye-level for children that frame the river from different perspectives. In reusing industrial relics, the design’s new features refer to the site’s significant shipbuilding past. The prow-shape slide and gear-shape planter seating recall a specific shipbuilding history. Customized lighting and signage also recall old factory structures.

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Impact

Sustainable, equitable design strategies underscore linkages among public space, redeveloped brownfields, and a park that reimagines both. This project also envisions a bright future wherein revitalization addresses the sustainability issues that China, like many other rapidly urbanizing nations, faces.

Guangzhou Shipyard Park Phase One

Landscape Designer: SWA Group Shanghai Office

Client: Guangzhou Rui Lin Real Estate Developing Co., Ltd

Collaborating Architect: VAL

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About Damian Holmes 5513 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/