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How the Extraordinary Qunli Stormwater Park got Listed as a National Wetland Park

Qunli Stormwater Park. Photo credit: Turenscape

Qunli Stormwater Park, by Turenscape, in Haerbin City, Heilongjiang Province, China. These days, with cities growing, life taking on a faster pace, and resources strained by the demands of the developing human race, it can be difficult to determine the importance and ability of natural ecosystems to fit into the urban context. Nature takes its time to grow and develop, and seems to be nowhere as demanding as people. When it comes to dealing with water, urban environments can lack resilience. In China’s Haerbin City, 30 hectares of wetland was on the brink of extinction. With a little bit of help, Turenscape was able to turn a bleak situation into a green oasis filled with the abundance of nature and life, while addressing the problem of stormwater management and providing aid in the city’s development.

Qunli Stormwater Park. Photo credit: Turenscape

Qunli Stormwater Park. Photo credit: Turenscape

Qunli Stormwater Park

The City’s Context Qunli New Town, east of Haerbin City in the north of China, is a fairly new urban district that has been developing since 2006, with more than 32 million squares to be developed within the next 13 to 15 years. Once finished, the place will be a concrete jungle, with more than a third of a million people living there. A small percentage of the developable land – 16.4 percent — is dedicated as permeable green space. But the area’s rainfall statistics do not reflect this decision. From June until August, rainfall is intense, accounting for 60 percent to 70 percent of the annual rainfall. Flooding and waterlogs are regular occurrences in the area. A small percentage of the developable land – 16.4 percent — is dedicated as permeable green space. But the area’s rainfall statistics do not reflect this decision. From June until August, rainfall is intense, accounting for 60 percent to 70 percent of the annual rainfall. Flooding and waterlogs are regular occurrences in the area.

Qunli Stormwater Park. Photo credit: Turenscape

Qunli Stormwater Park. Photo credit: Turenscape

The site is surrounded on all sides by roads and development, completely separated from its water sources. For a site that is protected as regional wetland, its ecological and biological processes are unable to re-establish in the current situation. Turenscape was asked to design a 30-hectare park to salvage the wetland. The result has demonstrated not only the recovery of a wetland, but also a transformation of the area into an urban stormwater park. The finished site consists of a seemingly simple yet complex-looking multi-layered park with several design elements and strategies.
Qunli Stormwater Park. Photo credit: Turenscape

Qunli Stormwater Park. Photo credit: Turenscape

1. Untouchable Core There is an untouched core of green in the center to allow for “natural evolution,” as Turenscape describes it. This central area of the existing wetland will continue to have natural habitats evolving. The thought of humans not being able to gain access to the center is both a relief and an alluring matter.
Qunli Stormwater Park. Photo credit: Turenscape

Qunli Stormwater Park. Photo credit: Turenscape

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2. Cut-and-Fill Landform Strategy The infamous cut-and-fill landform strategy is an understated method that transforms the site’s wetland perimeter into a series of ponds and mounds that surround the former wetland. This outer ring then becomes a stormwater filtrating and cleansing buffer zone for the wetland core — a welcoming transition and an interesting connection between nature and city.

Qunli Stormwater Park. Photo credit: Turenscape

Qunli Stormwater Park. Photo credit: Turenscape

The system involves the collection of stormwater from the newly built urban area into the ponds for deposition via a pipe that runs around the circumference of the wetland. The stormwater is filtrated in a natural process initiated from wetland grasses and meadows grown at various depths in the ponds, after which it is evenly distributed into the wetland. The mounds form a dense forest environment filled with groves of native silver birch trees of differing heights. 3. Inviting Network of Paths and Platforms The wetland site is turned into an inviting park through the provision of access around the circumference of the site. Urbanites can enjoy a walking-through-forest experience. Integrated seating and platforms adjacent to the ponds allow them to have close contact with nature.
Qunli Stormwater Park. Photo credit: Turenscape

Qunli Stormwater Park. Photo credit: Turenscape

Qunli Stormwater Park. Photo credit: Turenscape

Qunli Stormwater Park. Photo credit: Turenscape

4. A Multi-Layered Experience A skywalk with viewing platforms and towers give users distant views of the untouchable central core and the natural habitats associated with the growth of the wetland while being an explorer of the forest through the dense tree canopy. A selection of materials used for the five pavilions (bamboo, wood, brick, stone, and metal) and two viewing towers (one in steel and the other in wood) enhance the quiet observational experience of the green expanse and add more visual textures to the overall design.
Qunli Stormwater Park. Photo credit: Turenscape

Qunli Stormwater Park. Photo credit: Turenscape

Qunli Stormwater Park. Photo credit: Turenscape

Qunli Stormwater Park. Photo credit: Turenscape

Qunli Stormwater Park

The role of landscape architecture is growing in the current climate to aid nature and its systems in integrating and adapting to our urban environments, helping our cities flourish and become more resilient. This site is now listed as a national wetland park. The multiple ecosystems service, collect, cleanse, and store stormwater, infiltrate into an aquifer, protect and recover native habitats, and inevitably will help with flood prevention. And the city’s residents? Well, they will benefit from an environment filled with recreational and aesthetic experiences. Here, we find a growing area where in the future, nature and city will be in better harmony than they were at the beginning of the story. Recommended Reading:

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