Winner of the ASLA Award of Excellence for General Design in 2010, Turenscape’s Houtan Park (后滩公园) was on my must-see list for Shanghai. Though I arrived in the winter to a pretty dull and drab plant palette, Houtan Park did not fail to impress.
With the added tagline ‘Landscape as a Living System’, Houtan Park has been universally lauded for not only the design, but also for its natural water purification system, whereby 634,000 gallons of polluted water are cleaned daily, improving the water’s quality from Grade V (unsuitable for human contact) to Grade II (suitable for landscape irrigation) using only biological processes in the restored wetlands.
“Built on a brownfield of a former industrial site, Houtan Park is a regenerative living landscape on Shanghai’s Huangpu riverfront. The park’s constructed wetland, ecological flood control, reclaimed industrial structures and materials, and urban agriculture are integral components of an overall restorative design strategy to treat polluted river water and recover the degraded waterfront in an aesthetically pleasing way.
The site is a narrow linear 14-hectare (34.6 acre) band located along the Huangpu River waterfront in Shanghai, China. This brownfield, previously owned by a steel factory and a shipyard, had few industrial structures remaining and the site was largely used as a landfill and lay-down yard for industrial materials.”
Located adjacent to Huangpu River on the north and extending to Shibo Avenue in the south, Houtan Park borders the Expo Garden on the east and stretches to Nijiabang in the west. Since it was built as part of the 2010 World Expo, Houtan Park is located away from the city center in southern Shanghai. It took about an hour and a half to reach the park by bike from my apartment in Pudong.
There are two entrances/exits in the Garden, and walking is the major means of sightseeing. By protecting, recovering and re-constructing the wetland ecosystem, Houtan Garden doubles as a self-cleaning wetland that purifies and oxidizes water. The wetlands have also attracted large numbers of birds and other wildlife back to the region.
The water purification process follows a south-north route, starting downstream at the intake point at Huangpu River, through a series of filtration steps such as heavy metal removal and pathogen removal, and finally into a clean water impoundment. Moving upstream, visitors pass through a series of scenic stopping areas including terraces and paddy fields.
The Ludi Platform (芦荻台) is located at the center of Houtan Garden and overlooks the Huangpu River and surrounding wetlands. A major gathering area in the park, the platform was one of my favorite features of the garden. Formerly the dock of a sewage processing factory close to the original wetland preserve, the factory was transformed into a viewing platform that retains some of the existing architectural elements as reference to the landscape’s history.