Public Space in the Periphery

Eduard Kögel
29. September 2021
© YANG Chaoying, BAI Yu

Public space in China developed completely differently than it did in European cities of the twentieth century. In imperial China there was no open public space that had been fought for and defended by the citizens. Cities were shaped by streets and alleys, markets and temple courtyards, as well as the monumental imperial spaces. According to socialist guidelines after 1949, public spaces were only to be used for political presentations. Niches for Tai Chi developed temporarily under elevated streets and commercial shopping malls became of particular interest to consumer-oriented youth. However, today’s increasingly diverse society needs a wider and new range of public spaces to meet their changing needs. The Beijing office Crossboundaries recently completed an exemplary public space in their city.

Project name: Songzhuang Micro Community Park
Location: Xiaopu Village, Songzhuang, Tongzhou, Beijing, China
Client: Beijing Songzhuang Investment Development Co., Ltd
Size: 5900 m2
Design period: May to October 2020
Construction period: October 2020 to June 2021
Completion date: June 2021
Architects: Crossboundaries, Beijing, China
Partners in charge: Binke Lenhardt, DONG Hao
Design team: GAO Yang, Silvia Campi, CHEN Pengyu, Marijana Simic, Sean Yu, YU Hongyu, Elena Gamez Miguelez
Construction Company: Beijing Songzhuang Xinjing Landscape Engineering Co., Ltd
Photographers: YANG Chaoying, BAI Yu
© YANG Chaoying, BAI Yu

The former village of Songzhuang is located in the east of the Beijing core city. For many years it had been one of the peripheral locations of the creative scene, along with the former Factory 798 and Caochangdi Art District. Today more than 5000 artists live and work at Songzhuang. With 35 medium and large art galleries, it attracts a culturally interested public from the capital.

© YANG Chaoying, BAI Yu

A demographic of aging former-village residents and artists who have moved to the area results in a curious social mix, with two distinct sets of public space demands. In 2018, following an international competition for new public spaces in the art-themed village, Crossboundaries was commissioned to develop a linear public space next to a resident parking lot. This project is the first to be completed and will be followed by others, all embodying a new communal spirit.

© YANG Chaoying, BAI Yu

The linear public space is adapted to the location through material and planting. A perforated wall made of grey bricks forms the backbone. A planting zone with pines and shrubbery visually screens the parking lot. Plant areas are edged with Corten steel, which together with the walls create well-defined spatial structures. The flooring is made of recycled grey bricks. A bright yellow footpath leads along the street and in a loop through the park.

© YANG Chaoying, BAI Yu

The L-shaped linear park encloses the parking lot on two sides. The narrower side follows the street and is structured by three spatial nodal points, each framed by wall segments or shielded from the parking lot with perforated Corten steel plates, and each catering to different user groups with seating, play areas for children and sports equipment. As a promenade, the yellow path connects these spatial nodes to the green park area.

© YANG Chaoying, BAI Yu

Additionally, special public spaces are placed in four spatial niches distributed throughout the park. A corner of the park entrance offers a small place where tai chi is practiced in the morning and which is used by dancers in the evening. In a second niche area, seating invites chess players and their audience to linger. On the edge of the park, children play in a bright yellow interior niche space, which combines acoustic and visual experiences. The last niche is within the park and is stocked with enough exercise equipment to makes gyms superfluous for the elderly.

© YANG Chaoying, BAI Yu

The public space was designed by Crossboundaries in an exemplary manner. It connects the supply of greenery with public activities and caters for the change in user needs. Today’s inhabitants of the city periphery are comprised of immigrant city dwellers and an aging existing population who need, as in this case, spaces for exchange in which informal encounters strengthen mutual trust. In the next few years there will definitely be other public places that could take this example as a role-model. 

© YANG Chaoying, BAI Yu
© YANG Chaoying, BAI Yu
© YANG Chaoying, BAI Yu
Site diagram
Master Plan
Axonometric View

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