An Assemblage of “Urban Chambers”: Songzhuang Micro Community Park by Crossboundaries
Project Name: Songzhuang Community Park
Architect: Crossboundaries, Beijing
Project Location: Xiaopu Village, Songzhuang, Tongzhou, Beijing, China
Project Year: 2021
Project Area: 5900 sq.m
Client: Beijing Songzhuang Investment Development Co., Ltd
Designer: Binke Lenhardt, DONG Hao
Design Team: Yang Gao, Pengyu Chen, Silvia Campi, Sean Yu, Marijana Simic, Hongyu Yu, Elena Gamez Miguelez
Construction By: Beijing Songzhuang Xinjing Landscape Engineering Co. Ltd
Partners In Charge: Binke Lenhardt, Hao Dong
In the early 2000s, Songzhuang, a small town in Beijing’s eastern outskirts, was famed for its art community. Simultaneously, metropolitan migration of younger people resulted in an older village population left in charge of caring for the children, as well as local art tourists, each with their demands for and within public areas.
In 2018, recognizing the difficulty of providing flexible and inclusive community amenities, a masterplan competition with worldwide participation was held to reinforce the relevance of the new “Art City” concept. Crossboundaries, a Beijing-based firm was hired to transform a linear streetscape adjacent to a parking lot at the Xiaopu Cultural Plaza into a vibrant outdoor community park within this framework.
Crossboundaries has finished its Songzhuang micro community park as an assemblage of “urban chambers.” The huge brick project, which is located on a street corner, converts the space into a place for meeting, gathering, and play. The design-conscious mini-park pays respect to Beijing’s artistic legacy, which includes art villages that date back to the early 1900s, when artists from all over China lived on the grounds of the Yuanmingyuan palace, resulting in a creative community and time of artistic discovery.
The rich history associated with the site was a major design inspiration for the designers to create a micro park that celebrates the vibrant and communal spirit associated with the site.
The L-shaped plot features a succession of outdoor rooms- spaces, the form, and shape of which stimulate but do not constrain specific use. These are accommodated along a linear loop track as a linking element flowing between the street side pavement to an extension of the park.
The yellow track connects the rooms and creates a visual link between the various public areas. In contrast to the planned promenade in front, the walk leads into and through the tiny park area, which portrays a more natural environment with London planes and Ginkgo trees. These rooms, connected by a yellow track, provide varying degrees of enclosure and boundary along a sequence of transitions: from free and open, forming a plaza-like beginning, to a gently more defined area with the semi-transparent grey backing wall, to a fully enclosed one that is open to the sky, and finally a less strictly defined one within the new park zone, with only the ground surface marking its terrain.
These rooms provide a sequence of varying levels of confinement and boundary. The first room creates a round area defined by its surrounding angular brick walls in conjunction with huge mirror surfaces, transforming the initial street corner into a tiny plaza. Tai chi and fan dance are practiced in the morning, while groups of more rhythmic dancers are attracted in the evening. Along with the brilliant yellow asphalt of the circle beginning, the odd dog owner and his pet may be observed.
Long seats along the sloping profiles of intermittent brick walls welcome Chinese chess players and their audience, talking groups of old ladies in the shade of the trees, and grandparents with newborns to the second room, which is one of calm interaction. On weekends, younger people bring beverages from the cafés across the street to shoot pictures against the backdrop of grey brick and layered perforated Corten steel.
The third chamber, located on the corner of the expanding park, is dedicated to children’s play: a bright yellow room with various-sized holes in the brick walls for peek-a-boo and hide-and-seek, as well as connected speaking tubes through which screaming and singing may be heard. Grandparents, parents, and other caregivers may watch the youngsters play from a safe distance in front of it.
The yellow loop track inside the park’s rectangle crosses the fourth room, widening to become an open-air gym, a sports place in the centre of lush meadows. Everyone in the community finds their own spot among the sports equipment and circular seats.
Dong Hao, co-founder of Crossboundaries commented on the community park to have demonstrated tremendous success in bringing the government’s agenda and investment plan combined with a way of life that resulted in the strengthening of the site’s authentic history, the site being a location for communal creativity and impact.
Binke Lenhardt, another co-founder of Crossboundaries added that the project is a significant milestone in the Songzhuang xiaopu art zone urban design development since it is the first executed project of the master plan and a good example of excellent public space for well-being and social interaction.
Persian silk trees are planted in large flower pots framed by sloped weathering steel on the side of the street. They provide a natural buffering belt that separates busy highways from public places while also growing new and old trees. The mature trees (Hibiscus trees, for example) are blended and embedded in little castle unique floor tiles that have been reused. In the transformation process, the park’s floor tiles keep the traditional recollections. The bricks are antiques, and the patterns on them are inspired by the phrase “little castle.”
The park is meant to complement the surrounding environment by using appropriate materials and planting, as well as a well-planned spatial layout, sequence, and ambience. A perforated grey brick wall with integrated seats in selected sections, alternating with a double bottom layer of perforated Corten steel, is the major component of the construction. Mirrored components, on the other hand, provide a fun visual impact.
The rapid growth in urbanization and modern culture is leading to forgetting one’s roots and cultural history. Architecture is a strong influential part of a community, however, it holds the power to revive and bring back the old traditions and cultures be it related to one’s lifestyle or arts. Crossboundaries recognized the value of the artistic history of the site and with very thoughtful and sensitive planning, proposed a design inspired by the history associated with the site to offer open vibrant space for the public.
The transformation of a simple linear streetscape into a lively outdoor environment induces a communal spirit and the use of traditional construction material forms a link with the history of the project location.
With careful preservation and plantation of various trees, the project also depicts changing seasons. With each season passing by, a sense of nostalgia and hope for the future grows inside an individual. This project is a marvel in the field of architecture with consideration for related history, spirited present, and a hopeful future.
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