The Jiangyin Greenway designed by BAU belongs to a growing movement in China towards healthy, sustainable transportation and urban enjoyment. It is more than just an elevated walkway, it seeks to generate better urban spaces, order previously random and disconnected decision making, engage with the best of contemporary aesthetics, extend local iconography, be poetic, be cost-effective, and open up social opportunities.
Weaving and stitching
The project is seen as an opportunity for Jiangyin to assert itself as a creative, progressive, and livable city. Consequently, it consists of four clearly identifiable segments, each with a unique response to the spirit of the place in which it is located. The north segment of the loop has already been built and passes through the docklands parks. It responds to the history of shipbuilding and its port function. The eastern segment of the loop leads to the Yangtze River, the river to which Jiangyin owes its existence and responds to the river’s significance.
Ph. Pavel Shubskiy – Egghead Photo
The river story
The Yangtze River is a remarkable natural phenomenon. Like many natural phenomena, the hustle and bustle of everyday life can mean this remarkable piece of landscape can be taken for granted. This new piece of urban infrastructure is a great opportunity to remind the public of the extraordinary aspects of this mighty river. The greenway path has become a scaled model of the Yangtze River with the cities and tributaries along its length becoming plazas and balconies. At these locations, visitor information boards incorporate these events into the larger history of the river.
The freeway is lifted off the ground for its entire length of the site. Contrary to what one would think, and thanks to this engineering decision, the freeway is not a barrier for the city. However, the park in which it sits is not as helpful in keeping the city well connected. In fact, this linear park with its emphasis on a major north-south connection becomes a barrier to the east-west circulation. A careful analysis of desire lines and shortcuts rejuvenate the park with activity, make the park safer, and create more efficiency. The stitching paths also ensure that the greenway is connected to the rest of the park as well as to the adjacent streets and pedestrian circulation networks.
Responsive and surprising
The path provided in the brief was a thoughtful and gentle response to the existing paths and the substantial well-established planting material. The design of this project is a clear and legible response to this path, with: solid and transparent balustrades providing privacy or views; sound walls near the freeway for the comfort of the pedestrians; trees to provide shade and enclosure; widenings with seating at locations overlooking lakes and canals; landmark bridges with sculptural trusses framing views for pedestrians; stairs located at street level intersections to link existing pedestrian paths to the new greenway; and surprising additional programs that improve the adjacent city programs.
Placemaking and programming
The journey along this greenway is articulated with a number of variously scaled events an amphitheater for performances or relaxing on; a raised plaza with permanent sound instruments for all to play; an exercise playground with nets, slides, and a gentle climbing ramp for all ages, to name a few. These elements can become memorable places.
Full of potential
This design also locates key places for optional programs. These optional programs can generate more activity in key locations making the greenway a safer place to be. Rent from these commercial programs could also contribute to running costs. Potential programs include: a bicycle hub for repair and sales; café-bar-restaurants; a market area; and a gym sports shop.
An integrated kit of parts
There are two fundamental ways to generate large-scale forms and spaces: by adding small things together or by starting with a large thing and extracting pieces from it. The addition process often leads to an aesthetic of accretion, which has at its core the idea of the articulation of different elements. This can lead to a non-integrated result. The subtraction process leads to an integrated approach because every element is either the result of the subtraction of something or it is itself the subtracted element. It is the subtraction process that this project explores. The design of this project is based on a kit of parts, but parts of an integrated whole not an assemblage of disparate elements. This kit of parts allows diversity but retains construction simplicity and cost control.
The entire greenway is built in steel and utilizes prefabrication to reduce the impact on the park.
A steel structure with a colored bituminous concrete screed gives the greenway both the potential for prefabrication and a durable low-maintenance, long-wearing surface.
Columns supporting the greenway are at 16-meter centers in areas where there is no head height for human activity (under ramps, etc.). When there is head height the column spacing has been increased to 32 meters to make the space more flexible for community activities.
Membranes, trusses, and cradles
Bridge spans vary and can exceed the efficient 32-meter span of the greenway. To deal with this issue, the bridges explore three structural principles: perforated membranes, trusses, and suspension systems.
There are two membrane options: one where the greater mass sits mid-span and acts as an arch; the second option has mass at the supports and acts as a tensile structure. The truss system turns the familiar Warren truss into a series of inclined membranes, and the suspension option explores a propped cradle dynamic. These options provide a variety of combinations to assist in making each bridge a unique landmark in the city.
DATE: 2017-2019 / LOCATION: Jiangyin, Jiangsu / PROGRAM: Public infrastructure, landscape, transport (Elevated walkway, pedestrian bridges, playgrounds, amphitheaters, cafes, bike shops) / STATUS: built / DESIGN: BAU Project Team: Guo Liexia, Gao Weiguo, Wu Xiaojian, Pan Linglu, Li Zheng, Yu Zhirui, Rong Yu, Lei Tao, Pablo Jimenez, Manuel Jose Godoy Alvarez, Fang Qun, Huang Fang, Steve Whitford, Peter Felicetti (Concept stage engineer), James Brearley / CONSTRUCTION: China Construction City Development Ltd in Jiangyin / CONSULTANTS: Shanghai Lin Tongyan Li Guohao Civil Engineering Consulting Co., Ltd. (Engineering) / CLIENT: China Construction City Development Ltd in Jiangyin / PHOTOS: Pavel Shubskiy – Egghead Photo / VIDEO: Derrick Wang / TEXT: The architects, edited by NESS