From a Concrete Bulkhead Riverbank to a Vibrant Shoreline Park--Suining South Riverfront Park



Publication Date

August 2022


Living in a world beset by rising sea level, floods in urban and suburban areas, and air pollution, landscape architects face more challenges in landscape and greenway planning. The landscape architects should understand the responsibility to act in an impactful and enduring way for a more sustainable future. This paper takes the Suining South Riverfront Park Landscape Design Project as an example to analyze and present the impact of greenway as a park on riparian ecological systems, urban storm-water management, green infrastructure, public recreation, and environmental education.

The Suining South Riverfront Park Landscape Design Project is located in Suining City, Sichuan Province, China. The project site is a 4 kilometer stretch of riverside land adjacent to the city's forthcoming urban growth district. Before the landscape architects were commissioned to design the 47.5 hectares park in mid-2017, the local government had been installing riverfront hydraulic engineering structures covering two-thirds of the length of the riverbank in an unappealing concrete bulkhead that was an eye-sore to the community. Being that the structure was required to remain in the park to prevent flooding, it was imperative for the design team to find creative solutions for dealing with this major obstacle between the city and the river. Repairing the ecological degradation to the river caused by the construction of the bulkhead was also paramount. This project transformed an ecologically and socially lifeless shoreline belt into a verdant and sustainable riverfront park by integrating ecological infrastructure, phytoremediation, urban-weaving and resilient strategies. The overall design is rooted in Suining City's regional culture, which has a strong relationship with the legend of the Guanyin Buddha. A bold garden terrace pattern, derived from the auspicious cloud forms often associated with Guanyin Buddha. A much closer water-to-human relationship is introduced by concealing an existing bulkhead structure beneath stylized terraces of landscape inspired by regional culture, drawing city dwellers and urban visitors towards the forgotten natural beauty of the Fujiang River. The gray hydraulic dam in the outer edge of the city is transformed into a sought after, highly desirable riverfront destination. The re-establishment of native species within an intricate system of wetlands, ponds, islands and riparian habitats, in a previously barren terrain, contributed to an overall reacclimatizing of the riverfront that welcomes the return of native wildlife, cementing this project as a pilot for resilient green shores infrastructure initiatives(in other cities).

The result of the park has reformed the gray concrete embankment into a resilient, ecologically-sound riverfront with numerous riparian habitats, enhanced stormwater management and water cleansing system, recovered native habitats, and created a new cherished public space for gathering and multi-sensory enjoyment.