In one of the world’s most crowded urban centres, where builders compete to “out-build” one another, how can the largest, newest mega-project offer a distinct and sincere HUMAN experience? This was the question reflected upon by developer CapitaLand and the design team of Raffles City Chongqing, the mixed-use uber-development situated at the estuary of the famed Yangtze and Jialing Rivers. Adjacent to Chaotianmen, the birthplace and historic heart of Chongqing – now home to over 30 million people - the project’s 8 ha podium accommodates 220,000 sq.m. of retail space, a transit hub and supports eight towers housing offices, residences and hotels. What makes RCCQ so innovative, however, is how it succeeds in humanizing this impressive scale – thanks, in large part, to its unique integration of an engaging public park.
Dubbed Gateway Park – a fitting nod to the site’s ancient Chaotian Gate, this is the first contemporary park – and one of only a handful of greenspaces – in Chongqing’s vastly vertical Central Business District (CBD).
While Gateway Park is built atop the roof of a 5-storey galleria, labelling it a ‘roof park’ overlooks just how well connected it is to the existing urban fabric. Chongqing’s undulant topography informed the 3D geometry of this park, and the roof upon which it rests. Sloping down at a constant 1:20 pitch to meet the existing roads, the Park draws visitors up organically from the surrounding sidewalks.
This perpetually sloped landscape provided the team with many unique design opportunities and inspired the Park’s signature series of water elements. Flirting with gravity, a series of fountains and pools cascade down steps and across slanted skylights, generating a shimmer of refracted light into the mall below. The result is a landscape that is constantly dynamic, always flowing, not unlike the mighty rivers that embrace it. As the park climbs along this network of water features, visitors are presented with a series of “pauses”, which include seating nooks, bridges, picnic lawns, scenic lookouts and two engaging works of public art designed by Chinese sculptors Zheng Lu and Jiao Xiaotao. This journey culminates in the one of RCCQ’s most iconic and celebratory moments, the Interactive Fountain, situated on an event space overlooking the historic Chaotianmen Plaza and famed estuary.
The Park’s use of colour and materials deliberately favour beige tones which give the space a touch of warmth in Chongqing’s notorious overcast climate. The planting design – a rich mix of local broadleaf and deciduous species – offers a year-round abundance of foliage, with bursts of seasonal color coming from locally-adapted jacarandas, crepe myrtles, elms and maples.
Despite acting as a commercial owner and operator, credit must be given to Capitaland’s moral obligation to also serve the city of Chongqing by offering a fully public park as a compliment to their landmark mixed-use hub. Gateway Park is a generous gift to the city of Chongqing, particularly in a CBD that has been increasingly threatened by sterile architecture and disappearing greenspaces. More than that, Raffles City Chongqing is a reminder of the critical role that landscape plays in every aspect of urban development – it challenges developers and architects to become more civic-minded, and start rediscovering HUMANITY in the design of our cities and its spaces.
Parks, Gardens & Squares
YEAR OF COMPLETION
WAA+ Landscape architecture / Safdie Architects, Architecture / P&T Architects, Architecture / ARUP, Engineering / WSP, Engineering / Brandston Partnership Inc., Lighting / Pentagram, Signage / Entro, Signage / Sushui- JML, Water features / Zheng Lu + Jiao Xiaotao, public art