Martha Schwartz, FASLA, now works mostly outside the U.S., having moved to London and taken up shop there some years ago. Now a perma-expat, she has done many big master plans and parks in the Middle East and is now taking on projects in China. In Chongqiing, a massive metropolis in western China, Schwartz and her team just created the 16,000-square-meter Fengming Mountain Park, a place where visitors can be taken on a “dynamic journey via a series of iconic mountain-shaped follies, plazas, greenery and water features,” right up to the sales office for a new development. This is a bold, modern park rooted in Chinese culture, but also a place meant to encourage you to buy a new apartment.
The park helps create an identify for a new urban development, Vanke Golden City. Like some developers in the U.S., this group seems to be working on the landscape first in order to create some sense of “there” there, before the buildings come in. In Washington, D.C., developer Forest City used this approach with their winning Navy Yard redevelopment on the Anacostia riverfront, which Witold Rybczynski called one of the most successful redevelopment projects in the U.S. Schwartz Partners say the park is meant to stimulate sales at first, but will evolve with the new development as it takes shape. The park is then also a permanent amenity for this community.
Schwartz’s firm tells us that the “extreme topography” was both a challenge and opportunity. The steep slope made it tricky to get people from the upper car park to the sales center. On the other hand, the place gave them a chance to create a distinctive park that speaks to the surrounding mountainous landscape.
“The vision was to create a strong connection between the setting of the site and the surrounding backdrop of the mountainous peaks, valleys of the Sichuan Basin; the agrarian patterning of rice paddy terraces; the Chang Jiang river; and the mysterious white, grey misty sky of Chongqing. These elements provide the inspiration for the mountain pavilions, zigzag patterns, orchestrated terrain and the use of vivid colors (to contrast against the sky).”
As for the visitor’s experience, the park is designed to provide a “triumphant journey.” As visitors come in off Fengxi Road, there are a series of bright orange and red triangular pavilions that speak to the surrounding mountains.
The path zig zags to ensure the deep slope is accessible for all visitors. Schwartz’s firm tells us that “the path also becomes a geological pattern language, as if one is a walking on trails winding up a steep mountain.” At each zag, there’s a spot to sit and check out the view.
Water also flows through, from the arrival spot all the way to the sales area. “Channels, pools and jets to assist with cooling, provide sounds and atmosphere to what is a captivating landscape.” A local Feng Shui master must have approved.