As the largest comprehensive sports event in the Asian region, the 19th Asian Games is about to open in Hangzhou on September 23rd. The waterfront of the Asian Games Village, serving as a place for athletes and officials to relax and unwind, will temporarily suspend its external access. This waterfront area, designed by Atelier Scale, will host athletes from various countries for the first time and will reopen after the conclusion of the Asian Games. It will then become a public waterfront and commercial recreational space in the future Asian Games Village area.
The design of the waterfront at the Asian Games Village embodies many strategic considerations: the transition from the competition mode to the post-competition mode, the synergy between public spaces and commercial areas, the shaping of flood protection embankments and resilient waterfronts, and so on. At the same time, it also reflects the further innovation in design methods, such as experiments in areas like elevation changes (terracing), material arrangement (juxtaposition), plant selection (water-feel ambiance), and more.
The attitude towards "water" is an eternal topic in the design of waterfront. Hangzhou has been built by and thrived because of water since ancient times. Its people have settled along the water and take pride in it. And the Asian Games Waterfront is not merely a waterfront space; it is also an important window showcasing the charm of Hangzhou to friends from various countries during the Asian Games. Based on this, the landscape design proposes the concept of "Qiantang River in One Breath," aiming to create a landscape framework that transcends eras and borders, shaping a place of empathy. Despite using modern design language that are unique to Hangzhou, the designers hope that people from any era or region can feel the admiration and reverence for water.
The site is located at the confluence of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal and the Qiantang River, and this merging flow direction coincidentally aligns with the anticipated flow of people entering the site. Drawing inspiration from this, the landscape design establishes three major spatial strategies: "River Entry," "Tidal Observation," and "Following the Waves." These three strategies give rise to several landscape scenes: "River Entry Plaza," "River Entry Garden," "River Entry Promenade," "Tidal Observation Steps," "Tidal Plaza," "Wave-Treading Seating," "Wave-Watching Terrace," "Wave-Play Paradise," "Surfing Grass Slope," and more.
"The River Entry Plaza" is in the northwest corner of the site. The landscape translates the sparkling demeanor of the river into a pavement with shimmering water patterns, creating a marvelous sensation of stepping onto the water surface as visitors enter the site. "The River Entry Promenade" serves as the main pathway connecting the "River Entry Plaza" to the "Tidal Observation Steps." Here, the water-patterned pavement, as if walking on water, continues, and the light poles adorned with Qiantang cultural symbols move with the water, generating a sense of journey accompanied by water throughout the site.
"The River Entry Garden" is a rare public corner garden. Visitors can hear the sound of water and as they cross the wave-treading seating, they have already stepped into the interior of the garden. Various-sized pocket gardens are nestled within the dense shade of trees. Visitors will always find a pocket space suitable for themselves to sit, enjoying
"The Tidal Observation Steps" are located at the central plaza by the water, enclosed by buildings on both sides and descending towards the waterfront. Tall and graceful Nata oaks, along with lush ground cover plants, create a green steps that accompanies the waterfront. Pedestrian steps weave through floral terraces, and the multi-level tidal observation steps and platforms are nestled amidst the dappled shade, facing each other with the "Tidal Plaza."
"The Tidal Plaza" is a versatile space mediated by water, catering to various usage needs, and it serves as the core of the site. With the ebb and flow of the water feature tides, the joyful scenes and the delightful moments are shared in the plaza. Extending further from the Tidal Plaza to the waterfront embankment is the "Wave Tread" where delicate underwater pavement generates subtle water ripples that cascade into the river. Visitors can step onto the shallow water sheet, engaging in a closer interaction with the water.
The canal of the Asian Games Waterfront is connected to the Qiantang River, and the water level is constantly changing.
To balance the rigid requirements of flood control and the usage demands for a water-friendly experience, the waterfront promenade is divided into two winding layers. The upper layer is situated above the high water level and is connected to the commercial space. The lower layer is just above the normal water level and has a 1.5-meter height difference from the upper layer. While serving flood control functions, the lower layer also provides visitors with a close interaction with the water experience during most times.
The commercial interface on the south side of the site, fully open to the canal, forms a continuous and diverse water-friendly waterfront. It includes the "Wave-Listening Garden" for daily relaxation, the "Wave-Treading Seating" for experiencing the joy of riding the waves, and the "Near-Water Aquatic Garden" that combines plant science education (where visitors can closely observe the newly developed variety "Winter Lotus" by Prof. YuChu Chen).
During the day, it serves as the "Wave-Watching Observation Deck" for elevated views, and at night, it transforms into a waterfront stage for performances. The "Floral Wave Bar" provides a more pleasant and relaxed dining environment, and the "Wave-Play Paradise" and "Surfing Grass Slope," full of natural fun, are particularly loved by children.
These scenes are all connected by an undulating waterfront promenade, each offering a different water-related experience. Wandering through them allows people to shuttle back and forth between the city and nature, where the water-based lifestyle scenes along both sides of the Qiantang River unfold in sequence.
Plants are a crucial element for showcasing regional characteristics, and the abundant water systems in the Hangzhou area have endowed the natural vegetation with distinct waterside features. The site's plant design is built upon this foundation, following the course of the Qiantang River, sequentially studying the plant communities along the Fuchun River, Xixi Wetland, Qiandao Lake, West Lake, Hangzhou gardens, and more. This process has yielded a selection of plant species and arrangements suitable for the site.
From the River Entry Promenade to the Tidal Observation Steps, the rich seasonal foliage changes of the Nata oaks guide pedestrians towards the Tidal Plaza and the Wave-Treading Seating. Kidney ferns, water plantains, Equisetum hyemale, and Ruellia tuberosa create a green and diverse resting environment surrounded by layers of vegetation. Along the natural and rustic Wave-Treading Seating, local native plant varieties are used: hawthorn, lantern trees, Aesculus chinensis, sweet osmanthus, wild jasmine, along with fir trees and winter lotus, combined with the application of iris, authentically replicate the vegetation features of Hangzhou's water system. Through plant arrangements, the landscape allows visitors to immediately immerse themselves in the natural waterside ambiance of the Qiantang River.
In terms of materials application, the landscape aims to achieve a dialogue between the past and present through contemporary design method. The accent wall, cleverly assembled from Shanxi black stone cut by modern machinery and traditionally hand-carved stone, not only guides sightlines and demarcates spaces but also provides a more delicate imaginative space for the scene. The seating steps for rest primarily use machine-cut stone, wood, and metal as the main expressive materials, with a few accents of natural surface stone, enhancing the site's special connection to history. Traditional Chinese garden elements like "placed stones" are also integrated into the site, incorporated into the Wave-Play Paradise and Wave Tread, establishing a more intimate interaction with people. The interplay of traditional and contemporary, natural and artificial materials on the site creates a sense of traversing time and space, connecting the past and present.
Choosing to dwell by water, building cities alongside it – regardless of how a city develops or how lifestyles change, people's emotional connection to rivers remains constant. Through the seamless integration of the "River Entry," "Tidal Observation," and "Following the Waves" strategies, we link the various spaces of the Asian Games Waterfront. This creates a waterfront public space with a distinct urban spirit and accomplishes the dynamic integration of public space and the canal. The resilient waterfront design eliminates barriers and fears associated with the river, seamlessly connecting landscape, architecture, and flood management. Designers anticipate that this place will bring more vitality to the city of Hangzhou.