Songzhuang Micro Community Park – Urban Rooms for Social Encounter
Songzhuang, a local village in Beijing Eastern suburbs, became famous for its art community in the early 2000s. At the same time, due to the urban migration of younger people, the village was left with an increasingly aging population left in charge to look after the youngest. The odd combination of art visitors and the local population created an interesting scenario, where each group has their own needs for public spaces.
Understanding the challenge of offering versatile and inclusive communal facilities, the Songzhuang government has commissioned Crossboundaries to regenerate a linear streetscape adjacent to a parking lot close to the Xiaopu Cultural Plaza into a lively outdoor community park.
The park is designed to suit the site environment with a proper choice of material and plantation, combined with carefully designed spatial configuration, sequence, and atmosphere. The main component of the structure is a perforated grey brick wall with integrated seating in designated areas, alternating with a double lower layer of perforated Corten steel. Behind it lies a green zone filled with Southern Chinese pine trees and low bushes, forming a natural buffer to the parking area that can be accessed through various hidden pathways.
On the street side, long planters framed with Corten steel edges contain Persian Silk trees, they form a natural separation to the busier road to the public area, which acknowledges the new addition to the site combined with the existing more mature trees (Chinese Locust trees) embedded within re-used pavement stones.
The L-shaped plot features a series of outdoor ‘rooms’ that provide unrestricted usage and trigger a variety of activities along a linear loop track, a connecting element meandering between street side pavement and the park at a pocket of the site. The yellow track connects the rooms physically with each other, as well as forms a visual link between the different public areas. The path is leading all the way into and through the small park area, which depicts a more natural landscape with London plane and Ginkgo trees in contrast to the organized promenade in the front. Linked by the yellow track, these rooms offer different levels of enclosure and boundary along a sequence: from completely open, forming a plaza like a prelude, to a slightly more defined area with a semitransparent grey backing wall, to a fully enclosed one but open to the sky, and finally, a less strictly defined one within the new park zone, where only the ground surface marking its expanse.
Transforming the initial street corner into a small plaza, the first room opens up a semicircular space defined by angular brick walls and large mirror surfaces. In the morning, it’s a place for tai chi and fan dance, while in the evening, it attracts groups of rhythmic dancers. The occasional dog owners with their beloved pets are seen along the bright yellow asphalt loop that connects the rooms.
The second room is a place for tranquil interactions: long benches along the stepping profiles of interspersed brick walls invite Chinese chess players and their audience; groups of elderly ladies chat in the shadow of the trees; grandparents looking kindly after babies. On the weekends, younger people take selfies in front of the grey brick and Corten steel backdrop with drinks from the café across the road.
On the corner to the extending park, the third room is all about children’s play: a bright yellow room inside a room; layered brick walls with differently sized openings for peek-a-boo and hide-and-seek; connecting speaking tubes through which shouting and singing can be heard. In front of it, grandparents, parents, and other caretakers can watch the children play from a distance.
Inside the rectangle of the park, the yellow loop track itself spans up the fourth room, increasing in size to an open-air gym, a sport space in the middle of green meadows. Between the sports equipment and the circular seating, all community members find their own place.
The community park has proven a great success with its response to different people’s needs, the inclusive nature of the design, its variety of inviting, bright spaces with colorful accents was adopted and occupied instantly and stands for a true example for integration and encouragement of interaction for all age groups.
Crossboundaries contributes to a vital built environment through architecture, environmental design and urban regeneration. The studio creates enduring architecture that often deals with remarkable technical processes, yet always has a pleasant material touch and human atmosphere.
Organized as an international partnership, Crossboundaries has staff originating from and trained in different parts of the world. Its first office was founded in Beijing, China in 2005, by Binke Lenhardt and DONG Hao, later, in 2012, a partner office was established in Frankfurt, Germany by Binke Lenhardt and Antje Voigt.