Environmental Improvement Project of Yulan River in Yongning Street, Pukou District

Location:Pukou District, Nanjing
The emotional connection between human and water seems complicated and contradictory since ancient times. Human settlements depend on water and people are desired to get close to the water, but they are fear of the cloudburst threat. With the rapid development of society and the change of lifestyle, people tried to alleviate widespread flooding by concrete drains and canals to get a sense of safety. As a result, they lose the precious memory of interaction with water. Instead of distance and fear, the project regenerates the river and brings water back to civic life to increase civic contact and an emotional connection with nature.

The project is in the west of Yongning Town, Pukou District, Nanjing City, serving as one of the flood passage of Laoshan. The detachment of the safe overlooking waterscape was apparent with the giant and gray flood walls demarcating huge elevation difference. The stream itself was hardly perceptible because of the lack of effective water conservation measures. Even if there is a certain volume of water in some places, the turbid water cannot attract people to appreciate. The concrete channel built in the past have solved the problem of safe flood resistance in this town for industrial and economic development purpose, but the material exchange between the river and the periphery was blocked, and the connectivity between neighborhoods and safe use of the creek was missing. The concrete canal was in dire need of an upgrade for new aesthetic and functional requirements.
The project was challenging because of the land use and the space limitation. The design goal was not only to make the creek reach the aesthetic standard of clean and beautiful, but also to sew up the separated space by ecological restoration method on the premise of ensuring the safety of flood discharge. The project makes water conservancy facilities landscape and landscape facilities artistic, reinterprets the relationship between human and water, water and city.


The thriving town was close to water, but the high elevation difference limited the water interaction requirements. Instead, it created opportunities for multi-dimensional slow traffic system. The winding path designed in the site, attracting visitors to enter spontaneously from the outside area into the water landscape. Blue and green space integrates together with landscape elements including grassland, flowers, streams, paths. The site was no longer inaccessible place after the redevelopment. The open water space can act beyond the dynamic requirements of urban functions, to bring a prosperous and livable future for the town.


On the one hand, the design extends the experience and influence of waterfront space to the outside of the river through the slow traffic system. On the other hand, it connects the citizens’ daily life with the river. Visitors can not only enjoy the scenery on the platform, but also immerse in nature. The landscape aims to promote harmonious and interesting interactions between people and the natural environment. The project transformed the closed and desolate river space beyond its function of drainage, into vibrant, new public space for communication and recreation.


The design embraces the flood discharge demand of the channel and the seasonal changing of hydrological characteristics with the main channel + shallow creek section design. The main channel works as a resilient space for flood discharge to ensure water safety in extreme weather, while the shallow creek replicates the diverse flow patterns which are characteristic of natural river systems. Another challenge for the site is the periodic fresh water flush to the green slope. The design combined the bioengineering techniques with the typical engineering technologies which the plants have an important structural role in soil reinforcement on the water land boundary and the floodplain using no large machinery and concrete, through the mechanical characteristics of three-dimensional geocell and the simultaneous application of pile and pebble. The undulating green space along the river gently integrates to the meandering stream after the redevelopment, increasing the floodwater conveyance capacity and creating transitional water and green space. The success of water clean was attributed to the pollution control and interception project and the rich and diverse aquatic plants along the banks. The water storage relied on the multi-level water circulation scheme tailored for this project. Nature-based Solutions were involved to improve the fluidity of water and restore the ecological base of the river, increasing the resiliency of the site with self-remediation capacity.
The project has achieved a significant breakthrough for flood control design thinking which applied the concept of ‘harmony and symbiosis’ to blur the boundaries of blue and green space, to regenerate the river and bring water back to civic life.

The vision of the project was to create an ecological blue-green system based on Nature-based solutions, build a special space for ecological restoration, and revitalize city development. It is hoped that Yulan River in Jiangbei New District can bring vitality to the town, develop the public awareness for ecology, and make the residents reunite with the waterfront.
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