The July 2015 Architectural Record highlights one of the most forward-thinking design approaches that I’ve seen regarding “Water and Resiliency”: the urban, 50-acre Yanweizhou Park in Jinhua, China, creates an “innovative, ever-changing park” that restores “the ecology of an urban wetland”. In an ultimate “wet floodproofing strategy”, floodwaters are allowed into the park, animating it and emulating a natural wetland that “thrives even when inundated”.
The landscape “makes friends with the flood” and “the high water becomes an observable event, and the landscape, instead of being damaged, is replenished…”
See slideshow of Yanweizhou Park.
“Unlike typical park landscapes, Yanweizhou requires very little maintenance and no fertilization or irrigation. It also helps recharge the aquifers, using features such as permeable gravel, which contributes to the percolation of stormwater into the ground. The park acts like a green sponge, purifying the water by absorbing pollutants.”
If architects were to apply this to historic buildings located in flood hazard areas, what would they look like? How might they be used? What would the ecology of buildings designed for flooding consist of?
Current wet-floodproofing design strategies are defensive in nature:
- Move essential functions to floors above flood levels.
- Relocate utility service entrances and critical equipment above flood levels.
- Use or re-use construction materials and assemblies that are less porous – or that can experience repeated wetting and drying cycles without failure.
What if these buildings were to be re-imagined as ecosystems?
As in the west, the typical approach to prevent flooding and control stormwater in China is to build defensive barriers and to pipe and channel runoff away from protected areas as quickly as possible. In contrast, at Yanweizhou, the landscape “makes friends with the flood” by allowing floodwaters into the park, which is designed, like a natural wetland, to thrive even when inundated. In this way the high water becomes an observable event, and the landscape, instead of being damaged, is replenished, according to Yu.
Befriending the Floods, By Michael Cockram (Architectural Record, July 2015)