Lab D+H: Guangzhou Vanke Cloud City Phase 2 is a pioneer mixed-use development which is comprised of a diverse blend of affordable housing, small apartments, incubator offices, a shopping mall and a middle school. Even with all these different elements, landscape architects formulated a complete and rich “pixel community” with a unified landscape framework. The framework is based on a pixelated grid system that not only provides flexible use space but also maintains a strong community identity. In the northwest corner of the grid is Tetris Square, the name of which was proposed by the landscape architects, and later accepted by the client. Tetris Square, with a size of six thousand square meters, is the largest public space of this young community.
Even though established in front of a commercial plaza, the Tetris Square is designed as a park, connecting the Cloud City and adjacent communities. There are playgrounds for different ages on both sides of the square corridor, catering to the desires of its major users – the nuclear-family. The Family Pocket is a place where kids and parents interact with a series of hammocks. The Free Island is a three-dimensional play facility for kids to explore spaces and exercise their bodies. Other design elements such as the Cloud Curtain, the Cloud Mount and the Cloud Pavilion provide more possibilities for young people and parents to choose from. The amphitheater in front of the shopping mall not only provides event space for commercial activities, but also can serve as an outdoor classroom for the middle school. Linking this series of spaces, with all their various programs, forms a mini-park that serves the adjacent community.
Compared to a traditional commercial plaza, the Tetris Square has a decent number of trees. Landscape architects “hide” this grove by integrating it into the play facility. This does not follow the traditional design principle of a commercial plaza, which is to plant as few trees as possible to optimize storefront views. The strategy is successful, as it mingles people and shade in the shopping mall area, which is especially important for this tropical and humid climate. From the sidewalks approaching the shopping mall, the trees are arranged in a dense-to-sparse gradient order, with openings that lead to the mall. Two fully developed, shady trees sit on each side of the main corridor, enhancing the visual beauty of the corridor. At the same time, the spaces of the Family Pocket and Free Island are designed and developed based around the presence of these two trees. Groves of trees around the Cloud Curtain, sand pool and the Cloud Mount provide varying degrees of shade for kids and parents as they enjoy the facilities. The grove will continue to grow with the community, enhancing the children’s wonderful moments spent in the site into the future.
In this project, a low construction budget was not seen as a constraint or an embarrassment; on the contrary, it was one of the main driving forces of the design principles. The grid system of squares not only makes material fabrication and arrangement much cheaper, but also make construction costs more predictable and controllable, especially in China where construction quality is often unpredictable. Assembled precast concrete outdoor furniture is used extensively in this project. Landscape architects designed only two basic precast concrete modules, which could be mixed and matched, and assembled into more than twenty different combinations. Users can select the most comfortable furniture combination to meet their needs, which appeals strongly to a younger user and their inclinations. Besides precast concrete furniture, landscape architects also selected precast concrete pavers for paving the site. This decision was driven by economic reasons, as the precast units are about one-third of the stone paver’s unit price in the current market, as well as for the environmental considerations, where natural stone is over-exploited in China.
Short office name: Lab D+H
Role of the office in the project: Landscape Architect
Design Team: Huicheng Zhong, Feimin Song, Hao Lan, YoungJoon Choi, Shaozhong Yuan, Wanlu Ye, Liujun Deng, Bingru Xiao, Yongkai Shen
Project location: Guangzhou, China
Design year: 2017
Year Built: 2019
Photo Credit: Holi, Xi Tang, Feimin Song