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Thanks Public Space Lab, School of Architecture, Harbin Institute of Technology, Shenzhen for authorizing the publication of the project on mooool. Text description provided by Public Space Lab, School of Architecture, Harbin Institute of Technology, Shenzhen.
Public Space Lab, School of Architecture, Harbin Institute of Technology, Shenzhen: In 2019, Nanshan District City Administration and Law Office initiated the “Community Garden” plan in an innovative way. The plan advocates for the full utilization of urban marginal spaces to build small but beautiful public spaces and encourages professionals, social organizations, and community residents to actively participate.
In 2022, the Co-built Garden Project started at Harbin Institute of Technology (Shenzhen). A team of architecture students was involved in all stages, from design to evaluation, growing with the garden. Today, the garden has become the most vibrant leisure activity venue within the campus, imbued with a strong sense of place and belonging. Its societal impact has gradually expanded, establishing it as a benchmark for Co-built garden projects in the Nanshan District.
▽项目概览，overall of the project
项目背景 Project background
Simplified English Translation: Surveys reveal that academic stress and social issues are common among Chinese university students, who seek diverse lifestyles and better social interactions. Yet, leisure facilities are limited in our research-intensive campus in Shenzhen. Hence, students created a “garden oasis” for recreational activities, facilitating intellectual breakthroughs and personal growth through social interactions.
▽校园中的“绿洲”，The Oasis in the Campus
校园花园的机遇与挑战 Opportunities and Challenges of the Campus Garden
The team of teachers and students selected the center of the campus dormitory service area as the site of the garden – a lawn with a low utilization rate， featuring a pavilion and several towering trees. This is the place where teachers and students must pass through every day. It is close to the entrance of the campus, so it can be used by nearby residents in the future.
Despite its public location, the site offers poor service. Our survey revealed three main issues causing its lack of vitality:
1. The pavilion-lawn interface obstructs views and deters visitors.
2. Facilities are dated and don’t cater to faculty and students’ needs.
3. The landscape lacks distinctive aesthetics.
Despite its good location, excellent ecological environment, and ample shading, it remains a neglected and uninviting area.
▽场地前后对比，The Site’s Before and After
The project also faces challenges of limited funds with numerous functional demands, requiring coordination with various stakeholders. Through over 200 electronic surveys and interviews with student organization leaders, we learned that faculty and students primarily envision the garden for social relaxation, campus activities, and gardening. Additionally, sustainability, safety, and a sense of belonging are significant concerns. How to achieve the maximum project benefits with limited resources is what we focus on.
▽师生对花园的期待，Expectations by faculty and students.
设计框架：从空间触媒到思想触媒 Design framework：From Spatial Catalyst to Thought Catalyst
We’ve incorporated catalyst theory, and with minimal intervention, we opened up the closed boundaries of the site while preserving the natural environment. By designing various recreational facilities, we guide people in, revitalizing a broader area.
However, merely designing the space isn’t enough to foster students’ love and sense of belonging to the garden. On one hand, various workshops break down communication barriers and ignite students’ passion for campus matters. On the other, after the garden’s completion, we encourage and value students’ feedback, allowing them to see their impact and worth in shaping the campus environment. The garden has become a platform connecting students, encouraging participation, and deepening their sense of belonging. The co-building process transforms from a spatial catalyst to a thought catalyst.
空间设计策略 Spatial Design Strategy
The spatial design of the garden is divided into four steps:
1. Break Boundaries: Due to obstructions and elevation changes, visibility is compromised. The pavilion, central to the design, should be more welcoming.
2. Expand Space: While the pavilion sits in one corner, pathways should invite users deeper into the expansive lawn.
3. Incorporate Functions: Enhance space by adding diverse functionalities tailored to user preferences.
4. Set Boundaries: To encapsulate the garden’s natural essence, harmonize plant arrangements with color palettes, crafting a comprehensive and cohesive design.
▽空间触媒，Space as a Catalyst
Based on the above strategy, three key nodes are designed in the garden to meet the faculty and students’ needs for connecting with nature and socializing.
活力舞台区：亭子和舞台的一体化设计 Vitality Stage Area: Integrated Design of Pavilion and Stage
To enhance site utilization, we transformed the pavilion to address issues of fragmentation and lack of attractiveness in the facilities. By removing side billboards, the pavilion now offers a clear view of the lawn. Additionally, we expanded the interior space and added a wooden stage under the trees. This move makes people more willing to enter the venue.
Through integrated design, we have better connected the pavilion, stage, and lawn. We fully considered the height difference and drainage problems of the site, and retained the original several large trees in the site, so that the design was practical and ecological. Furthermore, we added elements like hammocks, two-way bar counters, tiered seating, and flower boxes to enrich the site’s recreational functions and cater to diverse campus activities.
▽看向草坪的吧台/阶梯，Bar with a View of the Lawn
▽围绕大树的网床，net bed around big tree
▽孩子躺在网床上，The child is lying on the hammock
落日秋千区：引人入胜的入口与秋千 Sunset Swing Area: Captivating entrance and swing.
To address the issues of a closed entrance and uneven terrain, we widened it and built stairs and an accessible ramp to resolve the height difference. Stones within the site were retained as natural seating, and flower boxes were placed on abandoned manhole covers to enhance aesthetics.
In response to the lack of landmarks within the site, we placed a signboard at the entrance and placed a double swing in the field in response to everyone’s call. Sometimes in the evening, you can see beautiful sunsets here. The swing has become a key attraction, and students from other schools and nearby residents even come specifically to use it.
幽径花园区：模块化种植花箱小径 Secluded Path Garden Area: Modular Planted Flower Box Pathway
We combined aesthetics and practicality to create a self-planting flower pathway. The flower boxes and square tiles match the square appearance of the stage and pavilion. The design is modular for future extension into the lawn. Flower boxes enclose two small and private spaces, making it convenient for small groups to carry out activities here.
▽幽径花园区，secluded garden area
In selecting the plants, we primarily focused on shades of blue inspired by the school emblem, and complemented them with perennial, long-flowering herbaceous plants and shrubs, as well as aromatic species. Students can also plant their favorite plants in the empty flower boxes through school clubs. This combination creates a multi-sensory natural experience zone, making the place a popular photo spot on campus.
▽种植花箱和植物，plant flower boxes and plants
思想触媒：以学生为媒介的共建过程 Thought Catalyst: Co-construction Process Mediated by Students
Throughout the entire process of the garden’s surveying, designing, construction, and operation, the student team spent over five months conducting various workshops, communicating with teachers, students, the school administration, social organizations, and the construction crew, ensuring the needs and opinions of the university town’s faculty and students were addressed.
In June, we conducted a research workshop to define the garden’s issues and purpose. From July to October, in collaboration with over 30 students from different faculties, we identified the garden’s primary functions. Building on its theme of “social gatherings, relaxation, and natural healing,” several ideas were approved, including double swings, tree hammocks, a mini-stage, and interactive planting, shaping the preliminary design concepts.
▽设计工作坊要素提取，design Workshop Element Extraction
After several discussions with the school and other social groups, we made adjustments to our plan. For safety, we removed movable lightweight seats and glass walls in the pavilion from the design to avoid typhoon threats. For sustainability, we replaced some structures with more durable steel, raised wooden platforms off the ground and applied anti-corrosion paint. Based on a professional landscaper’s advice, we also replaced the garden’s plants with those better suited to Shenzhen’s local climate.
In November, students collaborated with the construction team to fine-tune site details, addressing a series of unforeseen challenges together. Fifty student volunteers participated in built workshop, where, under the guidance of expert horticulturists, they skillfully paired and planted in over thirty flower boxes. Through this experience, not only did the students acquire invaluable hands-on skills, but they also formed lasting friendships. They expressed their aspirations for the future on wooden signs.
▽建造工作坊植物种植，construction workshop plant planting
▽同学们写的木牌，wooden signs written by classmates
思想触媒到成长触媒 Thought catalyst to growth catalyst
After the garden was completed, it attracted many teachers, students, and nearby residents to visit. People sometimes rest at the bar, sometimes look up at the sky on the hammock, have a picnic on the grass, or laugh on the swing… In the intense study life, students’ minds are fully relaxed and relieved. People’s laughter and laughter also make the venue full of vitality every day.
▽欢乐的秋千时光，Happy swing time
▽学生在草地上野餐，picnic on the grass
The chain reaction after the garden was completed greatly exceeded our expectations. Students spontaneously held over 20 club activities and academic activities in the garden, triggering a deeper catalytic effect. Students stepped out of their self-enclosed state, actively showcased themselves on the stage, and gained thought exchange and vision expansion from social interactions, growing together with the garden. Some graduates also left their flowers in the garden as a continuation of the campus spirit…
▽草地音乐活动，meadow music event
On May 21, 2023, the Nanshan Co-Built Garden Summary Exchange Meeting was successfully held in the garden, attracting hundreds of participants, including professional scholars from all over the country, school teachers and students, and community residents. Everyone had a lively discussion on topics such as community design, renewal, and governance at the exchange meeting.
▽共建花园总结交流会——草地论坛，co-built garden summary and communication conference
The garden is not only a catalyst for thoughts but also for social development. It is the co-built garden that brings people together and stimulates more thinking and imagination about future life. The impact generated from this will affect more people through the social relations network.
▽共建花园总结交流会——营地研讨，co-built garden summary and communication conference
尾声：学生与花园的共同成长 Epilogue: Students and gardens grow together
The inspiration for “The garden of leisure” comes from the verses of Tao Yuanming, symbolizing students’ longing for relaxation and connection with nature. “liyuan” is not only an alias for our school, but the northern part of the campus also overlooks a lush lychee forest. Responding to the needs of teachers and students, we maximize the benefits with minimalistic designs, turning it into a vibrant part of campus life.
In this garden construction process, which embodies the principles of ‘joint consultation, joint construction, joint governance, and sharing,’ students stepped out of their comfort zones to interact with various stakeholders, broadening their horizons, honing their skills, and gaining cross-disciplinary learning experiences. Ultimately, they, along with the garden, achieved mutual growth.
▽工作坊合影，Workshop Group Photo
▽总平面图，master floor plan
▽剖面图A-A，profile Views A-A
Project name：The garden of leisure in HIT,SHENZHEN
Unit of guidance：Shenzhen Urban Management And Law Enforcement Bureau, Shenzhen Administration Center of Parks
Organizer: Nanshan Urban Management And Law Enforcement Bureau
Public Space Lab, School of Architecture, Harbin Institute of Technology, Shenzhen
Shekou Community Foundation
The Nature Conservancy (TNC)
From the Wild
Design: Public Space Lab, School of Architecture, Harbin Institute of Technology, Shenzhen
Design team: Du Yaxing, Zhang Ming, Li Shujia, Mao Qiuchi, Jin Jiayi, Kwong Yingqi, Feng Jifan, Huang Kai, Teng Miao, Mei Dongxin, Chen Linjun, Luo Cheng, Hu Changrong
Tutors: Liu Kun, Dai Donghui, Liu Mei, Lin Xiaoyu, Yu Gang
Photo credits: Public Space Lab, School of Architecture, Harbin Institute of Technology, Shenzhen
School of Computer Science, Harbin Institute of Technology, Shenzhen Shekou Community Foundation
Construction team: Shenzhen Yixuan Landscape Construction Design Co., Ltd.
Project location: Li Yuan Living Area, Harbin Institute of Technology,Shenzhen, China
Design area: About 308㎡
Design and Completion year: 2022
Award: won the “2023 Shenzhen Co-built Garden” : “Most close to the people” garden award 、the honorary title of “Ecological Garden”and Honorary title of “Potential Garden”
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