Tanghe River Park

Tanghe River Park in Qinhuangdao, China, by Turenscape

Photographs are by Kongjian Yu and Cao Yang.

One of this year's recipients of an ASLA Professional Award is the Tanghe River Park in Qinhuangdao in China's Hebei Province. Designed by Turenscape and the Graduate School of Landscape Architecture at Peking University, the project also goes by the name The Red Ribbon for the half kilometer (0.3 miles) snaking, multi-functional bench that stands out all year long.

According to the architects, the 20-hectare (50-acre) park is sited on "a river corridor at the outskirts of the fast developing city of Qinhuangdao, with lush vegetation and diverse species but occupied by deserted irrigation structures and garbage dumps." Their aim of preserving the natural habitats along the river while inserting recreational and educational uses was accomplished via the red ribbon and its adjacent boardwalk.

As well as providing seating and orienting visitors to the park, the red ribbon also integrates lighting and native plantings to not only justify the expense on the object but make it the only object needed along its length. No light poles are needed alongside the ribbon, though periodically along its lenght it is broken by small pavilions, devices that further orient the visitor and also provide shelter.

At night the fiber-steel bench glows from the inside, like some strange nocturnal alien that protects the park. It's this alien character -- almost the opposite of the ecologically-minded landscape -- that surely attracted the ASLA jury, who called it, "a celebration integrating artistic elements into a natural landscape in an ingenious way." It's a good lesson for parks that strive to draw people not only to their recreational uses but to their educational uses as well, in the process getting people to experience nature and hopefully see it as something not only attractive but also inspiring.