Weekend as it was, the Shenzhen office of L&A Design was filled with the sound of discussion, which was suddenly broken in by the ringing of the telephone. A designer turned around to answer the phone. The call was from Hefei, a city about a thousand miles away. Based on the planning-oriented strategy, the Construction Headquarters of the newly started Heifei New Municipal and Culture District was urgently searching for the cooperation with excellent design organizations around the world. Over the phone, the two parties talked about the planning and design of the start-up area —— the 350 ha. lake park.
▼项目整体鸟瞰，overall aerial view ©奥雅设计
It was 2002 when new town construction was in the early stage around China. For such a large-scale project, designers of L&A devoted all their efforts with the expectation to create a pleasant public space. Even years later, every time they see local residents enjoy themselves by the Swan Lake, they will feel extremely proud since it marked the beginning of the design in public spaces.
▼项目鸟瞰，aerial view ©图虫创意 /奥雅设计
What is more meaningful and memorable beyond the development of the company is that the structure and atmosphere of the New District have changed greatly since the construction of the Swan Lake Park. Featuring modern functions, it has gradually grown and evolved to be a new window that shows the opening and development of Hefei City.
▼湖边步道航拍顶视图，aerial top view of the lakeside path ©奥雅设计
▼水中广场航拍顶视图，aerial top view of the plaza ©图虫创意
On a macro scale, the New District defined four forms of open space, namely, buffer zone, park, garden and square, which created a free-flowing network. In addition to the Swan Lake Park, large urban squares were built on the north and south banks of the Swan Lake to provide spaces for public activities. The passage between the east and west banks and the express way was relatively straight, with buffer zones reserved.
▼天鹅湖与北侧政府办公楼之间的市民广场，City square between the Swan Lake and the north administration building ©奥雅设计
However, the implementation of the design idea wasn’t all plain sailing, for there were many disputes over functions and forms. “Some experts insisted on designing the park in a roundabout way referring to classic Chinese gardens,” a designer recalled, “We had some different opinions from the panel of experts regarding the relations between public space and the city, scale and functions.”
▼市民广场鸟瞰，aerial view of the City square ©奥雅设计
▼半圆形的水中广场，semicircular square at the northeast corner ©奥雅设计
“For example, we designed a semicircular square at the northeast corner, while some experts suggested we change it into a circular one since Chinese usually strive for perfect roundness.” There were differences between modern design and traditional ideas, so the team needed to constantly coordinate and adjust the design. “Fortunately, at that time, the New District encouraged modern ideas and bold designs based on mature consideration.” The waterfront square is now decorated with a sculpture of fish, which is a landmark of the Swan Lake Park. And the framework of the circular and the semicircular is still quite clear.
▼广场上的鱼水情雕塑，The waterfront square is now decorated with a sculpture of fish ©奥雅设计
Based on form and function, the design team proposed a “walking life circle” accordingly, which would make green nodes, city park or green axis accessible within a five-minute walk. With the aim to create “a modern ecological environment and a garden city for walking”, the team further integrated modern functions with the needs of people.
▼现代生态环境，步行花园城市，a modern ecological environment and a garden city for walking ©奥雅设计
According to the overall plan and the conditions of the site, the team began the design of details. Crossing two roads, the lake park dialogues with the city life along the long shoreline: in the area where the lake and the river meet, waterscape was created in the form of cascade; natural revetments allow people to get close to water; a walking route connects the beach, square, lawn, wharf, footpath, park and amphitheatre, providing rich walking experiences.
▼河边步道与景观亭，Riverside Walk and Landscape Pavilion ©奥雅设计
▼景观亭细部，detail of the Landscape Pavilion ©奥雅设计
BESIDE THE LAKE – What does the lake mean
Though there is no sea in Hefei
The beach by the lake
Allows people to relax themselves
And experience the nature
▼景观桥鸟瞰，aerial view of the landscape bridge ©图虫创意
The “comfort level” of a city depends on the humanistic care shown in its living environment. Therefore, L&A team integrated eco living idea into the detail design of the New District, shaping a new look that differs from old towns. It is an intuitive interpretation of modern living culture and an important part of the urban tourism system.
▼由湖畔看景观桥，Viewing the landscape bridge from the lake ©奥雅设计
The team arranged the functions and practiced the ecological design according to the site conditions. Along the 15 miles Kuang River and across the lake park run the landscape road and the green belt as well as an open drainage system formed of streams, rocks and native plants, which is both functional and beautiful. The cascade in the west is an important estuary where the Kuang River flows into the lake. After several adjustments, the original driveway was canceled. Instead, a walkway was designed to form an integral picture together with the waterfall.
▼湖区西侧的叠水远观，viewing the cascade from distance ©奥雅设计
▼小溪流、岩石群及本土植物共同组成湖区重要的关口，Streams, rocks, and native plants form important gateways in the lake ©奥雅设计
The beach on the south bank of the Swan Lake has become the most popular place in the New Municipal and Culture District. Modern buildings are reflected in water, bringing the inland city a breath of the sea. Soft beach is an ideal place for playing and relaxing, which is also a beautiful memory for the new generation.
▼天鹅湖南岸的沙滩，The beach on the south bank of the Swan Lake ©奥雅设计
▼新生的城市倒映在水面上，Modern buildings are reflected in water ©奥雅设计
SOMETHING FROM NOTHING
Around the lake
Except some cement roads in the woods
There were all fields without any modern facilities
However, changes have gradually begun beside the lake
▼优美的自然生态景观，Beautiful natural ecological landscape ©奥雅设计
Twenty years ago, the Swan Lake was originally a lotus field, which is a typical farming landscape in Hefei Basin. In 2001, the government of Hefei announced the establishment the New Municipal and Culture District. And in March of 2002, the Construction Headquarters set up its temporary office in a “vegetable greenhouse” and began the overall construction of the district. What kind of new district and lake park might be suitable for new Hefei? It was the question that made the decision makers and designers confused most at that time.
▼亲水平台，Lakeside platform ©奥雅设计
▼湖畔步道与台阶，Lakeside walkway and steps ©奥雅设计
Several miles away is the old Hefei city, which features “lakes in and around the city”. Open city parks were built based on the original green belts, making Hefei one of the first garden cities in China. To make sure the design was creative and reasonable, the team had made full preparation in advance. For example, the team visited Xiaoyaojin Park and Bao Zheng Memorial Park to well understand the urban context and the history of the city. Based on the investigation, the design team finally proposed a people-oriented plan with exquisite details.
▼湖区与周边建筑鸟瞰，bird’s eye view of the lake and surrounding buildings ©图虫创意
Actually, for the development of the 13 s.q. km lake park, the construction headquarters had already consulted with more than ten experts in planning, architecture and landscape before contacting L&A Design. They were so careful because, in face of the increasing building area and the tight budget, the New District used the idea of “city management”, trying to make Hefei an open and modern city from the perspective of tourism development and environment building. Different from many traditional landscape companies, L&A design has an international background as well as the enthusiasm and ambition for design. Mr. Bo Li, the founder of L&A, graduated from the School of Architecture, Tsinghua University, and got his master’s degree in University of British Columbia. Other members of the team all came from China, the USA, the Philippines, etc, with rich design experience. In the opinion of the then director of the planning section, Mr. Bo Li was a “practical” designer. “In face of the tough requirements like short construction period, localization and international vision, he provided many practical and impressive drawings, which made everything all fall into place. Thus it suddenly dawned on us what was truly livable and people-oriented.”
▼湖面与建筑立面，Lake and building facades ©图虫创意
Thanks to the open environment and enthusiastic ideal, the construction of the New District kept a fast pace. The designers constantly optimized and refined the design, and adjusted the construction drawings accordingly to make sure the implementation of the whole project. After intensive construction, the Swan Lake Park was finally opened to the public in 2004.
▼周围居民在天鹅湖游憩，citizens are relaxing themselves nearby the Swan Lake ©奥雅设计 / 图虫创意
Based on beautiful ecological environment, the New District gradually got its popularity and increasingly complete functions. The municipal and cultural facilities such as the administrative building, the Olympic sports center, the Grand Theatre of Hefei were built one after another. Residential areas and business districts were also developed one by one. After more than ten years of development, the desolate land has become the new CBD of Hefei or even Anhui.
▼新区人气逐渐成熟，城市功能也更加完善， the New District gradually got its popularity and increasingly complete functions ©图虫创意
MODERN NOSTALGIA – Heifei & World
Innovate on tradition
Innovate for development
Modern lakeside park
Witness the rise of a future city
Together with the world
▼夜景，night view ©图虫创意
In 2019, Hefei held a light show to celebrate the National Day and convey “Best Wishes to the Country from Hefei”. Hundreds of high buildings around the Swan Lake were decorated with colored lights, which had a dialogue with the reflections in the lake. Nearly 60,000 people crowded in the park, enjoying the grand views together under the starry sky. The Swan Lake Park, since its completion, has already become the venue for many great events. It also acts as a new window that shows the opening and modernity of Hefei City as expected.
▼“I love HF”主题彩灯，”I Love HF” themed lights ©图虫创意
Looking back many years later, we can say, “It was an amazing time.” In the early stage of modern landscape in China, for such a large-scale project, we took advantage of our international background and introduced the perspective of function analysis, to make the lake park well-organized and appealing with skillful landscape expression. It was after the completion of the construction of Swan Lake that we stepped in a new chapter of public space design. In fact, the construction of the New District was limited in terms of period and cost in construction. What’s more, the design was constantly adjusted according to functional requirements during the construction.
▼天鹅湖整体手绘意向图，Hand drawings of the Swan Lake ©奥雅设计
From this perspective, Swan Lake is “growing” just like a kid. When grown up, sometimes he may look back on the anecdotes when he was born. But there is still a long way to go. Although not easy to find visually, some marks have already hidden in his genes and integrated into the style and atmosphere of the city.
▼天鹅湖局部手绘意向图，Hand drawings of the Swan Lake ©奥雅设计
▼天鹅湖手绘意向图，Hand drawings of the Swan Lake ©奥雅设计
As for L&A Design, the focus and the devotion to public space design has gradually penetrated into the unchanging genes during the process of development. Adhering to the philosophy of “exploring modern Chinese landscape”, the designers practice and innovate in both residential landscape and urban public spaces. And we will always keep up with the times and constantly optimize our design to create a better living environment.
▼亲水平台和景观岛平面图，Plan of the waterfront platform and the landscape island ©奥雅设计
▼南侧沙滩和观景平台平面图，Plan of the beach and landscape platform ©奥雅设计
▼天鹅湖岸线分析图，Swan Lake Shoreline Analysis ©奥雅设计
采访 / Pauline Yuki 不定项 陈大橘
编辑 / 不定项
摄影 / 林涛 等
鸣谢 / 程前 张莉
Project: Hefei New Municipal and Culture District Swan Lake Park
Location: Hefei, Anhui
Category: City Park
Client: Hefei New Municipal and Culture District Construction Headquarters
Landscape Design: L&A Design (Shenzhen Office)
Year of Design: 2002
Year of Completion: 2004
Interviewer / Pauline Yuki WH Winks Chan
Editor / WH
Photography / Lin Tao, etc.
Acknowledgment / Cheng Qian, Zhang Li