form the architect : The First Prize of International Design Competition
In 2007, in the International Design Competition for Tangshan Earthquake Memorial Park hosted by Architectural Society of China, “Memorial Road”, a proposal submitted by a design team composed of Ye Yuan, Jiutai Li and Xu Nan stood out from 276 proposals from 17 countries, won the first prize, and was selected as the implementation plan by Tangshan Municipal People’s Government. The park was built up in September, 2008 and has already become one of the most important disaster-themed memorial landscapes in Tangshan and all over china.
The design of Tangshan Earthquake Memorial Park fully reflects the philosophy of “the awe of the nature, the love of life, the exploration of science, and the memory of history”. By means of very simple design techniques, the design creates a very memorable space environment and faithfully records the disaster and 240,000 lives lost in the disaster, so as to reward the soul of victims, leave something for descendants to visit, and bring courage and hope towards life to survivors. In short, commemorate the past and face the future.
The design exploits the potential advantages of the area to the greatest extent and separates water bodies from woods by means of the “ Memorial Road” running through the area from south to north and leading to earthquake ruins as well as a memorial wall with a full length of nearly 400m. This new axis and another linear element on the area, i.e. an abandoned rail becoming distorted due to the earthquake, respectively run through the area from south to north and from east to west and divide the area into four parts, i.e. ruins square area, water area, forest area and rubble area. The intersection of the two axes is on the border of the ruins square, the earthquake memorial hall and the earthquake science museum are appropriately located in this core of the intersection, and the intersection becomes the ending point of the “Memorial Road” and the starting point of the ruins square.
The memorial wall is the world’s biggest tombstone for earthquake victims. The names of 240,000 victims are carved onto a polished black granite wall surface in a homogenized way. The memorial wall is not only a guide to the “Memorial Road”, but also the condensate of spirit. The black granite wall carved with names all over “cuts” the whole area, enhances the characteristics of the area from south to north, appropriately defines the position of the main entrance, endows the park’s commemorative activities with a clear direction, and maintains the primary structure and completeness of the area to the greatest extent. The memorial wall has huge dimensions enough to govern the whole park space and symbolizes the anniversary of the earthquake, i.e. July 28, with the average height of 7.28m. The highly polished black granite wall reflects the sky, the earth, surrounding sceneries, and visitors, which are integrated with the golden names of 240,000 victims, so that it gives people a shaky feeling.
This is a complete spatial series with transforms.
The entrance of the park is a sunken square. When people go downward, they will feel low-spirited and calm, which heralds the beginning of an unusual memorial road. In the corner of the sunken square, there is an intentionally planted gingko tree, which seems very special on the empty square and hints the correlation with the Foxglove tree on the water at the end of the “Memorial Road”. Go round the parapet carved with “ Tangshan Earthquake Ruins Memorial Park”, people will see a relic square, where the rubble are like the fragments of the earthquake site and present the theme of the park in a direct and abstract way. Walking further along, people will see a dark grey concrete wall covered by a bronze plate which is carved with commemorative inspirations. A large blank removes impurities in people’s feeling and makes people shift their attention to the memorial wall on the north side. Along this huge memorial wall, go upward on the long memorial road step by step, the open water on the west side will gradually emerge before people (since the entrance is sunken square, people’s eye level is below the water level; when people go upward on the memorial road step by step, the eye level will rise and the water will gradually emerge). The forest on the other side will appear repeatedly through narrow slits between walls. The sense of pressure will gradually release as the space becomes open, and the sense will reach a climax when people arrive at the ruins square.
At the end of the memorial road and the memorial wall, there is the ruins square, which shows the general view of earthquake ruins. The underground earthquake memorial hall and science museum are built on the west side of the square. A rail distorted in the earthquake is laid on the water, extends to the west, and gradually disappears in the water. The visitor can go along the rail and arrive at the center of the water. The two trees left on the water visually connect the ends of the rail and spatially contrast with the gingko tree planted on the sunken square at the entrance. When the visitor goes to the square from the memorial road and looks back, he will see a vast scene with the memorial wall as the border and the earthquake ruins as the background. All these make people rethink about the relation between life and the nature when directly feeling the destructive power of the earthquake.
The vast expanse of water on the west side of the Memorial Wall has a strong reflection surface, demonstrating its relation with the sky. The water expanse, the sky and the artificial space in the middle form a strong theme, namely, the relationship of the earth, the human being and nature. The design of the water surface impresses people with a visible, however, untouchable feeling, showing the distance between the living and the dead. The black pebbles spread under the water help to create an effect of unpredictable depth of the actually shallow water. Meanwhile, the scattered stones on the surface remind people of individual life struggling between survival and death, responding to the names of the departed on the Memorial Wall.
The design of the trees plays an essential role in expressing the commemorative meaning. The two rows of tall and orderly poplars behind the Memorial Wall are safeguards of life, while the woods on the whole indicate the meaning of tree burial and the circle of life. The thick and strong paulownias reserved on the waterside are just like life totem, symbolizing the mightiness of life. Meanwhile, the lonely tree at the end of the rail indicates the other world. The trees arrays on the roof of underground memorial have even richer symbolic meanings, showing the tenacity of life and the infinite hope for the future.
Preservation of the Heritage
To the national key cultural relics—the former Tangshan Locomotive and Rolling Stock Works’ earthquake relics, we adopted the strategy of no moving so that the relics could be kept intact, and that the buildings and landscapes before the earthquake could be preserved to the highest limit. In this way, the relics could be preserved and the real history could be presented to the world. Apart from preserving the relics left before the earthquake as intact as possible, we believe that we should selectively keep the traces of rebuilding after the earthquake, including plants landscape, architecture, facilities and roads. Therefore, the original texture on the area is preserved, and new landscape elements were planted on the old area. Here, the old and the new present their distinctive characteristics and exist in harmony.
Space Environment with Long-term Value
Since the completion of Tangshan Earthquake Relics Park in 2008, numerous residents of Tangshan have come to commemorate their late relatives on almost all the important festivals, such as the Earthquake Memorial Dayon July 28th, the Tomb-Sweeping Day (Qingming) and Spring Festival. This park has become the most important earthquake memorial place in Tangshan and the spiritual sustenance for people in Tangshan. Many party and national leaders including Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang and Wen Jiabao, and a large number of domestic and international well-known people have come and paid a visit to this park. In 2010, the movie “Aftershock” was shot in the park, with its core landscape being the ending scene, which has left deep impression on Chinese people with its meaningful scene. In June 2011, the park was listed as a classical tourist attraction of national red tourism. And in July 2011, it was awarded with the title of demonstration base for science popularization education of national earthquake prevention and disaster reduction.
With its extremely simple planning design, pure and strong visual spatial effect, delicate and meaningful landscape design, low-key and refrained architecture processing of relics and memorial landscape, Tangshan Earthquake Relics Park provides a memorial space environment with artistry, humanism and long-term social value, and realize architect’s ultimate ideal of serving the society with architecture design.
The First Prize of International Design Competition
Design Team: Ye Yuan (http://www.a6-studio.com), Jiutai Li, Xu Nan (http://www.nan-xu.com/)
Design Year: 2007-2008
Construction Year: 2008-2009
Area: 40 hectare
Address: Tangshan, China
Photo Credits: Xu Nan (http://www.nan-xu.com/)
Video Link: http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XODAyODk2NjQ0.html