Chongqing is becoming known for its rapid urbanization, but it has long been known for its mountains and rivers. Last week, I found out that I will be helping with a CAUPD project that aims to preserve greenspace and protect the quality of the mountains and rivers in Chongqing during the process of rapid urbanization.
Last week, I spent three days on the road with CAUPD staff, attending meetings with district government officials and making site visits. Since I can’t understand or converse in Mandarin (all attempts to do so have proven futile, but I’ll keep trying), I mostly just tagged along to see the sights. I expect that I will continue working on this project and will provide more detailed updates later, but I thought I would share a different view of the municipality and give some insight into the early stages of this type of planning process.
There are nine districts that make up the urban area of Chongqing municipality (see map below). For reference, we live and work in the southwest part of Yubei. These nine districts represent less than a quarter of the entire land area of the municipality. (If you want more information on the administrative divisions – what’s a municipality vs. a district, for example – this wiki page gives a pretty good primer.)
Day 1: Banan and Dadukou
On my first day of field work, I was not sure what to expect, so I arrived dressed in sneakers and shorts, prepared to be “in the field.” As it is, we did not spend too much time walking around outside, as we had meetings to attend and many scattered sites (of various shapes, sizes, and uses) to see!
The first meeting was in Banan district. We started off the day with a meeting at the district planning office. As with all of our meetings, this one seemed to start off with a general discussion of the current situation in district and what is planned for the district in the future and then continued with a look at the giant maps that we brought along. The power went out about half way through the meeting, but it did not seem to surprise anyone, and the giant window provided enough light to continue the meeting.
After the meeting, we visited our first site – a plaza across the street, on the bank of the Yangtze.
The river was already high, but my CAUPD coworker Allen (he chose his English nickname because he’s a fan of Allen Iverson) told me that the river was going to flood over the plaza within a day or so. He was correct.
After the river plaza, we stopped at a park on a canal, which was also beginning to flood.
Over the three days, I saw many large parks that are currently under development, starting with the one below, which has a large plaza and will have walking trail, separated from the plaza by a stream.
It was nice to see the different types of older architecture outside of Yubei district, which contains mostly modern buildings.
In the afternoon, we crossed the Yangtze River to Dadukou district. One of our first stops was a large construction site. Though it used to be greenspace, it is in the process of being developed.
Later, we stopped on a bridge over the Yangtze. I do not imagine that the greenspace behind the residences will be around for very long, but it’s currently being used as an urban farm area.
Day 2: Jiulongpo and Shapingba
On Day 2, Allen told me that we would cross the mountains four times (via tunnel), as both of the districts we were visiting are bisected by mountains, with most of the green space on the west and the offices on the east. We started our day in Jiulongpo.
Our first stop after the meeting was a beautiful park on a lake. There were many people enjoying the park, including a group of people fishing and women dancing on the large pagoda pavilion.
Back on the road, we saw a lot of the mountain terrain.
We stopped to see another park that is under construction. This one will also have a plaza and a stream-side trail.
Next, we visited a park that had a staircase up the mountain. After I sprinted up to the top and back down the stairs a few times*, we went to lunch.
For lunch, we went to the Taoranju New Countryside Golden Sunshine Eco-Hotel restaurant, which was adorned with many plants and an indoor stream.
After lunch, we headed north to Shapingba. Though we’ve been to Shapingba district before (to visit a Chongqing University Professor/Architect), I saw many new sites. Unfortunately, I hadn’t charged my camera the night before and didn’t get very many pictures of the district, which contains a new university town and some really nice parks. The following three pictures capture some of the views from and to the mountains, as well as the yellow Yangtze.
Day 3: Yubei and Beibei
After taking a day off from field observations to conduct a short methods workshop with Derek, I attended my final district visits on Thursday (and thus missed Derek’s birthday celebration). The first meeting took place in our home district of Yubei, just down the road from our office.
There were no site visits, as CAUPD staff are very familiar with the green spaces in Yubei. The meeting focused on the Lianjiang New District in Yubei, an economic development zone that will continue to experience growth in the coming years. Though we didn’t go and see it, one of the main greenspaces in this new area is a large park, modeled after Central Park in New York City. The park won’t open until later this year, but it sounds like we may be able to get a tour before we leave!
In the afternoon, we went to Beibei, a fun-to-pronounce district that is split by mountains (similar to Shapingba and Jiulongpo). It was very hot on Thursday, so we didn’t linger when we got out of the car, and many of my pictures were taken from the road.
Beibei is known for its beautiful scenery. It sounds like there’s a lot of development planned for this area in the coming years, and though there are many preservation-worthy greenspaces throughout the municipality, I imagine that any preservation plan for Chongqing would want to pay special attention to this district.
Though much of what we saw in Beibei and the other districts were large-scale green spaces – swaths of undeveloped land – we did see at least a few small parks in each of the more urban areas of the districts (I just wasn’t always quick enough to capture them on camera).
I am not yet sure how CAUPD will process the information that they gathered during the meetings and site visits. I do know that there are several aspects to the project, including demonstrating why greenspaces need to be preserved during this time of rapid development, figuring out a method to determine which greenspaces should be preserved, and deciding what should be done with the greenspaces once they are preserved (e.g., should they be made into parks?). The rivers and mountains will need to be factored in, both in terms of a need to preserve them as well as a need to provide visual and physical access. It is hard to preserve flat greenspace around here, because it is so enticing to developers – but not everyone can easily access a park if it’s located in the mountains!
I’m sure that greenspace planning will be a complicated process, but I’m looking forward to seeing how CAUPD tackles the issue, and I am eager to help out.