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30th Oct 2023

Tianjin's Sino-Singapore Friendship Park offers unique new place to celebrate nature

The bold vision for the Sino-Singapore Friendship Park in Tianjin Eco-City, China has been realised by international landscape architecture practice Grant Associates as the park, which celebrates the strong relationship that exists between Singapore and China, now welcomes visitors of all ages.

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Recognising the vital role that public parks play in allowing people to enjoy a rich variety of experiences in nature, Friendship Park’s design is built around spatial opposites - water and land, nature and city, sheltered and exposed - while a continuous landform maintains the overall design coherence.

Inspired by the central creative theme of interlocking fingers between friends, the environmentally-focused landscape architects, known for award-winning work on Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay, have created significant contrast and diversity on site, with the interlocking concept applied to both the park’s layout and in the finer detail. Throughout the site, interlocking hexagons have been used as a recurring pattern within the paving and on textured walls.

Grant Associates won the design competition to transform the then-barren park in 2016, and worked in close collaboration with Eco-City, TEDA and NParks on the implementation on site to realise the vision for the Sino-Singapore Friendship Park.

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The design approach combines Singaporean’s appreciation of immersive nature with an understanding of the local Tianjin context. The result is a truly unique park that is versatile enough to support a wide range of weather extremes. Faced with the harsh challenges of freezing winters, exacerbated by relentless northwest winds sweeping over the Gu Dao canal, the extreme environment rendered the site once inhospitable for both plants and people. However, the park's ingenious landform and Secret Gardens now provide elegant yet simple solutions that offer shelter and protection for both flora and visitors.

Besides being wind shelters, the Secret Gardens are enchanting attractions dotted around the site offering different planting themes and activities. One of these, the Wind Garden, is enclosed by a captivating kinetic wall, comprised of delicate hexagonal aluminium plates. The gracefully curving walls respond dynamically to the wind, with the plates oscillating alongside swaying ornamental grasses. The ever-shifting colour tone of the plates results from their interaction with the sunlight, with the intensity of the changes dependent on wind speeds.

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Stefaan Lambreghts, Associate Director at Grant Associates, comments:

“It was always our aim to design the Sino-Singapore Friendship Park as an inviting park for all seasons and for the people of Tianjin. We sought to create a park that residents could enjoy and explore, would want to come back to time and again and that would be full of new discoveries each time. This is a park to spend time in with loved ones, to be immersed in nature, and to make long-lasting memories.

Tackling the harsh climate was the main starting point for the design of Friendship Park. Its design has been carefully crafted out of an understanding of the inhospitable nature of the original site and the aspiration for a new micro-climate, more conducive for plants and people. Friendship Park looks to now exemplify the vital role that public parks actively play in providing space for people to enjoy a rich variety of experiences with nature.

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In Friendship Park, there is beauty to be found everywhere, in each corner of the site. Our design approach centered around creating connections and allowing diversity to flourish; paths crisscross the site, while a skywalk on top of the landform offers great views over the park and the waterfront. There is plenty of contrast to be found in the park but also strong cohesion - achieved through the hexagonal interlocking patterns, the secret gardens, an intentionally zigzagging layout and continuously-changing perspectives. It all comes together to offer very distinct and memorable landscape experiences for all people to enjoy in any season.”