Landscape architecture planning and urban design firm SWA works globally while aiding communities grappling with sea level rise, climate change, population growth, and emerging transportation alternatives.
In September’s Spotlight on Design, the firm presents the creative and multi-scale project solutions for Houston’s Buffalo Bayou Park and China’s Changsha Baxizhou Island.
Check out some of their other resilient cities project highlights, to get a sense of their broad scope of work and holistic design approach.
California Academy of Sciences
One of San Francisco’s first sustainable building projects, the California Academy of Sciences supports a stunning 2.5-acre green roof. Emphasizing habitat quality and connectivity, the project has received two LEED Platinum certifications.
The building’s architectural team, the Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW), invited SWA Group and horticultural consultant Paul Kephart, of Rana Creek Living Architecture, to collaborate on the design of the living roof. SWA Group provided full landscape architectural services for the living roof and site.
Located in Shenzhen, OCT Bay has a combined site area of approximately 1.25 square kilometers including equal parts new urban center and nature preserve. SWA provided both master planning and landscape architectural services for the entire site. As a new urban cultural and entertainment destination, OCT Bay provides urban amenities, entertainment components, public plazas, park space, resort destinations, and ecological preserves. The 685,000-square- meter wetland and nature preserve provides habitat for dozens of species, and is considered China’s only inner-city coast mangrove wetland. SWA’s design provides exterior spaces that are organized as a spatial hierarchy of intimate spaces, medium size courtyards and large public plazas to accommodate both daily and special events. The site design serves to enhance and compliment architectural themes through material, scale, lighting and water features.
Playing on the theme of “A Tower in a Park,” this shaded landscape creates a compelling oasis of green, with distinct areas to serve the tower’s hotel, residential, spa and corporate office areas. The visitor begins at the main arrival court at the base of the tower, where the “prow” of the building intersects a grand circular court—a “water room” defined by fountains, palms and park trees. From here, entry roads lead through the park-like landscape to separate hotel and residential arrival courts. Vehicular circulation spirals down to garage level, while flowering trees and seasonal plantings, fountains, and distinct paving patterns establish a strong sense of place for each court.
Dongguan Delta City
The Dongguan District is located at Binhai Bay in China’s Pearl River Delta, strategically situated between Shenzhen’s airport and the city of Guangzhou. An international competition asked for ways to capitalize on the heavy flow of traffic between them while also addressing extreme environmental risks: the World Bank ranks the Pearl River Delta at the top of its list for expected economic losses due to climate change. The area is subjected to tropical cyclones and storm surges; 85 percent of its land is due to be inundated before 2100.
Gubei Gold Street
SWA was selected to conceptualize, design, and realize a rare find in bustling Shanghai—a pedestrian mall (Gold Street). The corridor occupies three city blocks, is flanked by 20-story high-rise residential towers with retail at street level and book-ended by SWA-designed parks. Creating an iconic presence and enlivening the area, the mall features plazas, fountains, cafés, dining and retail terraces, an amphitheater, and a monumental raised, tree-lined terrace.
Centrally located in the densely populated Gubei district, the pedestrian mall offers the public a unique open space and a sanctuary from the hectic city. Gubei Boulevard, a major commercial spine, runs along the site’s western edge. A majestic plaza, featuring large fountains, opens up to grab the street there and forms a buffer between the pedestrian promenade and the busy thoroughfare; the eastern opening is more subdued, befitting that end’s residential street.