Exploring the Vital Role of Waterfront Design in Urban Spaces
As I worked on this semester’s housing alternative project, The waterfront area on the north side of the site presented opportunities and challenges for my design. The importance of waterfront areas to cities, their residents, and the surrounding environment cannot be overstated. Where the city and the water converge in these places, a special connection between urban life and nature is fostered. Beyond their aesthetic value, waterfront areas serve a variety of social, economic, and ecological purposes.
Waterfront locations frequently serve as recognisable icons for the city, adding to its identity and cultural legacy. They operate as stimuli for economic growth by luring travellers, companies, and investments. Well-planned waterfront areas provide possibilities for social interaction, leisure, and recreation, improving the quality of life for city dwellers as a whole. Waterfront areas are essential to environmental sustainability from a natural perspective. They maintain biodiversity, provide habitat for a variety of plants and fauna, and contribute to the overall health of ecosystems.
Three representative designs of urban waterfront spaces are presented in this blog post to provide precedents for our design tasks.
1. The Recreational Waterfront: The Kazan embankment
To reinvigorate the city’s historic area, it is necessary to leverage the potential of the embankment and identify crucial roles for the area’s surrounding city core to considerably improve the quality of the urban environment. Provide the locals with straightforward, yet fundamentally novel scenarios that will allow 15 hectares of land to be transformed from an unorganised landscape to a warm and inviting public area.
fig1:Materplan of the embarkment.
A new system of pedestrian areas with several semantic centres, including a museum quarter, a pedestrian street with shops and cafes, and also the Kremlin territory, which is becoming more accessible due to a new entrance, means that the long embankment cannot exist separately from the rest of the city. Instead, the walking route along the former riverbed of the Upa River becomes a part of this new system.
fig2: A landscape park is designed on the bank of the Upa River with easy access to the water and pedestrian bridges. https://oss.gooood.cn/uploads/2022/12/011-Public-Design-of-the-Kazan-Embarkment-WOWHAUS-960×640.jpg
2. The Commercial Waterfront: Suzhou Creek
One of Shanghai’s most important waterways in the past, Suzhou Creek has suffered from neglect and pollution in recent years. Sasaki concentrated on extending Shanghai’s imagined shoreline into the city blocks next to Suzhou stream because he saw a chance to fully realise the potential of the stream. Due to the reclamation of Suzhou Creek for public use, a bustling urban frontage and recreational waterfront borders define an urban/cultural watershed. By constructing new mixed-use buildings and improving connectivity to surrounding locations like the M50 Arts District and Shanghai’s central train station, isolated neighbourhoods are given new life.
fig3: The converging energy and pedestrian activity from all directions make the Gonghexin Urban Node a key destination for offering a diverse outdoor program.
Sasaki has reorganised the waterway’s distinctiveness into several urban nodes and parks that follow the creek’s set rhythmic moments. The parks, which are only 500 metres apart, represent the city’s long-standing need for more community-oriented open spaces and allow the stream to engage dynamically with the surrounding neighbourhood. Shanghai’s distinct vernacular architecture and complicated pedestrian networks are kept in these areas with minimum intentional intervention to convert them into new mixed-use hotspots while keeping their present identity. Historic warehouses along the creek have been converted into cultural hotspots, adding to the area’s booming arts scene.
fig4: The opposite banks of the creek offer each other different views, creating a diversity of spatial experiences and distinctive identities.
3.The Historical Waterfront: Chelsea Waterfront
The reconstruction of London’s Chelsea Waterfront along the Thames River has been off-limits to the public for well over a century, is sandwiched between two boroughs and spans Chelsea Creek. The main idea behind the concept is to build a new “village” that connects the Lots Road district, which is on one side of Chelsea Creek, with Chelsea Harbour and Imperial Wharf, which is on the other. Each of these ‘villages’ has its unique centre and a balance of commercial uses, public transportation links, and community facilities to successfully support their residential populations. Together, these elements create a vibrant riverside urban village that connects the larger Lots Road neighbourhood with Chelsea Harbour and Imperial Wharf.
fig5. Power station site as the key to permeability in the wider neighbourhood
The historic power station is converted into a mixed-use community. Originally constructed in 1904, the Lots Road Power Station in London once powered the city’s underground system but is now decommissioned. The visionary approach by designers focuses on preserving and repurposing the historic power station. While retaining its iconic form, the building will be transformed into a vibrant mixed-use community development, offering a blend of residential, commercial, and leisure facilities. The aim is to create a new gathering place for the community. Along Lots Road, the ground level will feature a covered arcade with shops and businesses showcasing glass fronts, revitalizing the currently lacklustre street face and maximizing the visual connection to the waterfront.
fig6. Physical, Social and Visual Permeability. https://oss.gooood.cn/uploads/2022/08/31-Redevelopment-of-Chelsea-Waterfront_Farrells-960×341.jpg
In conclusion, a well-designed waterfront space should have several features. First and foremost, it should put accessibility first, making sure that everyone can use and enjoy the space. It ought to provide a variety of leisure pursuits that appeal to different age groups and interests. To promote active modes of transportation, a successful waterfront design incorporates green areas, pedestrian pathways, and bike lanes. By providing gathering spaces, public amenities, and opportunities for social interaction, the area should also promote a sense of community and inclusivity. Finally, to reduce environmental impact and foster resilience, sustainable practises should be incorporated into the design, including elements like stormwater management, native plantings, and renewable energy sources.