Tianjin 4A Sports Park


Ballistic Architecture Machine (BAM) builds first high-density park in Tianjin, China. The office describes the project as follows:

The site is a modern city built over the remains of historical Yixing, a town with remarkable connection to another Yixing town in Jiangsu province. With the construction of the Grand Canal, the residents of Yixing moved their entire village, and reconstructed a facsimile to north of Tianjin city. While this historical town was destroyed, BAM utilizes the urban plan of the original Yixing as a palimpsest.

The Sports Park plot is overlayed with the urban plan of the original Yixing town. Circulation spaces are preserved, and the architecture is occupied by mazes, playgrounds, fountains, tetherball, tennis, basketball, and beer gardens. The central public space forms a long plaza space and features a tall chimney, which is the site of a geothermal well.

The maze has been an integral idea to the design of the park connecting spatial and thematic aspects of the design together. Spatially, the maze echoes the feel of the ancient town with its meandering streets. Symbolically, the maze represents the journey of learning, reminding visitors that in life, we continually seek our own unique path.

The ecological impact of the site is very much determined by its size. This is ‘high-density’ park on a relatively small site. As such the park fulfills its main ecological function by generating greater awareness to the issues of the environment through two key features - the geothermal chimney and the interactive hydrological model water feature.

Besides key ecological benefits, one of the fundamental purposes of a park is to connect to our ideas of Nature. Creating the feeling of a ‘natural’ environment goes beyond simply adding greenery. The key is making spaces of the city which focus on people and their experiences in the urban condition, places where people can feel at scale with the surrounding environment.

The highlight Play ‘n Learn element on site is the “Water Mountain”. This water feature is an interactive hydrology model - a miniature of the Yangtze River delta landscape, the Three Gorges Reservoir and the ancient Dujiangyan irrigation system.

The water springs from the mountains, moves through the valley and flows into the deltas at the ocean. Children can activate water sources in the miniature mountains, and use dams placed in certain locations along the water’s route to create reservoirs. However, if the water is not carefully managed it will spill over into other waterways and continue its path to the ocean.

On the surface, this water feature reflects the Chinese landscape, the agricultural and cultural development and heritage. On a deeper level, the design talks in particular to the human’s role in the heavy manipulation of the landscape and water ways. This feature turns an idea which is potentially far too large and abstract for a child to comprehend and turns it into a play environment, where the learning is not didactic but instead inherent in the play. Through these types of play we intend to bring greater awareness to more children about the big environmental issues in the hope to raise a generation of people with a mind to fix them.