Urban Planning & Design Institute of Southeast University, ‘Living Corridor’, Suzhou, China

This project infuses new life into the Suzhou City Moat, which struggles against fast urbanisation and modernisation. Under rapid urbanisation, the non-functioning moat was crowded with lowlying areas and humble houses. The river was seriously polluted by waste and it was having a fatal effect on the well-being of the aboriginal people and aquatic life.

With criss-crossing water canals and traditional water gardens, Suzhou is appreciated as the ‘Venice of the East’. It has made significant progress in community development, housing development, business development and transportation infrastructure.

Thus, Living Corridor first reorganises the singularity of the waterway through a series of desilting and maintenance works. It recovers the original ecological water system by removing the river attachments, and implementing dredging and clearing work.

Second, the project generates different leisure waterfront space through combinations of plants, buildings and watercourses. To avoid the feeling of dull space and the lack of content, Living Corridor has fully considered the human living needs of local community. People can walk alongside the water: the inverted image of people on the uneven surface creates a beautiful and comfortable natural scene. Children can dip their feet in the shallow water, which is a calmer, more passive alternative to running through the fountains.

In particular, the project focused on the indigenous people, who are easily ignored and their traditional activities lost during relentless development. Slowly updated social infrastructure and increasingly narrow activity spaces serious affect the well-being of local people. This project restores the ecosystem and generates a new waterfront space. Various activities like biking, jogging, walking, fishing, gathering, performing and other activities create excellent living space for locals and tourists year-round.

Furthermore, the project revitalised the social identity of local communities by recovering ancient city walls, watercourses and bridges, and house building. It also reconstructs a waterway transportation system to relieve traffic pressure, and ensures a pleasant and accessible public experience.

Today, the western part of the city moat covers 325 acres. It serves as one of the most important open spaces in the city. Connecting the ancient city area of Suzhou, new city area and isolated neighbourhoods to a lively community, it animates the public space. A series of ecosystem improvement plans and activities has effectively improved the damaged natural environment. This regeneration project creates a more comfortable and sustainable social and natural environment to improve well-being of locals.

Judges’ Comments

‘’With three urban landscape regeneration projects in this category, all located in China, the judges praised the efforts of all of these schemes in providing sustainable, human scale, community environments, and creating public spaces infused with beautiful elements of hard and soft landscaping, and providing visual delight and amenity within tranquil surroundings next to the busy environs of the nearby cities. However, the winning entry was felt by the judges on balance to contribute the most in its efforts in restoring the ecological balance, stitching together a series of tired, polluted and rundown disjointed areas, and revitalising the identity of parts of the ancient city area to provide a sustainable, social and natural environment that will improve the well-being of locals.”