York Urbanist

Parks – International, Harbin China

Harbin China waterfront
Hundreds of pieces of exercise equipment are used all seasons in Harbin China.  Rows of equipment are used even in -20 degree winter weather and by all ages

For the health of a nation, the Chinese created spaces for exercise in each of Harbin and Beijing where we visited.  There is a culture of group exercise that requires the venue of a park and its equipment in order for that culture to thrive.

In Harbin, the four kilometre waterfront along the south shore of the Songhua River has been transformed into just such a place. So, what did we experience / learn as visitors?
That intensification requires public open space.
That mindset, not age, determines the users of parks.
That parks are sensual – an experience of not only visual sites, but of music, nature’s aromas, texture and activity…and the sixth sense of perceptual well-being. The experience is created not by the layout but by the activities within the space.  Designers must come to realize the culture and encourage the future activities of each park space.  There are no standards that would have made the Songhua Riverfront succeed.
The Chinese users were apparently happy, healthy, none were overweight, but they were engaging of these obviously Canadian observers, who could not resist the invitations to play badminton, ping-pong, dance and exercise alongside the Harbinites.