Here’s a great update from Shenyang, China, via Jason Chan, HOK senior landscape architect in Hong Kong:
September 21, 2011 marked the 30th anniversary of the “International Day of Peace,” which was established by the United Nations in 1982. This day also marked the grand opening of the 4.5-hectare World Peace Park in Shenyang, China. World Peace Park also became the venue for the opening ceremony of the Northeast Asia Economic Forum (NEAEF), an annual event attended by political leaders from China, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, North Korea and Russia. HOK was honored to participate in the event as designer of the park and guests of our client, the Shenyang government.
The sheer speed our this park project from start to finish was indescribable – it took exactly three months for HOK to refine the design concept, fast-track through design development and carry out construction reviews onto completion. This need for speed was initiated by the client’s unexpected request in June to host the high-profile event only three months later. To meet this unimaginably tight project timeline, the HOK design team had to truly execute the principles of teamwork and collaboration. Their mantra was, “Do not give up on design quality, no matter what.”
On the Day of Peace, Chris Fannin from HOK Hong Kong and Yan Wang and Xi Cao from HOK Beijing joined me at the park we designed. It was a picture-perfect day. We got there early so we could walk around the place and feel the impact: the elevated plaza, the berms, the flagpoles, the numerous monuments and signs, the trees, the steps, the red carpet. The four of us stood there in awe.
Slowly but surely, the reality of it started to sink in – the children’s band, hundreds of school kids, event organizers and workers, familiar government staff, the press, international delegates… by our estimate, there were over 800 people.
And then the opening ceremony started. It was quite an event, complete with background music and a red-carpet entrance by the former prime ministers of Japan, Mongolia and the like. The assembly gathered in front of our drawings, where the mayor of Shenyang introduced our park and its vision. During the unveiling ceremony, where doves were released, some of us (cough… Yan… cough) even got emotional. The whole thing ended when we moved to the ceremonial tree planting area and finished off with casual mingling and photo-ops.
Sometimes, when we designers get used to sitting in front of our office tables and computer screens, we forget what’s the most important about our jobs. Yes, a beautiful drawing could be nice; coming up with great design resolutions could be satisfying. But in the profession of place-making, our job is to create a better place to live. When we see our designs built and well-used, we should be touched. It is our right to be touched. And we were touched, right there on Sept. 21 in Shenyang.
Lastly, a few final words… many thanks to Barry Day, David Wong, Graham Johnstone, Jacalyn Chnowski, Jaime Vertudez, Rizal Cusile, Selina Xu, Steve (Kit) Ho and Xi Cao for the many sleepless nights and weekends in HOK’s Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai studios. This was the best collaboration by the most dedicated group of designers I’ve ever seen… and possibly the world’s fastest-built park.