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Fish Tail Park

Landscape Performance Benefits


  • Improves water quality by 34-50% based on water quality indicators like reduction in total nitrogen, chemical oxygen demand, and total organic carbon, when comparing inlet to outlet of the constructed wetland system.
  • Increases flood storage capacity by approximately 188,016,433 gallons, equivalent to 284 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
  • Creates habitat for at least 12 observed bird species.
  • Lowers temperatures within the park, with average temperatures on forested islands measuring 2.0-4.6% cooler and on the park’s peripheral pathways measuring 1.4-2.4% cooler than the surrounding streets.
  • Improves human thermal comfort on a summer afternoon by an average of 5.9% on the forested islands and 2.5% on the park’s peripheral pathways as compared to the surrounding streets.
  • Projected to sequester an estimated 47,906,805 lbs of carbon over the next 10 years in 26,101 newly planted trees.
  • Reduces carbon footprint by 301 kgCO2 by utilizing a precast concrete path instead of cast-in-place concrete.


  • Supports social engagement, with 66% of 748 surveyed visitors reporting that they visit with family and/or friends.
  • Promotes return visits, with 46% of 748 surveyed visitors stating they visit the park with some frequency (at least once per month).
  • Supports mental health and well-being, with 56% of 748 surveyed visitors reporting they visit to enjoy nature and/or heal from daily pressure.
  • Promotes positive emotional responses through the presence of migrating birds, with 72% 748 of surveyed visitors displaying strong positive emotions towards birds on-site.
  • Supports positive public opinion towards management of the city and land, with 58% of 748 surveyed visitors agreeing that the park represents a more advanced example of land stewardship and 66% agreeing that it is in harmony with nature.
  • Decreases noise levels by an average of 10.8 decibels, a clearly noticeable change, between the road and the sunken area of the park immediately next to the road.
  • Serves visitors of multiple income levels, with 47% of visitors belonging to income categories at or under average income in Nanchang.
  • Generates social media attention, with 104% more user diary posts and 187% more tags as compared to nearby Nanchang People's Park.
  • Attracts visitors through environmental features, with 60%of 748 surveyed visitors reporting that the forested islands are the primary reason why they would come to this park over others.


  • Creates 20-30 maintenance and operational jobs, valued at $150,430 to $225,640 USD per year.
  • Provides stormwater retention capacity valued at an estimated $1.62 million USD.

At a Glance

  • Designer


  • Project Type

    Park/Open space
    Wetland creation/restoration

  • Former Land Use

    Agricultural/industrial/brownfield (fish farm/coal ash dump)

  • Location

    Nanchang Shi, Jiangxi Sheng 330039, China
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  • Climate Zone

    Humid subtropical

  • Size

    137.4 acres

  • Budget

    $23,939,000 USD

  • Completion Date

    August 2021

Fish Tail Park is an urban park located in Nanchang, a provincial capital that has a population of 6.5 million and is a prominent culture center, best known for the Tang poetry about its human-ecology relationship. The large site was previously part of the Aixi Lake green corridor along which migratory birds passed, however, over the past decades it had become fragmented and disturbed. The site’s recent challenges were caused by its conversion into fish farms and a coal ash dump. Fish Tail Park transformed the site into an ecological park which serves important flood mitigation functions as a part of China’s Sponge City initiative. A habitat of “floating forest” with myriad ecological functions was created along with recreational opportunities for the area’s growing population. The park’s core is preserved for ecology and provides a key link to nature for the urban population through its immersive path system, while other functions like a café and restaurant, children’s playground, and sports infrastructure are placed around the urban edge.

  • Mitigate urban flooding as a part of the city’s Sponge City Initiative. The park allows for a maximum retention capacity of 1 million cu meters.
  • Remediate and transform an agricultural and industrial brownfield, creating new ecologies on top of coal ash by repairing and reusing ashes and mud on site.
  • Create park system that is resilient to water level fluctuations and can survive temporary submersion up to a 20-year flood level. This includes a resilient planting selection and durable/quick-cleaning site features.
  • Provide a unique landscape with ecological aesthetics of “floating forest”, which carry a unique appeal for the public.
  • Design with contemporary design language to create spatial focal points with the many towers, bridges, platforms, and canopies.
  • Create a constructed wetland system which purifies Aixi Lake’s water from upstream before releasing into the river at a designed treatment rate of 50,000 tons of water per day.
  • Provide for the foraging and nesting needs of migrating birds and other avian species through shallow water wetland and planting strategies.
  • Reduce street noise impact inside the park through dense planting of trees and grade changes. 
  • Create leasable commercial spaces that support the park’s identity and popularity while providing supplementary financial support.
  • Create an urban park space that is accessible to and welcomes individuals from near and far.
  • Stimulate urban development in the vicinity of the park over the long run. 
  • Deliver a successful project with a very modest budget of $4.58 USD per sf (CNY 33.44 per sf).
  • The core of the park is an aquatic “floating forest” habitat with a total area of 3,826,000 sf, divided between shallow water wetlands, open water, and islands with trees.
  • There are 68 “floating forest” islands ranging from 1,800 sf to 12,600 sf in size. The soil for these islands comes in part from sun-dried mud originally found in the fishponds.
  • Of the 68 islands, 34 (50%) are inaccessible to visitors and therefore less disturbed from human activities and devoted to wildlife habitat.
  • A hill and valley area to the north of the site offers informal trails along changing topography, which is created using repaired soil from approximately 80,000 cu meters of coal ash mixed with new soil at 1:3 ratio. The landforms were inspired by the ancient concept of farming atop marshes and Aztec Chinampa-style floating gardens.
  • The “floating forest” is a dense urban aquatic forest consisting of 19,727 newly added pond cypress (Taxodium ascendens), planted at 9-ft intervals. The species was chosen for its ability to survive submerged conditions, as the area of planting will be occasionally submerged when the park’s full water retention capacity is needed.
  • A network of pedestrian paths is located at the core of the park. With a width of 5 ft and a total length of 1.1 mile, these paths connect the islands while providing access to experience nature up close. The trails are made of concrete and can be easily washed clean after being submerged.
  • An additional 1.09-mile-long, 10-ft-wide trail system traces the park’s periphery to provide additional trails near the urban edges for easy access to the park.
  • An elevated café’s architecture frames views for park users with an open ground floor, and customers have a panorama view towards the floating forests of the park.
  • Connected to the second floor of the café are a viewing tower that rises over 110 ft above water level, the highest vantage point looking out towards the surrounding landscape. Also connected to the second floor of the café is a sculpturally designed pedestrian bridge to connect the park with Aixi Lake to the south.
  • Sculpturally designed structures, including 2 arc bridges, 7 canopies, and 1 platform within the core of the park, are made of white perforated aluminum plates to create contrast with surrounding nature and provide points of interest.
  • The arc bridges, one of which is named “Sparkling Water Bridge,” are each 2,600 ft long. The bridges elevate to 14 ft above ground at the highest point to offer vantage points within the core of the park.
  • There are 11 outlook areas within the core of the park. 4 of them are 4,000 sf in area and each feature a canopy, benches, and a 1,000-sf lawn. 7 of the outlooks are 1,400-sf in area and each features a bench and a smaller lawn of 260 sf. Benches are made of aluminum plates, making it easy to clean after floods.
  • A sports area at the west periphery of the park has 2 soccer, 2 basketball, and 2 tennis courts, as well as 2 children’s playgrounds that provide recreational programming.
  • An urban forest around the periphery of the park has a mixture of species including Chinese tallow (Sapium sebiferum), Indian soapberry (Sapindas mukorossi), Chinese wingnut (Pterocarya stenoptera), ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), camphor tree (Cinnamomum camphora), and Japanese zelkova (Zelkova serrat).
  • The construction sequencing for Fish Tail Park involved early implementation of tree plantings and has proven to be beneficial. The sequencing allowed the trees to grow and be in much better condition and size by the time the park opened a few years later. It also reduced the visual impact of this very visible site during 3-4 years of construction. Consideration needs to be given in terms of machinery use in planted areas, as it relates to material assembly choices and sequencing of site features that require heavy machinery.
  • The project benefited from ecological policies and goals defined on the city level, which supported the vision and strategies for ecologies and habitats on site, in particular for migratory birds.
  • The effectiveness of a sponge park is defined not only by its water-holding capacity, but also by a resiliency decision tree and guidelines, as it involves human decisions about whether to open valves to flood a park during extreme weather events. In this case, the park has been flooded to its designed level, as a result of decisions given from a government agency to the park operator to enable its retaining volume. The trees and paths have been proven in practice to sustain underwater conditions and to recover with limited damage.
  • It is important to consider a maintenance scheme which is synced with usage and reproduction cycles of migratory birds. Performing maintenance, especially cutting/pruning during or after when birds have built their nests could result in damage to the nest, loss of eggs laid, and may drive the birds away for years before they return. Transparent material in an ecologically focused place should be avoided or treated with coating or pattern to minimize collision risk for birds and insects.
  • Monitoring and management of human disturbances on-site is important for the habitat function of an ecological park. With a dense population context, it is possible for unwanted visitor behavior, as well as environmentally “okay” behavior (for example, fishing) to magnify to an unsustainable level simply due to the large number of people using the site.
  • The café and other leasable spaces within a park provide important programming. Character-building and place-making efforts in the park in general and in the strategic placement of building programs can make them commercially more successful. Giving consideration to setting the spatial stages and tune for successes of the leasable spaces is a role that the landscape architect can and should play. This success of this park is testified with the new expansion on the east side for more leasable space.
  • Developing successful building programs can also feed back to and activate an area of the park, especially if it can take a multivalent approach and embrace the character of the park. For this purpose, it is advisable for the client to contract a popular brand and offer incubation policy for starters. The ONE Fish Tail Café has proven to be an asset in the identity and attraction of Fish Tail Park.

Aluminum Panels: Art Bridge Construction Engineering (Suzhou) Co., Ltd
Fair-faced Concrete Precast Slab: Jianhua building materials (Jiangxi) Co., Ltd
Steel Products: Jiangsu qiangshun steel plate forming component Co., Ltd

Project Team

Landscape Architect: Turenscape
Contractor: Yunnan Construction and Investment Zhonghang Construction Co., Ltd

Role of the Landscape Architect

The landscape architect was the design lead for the park, with a scope that includes overall design, habitats and sponge city, and structures and architecture. The landscape architect worked with relevant government agencies and officials for design milestones and approvals, and organized and coordinated work of other consultants and suppliers.


Water quality, Flood protection, Populations & species richness, Temperature & urban heat island, Carbon sequestration & avoidance, Recreational & social value, Health & well-being, Noise mitigation, Access & equity, Other social, Job creation, Other economic, Bioremediation, Wetland, Trees, Trail, Reused/recycled materials, Bioretention, Biodiversity, Resilience, Restoration

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