Thousand Lantern Lake Park System
Location: Foshan, Guangdong, China
Owner: Nanhai District Government
Designers: SWA Group et al.

Located in the newly established district of Nanhai, the 286-acre (116 ha) Thousand Lantern Lake Park System provides a continuous green urban corridor for the surrounding neighborhood. It consists of a commercial precinct, public parks, and civic buildings arranged around a series of lakes and waterways. The latter act as the connecting elements within the larger site and provide transportation networks that run through the entire park. The centerpiece of the park—the 49-acre (20 ha) Citizen’s Plaza on Thousand Lantern Lake—provides an active public gathering space that transitions from day to night with unique streetscape and lighting elements. The 123-acre (50 ha) Leigang Park is named for the city’s most prominent hill, around which it is situated; the peak operates as a landmark and orientation device for visitors within the park.

The Thousand Lantern Lake Park System represents a defining infrastructural success that has been integral to Nanhai’s strategic approach of urban transformation over the past 15 years. The Nanhai District exemplifies a people-oriented approach to urban development, and provides creative solutions for attracting people to its newly constructed Guangdong Financial High-tech Industrial Zone. The development solves one of the greatest challenges that similar third-tier Chinese cities face: how to retain a community’s vitality while the city upgrades its industrial structure to modern functionality, including a redefined spatial layout.

While many new cities of its kind suffer from being “empty towns,” Nanhai attracts investors, new residents, and tourists for its celebrated Thousand Lantern Lake Park, now synonymous with the city’s identity. Sited on land reclaimed from old industrial uses, the park system exhibits “big water” features that connect all new city blocks with a system of lakes, grand canals, and water alleys. It provides an active and passive waterfront for development properties as well as important drainage infrastructure. As the core piece of this public open space, Thousand Lantern Lake has become the primary destination for recreation, events, and retail in the region, displaying the lively energy that contributes a significant competitive edge to the city’s growth and value generation.