The Pearl of Hangzhou water garden Hangzhou

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The planned water garden has a romantic radiance paired with sustainable water technology.

Evocative and romantic, West Lake by evening light.

The Pearl of Hangzhou is a precious water pearl on the shores of the famous West Lake.

First impressions from the exit of the pedestrian tunnel: a lively, sparkling water cascade. The fine-tuned water systems of the cascade and water plaza permanently circulate and cleanse collected rainwater.

The enormous economic expansion and construction boom in China holds the world in suspense. The dimension and tempo of the boom are hard to rival by any western metropolis. When working with the Chinese, one encounters inner values which trigger surprising and unusual lines of questioning for occidentals. Water is valued in China, and respected not only in 'Feng Shui'. Water has great symbolic power which is deep seated in traditional value systems - values which are worth transporting to the modern world of today.

Situated on the upper reaches of the Yangtze Delta only 180 kilometres from Shanghai, Hangzhou is the capital of the Zhejiang province. The Hangzhou district has a population of over 6 million, the city itself is over 1.7 million strong and growing fast. The city government is trying in many areas and projects to preserve and renew traditional urban culture and structures while meeting the needs of a demanding, expanding modern city

In every season, the West Lake is the jewel of Hangzhou, and offers romance and mysticism to the delight of its visitors. Yet the quantity of tourists and the demands of agricultural, industrial and domestic outfall have noticeably influenced the water quality of the lake for the worse.

Impressed by the success of Xintiandi in Shanghai (a shopping/restaurant centre tastefully built in modern renovated traditional Chinese architecture), the City of Hangzhou invited the same developers, Shui On Properties, to tackle a large site right on the lake front. The three phase project includes a romantic park island, an urban shopping village and a citizens water plaza. Together with Architects Wood + Zapata and civil engineers Ove Arup, Atelier Dreiseitl developed water concepts for all three phases of the project and in particular the citizens water plaza, called the Pearl of Hangzhou Water Garden.

In Phase 1, the park island, the rainwater concept is to collect run-off from the roofs and use it for irrigation of the park and toilet flushing in the amenities. The whole of Phase 2, the urban shopping village, is pedestrian. Water is collected from the pedestrian streets and roofs and used to supplement water cascades and walls, which are conceived to greatly improve the indoor/outdoor climate comfort of the village. The remaining rainwater is stored to be used for cleaning the pedestrian streets, which due to expected visitor numbers will be washed down up to twice a day. A dramatic water cascade shimmers in the light and draws visitors through an underground pedestrian passage to the West Lake and to the Pearl of Hangzhou water garden. This is a landscape of play and stimulation of the senses. At the centre of a dynamic spiral, a 'pearl' sprays cooling water during the day and glows with sensual colours during the night. A demonstration fountain extracts dirty water from the West Lake, circulates it through cleansing biotopes before returning it to the lake, showing a green technology which could be used on a greater scale to improve the quality of the lake.

The implementation of the project is dependant on a complex net of political considerations. Great respect is due to the city which is seeking to balance through this outstanding project the economic prosperity of its businesses with real quality of life for its citizen.

Towards a new water culture

We are going to have to learn how to handle water in future. This means co-operative planning and a high level of participation. A project in Hannoversch Münden has produced some early experience in this field.

If you ask people about environmental problems in surveys, water is almost never mentioned. More of them are aware of traffic, noise and air pollution and the hole in the ozone layer. We carried out surveys in Dresden and Frankfurt in which only 7.6 % of the Dresden residents questioned mentioned water as an environmental problem, and in Frankfurt it was only 3.3 %. We need to drink water every day, and use it to keep clean, to promote a sense of well-being, and for recreation. So why is it not watched with particular care in respect to possible environmental problems? How can this be explained?

Obviously the fact that water is generally and constantly available, naturally and through technology, the frequent precipitation in our latitudes, full streams and rivers, and running water in our homes all seem to give the lie to the idea that water could be a problem. Anyone who looks at the world a little more closely knows how the deserts are spreading, remembers the droughts in the Sahel and Somalia, and has heard about conflicts over the waters of the Jordan and the Euphrates. But why should water be a problem in Central Europe?

In fact the water problem in Europe is not a problem of quantity, as a rule, even though water represents the greatest flow of any material through our cities. The principal problem in Central Europe is not a general shortage, but a shortage of water of outstanding quality, and the pollution of waterways, which goes far beyond the point at which streams or rivers can clean themselves. Obviously in recent decades people have become accustomed to the fact that rivers are not suitable for bathing, or springs for drinking. Even tap water is distrusted. Over 84 % of people never or seldom drink water from the tap.

And so the water problem is first and foremost a problem of quality. The quantity problem comes second. Groundwater pollution has accustomed people to the fact that large cities can draw only a tiny proportion of their water from their own territory, and so use supplies from further away. In any case, poor groundwater quality means considerable expense for treating and transporting water, and often triggers regional conflicts. Then pressure groups demand reduction of the quantities drawn and a more sophisticated handling of water.

The current argument runs that anyone who air-conditions offices with best-quality drinking water, cleans cars and flushes toilets with it, is lowering groundwater levels and causing damage frivolously, not as a matter of necessity. Political pressure can be exerted on towns and cities to be more aware and economical in their use of water by articulating the problems in the areas where it is drawn. But why are people not acutely conscious of the problem despite high costs, possible damage and the risk of endangering health?

The search for an answer to this question leads to the issue of the structure of the modern city. Its development began with the cholera epidemics which haunted many European cities in several waves during the 19th century. At this time and also in the wake of major urban planning changes, such as initiated in Paris by Georges Eugène Haussmann, water pipes were installed.

The shock caused by the cholera epidemics has had a far greater effect than containing and controlling the epidemics themselves. The construction of sewerage systems and the piping of drinking water to individual houses and flats, the gradual spread of private toilets, the establishment of public bathing facilities which then also became more widespread in private houses, did not just build up a general culture of hygiene, but fundamentally changed the relationship between the city and its citizens. Many of the vital processes of urban life were put under state control in the course of this development and offered by municipal utilities to citizens as a com-pulsorily imposed service. This did not just apply to water supply and waste water disposal, but also to food supply in new abattoirs and covered markets built and controlled by the police, waste disposal, voluntary or compulsory health care and state epidemic policies, down to the control of private living conditions by state housing inspectors.

What does all this mean in terms of the way problems are perceived in towns?

Firstly, many aspects of everyday life were withdrawn from civil authority and handed over to state and municipal bureaucracies. The transformation to the civilized modern town was in fact a process of 'de-civilization'. Household and neighbourhood responsibilities for water supply and faeces disposal were taken over by bureaucratic institutions.

Secondly, most of the technical and natural side of this process becomes invisible to ordinary citizens. An individual household cannot possibly see where the water comes from and where it runs away to, and the same applies to food and energy. Significant elements of urban life are no longer directly visible. Hence experience of the natural and technical context of urban life is lost, and new experience of this kind cannot be gained. At the same time responsibility for and thus relation to material elements is becoming increasingly disparate, and on the expert plane this cramps the way in which things are seen.

So the water problem extends to two poles: the material side, which presents itself as a threat to the quality of the

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Renewable Energy 101

Renewable Energy 101

Renewable energy is energy that is generated from sunlight, rain, tides, geothermal heat and wind. These sources are naturally and constantly replenished, which is why they are deemed as renewable. The usage of renewable energy sources is very important when considering the sustainability of the existing energy usage of the world. While there is currently an abundance of non-renewable energy sources, such as nuclear fuels, these energy sources are depleting. In addition to being a non-renewable supply, the non-renewable energy sources release emissions into the air, which has an adverse effect on the environment.

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