/guangzhou Jianhua Center

Guangzhou, China


OWNER: Jingze Real Estate Co. Ltd.


LEAD CONTRACTOR: Guangzhou Yayue Landscape Engineering Co. Ltd.

In a small plaza next to a skyscraper in Guangzhou, China, an elaborate piece of landscaping and sculpture offers more than a quiet spot of contemplation for passing pedestrians in the city’s busy business district. A sunken space amid soaring towers, the plaza is designed around a canyon of waterfalls, with more than 3,000 precision-cut stone blocks individually anchored to the surface of a retaining wall—creating a distinctive organic texture out of abstract, seemingly naturally eroded shapes. 

Descending 7 m from the street and more than 80 m long, the stone wall sculpture includes an active waterscape with waterfalls cascading down stone panels, intended to evoke a mountain stream. On-site wastewater treatment ensures the water is kept clean. Careful management of the flowing water and installation of the stone surfaces allowed for a large LED screen to be embedded within a recess of the sculpture, adding another layer to the visual composition and a backdrop for performances.

Designing the hundreds of pieces of precision-cut stone that form the project’s rock face was a challenge, but the process also highlighted the benefits of using modern advanced design software, says Jihyun Yoo, project designer at landscape architect SWA. “With each of these individual pieces modeled in 3D, as well as the sections of the backing [wall], the results in construction are so much cleaner,” she says, noting that the 3D models kept the designer, contractor and fabricator in sync.

“We still kept our fingers crossed during the whole process,” notes Jim Lee, SWA principal. “We’re very pleased [the design] was so doable.” The repeating horizontal grooves in the wall help hide the joints between the stone pieces, in addition to their aesthetic value, he explains. “The intent was to make it as seamless as possible ... to make it monolithic,” Lee says. “As you walk down the staircase, it has this undulating quality.”