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Grottoscape-Healing Complex with Nature

Zhewen Wu, Jianpeng Bai, Di Wu

Cities are highly populated areas where the biodiversity is most easily overlooked. In the past 40 years, Shanghai, as the largest city in China, has experienced rapid and large-scale development, the density and scope of activities of the population have increased significantly. The expansion of urban area and the loss of the original natural vegetation have caused a great reduction in the species of small and medium-sized animals that originally relied on local natural environments, and some are almost on the verge of extinction. In recent years, through the restoration of the natural environment in Shanghai, the local ecology has gradually recovered, and the wild animals have gradually returned to the city. Some traces of activities of wild animals have been found in residential areas, which also brought conflicts between human activities and animals in many places.

We hope to provide a solution to the conflicts between human beings and nature that exists in the expansion process of the global metropolises like Shanghai, we want to design a public healing center with natural and social attributes. The design is inspired by the traditional Chinese-buddhist architecture -GROTTOES. Buddhism advocates seclusion, so monks often choose remote mountains to dig grottoes for their spiritual practice. We created a vertical oasis as habitat inside the building volume for animals whose living space is squeezed in the city. The man-made landscape, plants with edible fruits, water features and skylight can provide enough living resources and nesting spaces for the animals. The exterior of the building is an irregular geometric shape of rammed earth, people can get into the grottoes in the air through the vertical traffic and stairways. The grottoes are medium that provides space for people to interactive with plants and animals in the vertical oasis, through the interaction with nature the healing effect will be achieved. Extra healing functions such as meditation are put into some grottoes, which gives the building healing attributes at the functional level. Through the achievement of healing effect at three levels of nature, people and society, we hope that this vertical healing complex can become a public healing garden in the city. Stray animals can find suitable habitat here, and urban residents who suffer from the pressure of life can come here to use the healing grottoes, through the interaction with nature and the use of healing spaces, they can heal themselves mentally and physically, and rediscover the true meaning of their lives.

Common small wild animals in Shanghai

With the increasing of urban parks and the restoration of ecological green spaces in Shanghai, the population of small wild animals has also increased in Shanghai. They gradually start to return to the city. Small mammal animals such as racoon dogs and weasels often appear in residential area, and their needs for independent habitats conflict with the daily activities of urban residents. So we hope to design an artificial habitat for them through architectural methods.

Selection of healing plants

Plants can emit aromatic oils that are beneficial to human body, which can also stimulate the human senses to cause the positive psychological reactions. In the central vertical oasis, colorful flowering plants can stimulate the visual perception, aromatic plants that emit fragrance can stimulate the olfactory perception. Plants that attract birds and provide nesting space for small animals can stimulate the auditory perception. The colorful fruits of plants can stimulate the taste perception. Through the arrangement of different healing plants, the positive interaction between human and nature can be stimulated, which is the best healing effect we want to achieve.

Placement of healing function

Most of the grottoes in the healing complex don’t have exact functions, but simply provide a space for humans to interact with nature, for them to perceive nature, meditate quietly and heal their body and mind. We randomly transform some grottoes into spaces with special healing functions, such as meditation room, religious place, music club, outdoor swimming pool. We give these grottoes special meaning to attract people to explore upward continuously in order to strengthen the public attributes of this healing center.

Bird’s paradise

Birds typically inhabit various habitats, with most species living in biotic communities composed of different tree species and shrubs. Birds construct a variety of nests, each in a different location within their natural environment. Overall, there are eight general types of nest locations. However, for birds in urban areas, suitable nesting sites are becoming increasingly scarce. In our project, we aim to improve this situation by providing nesting habitats for birds within human-built and inhabited environments. Furthermore, birds can coexist with humans in urban settings.

Take the blackbird as an example. Blackbirds belong to the Turdidae family in the order Passeriformes and area type of bird that has adapted to urban life. In our research, blackbirds are widely distributed in the urban green spaces of Shanghai. They can often be seen in some city parks, particularly enjoying walks on the grassy areas.

In our project, we have taken into account the behavioral habits of birds. The roof features a large lawn adjacent to several trees, creating an interactive space for both humans and birds. From the outside, it resembles a clever metaphor, illustrating that the city where humans reside is not an isolated monolith; its sharp edges are softened, and that is where bird’s home.

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