Summer Palace in Beijing, China, is a vast system of lakes, gardens and palaces, its most prominent features Kunming Lake and Longevity Hill. Three-quarters of its 2.9-square-kilometre expanse is water. However, the water that forms part of a reservoir servicing inner Beijing is undergoing a serious crisis: water shortage and contamination. Kunming Lake is shrinking, recently decreasing to 1.5 metres deep. Meanwhile, there is an inadequate number of aquatic plants in Kunming Lake, weakening its self-purification capacity.
This thesis explores Summer Palace as a framework for a new water system that balances the demands of urban, agricultural, wetland and forest systems. Phase one proposes a performative topography to collect and direct wastewater from the surrounding urban development and the adjacent north–south water diversion canal (from Zhejiang Province). This water runs through constructed wetlands for purification, releasing cleaner water into Kunming Lake. The framework forms a close relationship between urban and natural areas (gardens and green spaces) and helps to reshape the water cycle system for the whole territory. Phase two introduces settlement in selective areas, responding to the multiple challenges of residential shortages, the maintenance of Summer Palace’s traditional view lines and protecting The Imperial Garden.