Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal

Shengli River Gourmet Street (Gushui Street)




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Total land Area:11.0768 hectare

Construction Area:7,654 sqm

Gross Floor Area:12,096 sqm


Dating back 2500 years, the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal is one of the world’s most ancient, longest and largest canals. The canal runs north to south along 1794 km from Beijing to Hangzhou, crossing four provinces, two cities, and five rivers and parts of it are still navigable. Due to terrain and climate differences, the canal’s streamflow varies from section to section. In the 20th century, with the development of railway and highway transportation, goods were increasingly shipped via land. As water resources decreased, the canal fell into disrepair and only a small number of vessels transported goods along the canal up to the early 1950s. Several sections of the canal became an open-air waste dump. Most of the landscaping, architecture, and culture on both sides of the canal were blighted by rapid economic growth and urbanization.


Zhu has been always been intrigued by canals as landmarks bringing profound development in Chinese civilization throughout history, and had spent over a decade researching about  ancient canal in Hangzhou by the time the client of the project, city government of Hangzhou starts to seek solution for rebuilding the inner city “garbage river” and restore the glory of ancient canal. As in many other projects in his career, Zhu’s passion and years’ of research work on the canal and the role of its landscape and architecture played in the city of Hangzhou prepared him well before the opportunity emerges. Right before 2008, the city government of Hangzhou was looking for ways to fix the eyesore of the city yet had no clue how. In fact, the client had made NO plan in building the project until Zhu presented his vision, a rare exception to the conventional urban planning process in the city. But as both the architect and the government client were seeking for a solution to restore heritage and transform (for practical use) the canal at the same time, Zhu’s proposed plan, backed by his deep knowledge in the canal and its role in Hangzhou’s cultural context and historical heritage  impressed the city,  which then decided to build the “Grand Canal Gourmet Street” project.


In 2008, Zhu created a scroll painting of the Grand Canal titled “Hushu River draft” for the Grand Canal’s World Heritage Site application. Using the ink scroll painting as a blueprint for architecture design, Zhu submits the illustrated plan of the proposed Grand Canal project to the city government, which immediately got endorsed by the top leader especially the municipal party secretary. It took half a year for Zhu and team to turn the ink scroll vision into an architectural landscape design. The process was a unique combination of creative process and engineering endeavor—Zhu started from a blank draft, envisioning the completed project, drawing from his memories and historic materials in his mind, using a large number of conceptual manuscripts as creative materials, Zhu incorporated them into the general tone of the project, he then takes into account of functional architecture, landscapes and history, incl. the scale of the canal, actual space of buildings, specific stylistic features, flow of traffic, considerations of the quality of the materials to churn out a draft, in this case, Zhu used Sketchup to make the draft of the design on a computer. After completing the basic rendering, the material components and the dimensions of the materials are added in the image. After the figure is completely rendered in Sketch Up, it’s given watercolor effects in Photoshop, to allow designers have a much clearer indicator of the draft stage of construction. In half a year, Zhu completed all the architectural designs for more than three kilometers of the canal’s buildings, bridges and water discharge stations.


A year later, one the most lively food street in China was built on the Canal, transforming the open air water dump (also dubbed as “River of Garbage”) into one of “China’s top ten gourmet streets”. Zhu was the sole designer of all the architecture, bridges, landscape, and sculptures in the project. Zhu’s artistic design weaves together the past and present of commerce on the Grand Canal through reconstruction of all its buildings, bridges, landscaping and sculptures along the fouled Shengli River. The project cleaned up the river area created new jobs and helped boost tourism, catering and real estate enterprises. The project was an instant success generating an annual revenue of 180 million RMB right after its opening for the city and attracted millions of visitors every year.



The Notorious Shengli River, An Open-air Waste Dump along Shengli River - Grand Canal before Restoration

Master Plan of Gushui Street and Shengli River Canal

Birds’ eye view of Gushui Street and Shengli River Canal

Gushui Street and Shengli River Canal after Restoration

Gushui Street and Shengli River Canal after Restoration.


A native from Zhejiang, Zhu was inspired by the city of Hangzhou (provincial capital of Zhejiang, one of the biggest metropolitan areas in China)  during the Golden Age of the Qing Dynasty, when most of Hangzhou’s taverns, teahouses, theaters and merchants were concentrated in the Gongshu Canal District. Agricultural and fishing commerce, river transportation, and government also flourished there during that time.   Zhu has spent more than a decade sorting out and revive the anecdotal details of the ancient canal. Now Hangzhou's Gongshu District, with its fish market, agricultural market, night market, and Gu Shui Street, all constantly ablaze with lights, hearkens back to the glory days of the Qing Dynasty. Here, the flourishing of a grand past slowly unfolds before one's eyes.  Thousands of boats, tens of thousands of people, rows of buildings, Gu Shui Street’s mix of joyful chatter and sorrow-- a century of complexity along the canal, all expressed within this 15-meter long site.  At the intersection of the Sheng Li River, the Grand Canal, and the Hong Jian River, Zhu Renmin drew a circle that bathed these waterways in light, softening the sharp angles of their chaotic meeting point. This scene of ten or so meters brings together the spirit of the city and its people. This site turned into the only rotunda on the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, and is also the first celebrated landmark of the Sheng Li River and Gu Shui Street. 


Zhu Renmin uses creative methods to express culture and to highlight its commercial aspects.   This project emphasizes the compatibility between vernacular architecture and modern commercial functions.  Gu Shui Street, with its striking vernacular architecture and sense of color, as well as its infrastructure for transportation, fire prevention, heat flow and waste disposal, achieves a harmonious balance of ancient folkways and modern features. Tourists can enjoy the sights and sounds, and commerce can thrive along the Grand Canal.

Zhu’s hand sketches of the architectural layout at the intersection of Sheng Li River, the Grand Canal, and the Hong Jian River.

At the intersection of the Sheng Li River, the Grand Canal, and the Hong Jian River, Zhu Renmin drew a circle that bathed these waterways in light, softening the sharp angles of their chaotic meeting point.

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More information includes:

1. “Potala at the Sea” Mount Putuo Wharf 

2. Redesign and Building of Sea God Altar

3. Putuo Lotus Island ​

Or, Click for another representative work.