After a couple of cool damp days, the weather, like my cold improved, and I started to explore the city of Suzhou. After having just spent two weeks in Campeche Mexico's, historical city center, Suzhou could not be more different, for there is little history in Suzhou Industrial Park, where I am staying, instead there is lots of “new”. This area is really amazing in how the Chinese have created a beautiful community to support the rapid expansion of the industrial sector. I am told that similar to Campeche, Suzhou also has a historical central section, and I look forward to exploring this part of the city later in my stay in China.
Unlike an “Industrial” park back home , where the emphasis is very definitely on the needs of the industries using the park, Suzhou Industrial Park has switched the emphasis to the people working in the park. The result is really much more “Park-like” than in Canada. I always wondered why it was called a “Park” when there are none of the usual features we look for in a park. Here in Suzhou they have done it right, combining the needs of industry with needs of the people working in the industries. There are apartments, schools, technical institutes, recreational facilities, restaurants, shopping malls, and acres and acres of actual parkland. The result seems to me to be good for everyone, providing a ready source of workers for the industries, and for the workers a comfortable convenient community close to their work.
I am told that the Suzhou Industrial Park is so new that there was nothing here ten years ago, and then it was designed with a great deal of thought to create an effective community for everyone. Apartment complexes blend with industry and services to create a unified community serving everyone well. The newness of the area is particularly evident when walking through the actual parkland that is generously scattered through the Industrial Park. All of the gardens and trees are relatively young, and everywhere new trees are being planed and new gardens being developed. It isn't a matter of putting in these parks and then forgetting them either, for I see people every day working, maintaining and upgrading the parkland. I walked through one area where rows of new full sized trees were being planted al wrapped in natural rope to protect them as they settled into their new surroundings.
All through the Industrial park are apartment complexes, providing lots of comfortable homes for people working in the park. Everywhere you look construction cranes can be seen erecting new, bigger and better buildings. These building are in no way stark dormitory style building designed to simply house workers when they are not building things in the factories. Each building is designed in it's own park like setting. The building are often amazing tall and thin, making the most of the valuable space, but each building is surrounded by gardens and green areas. Built into most complexes are small corner stores and small restaurants. The buildings themselves are unique and of interesting designs. Especially interesting are the tops of these building, which often look like separate little villages perched on top of the towering buildings.
Scattered throughout the park are many schools, providing education for the thousands of children living in the apartments. I was surprised at the number of “Experimental” schools, often next door to a regular school, and with my background in education I couldn't help but wonder what went on behind these “Experimental” school walls? On one of my walks I noticed a huge Hitachi factory right next door to a large technical school – someone put this schools in the right place. The schools themselves are all large, open and inviting and are architecturally interesting on their own.
The real highlight of Suzhou Industrial Park has to be the actual Parkland designed into the area. Central to the Park is the larg Jing Ji Lake which has Parkland scattered around it. There are also many canal running through the entire area. Every canal is lined with grass and trees, usually elegant willows. I was surprised that these canal usually are not readily accessible to people, and although you can see and enjoy them, they do not normally have paths along them as I have seen in many other cities. Scattered through the park are many other areas of parkland, usually with wandering well maintained pathways, benches, manicured lawns, gardens and trees. Some of these parks within the park were well used, but others I seemed to be enjoying by myself, of course that could simple be me as the crazy Canadian enjoying the 15C day instead of the -5C back home in Nova Scotia, where the local residents are waiting for the actual warmer weather to enjoy their parks.
Suzhou certainly seems to have figured out how to build an Industrial Park to serve the Industries as well as the people working there.