Tuesday, May 4, 2010
China Sweeps American Landscape Architecture Awards
Rising Star Yu Kongjian’s Radical Vision
Design firm Turenscape in concert with Peking University Graduate School of Landscape Architecture virtually swept this year’s ASLA awards, winning an unprecedented three of the twelve design awards, including the prestigious Award of Excellence and two Honor Awards. The group beat out the hugely popular Highline, New York’s elevated rail park, anticipated by many to win this year’s top award.
All three of the winning projects were large scale, regenerative landscapes that transformed formerly degraded sites into lush, public parks. “This is very powerful,” wrote the Awards jury for the Shanghai Houtain Park, built on a former brownfield. “It’s full of the right messages of our profession. The scope is exquisite. The presentation is excellence. Shanghai never has a blue sky, and recognizing this kind of sustainable project in that context is important.”
Red Ribbon in Tanghe River Park, a project that Conde Nast Traveler named as one of the seven modern architectural wonders in the world.
A Different Kind of Park
Yu has long advocated for a different kind of public park: “Why can’t we use agricultural plants, crops, wild grasses, and fruit trees to decorate cities and parks? They are equally beautiful but yield fruits and demand little attention." Yu's love for wildness is balanced by an appreciation for the agricultural and industrial heritage of a site. The winning projects frequently use the concept of agricultural terraces and rice fields to create ecologically productive landscapes.
Shanghai’s Houtan Park uses wild grasses and crops as a water-filtering machine, cleaning 2,400 cubic meters of water a day. “There is a beauty in wild grasses,” says Yu. “We don’t see it because we have a twisted aesthetic, taking natural things to be lower class. We are addicted to city beautification: uprooting agricultural crops and trees on the land, building cities, and importing expensive and fruitless garden plants.”
Yu goes on to make an analogy: “It’s kind of ludicrous and harmful feudalistic aristocratic aesthetic. Like when we bound women’s feet and still viewed it as beautiful and elegant. We now are binding the feet of nature.”
Shanghai Houtan Park: Landscape as a Living System
The Qinhuangdao Beach Restoration: An Ecological Surgery
Tianjin Qiaoyuan Park: The Adaptation Palettes