Urban Design as an Art of Survival: Redefinition of Urbanity in Contemporary China
Kongjian Yu, ASLA The Graduate School of Landscape Architecture, Peking University Turenscape, WWW.turenscape.com Urban Design as an Art of Survival: Redefinition of Urbanity in Contemporary China
Content 1. The poetic vernacular of the past China: as a product of the the art of survival 2. The Pass to Urbanity: The art of survival is getting lost along with the process of urbanization 3. The New Vernacular: Redefine urbanity in Contemporary China 4. Projects: The new vernacular
1. Art of survival of the Past had created vernacular and poetic China
5000 years ago In the Yellow River Valley of China, one of the thousands of natural disasters of floods and land slides took place, and buried a whole village and took all of its inhabitants’ lives
At the very moment when she was being buried in the mud, a young mother protected her baby child, and raised her head, stretching her arms, and was calling the God for help!
This god was no one else but Da Yu, who was able to make friends with floods, began to use rules and measures, and made wise use of the land to select a safe place for his people to build a city. Da Yu became China’s first King. This, I will say, was the origin and essence of urban planning and landscape architecture, combining the art of survival and the leadership of the king.
It was this king’s art of survival and land stewardship, which evolved through thousands of year of trials and errors, that helped the disaster-torched Chinese people, select the safe places for their settlements, making fields that keep soil without being eroded, divert water for irrigation, and select right plants for food production, and make the land spiritually sacred and meaningful.
(1)The art of survival : taking place in the mother land
(2)The art of survival: water management, Lin Qu in China. The weir was built more than 2,000 years ago and is still in use. It makes friends with natural forces and makes it possible to harness the powerful force of nature.
(2)The art of survival :Water system as infrastructure: Dujiang Yan Dyke, solve multiple problems of flood, drought and navigation
The water adaptive city: Chinese cities built along with water system
(4)The art of survival: Strategies of Making friends with floods: Retaining water
Land of Peach Blossoms: The Paradise, the Chinese vernacular The products of the art of survival were the Land of Peach Blossoms, described by the Westerners as poetic and picturesque, where people and spirits are in harmony. The old vernacular: (1) A sacred landscape of ecological infrastructure (2) A series of Land of peach blossoms
2. The Pass to Urbanity: <ul><li>Unfortunately, this holistic king’s art of survival declined and has been split into: </li></ul><ul><li>(1) a single minded engineering, which lead to the destruction of the ecological infrastructure </li></ul><ul><li>(2) the trivial cosmetic art of gardening and civic design (the art of urbanity) </li></ul>single minded engineering cosmetic design
Cement steel coal The consumption of building material in China as compared to the whole world, But where do they go? Urbanization: Consume so much, but for what?
(1) The destruction of ecological infrastructure 500 year flood controlling dike surrounding Hainan Island, the last undeveloped paradise Channellzed Yangtzi River: The biggest river in China Monument of flood control victory: Dragon been arrested
Destroy the ecological infrastructure for a single minded purpose
(2) The Cosmetic Art or urbanity: The art of survival is declined into the cosmetic art of gardening and civic design, which by mistake we called landscape architecture and urban design Landscape, Architecture and city as ornaments
They did not appreciate the real vernacular landscapes of Land of Peach Blossoms, because it belongs to the lower culture, the common landscape of surviving, and is associated with hard work and low class. Instead, for two thousands years, nobles recreated the fake Land of Peach Blossoms for pleasure-making, using ornaments and false rockery, which had been honored as a civic art of urban design and “gardening.” In China, The cosmetic art of urbanity began more than 2000 years ago, when emperors started to build the fake Land of Peach Blossoms The fake Land of Peach Blossoms: The Grandview garden, what is missing here is the productivity and authentic natural processes, even the peach flowers are in capable of bearing fruits The real Land of Peach Blossoms
The art of urbanity For more than a thousand years, young Chinese girls were forced to bind their feet in order to be able to marry citified elites, and the natural “big” feet were considered rustic and rural. Unhealthy, and deprived of productivity
I have seen two kinds of people: One is the common, humble, but healthy, productive, and still alive today; The other is special, citified noble, but deformed, and dead. The art of Urbanity: in Maya culture
Urbanity ( citified small foot ) vs. Rustic ( rural big foot )
<ul><li>There are two cultures: </li></ul><ul><li>The lower culture, the invisible, the art of survival that created the real landscape and real world, and survive; </li></ul><ul><li>The higher culture, the visible, the civilized, the art urbanity that creates faked landscape and fake world, and perished. </li></ul><ul><li>Unfortunately, for a long time, the professions of civic design and landscape architecture belong to the later </li></ul>But the value for such kind of “Urbanity” has been inherited today
Urbanity (Ornamentals) vs. Rustic ( Wild grasses)
Rape plantation along country road Ornamentals along new country road Rustic Urban
Waste more than necessary Destroy the native vegetation, replaced with energy and resource costly ornaments Irrigation cost 1 cubic meter of water/year Landscape to be “urbanized”
Landscape as ornament: out-of–scale squares: view from the major’s office window
<ul><li>X </li></ul>France Italy France Landscape as ornament: China
Architecture as ornament: Land mark buildings in Shanghai
Architecture as ornament: Where does the steel go? build grandeur monumental buildings just for show The National Stadium: uses 50,000 tons of steel (originally 136,000 tons), 500 kg/square meter The CCTV Tower: 250 kg/square meter, 10 times as much as a normal office building The National Opera House The art of urbanity of the high tech
City as ornament: the “urban”, turn out to be the dentist’s tool box or Disneyland: Shanghai,
The cost of environmental degradation is 7-20% of the GDP, higher than the annual GDP growth. The cost: Brown field of China
<ul><li>Water: </li></ul><ul><li>Flood, draught, pollution and habitat loss cost 1.5 ％～ 1.9% of annual GDP </li></ul>Draught: 400 of 662 cities in shortage of water, 20 million people are in shortage of drinking water, In Beijing, underground drops 1.0 meter each year. Flood: annual flood damage cost 100 billion US $, 10 million people live in flood plain Pollution: 70% of the nation’s surface water is polluted, 64 ％ of cities’ underground water is polluted, 1/3 of the national population are under the threat of drinking water pollution Habitat loss: 50% wetland disappeared in the past 50 years
(1) the destruction of ecological infrastructure (2) The loss of vernacular to the cosmetic art of ornaments
3. Recovering the art of survival Therefore, we need to secure our land for survival, We need recover the landscape and urban design art of survival 3.1 The building of ecological infrastructure across scales, landscape leads the way and landscape urbanism 3.2 The Creation of New Vernacular: Redefine urbanity in Contemporary China
3.1 XL, L, M, S The spatial solution: The building of ecological infrastructures across scales, landscape leads the way (landscape urbanism) “The spatial solution is a pattern of ecosystems or land uses that will conserve the bulk of, and the most important attributes of, biodiversity and natural processes in any region” (Forman and Collinge, 1997).
<ul><li>A systematic approach: Landscape as processes and infrastructure </li></ul>The single-minded engineering
XL: National ecological infrastructure Base on ecological security patterns
1. Address the big issues of survival 2. For the people, the common and ordinary 3. Use new technology and new material 4. An integration of contemporary art and ecology 3.2 The New Vernacular: Redefine urbanity in Contemporary China
<ul><li>Make friends with Floods ---------The Floating Gardens of Yongning Park This project demonstrates an ecological approach to flood control and storm water management, while also educating people about other solutions to flood control beyond engineering. </li></ul>2006 ASLA Honor award, Design
The existing site: the riverbank was lined with concrete and the process of channelization of the whole river was underway.
The park under development: Concrete was removed, diverse terrain on the river bed and along the riparian plane were laid to create various habitats for native plants, and the river bank was graded, allowing people to access the water.
The ecologically recovered riparian wetland conducive to the natural processes of flooding and native species is also accessible to people
Productive Landscape and Productivity City: the Rice Campus of Shenyang Architectural University <ul><li>2005 ASLA Honor award, Design </li></ul>
The design had to contend with the following existing site conditions and budgetary limitations: (1) Former agricultural use (2) Small budget (3) Short timeline (4) Identity The solution is to grow rice Native crops (rice and buckwheat) are used for the new campus landscape. The paths across the fields are connections between different functional buildings (between student dormitories to classrooms and laboratories).
Sheep are raised to consume the left over of the native crops
Rice fields are made penetrable using concrete narrow paths, that allow students and faculty to touch and feel the rice.
The Rice Planting Day: the first Saturday after mid May was designated as the rice planting day for the university. Students and faculty members will celebrate the planting of rice seedlings. It is an unforgettable and unique experience to the students, and is becoming an integral part of the university culture.
The Rice Harvesting Day: The last Saturday of October each year was designated as the Rice Harvesting Day, when all the students and faculty members participate in harvesting the their own rice. This way the long lost tradition of rice culture in China becomes a campus culture.
Some rice patches were deliberately left on the fields to last until the winter that give a bright and warm color to the cold atmosphere
Golden Rice becomes an icon: the rice produced on the campus is harvested and distributed as “Golden Rice,” serving both as a keepsake for visitors of the school, and also as a source of identity for the newly established, suburban campus.
Value the Ordinary and Neglected: Zhongshan Shipyard Park An Industrial Site Becomes Local Cultural Identity and a Spiritual Connection Between the Land and People, and Across Time and Generations <ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>2002 ASLA Honor award </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul>11 hectares ， built in 1950s ， bankrupted in 1999 ， small but typical of socialist industry, 1500 lost their jobs.
The Design Approaches <ul><li>Preserve: no design--preserve native habitats, water ,and cultural elements </li></ul><ul><li>Reuse: to reuse existing structures, materials and forms for new functions </li></ul><ul><li>Recycle: to digest the existing forms, materials and genius loci to re-create new forms for new functions and for visualizing and strengthening the meanings of the site </li></ul>
lower water level middle water level higher water
<ul><li>The retired workers, every morning they come here together, and the rail become the link between them and the past. </li></ul>
The Bubble Gardens Tianjin Qiaoyuan Park Ecological recovery of a deserted site for multiple eco-services <ul><li>Tianjin City, 200km from Beijing, </li></ul><ul><li>22 Ha, Deserted and salty land with as huge high pass on west side and the dense residential on the east </li></ul>
The regional landscape <ul><li>Flat, salty and marshy region, with a delicate spectrum of habitats and biodiversity that sensitively response to the change of water level, soil and Ph value </li></ul>东营境内的盐碱化土壤
The recovering strategy: Sampling bubble <ul><li>By sampling , instead of collecting, the park was expected to resemble the overall experience of the regional landscape. </li></ul><ul><li>Diverse habitats were created with a spectrum of delicate change of the ecosystems, a regional landscape was recovered in the city for : </li></ul><ul><li>1. Storm water management </li></ul><ul><li>2. Education of the vernacular </li></ul><ul><li>3. Recreation </li></ul><ul><li>4. Improvement of the soil itself and the urban environment </li></ul>
2007 ASLA Honor award The Minimum Intervention: The Red Ribbon <ul><li>How can we, like Da Yu and our ancestors, make use of natural processes and services, but with minimum intervention </li></ul>Lin Qu: 2000 Years ago The Red Ribbon: Qinhuangdao City, China
The site: 1. At the periphery of the city, development is underway, want to be urbanized and “modernized” 2. excellent vegetation, good ecological condition 3. dirty, garbage dump, and security problem 4. inaccessible
<ul><li>Landscape architecture and urban design is now on the verge of change. It is time for this profession to take the great opportunity to position themselves to play the key role in rebuilding a new Land of Peach Blossoms for a new society. </li></ul><ul><li>Old china had sacred landscape protecting the land of Peach Blossoms </li></ul><ul><li>New China need an ecological infrastructure to safeguard the urbanized society </li></ul>
Old China had elegant concubines with bound feet strolling in long corridors. New China can have fleet-of-foot girls bursting with energy as they race through the urban landscape. (Tom Turner , Blog article: Context-sensitive landscape architecture in China, 2008)