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12.03.2015
China’s relatively new profession of landscape architecture is finding its feet, writes Marc Deuschle. Yet it is modern landscape gestures that we are (or should be) passionate about, even if they will never quite compare to the Great Wall.
The value and potential of a well-designed landscape is not well understood by Chinese developers, and especially not by their marketing departments. When it comes to residential landscape architecture the general approach is a little more conservative, although occasionally a bolder project appears. It was only recently that landscape architecture became a stand-alone degree in China, and the first graduates only began to emerge in the early 2000s.
We can only hope that in the future, as more and more projects with a useful, exciting, contextual and contemporary landscape prove successful, buyers will demand such standards as the minimum, and that this will lead to a permanent mental shift in the minds of developers. Project managers are now driving procurement, but architects can no longer afford to observe from the back seat.


The physical results of many, especially those woven into the landscape fabric of China, still remain visible to this day. Here in Australia both labour and materials are far more expensive than in China, and the demand for real estate is weakening, yet we see a determined effort by developers to provide the latest and greatest, biggest and boldest, smartest and sexiest landscapes as a selling point for their developments. This is almost ironic in a country where the use of public landscape is so established, extensive and varied.
For decades China has allowed architects – mostly foreign – to experiment on its skylines, with sometimes wonderful, often ridiculous, but always thought-provoking results.
Architectural design has evolved to a stage where the “point of difference” is seen as a positive. The New Botanic Garden Shanghai, by Valentien + Valentien Landscape Architects, and Shanghai Houtan Park (part of Shanghai Expo 2010) by Turenscape, are two outstanding recent examples.
And despite China’s garden-design roots, landscape architecture matching the distinction of its gardens is lacking.


The Great Wall slithering over mountain ridges north of Beijing, the Grand Canal, snaking its way between Beijing and Hangzhou, and the terracotta warriors of emperor Qin Shi Huang lined up in defence of their leader dwarf any landscape gesture of the modern era, anywhere. The building concept by Sako Architects (Tokyo) resembles oversized pixel grids, and the landscape design was conceived with the aim of matching this boldness while also creating a development full of excitement and program for residents.
It is hard to believe that Chinese landscape architecture will not undergo a considerable evolution in the coming years.
Perhaps developers think since well-programmed landscape exists in the public realm private developments do not require it.



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