Monthly Archives: October 2010

Forms can follow functions in garden design, landscape design and urban design

Dark brown is the river.
Golden is the sand.
It flows along for ever,
With trees on either hand
(Robert Louis Stevenson Where Go the Boats?)
The form of the Dark Brown River derives from the function of conveying peaty water from the mountains to the sea. Its obvious, but the design maxim that ‘form follows function’ has had too little influence on garden and landscape design. The phrase was coined by Louis Sullivan in 1896 and his sometime partner, Frank Lloyd Wright, observed that ‘We see an airplane clean and light-winged – the lines expressing power and purpose; we see the ocean liner, streamlined, clean and swift – expressing power and purpose. The locomotive too – power and purpose. Some automobiles begin to look the part. Why are not buildings, too indicative of their special purpose? The forms of things that are perfectly adapted to their function, we now observe, seem to have a superior beauty of their own. We like to look at them. Then, as it begins to dawn on us that form follows function – why not so in architecture especially?’ Wright produced a brilliant project, appropriately called Falling Water and I wish he had found more time for garden and landscape design. One reason for functionalism having little affect on outdoor designers is an unimaginative appreciation of the ‘functions’ of outdoor space. Now that we have to make cities more sustainable, we can also make them more beautiful – by deriving forms from functions. The outdoor environment of cities can be arranged to protect buildings from solar gain, to make cities quieter, to manage surface water, to encourage non-motorised transport, to produce food, to produce firewood – and to serve many other functions. If we can make places which are as ‘perfectly adapted to their function’, as a darksome burn, they have an aesthetic of ‘power and purpose’. A functionalist approach, guided by zen perfectionism and what used to be called ‘the principles of art’, could result in great new city forms. Slurping greenery over every horizontal and vertical surfaces holds less promise, though I like greens better than brutalist concrete. My heart is with Hopkins. I hope we can keep the ‘wildness and wet’ and I hope we can make better cities by giving them more weeds, more wilderness – and more ecological functions.
This darksome burn, horseback brown,
His rollrock highroad roaring down,
In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam
Flutes and low to the lake falls home.
….
What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.
(Gerard Manley Hopkins Inversnaid)

Much of the supposedly Functionalist architecture of the ’50s and ’60s was very non-functional: too much glare, too much solar gain, poor construction, bad microclimatic affects etc. So I hope landscape architecure and garden design will become one of the great success stories for the Form follows Function design approach.

Museum Quality Gardens

A interesting garden typology which seems to be given more attention in recent times is the museum garden, such as the garden at Giverny ‘The Museum of Impressions’. The garden museum was conceived to give visitors an experience of the Seine valley on the impressionists trail and to complement the art gallery experience of viewing impressionist paintings. The museum building is described as “topped by roofs landscaped in heather…inscribed into the natural slope of the land, allowing the minimum of opague walls.”

For the garden traditionalist there is the Musee Rodin in Paris which captures something of the atmosphere of the outdoors indoors and has a an inspiring sculpture garden.

Perhaps an even more interesting possibility with this trend is the potential for the museum-in-the-garden. The museum of life and science in North Carolina demonstrates the potential of the museum outdoors.

Where better to experience and learn about art, physics and the natural world?

Hypnerotomachia Poliphili and renaissance garden design history

An original copy of Hypnerotomachia Poliphili by Francesco Colonna (1499) is available on the web. It is a fabulous book and has been translated into English by Joscelyn Godwin. Colonna’s dreaming imagination embraces architecture, landscapes and gardens in a tale of passionate love – and eroticism.

'comely and beautiful maidens, taking their ease on the flowery grass and in the cool pleasant shade'

Polyphili meets a group of ‘friendly nymphs’ who invite him to join their bath – in a scene which might have inspired the much smuttier Hugh Hefner Playboy grotto: ‘Now that we had happily entered into such fragrance as could never have grown in Arabia, they spread out their silken garments neatly on the stone seats that served as dressing room… and unconcernedly let their shapely and delicious bodies be seen naked in every particular… I certainly could not prevent the ardent fires from leaping up to assault me in my furnace of a heart… but the nymphs, noticing it, found girlish amusement in laughing at my bashful demeanour’. Colonna was a Dominican monk but, as Godwin observes ‘we can surmise that Brother Francesco’s experience of women’s love was not limited to his dreams’.
The design dreams of the Hypnerotomachia are so rich that some scholars have attributed its authorship to Alberti. The word Hypnerotomachia is a compound of hypnos (sleep), eros (love) and mache (strife). Godwin, whom design historians must thank for his translation, renders this as The Strife of Love in a Dream and one wonders if the visions, both erotic and architectural, came to Colonna in a dream. I have not experienced such a combination but the best landscape design ideas I have had have all been when asleep. They have all been forgotten but Colonna may have put his dreams in words and images.

The graphic design of the Hypnerotomachia is admired as a masterwork from the printer, Aldus Pius Manutius (1450-1515), who devised the italic type and established the semicolon. This is the only illustrated book Aldus published and it is a brilliant example of the way in which words and images can be combined. I think garden design works best as a ‘word and image’ discipline (and regret that architecture seems to have lost much of this interest). Colonna had a far-reaching influence on gardens with his detailed descriptions of images, planting and construction ideas. He must be telling us something about the gardens he knew and he had a profound influence on the imagery used in renaissance, baroque and romantic gardens. Colonna influenced the Villa d’Este, Bomarzo, Versailles and Chiswick House. He also drew the earliest known image of what is called a knot garden in English. In Italian they were called compartmenti (compartments).

Cities in their landscape setting

The landscape setting of cities is a vital component of their character which can often be overlooked. This is particularly so for designers when they are considering contributions to the design of the skyline. Hong Kong with its harbour and mountainous surrounds benefits from the scenic amenity of its setting. And because of the physical and visual strength of these geographic characteristics the setting is able to support a dense tall city.

The relationship between building and landscape is worthy of considerable design attention. The name Hong Kong literally means ‘fragrant harbour’. Victoria harbour is one of the deepest natural maritime ports in the world. Reclamation projects dating from the late 1842 (1890, 1930, 1960, 1980 and 1990) have progressively advanced Hong Kong’s shoreline.

In Hong Kong they recognise some of the benefits of landscape saying that the landscape is an asset which contributes to well-being, helps define the identity of the city, provides habitats for wildlife and is part of their culture and heritage.

Social and Sustainable Streets

Model Streetscape


Perhaps the designers of this streetscape had already absorbed Robert’s message. Not only the shade trees (Cinnamomum camphora), but lots of heat-island reducing planters too. Not so many parked cars as in Bermondsey, but of course loads of bicycles and mopeds. The great majority of the mopeds in the picture are electric. So far, so sustainable. But, this is also a social streetscape. Behind the arcade on the left are the lunchtime restaurants, the vegetables are prepared on the pavement under the arcade and the customers enjoy a cigarette after their meal on the benches and raised walls in the balmy, late autumn sun. The large, evergreen shrubs – Osmanthus fragrens – fill the air with their light scent. Residents dry their washing on the clothes racks outside their apartment windows without the use of machines. One of many such streets in the Pudong New District of Shanghai, all not much older than 15-20 years.

What can landscape and urban designers to to limit climate change and global warming?

Alma Grove is a survivor of the Metropolitan Borough of Bermondsey street beautification policies of the 1920s and 1930s. Then such street beautification was seen as part of public health provision, along with backgardens for tuberculosis sufferers, window box competitions, public parks and gardens, municipal bakeries (to combat adulteration of flour) and medical provision under the mayorality of Dr Alfred Salter

Wikipedia has good entries on Global Warming and  the Greenhouse Effect. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change summarizes the arguments, details the scientific data and provides a Summary for Policy Makers. The IPCC was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).   The greenhouse effect is fundamental to climate change theory. It is the process by which radiation (light and heat) reflected by the surface of the earth is absorbed by atmospheric gases. Greenhouse gases include water vapour and carbon dioxide. They transfer this reflected radiation to other components of the atmosphere and it is re-radiated in all directions, including back down towards the surface. This transfers energy to the surface, so the temperature there is higher than it would be if direct heating by solar radiation were the only warming mechanism.  Nicholas Stern made an authoritative review of the economic arguments for dealing with global warming in 2006: The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change and concluded that the benefits of strong, early action on climate change considerably outweigh the costs, so that 1% of global gross domestic product (GDP) per annum should be invested to avoid the worst effects of climate change. Otherwise we risk global GDP falling by 20%.

So what does this mean for urban designers and landscape architects? Here is an unranked list:

  • plan ecological corridors to promote migration of flora and fauna,
  • conserve water,  use drought-tolerant plants and change methods of cultivation,
  • use shade structures (e.g. roadside trees) to promote human comfort,
  • design high albedo (= light reflective) surfaces to combat heat island effects
  • plan landscapes for coastal retreat,
  • install sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDS)
  • restructure agricultural and other landscapes as the tree line moves upwards,
  • plan high density settlements to reduce energy consumption,
  • promote the use of  renewable energy,
  • design afforestation schemes,
  • include for recycling and composting in designed landscapes
  • manage river basins to avoid flooding
  • design green roofs
  • use soil conservation and soil carbon sink policies
  • use good design to promote cycling and walking
  • use low embodied carbon materials, (e.g. use flexible paving not paving with a concrete base course)
  • minimizing the area of paving, and built form,
  • use  low thermal conductivity materials e.g. avoid metal paving with a high thermal conductivity, and prefer timber paving with a low thermal conductivity;
  • avoid smooth surfaces with a high thermal conductivity and prefer rough surfaces such as gravel or small unit paving (eg prefer riven stone setts to sawn stone setts)
  • change the form of urban development (eg to avoid high rise and urban canyon effects),
  • avoid thick pavements with a higher thermal storage capacity: e.g. avoid concrete bases to stone paving,
  • increase the vegetation including parks and gardens, street trees and roof gardens,
  • reduce waste heat emissions from buildings.

This list constitutes either ways to limit the increase in global warming by reduction of use and production of greenhouse gases or by ways to ameliorate the effects of such warming such as planning for river flooding in response to the extreme weather events, which are a characteristic of the warming process. For the discussion of the heat island effect refer to London’s Urban Heat Island: A Summary for Decision Makers Greater London Authority October 2006:  “When a land cover of buildings and roads replaces green space, the thermal, radiative, moisture and aerodynamic properties of the surface and the atmosphere are altered. This is because urban construction materials have different thermal (heat capacity and thermal conductivity) and radiative (reflectivity and emissivity) properties compared to surrounding rural areas, which results in more of the sun’s energy being absorbed and stored in urban compared to rural surfaces. In addition, the height of buildings and the way in which they are arranged affects the rate of escape at night of the sun’s energy absorbed during the day by building materials. The result is that urban areas cool at a much slower rate than rural areas at night, thus maintaining comparatively higher air temperatures. Urban areas also tend to be drier than their rural counterparts because of the lack of green space, a predominance of impervious surfaces and urban drainage systems, which quickly remove water from the urban surface.  This combination of effects alters the energy balance of the urban environment. Consequently in urban compared to rural areas, more of the sun’s energy absorbed at the surface goes into heating the atmosphere and thus raising the air temperature than into evapotranspiration (water uptake and loss by plants), which is a cooling process.” The heat island effect contributes to increased mortality rates for the old and the young such as in the hot summers of 2003 and 2006. See the list of GLA publications on the environment and in particular the GLA report on  Living Roofs and walls, technical report: supporting London’s Plan Policy (2008).  Also  the US Environmental Protection Agency website. http://www.epa.gov/ (e.g. http://www.epa.gov/heatisland/index.htm and see http://cfpub.epa.gov/ncer_abstracts/index.cfm/fuseaction/display.abstractDetail/abstract/7339/report/0

In summary

  • minimize inputs,
  • minimize outputs

Therefore

  • promote energy efficiency= densification, transport, sustainable production
  • promote waste efficiency= re-cycling and re-use
  • promote food efficiency= local production.

Further references: (1) the Dutch National Waterplan is an excellent example of landscape architects being effective at a national scale is (2009) (2) Michael D. King, Parkinson Claire L., Partington Kim C. and Williams, Robin G. Our Changing Planet, the View from Space. Cambridge University Press:2007 (3) Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees Our Ecological Footprint Gabriola Island, New Society Publishers: 2007 (4) Robert Kunzig and Wallace Broecker Fixing Climate The story of climate science and How to stop global warming London Profile Books Ltd.:2008 (5) Centre for Alternative Technology Zerocarbonbritain2030 Machynlleth, Centre for Alternative Technology Publication: 2010 http://www.zerocarbonbritain.com/

Nonsuch Tudor Palace Garden in Ewell, Surrey

The autumn weather was beautiful and I went to see the Nonsuch garden today. Little survives and I agree with the local Nonsuch historians that it represents ‘both a responsibility and a challenge.. [regarding] the proper management, preservation, and presentation of the site of one of the great houses and gardens of England’. A simple first step would be to attempt a re-creation of one of the Knot gardens shown on John Speed’s plan of Nonsuch. The plan was drawn in 1610 and a re-created knot would make a great contribution to garden history, for a small outlay. Since various interpretations of Speed’s drawing are possible, a different knot could be produced each year and they could become famous.

The photograph of Nonsuch (and the painting on the board) are approximately from the bottom of the palace plan

The photograph of Nonsuch (and the painting on the board) are approximately from the bottom of the palace plan

Non-environmental noise barriers

Non-environmental noise barrier

Non-environmental noise barrier

Environmental noise barriers can improve the design of cities, especially when they are built with a context-sensitive appreciation of construction and planting. Or they can be a waste of time and money. The design aim should be to create quiet areas for people to enjoy. I do not know of any evidence for fauna and flora being troubled by noise. So let’s think about how to create quiet areas in towns for busy people, like the garden of the Royal Library in Copenhagen (below). Can anyone recommend other examples of urban quiet places?

Image courtesy bankbryan


Image courtesy Sigfrid Lundberg

The view that changed the world and its gardens: what Petrarch saw from Mount Ventoux

View from the summit of Mount Ventoux

View from the summit of Mount Ventoux

Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374), known Petrarch is said to be the first man since antiquity to have climbed a mountain for pleasure alone. His ascent of Mount Ventoux, on April 26 1336, is described in his letter, below, and the view is shown in the photograph above (image courtesy Mark Madsen). The results of this famous climb include (1) humanism (2) renaissance literature and science (3) a re-birth of mimesis as the dominant theory of art and as a zest to ‘imitate nature’ (4) the change from inward-looking medieval gardens to outward-looming renaissance, baroque and romantic gardens (5) the tourist industry – Petrarch is known as the first tourist, in the sense of a man who travels for the pleasure of study, learning and views.
“To-day I made the ascent of the highest mountain in this region, which is not improperly called Ventosum [Mount Ventoux]. My only motive was the wish to see what so great an elevation had to offer. I have had the expedition in mind for many years; for, as you know, I have lived in this region from infancy, having been cast here by that fate which determines the affairs of men. Consequently the mountain, which is visible from a great distance, was ever before my eyes, and I conceived the plan of some time doing what I have at last accomplished to-day. The idea took hold upon me with especial force when, in re-reading Livy’s History of Rome, yesterday, I happened upon the place where Philip of Macedon, the same who waged war against the Romans, ascended Mount Haemus in Thessaly, from whose summit he was able, it is said, to see two seas, the Adriatic and the Euxine…. At first, owing to the unaccustomed quality of the air and the effect of the great sweep of view spread out before me, I stood like one dazed. I beheld the clouds under our feet, and what I had read of Athos and Olympus seemed less incredible as I myself witnessed the same things from a mountain of less fame. I turned my eyes toward Italy, whither my heart most inclined. The Alps, rugged and snow-capped, seemed to rise close by, although they were really at a great distance; the very same Alps through which that fierce enemy of the Roman name once made his way, bursting the rocks, if we may believe the report, by the application of vinegar. I sighed, I must confess, for the skies of Italy, which I beheld rather with my mind than with my eyes. An inexpressible longing came over rne to see once more my friend and my country.
Happy the man who is skilled to understand
Nature’s hid causes; who beneath his feet
All terrors casts, and death’s relentless doom,
And the loud roar of greedy Acheron.

PS apologies for using the hackneyed ‘changed the world’ header for this post.

Will China become a Nation of Gardeners?




One thing that strikes visitors to China immediately is the love of the population for flowers. Large, colourful blooms are the most popular and plantations are often visibly stressed by the masses of photographers that swarm over them. The best displays attract large crowds throughout the day and into the evening. Even on the rooftops – where they are accessible – burgeoning green is to be seen everywhere and salesmen on tricycles with impossible quantities of potted plants tour the urban streets where I live. If eating well is said to be one of China’s foremost hobbies, then gardening, or the appreciation of gardens, must also be high up the scale. Who knows what might happen when this emotional bond makes the leap to landscape architecture on the larger scale? And when might this take place? Perhaps, as in Seoul, a process of review will take place on the newly built environment in the not too far distant future and then the Chinese people will surprise us all – as they already have in so many other areas of life – with cityscapes that will be the envy of the western world.

Cheonggyecheon river reclamation and landscape architecture in Seoul, Korea

Brilliant landscape planning, and dreary landscape architecture, for the Cheonggyecheon River in Seoul, Korea

Korea has implemented a brilliantly ambitious and life-enhancing river restoration project which, unfortunately, is no masterpiece for Korean landscape architecture or garden design. Seoul, formerly Hanyang became Korea’s capital city in 1394 and a new city was built beside the lovely Cheonggyecheon River. Floods arrived from time to time but King Taejong (1400-1418) believed that nature should be allowed to run its course. A great stone bridge was built and the valley became a resort, a laundry, a children’s playground, a place for lantern festivals – and a sewer. During the Japanese occupation (1910-1945) the river was ‘improved’ in the sense of being dredged to protect the occupier’s property. Korean engineers decided the river should be buried and by 1967 it had disappeared from view. Construction of the Cheonggye Elevated Highway began in 1967 and was completed in 1976. It was built above the buried river. An elevated highway was then built above the valley It took 20 years to complete the project. The highway, 50-80m wide and 6km long, was opened in 1984. So far – so awful. But for the great good fortune of the Seoul’s citizens, the engineers were lousey and the steel beams began to rot. A report from the Korean Society of Civil Engineering, in 1992, recommended repairs. The programme of repairs went on for a decade but was innefective.
It was for this reason that the Cheonggyecheon Restoration Project was formulated. Engineers promised to transform Seoul’s grey concrete image. Their professed goal was “a lush, green city where clear waters flow. Through this and other such projects, Seoul will be re-born as a human-oriented environmental city, greatly increasing Seoul’s ‘brand’ value.” Tragically, the project was run by engineers and architects, with some planting, fountains, exterior lighting and ‘works of art’ stuffed in at the last minute. The result can be classed as brilliant landscape planning with crap landscape architecture. It is a terrible wind corridor and looks like the defensive ditch outside a walled Chinese city. Next time, they should make landscape architects the project co-ordinators.
I wish the UK had a river restoration project which was half as good as the Cheonggyecheon project – restoration of the River Fleet would be a good start. But the Koreans do seem to have learned something from the UK. Just as the Dunkirk disaster of June 1940 was proclaimed a victory, so the Cheonggyecheon disaster (photo below) is being presented as a triumph. Both boasts did some good and Seol has been nominated as the World Design Capital for 2010, partly on account of the Cheonggyecheon river reclamation. Still, I don’t think they read my chapter on River engineering, channelization and floods

The badly engineered Cheonggye Elevated Highway - before the river restoration

How many qualified Chinese landscape architects are there? – and how many does China need? 中国有多少具有从业资格的风景园林设计师?中国需要多少这样的风景园林师?

Beijing urban landscape: well-built but bad landscape architecture 北京成功建设,但差强人意的中国风景园林.

Beijing urban landscape: well-built but bad landscape architecture 北京成功建设,但差强人意的中国风景园林.

China is urbanizing at a faster rate than any other country has ever done and therefore has a greater need for qualified landscape architects than any country has ever had. At present, a Chinese friend informs me, there is a single qualification for Architecture and Urban planning and graduates are divided into two classes. In 2009 the First Class had 18,639 qualified architects and the Second Class had 16,000 urban planners. There are no officially qualified landscape architects in China but there are qualified companies and institutes in which the members can hold qualifications in architecture, urban planning, landscape architecture, environmental design, horticulture, forestry and other subjects.
My view, based on the experience of other countries, is that China will need a professionally recognized landscape architecture profession. This differs from the professions of architecture, urban planning, horticulture, environmental design etc. The fundamental skill is in the composition of five elements (landform, planting, water, buildings and paving) to create good places. These places, as Ian Thompson argued (in Ecology, Community and Delight: sources of value in landscape architecture) should be ecologically good, visually good and socially good – in combination or in isolation. This is exactly the skill which was used to make the Imperial Parks and Classical Gardens of Ancient China but if students have a limited education they will not be equal to the task. For example (1) architects and urban designers do not know enough about landfom, water and planting (2) horticulturalists and environmental designers do not know enough about aesthetics, or about structures, or about the social use of outdoor space (3) ecologists and geographers do not know enough about landscape art or basic landscape design.
As to the number of landscape architects China needs, or rather needed 25 years ago, one can make a simple estimate based on the number of landscape architects/head of population in Europe: my estimate is 120,000. But one could argue that if China’s middle class has 80m people then it ‘only’ needs the same number of landscape architects as Germany. Comments welcome – I am not Chinese and do not know the country well.

(Image courtesy P.)

Many thanks to Poppy for this translation into Chinese:
中国具备多少具有从业资格的风景园林师? 中国需要多少这样的风景园林师?

中国的城市化进程超越了任何其他国家,因此对风景园林师的需求也是超越任何其他国家的。一位中国朋友告诉我,目前中国有独立对建筑师,城市规划师的两类资格评估。在2009年,具有资格的建筑师18,639名,具有资格的城市规划师16,000名。在中国还没有对风景园林师的官方认证,而只有在公司和机构中的成员能够取得建筑师,城市规划师,风景园林师,环境设计师,园艺师,其他专业的资质评审。

基于对其他国家的了解,我认为中国需要一个对风景园林从业人员的专业认证。这个认证将有别于建筑设计,城市规划,园艺,环境设计等等。风景园林设计的技能是基于对主要五种要素的组织(地形,种植,水,建筑,道路铺装)以创造出优美的场所。这样的场所,按照伊恩•汤普森所言(风景园林的价值来源于:生态学,社会学和给人带来愉悦),应该是有良好的生态性,良好的美学性和良好的社会性–共同具备或单一具备这样的特点。这是创造中国皇家园林和古典园林的精湛技艺,但是如果学生对此所受教育不够就不能胜任其职。 比如说:(1)建筑师和城市规划师对地形,水体和种植知之甚少。(2)园艺师,环境设计师的美学知识不够,也没有构造学,和户外空间的知识。(3)生态学家和地理学家基本不了解园林艺术和基本的设计常识。

关于中国需要风景园林师的数量,或者说25年前中国需要风景园林师的数量,我们可以估计一下,遵循一个简单的在欧洲的原则: 风景园林师的数量/人口数量。那么我的估计是中国需要120,000名风景园林师。然而,有人也会说如果中国的中产阶级有80,000,000人,那么所需风景园林师的数量就和德国一样。欢迎大家踊跃讨论,因为我不是中国人,对中国了解不没有中国人深刻。

Report on Tiananmen Square Landscape Architecture Competition


An international Web 2.0 design competition for Tiananmen Square was announced in March 2009. The winners are listed below. A full .pdf report on the Tiananmen competition is available for free download from the Gardenvisit.com Website. All the Tiananmen entries can be seen on Flickr. The 3 judges, listed below, thank everyone who took part.

• Christine Storry (Australia): architect and urban designer
• Tom Turner (UK): landscape architect and town planner
• Xiru Zhao (China): architect

First prize: Thunsdorff

Thunsdorff, Ueli Mueller Landscape Design, Kleinertstrasse 3, 8037 Zurich, Switzerland, mail @ uelimueller.ch, www.uelimueller.ch
The Thunsdorff design is visually strong, deceptively simple and a complex response to the site. A Moon Gate has historic, symbolic and garden interest. The people’s encyclopedia (Wikipedia) states that:

A Moon Gate (Chinese: 月亮门; pinyin: yuèliàng mén) is a circular opening in a garden wall that acts as a pedestrian passageway, and a traditional architectural element in Chinese gardens. Moon Gates have many different spiritual meanings for every piece of tile on the gate and on the shape of it. The sloping roofs of the gate represent the half moon of the Chinese Summers and the tips of the tiles of the roof have talisman on the ends of them…. The purpose of these gates is to serve as a very inviting entrance into gardens of the rich upper class in China. The gates were originally only found in the gardens of wealthy Chinese nobles.
The Chinese word for round (圆,yuan) has the same pronunciation as the Chinese word for ‘garden’ (园,yuan). Another meaning of ‘yuan’ in Chinese is ‘perfect’ (圆满)- which is a symbol representing the owner of a garden who wishes to conduct himself perfectly and work smoothly. The placement of the Moon Gate in Tiananmen Square creates two spaces with a pedestrian link and, alluding to them as two different gardens. There could be problems for traffic on Changan Street and obstruction of the visual axis from the Tiananmen Gate. A vehicular underpass would also be possible. The great Moon Gate can symbolise the ancient desire for Harmony and Unity – and the fact that modern China belongs to all of its people and no longer  to a rich upper class. Thunsdorff explains the design in thirty words:
China – Country of grand spirit -The world’s largest square shall remain an open space – We suggest a new perspective link between past and present pointing to the future – Heavenly Peace
There may be something of Confucius in this (‘Study the past if you would define the future’) and also something of Chairman Mao (‘Such is history, such is the history of civilization for thousands of years’). The idea of a sublime symbol soaring above the commercialism of modern Beijing is attractive, with something of a parallel in the Parisian Grande Arche. The comparison between the Ming dynasty axis in Beijing and the Louvre-Defense axis in Paris is interesting – and both can be carried into the future as examples of how city form can be conserved and extended. They support the view that 600 years is a good timescale for city planning: one should look back at least 300 years and look forward at least for another 300 years.

Second Prize  Aga H

Aga H Agnieszka Hubeny-Zukowska, Pracownia Sztuki Ogrodowej, 80-360 Gdańsk Ul.Krzywoustego 5A/5, Poland, Tel./fax: +48 (58) 511-04-69 www.pracowniasztukiogrodowej.pl biuro [@] pracowniasztukiogrodowej.pl

Aga H

A garden underneath Tiananmen Square

The Aga H design proposes a context-sensitive underground design which retains the integrity of Tiananmen Square as a huge and yet balanced space. The underground ‘garden world’ also responds to the context of a climate which is too hot in summer and too cold in winter. Aga H sees great value in traditional Chinese design but, as a world city, argues that Beijing can also symbolise a modern approach to design. To leave space for great events and to avoid competition with older buildings, the surface level therefore remains ’empty’. At ground level the main change would be two great blocks of pleached trees with seating beneath. They would flank the Monument to the People’s Heroes and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong. A glass-roofed space beneath Tiananmen Square would contain a garden world and a Center for History, Art and Science. There would be underground links to the National Museum of China and the Great Hall of the People.



Third Prize: Whitney Hedges

Whitney Hedges, garden designer and landscape architect, England,  www.whitneyhedges.co.uk polkadotplants @ googlemail.com
Only eighteen words of explanation were given (‘One Light: Strong lights projecting upwards, set flush into paving. Commemorating those who fell in the 1989 demonstrations’) but more points arose in an online discussion: ‘I like Whitney Hedges design very much… it is sensitive to all the considerations for this site and yet is quite a dramatic statement of the individuals heroic messages’. ‘One could also say that it links Earth to Heaven, which was the traditional role of Chinese Emperors (they were Sons of Heaven)’. ‘ I’m not sure that mixing these images of the Speer’s “Cathedral of Light” at the Nuremberg Rally with the image of the Tiananmen Square is a very good idea’. The reference to Speer is both interesting and troubling.