Chinese landscape architecture competition for Tiananman Square

Tripper54 put this on Flickr with the caption 'me at tiananmen square'

Tripper54 put this on Flickr with the caption 'me at tiananmen square'

The landscape architecture profession in China has grown rapidly but now faces a supreme challenge: how to re-design  Tiananmen Square.  Though understandable, Tiananmen Square was a blunder and this should be recognized. Only then can it become the brilliant centre of world culture which Beijing deserves. Its current design is understandable for three reasons:

  1. China had no tradition of creating public open space in towns  at the time it was designed and nor did it have a  landscape architecture profession
  2. The design inspiration for Tiananmen Square came from Soviet Russia, which could just as well have taught lessons in running fair trials
  3. As the capital of the world’s most populous country, the Beijing authorities wanted to have the world’s largest and greatest urban square

The present landscape design of Tiananmen Square is regrettable  for three reasons:

  1. the section of the Ming capital it replaced should most certainly have been conserved
  2. the landscape design of the new square was horrific: it has scarcely any use, scarcely any beauty, and is totally unsuited to Beijing’s climate. People just stand around with nothing to do but take ‘I was there’ photographs of each other.
  3. the tragic events of  1989 are, one assumes, as much regretted in Beijing as they are in the rest of the world

So what should be done? It is loved as the heart of the nation and I can’t say – but finding an answer is a great challenge for the landscape architecture profession, hence the  Web 2.0 Landscape Competition announced today. + more information on the Tiananmen landscape architecture competition (and a October 2009  blog post about the competition)

The grey slabbed area is the famous Tiananmen Square in Beijing

The grey slabbed area is the famous Tiananmen Square in Beijing

See also:  Previous post on Asian gardens and landscapes

5 thoughts on “Chinese landscape architecture competition for Tiananman Square

  1. Pingback: Asian landscape architecture and garden design in the twentieth century | Blog

  2. Christine

    Should we start with defining a functional vision? I imagine for the Chinese the ability to display military hardware on parade is an important use. Is a memorial to the Tiananmen Square massacre important? Would it be acceptable to the present government? Should the historic Gate of China be reconstructed in some form?

  3. Tom Turner Post author

    There are equally good reasons for launching the re-design with a consideration of:
    – function (Commodity)
    – aesthetics (Delight)
    – ecology, construction and planting (Firmness)
    But all your questions are good. China’s leaders, I think, see their country as marching on a long road to democracy and one of the kilometerstones on this road could be a referendum on a short list of design options for Tiananmen Square.

  4. Christine

    I suppose one of the fundamental questions of a democracy is the role of the state in the life of the citizen.

    In democratic countries the role of the state is sometimes given over to private organisations -this can create a hybrid monster seemingly with the powers of the state but with no accountability. This happened within church organisations for example in the care of children in orphanages.

    Could some sort of functional brief include a memorial or other device which explores the idea of:

    How the promotion of the welfare of the citizen might be achieved?
    How to eliminate his/her abuse by the state/or quasi-state powers?

  5. Tom Turner Post author

    There are few places on earth with such a significant role in the citizen:state relationship.
    In Chinese history, one of the key roles of the state has been to protect the citizens from invasions – and it is a role which cannot be discounted. China’s geography is ‘centralizing’ and when the central power has failed it has suffered, terribly, from invasions.


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