Is Turenscape's Qiaoyuan Park in Tianjin a model for Chinese landscape architecture? 请看一看土人景观事务所的作品-天津桥园公园

Please have a look at Turenscape’s photographs of Tianjin Qiaoyuan Park – you can see why the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) gave Tianjin Qiaoyuan Park an award.  Then please consider the above photographs. They were taken on a crisp Sunday in April: the park is bare, dry and without people. Did the ASLA act in haste? Did the ASLA judges visit Tianjin? Are the ASLA judges regretting their decision? If the design was as good as it looks on the designers’ photographs, shouldn’t it be full of people on a spring day?  North China has long hard winters. When spring arrives, everyone wants to warm their bones, stock up on Vitamin D, and admire the spring blossom. So where were all the people? Presumably they are in other parks, with water features which do not dry up and with flowers which smile at their admirers in spring.
My second thought concerns the sources for the design ideas. Designers always borrow, so where might the  ideas have come from? I sense three parents, which is an unusual number: (1) Bernard Tschumi’s design for Parc de laVillette (2) Peter Latz’ design for Duisberg Nord (3) Herbert Dreiseitl’s Waterscape approach. The use of red paint is traditional in China but it is also found at Parc la Villette.
My third thought is that borrowing visual imagery is rarely enough to make a good design. Duisborg Nord relates to the industrial history of Germany. Parc de la Villette relates to the structuralist theorizing of Gitanes cigarettes and Left Bank Paris. The Dreiseitl Waterscape approach may have a worldwide relevance – but it must be adjusted to the rainfall regimen of every locality: water cannot, should not, must not be the aesthetic focus of a design if a place which is going to be dry for half the year.
My conclusion is that the Single Agreed Law of Landscape Design should be applied as rigorously in China as in ever other square millimetre of land which the gods have made. Alexander Pope expressed it thus:

That tells the waters or to rise, or fall;
Or helps th’ ambitious hill the heav’ns to scale,
Or scoops in circling theatres the vale;
Calls in the country, catches opening glades,
Joins willing woods, and varies shades from shades,
Now breaks, or now directs, th’ intending lines;
Paints as you plant, and, as you work, designs.

请看一案土人景观事务所设计的天津桥园公园的照片, 然后你就知道为什么美国风景园林师协会授予天津桥园公园授奖。然后请再考虑一下上面的几幅图片。这组照片拍摄于今年四月一个舒爽的周日:天津桥园公园几乎是“赤裸裸”,干旱而鲜见游客。是不是ASLA草率地授奖了呢?ASLA的评审专家是否来天津参观过呢?ASLA的评委现在是不是在对他们的评审懊悔不已呢? 如果这个设计真的像设计师所拍摄的照片那样,为什么在春季美好的日子里公园中不是充满了游客呢?中国北方的冬季漫长而寒冷。当春季来临,每一个人都希望到户外晒晒太阳,贮存更多维他命D,并欣赏花开。但是,这里的人们都哪里去了呢?或者,他们都去了其它公园了吧,那里有春水和鲜花的微笑。

我的第二点思考是关于桥园公园设计理念的来源。设计师们总是喜欢“借用”。所以这个公园设计理念从何而来呢? 我感觉它至少有三个“家长”,这个数量还挺不寻常的:(1)伯纳德·曲米的維葉特公園设计 (2)彼得·拉兹的杜伊斯堡·诺德设计(3)赫伯特·德莱赛特尔的理水方法。红色是中国传统的象征,但是在维葉特公园也使用了红色。

我的结论是“园林设计单一约定法规”应该在中国被严格执行,正如在上帝创造的其余哪怕是一平方毫米的土地上执行一样。正如亚历山大·蒲柏(Alexander Pope)所言。

16 thoughts on “Is Turenscape's Qiaoyuan Park in Tianjin a model for Chinese landscape architecture? 请看一看土人景观事务所的作品-天津桥园公园

  1. Jerry

    I have heard that Kongjian Yu is one of China’s leading landscape architects. But his work does not seem to be of the best quality. Perhaps the problem results from the organisation of the Chinese landscape Architecture Society. It is part of a government ministry and (1) the CHSLA does not encourage criticism (2) China does not have a qualification system for landscape architecture (3) China does not have public participation in the design process (4) everything in China seems to be decided by the government, with very little discussion of the complicated alternatives which are available in the twentieth century. Since China obviously has great potential, this is disappointing.

  2. Tom Turner Post author

    Jerry, I can see the reasoning behind all your points but also wonder if there is another explanation. Kongjian Yu seems to be ‘spreading himself too thinly’. It stands to reason that if a man tries to do too many things he is likely to make mistakes and is not likely to do them as well as he might have done fewer projects.
    St Paul wrote that ‘I am made all things to all men’ (Corinthians 9:22. King James Version of the Bible)but one often hears the phrase applied to girls who try to please ‘all men’ instead of ‘one man’. Could this be what Konjian Yu is doing? I am not talking about his sex life!

  3. 梁爽

    One can not understand why the practice is very simple design so complicated? Like a natural beauty of the girl, why makeup?

  4. Adam Hodge

    Perhaps this dichotomy reflects the different yardsticks by which designers and the public assess what is beautiful. Whilst designers are concerned about the spatial feel and qualities of a project, joe public is more interested and appreciative of the generosity of flowers within the whole..when do the bulk of visitors visit Exbury or Keukenhof or Spalding or Mottisfont? What is Chelsea ..a Foliage show ?

    I am perplexed that so many designers consider flowers so de rigeur, preferring foliage or form. What is more lovely than a wood full of Bluebells or a carpet of Aconites on a winters morning, or a huge drift of pale Hydrangeas or Azaleas. Whilat flowers might be a short lived joy one can easily multi plant to give an ongoing show throughout the year with three or four different plants mixed together.

  5. Christine

    Is Tianjin Qiaoyuan Park the victim of 1) an usual set of weather circumstances 2) flawed design logic which did not consult the genius of place 3) lack of an appropriate garden maintenance regime or some other difficulty?

  6. Tom Turner Post author

    Christine: sorry, I am unsure of the answers. Can anyone help? It could be that the ‘old problem’ has hit China: the design was not well-related to the maintenance regime which is being applied.
    Adam: I agree about flowers being lovely but I see no reason why they cannot be incorporated in good spatial designs- whenever it is appropriate to do so. Flowers are not quite so wonderful when they lack the context of a good spatial design. Keukenhof and Great Dixter combine spatial design with the imaginative use of flowers.

  7. 王菲

    It’s very complicated and difficult to understand.If it was a wonderful work but for me ,a common Chinese ,I don’t find any advantage with regarding to this work!

  8. Christine

    I did a bit of research into the project brief to create a ‘low maintenance’ urban park:

    “This is a park of twenty-two hectares (fifty-four acres) in the northern coastal city of Tianjin, China. Rapid urbanization had changed a peripheral shooting range into a garbage dump and drainage sink for urban storm water; the site was heavy polluted, littered, deserted, and surrounded with slums and temporary rickety structures, which had been torn down before the design was commissioned. The soil is quite saline and alkaline. Densely populated at the south and east boundaries, the site is bounded on the west and north sides by a highway and an overpass.”

    “In early 2006, in response to residents’ call for environmental improvement of the site, the municipal government of Tianjin contracted the landscape architect with the difficult task of an immediate transformation of this degraded site.”

    The designers were inspired by the ecological history of the site and viewed the project as regenerative landscape design:

    “Inspired by the adaptive vegetation communities that dotted the landscape in this region, the solution for this park was developed called The Adaptation Palettes, which was designed to let the nature work.”

    The intentions was that the park would reflect seasonal patterns…[ ]

    It may be that the site was more heavily polluted than expected, that the seasonal patterns have been more extreme or that the low maintenance regime was inadequate?

    As to the value of the work to the common Chinese, if the design successfully rehabilitates it is of undoubted value, if it does so aesthetically even more so and if it reflects something of, and contributes something to, the Chinese context in its concern with the genius of place then it is a work of importance. If it contributes to the field of landscape architecture internationally, well it is a work of greatness.

  9. Tom Turner Post author

    Thank you for the information. I wonder if the problems revealed by the photographs, and by the comments on this post, are a consequence of phasing the commissioning of parks on a timescale which is too similar to the procedure for commissioning other infrastructure projects (ie structures). Instead of Design->Build->Handover taking place in 1-3 years, it may be that the procedure should have been spread over a decade. This is NOT how things are done in contemporary China (where a 1-year period for Design->Build->Handover is not unusual) but Tianjin Qiaoyuan Park was an ecologically complex project and would have benefitted from a longer timescale eg
    Year 1 survey and monitor the land
    Year 2 design and implement an initial phase to restore ecological health to the site
    Year 3 monitor the site
    Year 4 design and install footpaths, seats etc to allow public use of the site
    Year 5 monitor both site ecology and visitor use
    Year 6 hold a public participation and community design workshop
    Year 7 recruit volunteers to help with maintenance work
    Year 8 prepare a design brief and a design for converting the now-healthy site to amenity park use
    Year 9 implement the landscape design (cafes, children’s play, pavilions, garden planting etc)
    Year 10 official opening of Tianjin Qiaoyuan Landscape Park and Garden

  10. Tian Yuan

    I am wondering that if this “10 years steps” was taken before QiaoYuan Park was opened to the public, the tragedy would be avoided.

    Year1 : It could help designers to get a “four season experience and data for the park. They should know what the view should be in spring.

    Year2: If they made a ‘test’ in a small area of the water-management in this park. Designers should understand their design for such a wonderful ecological proposal would not work at all.

    Year3: Tom, Please explain this phrase.

    Year4: Year5 Year6 Year7:Public participation is a “hurry need” for Landscape architecture in China.( Year7 it will provide opportunities for landscape students to get practice experience)

    Year8:This “design” will adapt to the “environment”and public use.

    Year9: They should do in the park, but they never did it.


    Landscape management, sustainable design, ecological design, ecological planning… these types of words are full of the proposals of Chinese landscape architecture projects. BUT BUT BUT nobody have METHODS to make their “BEAUTIFUL” plan ( Turenscape for QiaoYuan Park) come true.

    Thank you! Tom the 10 steps will be very helpful!

  11. Tom Turner Post author

    I think the ten-year procedure would produce better results. The problem is that clients do not want to do it: they want to pay the designers as little money as possible and then get rid of them. But landscape architecture is not like some other ‘built environment’ operations: the time dimension is of central importance.
    Additional points:
    Year 1: the best thing would is if the designers could LIVE on the site (eg in a tent) while doing the survey, the analysis and the design. If they can’t live there for 12 months, they can at least bring a tent and sleep there for a few nights at different times of year.
    Year 3: ‘Monitor’ just means ‘keep watching’. The landscape design process should be ‘knowledge intensive’ and the best way to acquire knowledge is by being on site.
    Year 9: involving local people in the design/construction could be very successful. They would know the place and love the place and care for the place.
    I think China’s urban population is becoming detached from the land, because most people live in apartment blocks, and I guess they would like to be re-connected. I once lived in an apartment and much enjoyed doing volunteer work in a garden ‘to get my hands dirty’.

  12. Tian Yuan

    Another question is that what does “artificial wetland” mean? In the design proposal of Qiaoyuan Park, artificial wetlands seems a main idea of the water-management. But as we can see from the above photos, they donot work at all.

  13. Alan

    I live in California, and work with some software engineers in Tianjin; we travel back and forth on occasion. I’ve recently communicated my interest in native plant gardening to some of them; I was checking if there were native restored landscapes in Tianjin. I saw the Turenscape website, and was quite impressed with their images of Tianjin Qiaoyuan Wetland Park. I have to say, I was disappointed to stumble upon your website to find out that, a few years later, the park has not been maintained.

    Anyone know if there’s opportunities for regular citizens of Tianjin to volunteer on maintenance of these places? If there’s one thing China does not lack, it’s people, and I would think there’s more than enough of them who would want to reconnect to nature.


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