Monthly Archives: March 2010

Social use of space in public parks and gardens

Social use of space in public parks

In public parks, things ain't what they used to be

The public park, as we still know it, was a nineteenth century invention. The aim was to give tired industrial workers an opportunity to enjoy fresh air, flowers and music – without being tempted by booze and girls in beer gardens. But times have changed. Most workers now spend most of their time in sedentary occupations. When they have spare time, they want exercise instead of rest. This is giving benches in public parks new uses. The photograph was taken on a hot day in Rome. Even the pigeon is going for a walk.

Landscape architecture and garden design in China

Modern landscape architecture in ........?

Modern landscape architecture in ........?

I attended a talk today by an Australian landscape architect who graduated in the UK 21 years ago. She now works for an Australian design company engaged in remote landscape design services, primarily conceptual design, for projects in Hong Kong and mainland China (including Chengdu and Beijing). The conceptual design was done in Australia and the detailed design in the Philippines. Then the drawings were sent to China and then translated. It is an amazingly global operation but in my opinion it could be the beginning of a tragedy. The styles used are a mix of ideas from Europe and America, which will make the appearance of China more like that of the west. There is a saying in the west which I like: ‘think global, act local’. I was sorry that the landscape architect had not visited mainland China and hope she will come one day to find out how more about Chinese culture.
This is not a special problem caused by some specific people but the whole system such as the market , economy and something else, and therefore will not be solved quickly. But there are signs of a solution and Mr Yu Kongjian has made reference to “the rediscovery of Chinese cultural identity” problem. With its economic development, China is losing touch with five millennia of ancient identity. The Chinese classical garden is one of the world’s great garden making traditions. In China we are faced with developing a new tradition and a new style. It can be based on historic culture, natural topography and environmental studies of localization and contextualization issues. There are needs to develop China’s landscape education, landscape theory and landscape practice – with a historical perspective, cultural continuity and a perspective on the future of China’s landscape.


在西方,文化的态度是:本土的就是世界的,他们think global, act local(站在全球的角度去思考,站在本土的角度去行动)。 可这样的事情在中国却大量的发生着,因为中国市场需要。老实说,我是带着愤慨的心情听完讲座的,尽管她明明切中了中国目前的实情。我说,我非常遗憾听到这些,希望她有一天能够来中国,了解中国文化,设计更有中国文化的作品。

On Top of the World

Vita Sackville-West was depressed by Hillary and Norgay’s ascent to the peak of Everest, believing that there should be places on earth untrod by human feet. How would she have liked the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai? I am afraid that she would be horrified, although this Burj is by far Dubai’s most beautiful building, hopefully now distracting attention from the horrible Burj Arab Hotel. Many people would like to ask God if he regrets Dubai, but now that we can ride the 800 metres plus to the top of Burj Khalifa and look at it from His vantage point perhaps we can see that he might like it the way it is, by night at least.

Scaling up and down

There is something endlessly fascinating about models of cities…Perhaps they enable us to relate to cities in ways that are normally not possible? Perhaps they give us a God’s eye view of the landscape and everyday life.

 So if we could play God for a day what would we say to those people down there that we created and who are now running around living their own lives in the various metropolis’ of the world? Or perhaps we would just make our own historical narrative films!

Would we be tempted to move the pieces on the board? Re-arrange them slightly? Why would we want to do this? ….There is certainly something very appealing about the detailed scale models of street furniture produced for the city of Toronto! And of the very different in quality abstract garden model.

In 2006 Prof  Michael J. Oswald and Professor Steffen Lehmann chatted about the use of models in architectural practice. Professor Lehmann said of his experience in the office of Arata Isozaki:

“When working in Tokyo, in Arata Isozaki’s studio in 1990, I learned to appreciate the luxury of getting ideas built in-house overnight. Isozaki always valued the resource of an in-house model workshop where exquisite pieces could be made quickly. Before leaving the studio in the evening, I would hand over the latest drawings to the model shop, and when I returned to the office in the morning, there would be an accurate polystyrol model on my desk, built overnight by hard-working, younger Japanese staff. Much effort and accuracy was put into these models, even if we only used them ephemerally, to instantly check a certain idea.”

Context-insensitive planning and design in Egypt

The Nile and the Pyramids - before and after the floods

The Nile and the Pyramids - before and after the floods

Here is (1) a nineteenth century painting of the Pyramids in time of flood [June and September – akhet – the inundation] (2) in an early twentieth century photograph (3) a recent after-the-dam photograph by trexcali. Were the climate change of the past 10,000 years to be repeated the River Nile would reclaim its flood plain. Egypt’s cities should have been built on the Red Land (desret), not on the Black Land (kemet) – and Egypt’s urban growth should still be on desert land, conserving what is left of one of best places on earth for agriculture, horticulture and garden design.




See English translation below