Is Ken Yeang's brilliant landscape architecture sustainable?

Or is Ken Yeang’s landscape architecture subject to the same criticism as Patrick Blanc’s green walls? I would of course be much happier if these approaches to landscape architecture were genuinely sustainable. But I have my doubts. My guesses are (1) the planted balconies will be great features for wealthy residents who have more than enough indoor space (2) less-wealthy residents, especially in inclement climates, would rather have more indoor space than a big balcony, though sliding doors would offer the choice of indoor or outdoor space (3) the extra habitat space will do a little good for biodiversity, accoustics, carbon balance etc (4) but all these benefits could be obtained at less cost by other means (5) real people would not produce the nice green fluff on Ken Yeang’s drawings: there would be no visual unity at all to the balconies. Some would be richly planted. Others would provide storage for mountain bikes, or washing lines, or bird cages, or plastic furniture and dead plants in ugly containers. That’s life.
So I am a sceptic who hopes to be proved utterly wrong.

9 thoughts on “Is Ken Yeang's brilliant landscape architecture sustainable?

  1. Christine

    Do you have cause for optimism?

    The following is a selection of photographs from built projects.

    1. Entrance to apartment building. [ ]
    2. Apartment with roof terrace. [ ]

    Perhaps the distinction needs to be made between outcomes for public and private apartment buildings?

    3. Balconies to public apartment building. [ ]

    4. And then there is the age old problem of what to do about those pesky crows while attempting to enhance the biodiversity?
    [ ]

  2. Tom Turner Post author

    Not convinced.
    I think there are to problems (1) how make buildings more vegetated [Yeang says ‘For me, if we are to look at green buildings or ecological buildings at this most fundamental level of understanding it is necessary to bring more greenery into them, and to balance the abiotic constituents with the biotic as with ecosystems in nature.’ (2) how to make buildings more sustainable (in the sense of fewer inputs and fewer outputs).
    They CAN be separate but the AIM should be to bring them together. I see this as the great challenge for FUNCTIONALISM: to make buildings which BOTH look green and are green.

  3. Tian Yuan

    I like this great idea to combine landscape and architecture as the picture shows, but I agree with you that it may be very hard to be made in the real world. It makes me think of what Chinese always do: put plants in the containers and set them on the balcony.
    I think the designer maybe have been influenced by how Chinese make small greenspace in tiny living space. But he may forget, the containers could be moved and much more easy to be managed.

  4. Tian Yuan

    Oh, he is a Chinese( half Chinese)! I did not know when I give this comments.
    So, my guess is correct to this point. I may go on guess something else: he maybe have an interest in Taoist ideas for combining nature with architecture. At least, as an architect, he has made an effort to combine landscape with arhitecture. Landscape ideas can help architects become much better in thier ideas and practice.

  5. Tian Yuan

    Ps: Tom, you may need to encourage his idea. becasue it is very helpful to get a good architect into our landscape area. We need more landscape architects, as the English say: The more the merrier.:-)

  6. Tom Turner Post author

    Don’t worry! I am not trying to discourage Ken Yeang. – I know that he likes to work with landscape architects – including Robert Holden.
    What I would most like to encourage is the design of beautifully sustainable buildings, cities and greenspace which DERIVE THEIR BEAUTY FROM THEIR SUSTAINABILITY.


    most important thing is whether any ecosystem grows within the achieved green spaces and objects.
    There can be different kinds of plants, trees, birds etc. which are dependent on each other in the circle of life things. More over if these greens comprise only some ephemeral plants that may require some extra maintenance rather than sustainability. therefore, there has to be independent ecosystem or the shared ecosystem of its surroundings.


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