Kongjian Yu has a good claim to the title of China’s leading landscape architect. He is an author, a professor and the employer of 600 landscape architects. In 2011 he gave an IFLA keynote lecture at the World Congress in Zurich.
So who, in the history of landscape architecture, should we compare Kongjian Yu to? Senenmut? Le Notre? Humphry Repton? Frederick Law Olmsted? Lawrence Halprin? Ian McHarg? Peter Walker? From this list, my answer is ‘Beyond a doubt, Ian McHarg’. Kongjian Yu has strength in planning, design and theory but, beyond all these, he is a publicist and popularizer.
Yu’s Bigfoot idea is that modern cities are akin to the ancient Chinese art of foot-binding 缠足. Bound feet may conceivably be beautiful in some warped eyes but the practice was cruel, un-natural and done for the gratification of men with warped minds. This is not why international modern cities are made the way they are made. Prof. Yu equates urbanisation with gentrification, which is also inaccurate (gentrification is the process of converting low-income urban areas into high-income urban areas). In the longer term, good design is mostly likely to result from good theory. But his two strategies are surely correct: (1) Provide a natural infrastructure to integrate hydrology, biodiversity and the cultural heritage, thus creating an ‘Ecological Infrastructure (2) establish a New Aesthetics, deriving from the ecological infrastructure.
But this is nit-picking. China is very lucky to have Kongjian Yu and I would like to see him appointed Chief Technical Officer to the The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development 住房和城乡建设部.
Comments in the video:
- Peach trees become flowers without fruits
- Fish, when they are urbanised, become goldfish
- Beijing has a population of 20m and its water table is falling by 1m/year
- We should minimise interventions and maximise returns
- We should learn from nature
- The Red Ribbon Park was made in 3 months.
- Use nature to transform, make useful, and make beautiful
- 75% of China’s surface water is heavily polluted
- We need a big foot revolution
- We need a new Chinese garden to survive
- Tiananmen Square is “Too big, too big”. We should turn it into a productive sunflower field.
The last comment reminds me that I wrote and invited Kongjian Yu to enter the Gardenvisit.com Tiananmen Square Design Competition. He did not take part and I doubt if his wonky design for filling the square with sunflowers would have been commended. Perhaps he guessed this and decided not to send in the entry!
One other comment: like China, Kongjian Yu is trying to do too much too quickly (eg the Red River Park). Much better to take some more time and do some superb work.
Does anyone know if Kongjian Yu is a member of the Chinese Communist Party CCP?