BOOK REVIEW | Design Ecologies, The Landscape Architecture of Kongjian Yu

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More than a standard monograph, Designed Ecologies: The Landscape Architecture of Kongjian Yu goes beyond publishing past works and includes 11 essays from the William Saunders and many others which delve deeper into Yu’s work, its background, influences and principles. The foreword written by Peter Walker gives us an insight into the enormity of Yu’s work, its interconnected (academia, private and government) style, approach as a differentiator to how he obtains, develops and implements his projects. The various essays by John Beardsley, Antje Stokman, Fredrick Steiner, Kristina Hill, Peter Rowe, Kelly Shannon, and Kongjian Yu allow the reader to learn more about the theory and principles that have shaped and continue to shape his work.

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John Beardsley through two essays provides the Yu’s life story, his influences and how Yu obtained his first projects in China using the ecological principles as the differentiator be himself and the other landscape design firms and institutes. Stockman provides us with the background to Turenscape’s alternatives to the “City Beautiful Movement” and other writers provide information on Yu’s approach to trying to change landscape architecture in China from an ornamental garden and city beautiful approach to a ecological urbanism at a large scale (Big Foot) approach.

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Yu, in the “The Big Foot Revolution” essay provides his manifesto for his BIG FOOT approach to landscape architecture and its basis in ecology, agriculture, and urban scale to counter the “small foot” ornamental garden approach. The Afterword by Charles Waldheim connects all the pieces of Yu’s together in a succinct overview of Yu’s life and work to date. DSC_0197
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Designed Ecologies: The Landscape Architecture of Kongjian Yu is well edited, high quality publication that provides several essays, numerous diagrams, plans, perspectives, and descriptions of each of the 22 projects. However, I felt that some of the diagrams deserved to published at full page size to truly grasp the detail and scale of the project. Also essays critiquing the work would have been a welcomed addition; maybe this can be included in another future publication. This book provides a great background to those who wish to understand Kongjian Yu (including Turenscape’s) work and his approach to landscape architecture along with a brief history into contemporary landscape architecture in China. Designed Ecologies: The Landscape Architecture of Kongjian Yu, a  is published by Birkhauser and available through Amazon for $50.01USD.

Book Review Image Credits | Damian Holmes

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Publishers Description

  • Monograph on the leading Chinese practice for landscape architecture
  • Internationally acclaimed authors from landscape, design and urbanism
  • Carefully documented case studies show exciting and fresh work

 Kongjian Yu and his office Turenscape are beyond doubt the foremost landscape architecture practice in China today. The vast scale of China and her apparently boundless growth have enabled Yu to test many ideas that are still largely theories in the Western world. His work – increasingly valued and appreciated in Europe and North America – has attained an extremely high and elegant level in both conception and execution. Kongjian Yu is known for his ecological stance, often against the resistance of local authorities. His guiding design principles are the appreciation of the ordinary and a deep embracing of nature, even in its potentially destructive aspects, such as floods. Among his most acclaimed projects are Houtan Park for Shanghai Expo, the Red Ribbon Park in Qinhuangdao, and Shipyard Park in Zhongshan. This book explores Yu’s work in 11 essays by noted authors and documents 22 major projects extensively.”

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