Profile | Yi Zhu – Founder, TOPOS Landscape Architects

Yi Zhu, an accomplished landscape architect, founded TOPOS Landscape Architects after gaining enriching experience at several international design firms in California. Having studied Architecture, City Planning and Landscape Planning, Yi practices across a range of scales, disciplines, and project types, from master planning through detailed design crafting.

Yi believes that the complexity of the urban landscape calls for multi-disciplinary design solutions. In recent years TOPOS has executed comprehensively successful outcomes by approaching work as a synergistic, collective, and cross-disciplinary practice.

With design practices in China and California, TOPOS’ primary studio is strategically positioned in Shenzhen’s central business district, one of the world’s largest continuously urbanized area. Over the last two decades, Shenzhen has evolved from industrial manufacturing to an innovation hub as part of an increasingly sustainable and livable city. But the city faces critical issues, including unrelenting high-density development and loss of green space within extremely limited land resources. Yi is fully committed to the leadership role of landscape architects in addressing globally critical problems.

As Director of Design and Lead Landscape Architect, Yi has led the TOPOS team in completing high impact projects in the Guangdong – Hong Kong – Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA), including inclusive, nature-based public space redevelopments, landmark urban renewal at the center of Shenzhen’s CBD, environmentally responsible luxury resorts, innovation campuses and progressive academic institutions, and national museums and cultural centers. Yi’s leads this work as a hands-on designer and mentor, as his design talents are extraordinary and highly valued.

Why did you become a landscape architect?

During my early studies in architecture, city planning, and landscape planning, I spent considerable time investigating spaces between buildings, together with the ideals of urbanism. I undertook numerous case study trips across Europe, North America, Asia, and Australia, exploring a wide range of urban conditions and came to discover the widespread benefits of the public realm.

These findings spurred my interest in the role of landscape architecture in cultivating the immensely multi-faceted value of public space.

How do you start the design process?

I approach each project with comprehensive analyses aimed at defining key design influences.

Site, community, and contextual conditions are explicitly recorded, as a means of exploration and discovery. I typically use site data to diagnose the site’s potential to accommodate design intervention and inform conceptual intent. I view each project as a problem-solving exercise.

What is your approach to landscape design?

I am known to engage in rigorous critical thinking, analysis, and reflection about the big issues faced by society. I am intellectually curious and seek out critical questions that must be addressed for a project to be successful. Designers are responsible for shaping the Anthropocene, and each design solution plays a role in rehabilitating our global condition.

What is the most rewarding part of being a landscape architect?

I am most satisfied when we can reconcile complex and challenging projects to achieve outcomes that maximize benefits within established constraints. I believe that designers are responsible for doing both well and good, i.e., work that is well-executed and improves the human condition.

What is a key issue that is facing the landscape architecture profession?

I believe that we are responsible for conceiving interdependent and beneficial relationships between fundamental global needs: environmental health, economic development, community development and integral access to art and culture.

How do you see the future of landscape architecture?

More aspirational, more consequential, more performance-driven and elevated leadership roles.

Images Courtesy of TOPOS Landscape Architects

About Damian Holmes 3308 Articles
Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/damianholmes/