Large rivers with beautiful landscapes were dreamlands to the author. However, every time upon his arrival to riversides, he was shocked for the heavily polluted rivers that are dirty, messy, and smelling. Engineered dikes and dams made of concrete and steels for a greater height and hardness are built by cities along rivers. As more highways and railways built along rivers, vehicles run at a faster speed, scaring any life who wants to or has to access the water. Most of the tributaries are no longer free flow but end up as hard ditches and the water is polluted heavily. Forests and wetlands are being damaged and eroded. All of these are resulted from humans’ material desires and lack of respect for nature. Nevertheless, ecological civilization may encourage people to appreciate the beauty of nature and get a thorough understanding on river ecosystems and their services, accompanied by systematic planning and implementation of territorial ecological restoration. Moreover, laws and regulations on large river management should be put in place, and efforts should be made to break the worship of grey engineering approaches to flood control. It is expected that nature-based ecological approaches for a better resilience and sustainability in flood management can be more effective to ensure water safety.
The status of water ecological environment matters to the well-being of all people. A water ecological management system for high-quality development is required to meet people’s ever-growing expectations for a better life. This relies on a comprehensive understanding of water ecosystems from multi-dimensional perspectives—processes of ecosystem services, history, culture, and art—at the basin scale. Moreover, differentiated strategies should be proposed to adjust to varied natural resource endowment, and socio-economic and cultural heritage in different regions. Only by centering on both ecology and culture through multiple processes (e.g., evolution of regional river basin ecosystem, water cultures, and landscape patterns) dynamically under proper scales (basin, region, river corridor, or river reach), can the water ecosystem function more effectively. In this issue, LA Frontiers hopes to propel interaction between multiple disciplines and industries among spatial planning, hydraulic engineering, and landscape design with research and practice, so as to ensure a safe, clean, healthy, and picturesque river–lake system for people’s well-being.
Riparian zone is a typical ecotone that connects terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. At the same time, environmental stress magnifies here and the natural regulation of rivers is extremely active. In other words, the most dynamic and vibrant interactions between rivers and landscapes occur in riparian zones. However, the construction of dams and the operation of reservoirs have turned many riparian zones into river/reservoir alternation interfaces, influenced the shaping of hydrological and water environment, and the basin ecosystem as well. By introducing the definition and ecological characteristics of river/reservoir interface, this paper proposes the strategies and technical framework for the ecological design of river/reservoir interface. By studying the ecosystem restoration project of river/reservoir interface of Pengxi River in Three Gorges Reservoir Area of Chongqing, which emphasizes the comprehensive element design, structural design, functional design, and process design, this paper aims to provide a reference for related research and practice on river ecosystem restoration. The results of ecological performance analysis showed that the restored ecosystem of the Wuyangba river/reservoir interface has an obvious increase in habitat type diversity and biodiversity, a strong ability of plant communities to adapt to seasonal water level fluctuation, and an improvement in purifying non-point source pollution. The project demonstrates the coordination and symbiosis of interface ecological restoration and waterfront landscape construction and optimization. The project offers an innovative effort in exploring ecosystem restoration design and practice of river/reservoir interfaces. The design strategies and framework can be a reference for other ecosystem restoration cases that are affected by water level fluctuation in river/reservoir interfaces.
This paper reviews the ecological infrastructure planning practices by LA PKU and Turenscape over the past two decades, discussing the application and development of the ecological security pattern theory in different types of ecoregions and typical habitats, and that of ecological process analysis methods in practice. Nearly 100 studied projects employed this theory to address different local ecological problems. But similarities could be found regarding the key ecological issues among similar habitats. Far from mainly addressing habitat protection issues at its early stage, the ESP theory by now has expanded its application to all important ecological processes and sub-processes. This paper focuses on related application at urban and regional scales, attempting to summarize 1) approaches to solving local ecological problems via ecological infrastructure planning in a wider geographic range, and differences concerning the application modes in varied ecoregions; 2) ways to harmonize man–land relations and to achieve synergic development in typical habitats; and 3) influence brought by the wider spatial range to the application on the understanding of ecological processes, the establishment of sub-security-patterns, and the renewal of analysis techniques. The empirical analysis in this study suggests that both the methodology and application of the ESP theory contribute to China’s ecological civilization construction, providing valuable technical support and theoretical basis for territorial spatial planning.
On May 29, the 2021 John Cobb Common Good Award presented online was awarded to Yu Kongjian, professor of College of Architecture and Landscape of Peking University. This award is one of the highest honors in the field of Ecological Philosophy offered throughout the world. In the award ceremony, Dr. Jay McDaniel gave a speech to summarize Yu’s ideas and practices; and other scholars, including John Boswell Cobb Jr. also commented on Yu’s works. This article is a record and supplement of the speech and these comments. The speakers showed that Yu’s works reflect an approach they call “constructive postmodernism,” which combines poetic modern ways of living with wisdom from the past, pointing toward a greener and more habitable future. In light of the current ecological crisis, the speakers proposed that Yu’s Landscape Architecture is indeed “an art of survival.” In the spirit of constructive postmodernism, Yu combines traditional knowledge with a forward-looking attitude, helping to design a more promising future for humanity and the Earth. This essay explores ways that the idea of ecological civilization can “come down to earth” through shifts in attitude towards planning, designing, and aesthetic appreciation, showing how Yu’s thoughts and explorations will help China establish its leading role in the world’s transformation toward global ecological civilization.
The concrete channel of the Los Angeles (LA) River is probably one of the most recognizable rivers in the world. Channelized to manage the risk of flooding as the Los Angeles region urbanized, the river today is an architectural and engineering feat in the eyes of some people but an ecological disaster to others. The river flows adjacent to 17 cities and among some of the most environmentally burdened, park poor, and underserved communities of LA County. With over 2,300 acres of largely publicly owned land within the river right-of-way, a reimagined LA River can impact the lives of the one million people that live within a mile of the river.
The LA River Master Plan, led by Los Angeles County and scheduled to be completed in fall 2021, proposes 51 miles of connected public open space with multi-benefit projects supporting nine goals ranging from flood resilience to housing affordability, to ecological function, and to arts, education, and culture. The data-based plan for the next 25 years includes a watershed-wide research effort to document and understand water quality, water conservation, and flood risk in relation to environmental and social issues. The plan includes traditional and innovative strategies within a “kit of parts,” interventions that include over 65 components ranging from habitat bridges to dry arroyo side channels demonstrating opportunities for enhancing ecosystem services to create a thriving urban habitat and connected network of parks along the river.
In China's urban construction, intensive development increasingly encroaches the city’s water space and exacerbates water pollution problems including black-odor water bodies, seriously damaging the water ecosystem. This article demonstrates the Maozhou River (Baoan Section) Water Environmental Remediation project in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, which is a latest practice case of representativeness in comprehensive on-site investigation and problem-finding of all kinds of water environmental elements. Identifying main problems including the large amount of sewage discharging into the river, insufficient ecological base flow, severe river siltation, and high hardening rate of the waterfront, the project innovatively proposed an ecological restoration technology framework based on the “source–network–plant–river” concept, developed a full-element-treatment technique roadmap for water environment management, improvement of riverbed habitat, multi-objective eco-water recharge, and waterfront ecological restoration, and carried out a series of measures such as sponge city construction for pollution source control, rainwater-sewage diversion system, sediment dredging and resource utilization, and eco-water recharge. In addition, the project further promotes the legislation, refined management, and intelligent basin governance mode. The ecological restoration has significantly improved the water quality of the river, eliminated all black-odor water bodies in the basin, and enhanced the ecosystem resilience. The “source–network–plant–river” concept demonstrated in this project can provide a reference for the practice of water ecological restoration in China's river basins.
The Yellow River Basin is one of the greatest and most important ecological barrier and economic belt in China. When the Yellow River Basin is seen as an ecosystem in whole, the floodplains in the lower reaches are critical to the basin’s health and biodiversity. However, due to the extreme complexity of the natural environment of the floodplains, current flood control policies, long-term agricultural activities, and extensive rural construction and production dikes, the river ecosystem has suffered from considerable damage and a serious decline of ecosystem services. In the planning and design project of the Zhengzhou Yellow River Floodplain Park, the characteristics of the lower, intermediate, and higher floodplains have been carefully identified, site-specific ecological restoration measures for each floodplain type were implemented, highlighting the authenticity and natural qualities and improving the overall ecosystem services. In addition, a slow traffic system and innovative industries along the Yellow River are introduced to enable high-quality cultural perception and recreational experience of the improved ecosystem services, promote green production and lifestyle. These measures help make the Yellow River a river that truly benefit the locals. In the context of ecological protection and high-quality development of the Yellow River, as a national agenda, the ecological restoration planning strategies proposed in this article provides a reference for the development of ecological management and green economy in other sections of the lower reaches of the Yellow River.
Throughout the Great Lakes, port cities are often located on the rivermouth and where rivermouths once sorted, shaped, and moved the riverine sediment into the lake. Their current use as industrial navigation channels requires cyclical mechanical maintenance dredging. Past sediment management practices have either placed the riverine sediment nearshore in confined disposal facilities (CDFs) or out in deeper open water. Both practices remove the sediment from the nearshore system, preventing its potential use in coastal protection, habitat creation, wave attenuation, and sediment nourishment. However, novel rivermouth wetlands can draw from both strategies of containment (as in a CDF) and cost-efficiency of non-containment (open lake disposal) to allow for the processing and use of sediment. This article will describe one such attempt, conducted by the Great Lakes Protection Fund-supported Healthy Port Futures project. Through a collaborative design-research process, Healthy Port Futures used a range of tools to generate, speculate, model, visualize, and test wetland forms under a range of social, ecological, and hydrological conditions. This project, understood colloquially as “the Crescent,” proposed a semi-circular, partially open-cell wetland design as a response to the complexity of rivermouth conditions. Throughout this design-research process, the project sought to acknowledge uncertainty, assess risk, and explore a range of outcomes in order to redefine the public expectations around wetland creation and restoration, and reimagine innovation along the Great Lakes coast.
This work flows from two propositions: sites and settings are interdependent, and understanding why and how is fundamental and inexhaustible for landscape architecture. It builds on the work of Scottish–American landscape architect Ian McHarg and Scottish town planner Patrick Geddes. Although separated in time by nearly half a century, their shared belief in the role of regional knowledge for local design and planning led to parallels in their canon relative to subject matter and approach. Prompted by a recent comparative study of two rivers influential to McHarg’s work—the Clyde and the Delaware—the essay reflects on transect modeling and related drawing practice that engage incremental change, accumulation, and time. It begins with a discussion of relief maps and their application to river basin research in the United States, Italy, and Scotland. This is followed by a brief retrospective on the contributions of McHarg and Geddes to regional planning theory and practice. The interdisciplinary usefulness of transect-based practice for observing and analyzing landscape phenomena is then presented, and provides context for a recent exhibition by the author, which explored both analog and digital drawing techniques. The essay concludes by reasserting the importance of field study to landscape architecture and other works of environmental imagination.
When the ground is understood as a geographic surface, Luni is articulated to be a seasonal river that flows through the Thar Desert in India. In this paradigm, the desert is perceived as empty or as a place of scarcity to which water must be brought in pipes and canals. However, when situated within a “critical zone of wetness” that extends from clouds to aquifers, Luni is a culturally vibrant open terrain where various traditional practices of habitation—salt production, pottery, music, block printing, and dyeing—are acutely tuned to the monsoon. The design studio organized and instructed by Professor Anuradha Mathur in 2018 at the Stuart Weitzman School of Design, University of Pennsylvania engages the latter through analog prints, imprints, and montages to construct another ground. This approach pursues Luni as ubiquitous wetness, rather than understanding the Luni-as-a-river differently. The design project “Resonating Instruments” is an outcome of this studio. Instead of working with maps that construct the ground as a geographic surface, the project uses drawing, photography, printmaking, and montage as techniques of negotiation to construct the ground as a “critical zone of wetness.” These techniques were used to engage the Luni and to construct the instruments in a “critical zone of wetness,” where negotiation, flexibility, fluidity, and gradients are favored over rigidity, separation, and strict delineations and definitions.