As the core territory for the Zhou and Qin dynasties, the land at the foot of Mount Qishan in Shaanxi Province has significantly made the society and culture of China thrive and grow. The author retraced four routes to find out how the Zhou and Qin people explored and envisioned this landscape, both physically as settlements and spiritually as a wonderland. These routes include the migration path of the Zhou people from the north to the south of Mount Qishan to seek shelter from nomadic tribes; the path of the Zhou people moving from the west to the east along the Weihe River to conquer the Shang people and establish a new kingdom; the path of the Qin State to unify the other six states and found a great dynasty; and the route climbing from the Weihe Valley to Mount Taibai, the main peak of the Qinling Mountains. All the episodes happened on these routes had a profound influence on the ideology of Chinese society and cultural identity. For instance, the Zhou people’s observation on the landscape for farming and living, as well as their preference for the basin-shaped territory, significantly contributed to forming the Chinese geomancy (Feng Shui) and developed into an ideal territorial image of being the “kingdom in the center” (literally meaning “China” in Chinese); the artistic representation of sublime reflected the Qin people’s fight for survival and honor; and the described Kunlun Wonderland perfectly expresses both religious ideals and worldly desires.
In the education of Landscape Architecture, the way we view and depict a natural site is defined by the way we observe and express it. This paper starts with a comparison between the perspective and approach of traditional painting types (the realistic sketch, design sketch, and landscape painting) and those in Landscape Architecture. All of them involve observation (viewing) and expression (drawing) of natural beings and phenomena, where traditional paintings are in the pursuit of honest depiction of the forms or shapes. While in Landscape Architecture it emphasizes understanding and representing the evolutions and the complicated intrinsic relations of the authentic sites — in other words, to represent the nature of reality.
To be on-site, the use of body movement, and the evolutions and correlations of natural beings are the three most important principles to the observation and representation in Landscape Architecture. Combining with two cases in teaching and practice, this paper elaborates how to develop abstract forms and design concepts from the observation of authentic sites and how the trans-scaled reflection on the correlations about the sites can inspire a site-scaled design, providing references for the education and practice of Landscape Architecture in China.
Traditional landscape design studio training starts with the learning of a classic or prominent landscape project, may it be through site observation or a trace-over / imitation exercise. Foundation year students in a landscape program typically take the landscape precedent project as a study ground, to learn about the landscape master’s design through the mimicking process in the trace-over exercise, or to learn about the articulation of spatial design through site observation.
Landscape Architecture, afterall, is a creative endeavor. Thus, an alternative approach is to start the fundamental training with the study of artistic processes, to foster appreciation in art and design, innovative concept development, and articulation in craftsmanship. Also, the contemporary discourse of Landscape Architecture is no longer simply about spatial design, but has transformed to require understanding of process, operation, step-by-step mechanism, movement, and how a system works. The performative and dynamic aspects of landscape are being valued nowadays.
Such ways of seeing landscapes require a different set of observation and representation methods and skills. In this article, the author shares how the pedagogical content and developments of the foundation year landscape design studio in the HKU Bachelor of Arts in Landscape Studies BA(LS) Program help train students with such new interpretations to contemporary Landscape Architecture.
Verbal drawings, as a particular drawing category of drawings, are discussed in this paper about its history, qualities, and what kind of role they could play in the design communication of contemporary landscape architecture. The definition of verbal drawings arises from the observation and reading of Rupestrian art and its process in making drawings and paintings. Rupestrian art was the first human written communication prior to the emergence of words and spoken communication. For this reason, Rupestrian art drawings and paintings are not just images to be seen; above all, they are texts to be read. They are written drawings using pictograms, ideograms, and psycho-ideograms to compose images with a specific grammar and syntax. These written images have three qualities: a sense of immediacy, a sense of beauty, and a sense of lightness. Representing human activities in particular environments, Rupestrian art drawings are not only the first landscape representations but also the early representations of the act of mapping, opening a connection between the art of cartography and the art of verbal drawings. Using examples, this paper explains the importance of ancient and modern mapping arts in connection with the discourse of contemporary landscape architecture by demonstrating how the senses of immediacy, beauty, and lightness help contemporary verbal drawings compete with the neutral, beautiful, quickly produced and consumed digital representations nowadays. In the end, the text proposes a confrontation between Umberto Eco’s concept of “open work” and verbal drawings — Verbal drawings might be intended more like “open frameworks” than “open works.” It is a concept that considers verbal drawings able to accept new ideas for extending their meanings and significance throughout the design process.
The idea of landscape is, to some extent, a cumulative interpretation of the way we see the world, reflecting our relationship with nature and culture. Landscape is thereby impossible to be assumed a priori but only to be understood through observation and representation. Between a broad spectrum of media, hand drawing presents presumably an oldest and simplest means for landscape representation, whether it is existing or imaginary. However, the creative yet oftentimes invisible process of draw-ing receives less attention from the spectators than its result. The paper takes an inquiry into this seemingly complicated process of looking and thinking based on the coordination of the draughtsman’s critical eye and skilful hand. First, the paper gives a careful reading upon some selected drawings from a recent exhibition of the renowned American landscape architect Laurie Olin, with three particular focuses — the reduction in representation, the composition of the observed landscape (perspectival composition and figurative composition), and the conjecturable intention behind drawing skills. Second, the paper attempts to unveil the evolution of Olin’s decades of training and practising of drawing and observation, and further argues the significance in the training of hand and the cultivation of the critical eye in Landscape Architecture pedagogy.
The article discusses the topics of cartography and landscape architecture, with a few ideas about technique, scale, observation, translation, and imagination. The charge is to look closely, think critically, and develop sensibly a drawing toolkit that allows for an expansion of possible readings and spatial outcomes. It asks designers to question the information before them, and to respond with precision and range. The challenges are increasingly complex, and thus, media and methods must be plural and robust. The replies herein build on the Cartographic Grounds project, an exhibit and book that again reimagines the projective potential of cartographic practices that afford greater proximity to the manifestation and manipulation of the ground itself, and promotes the intersection between the disciplines of Landscape Architecture and Cartography towards a grounded practice of representing and imagining multiple terrains for design. The introduction of the observation and representation training in Harvard Graduate School of Design further suggests that observation is fundamental, and for design, representation must extend beyond documenting and understanding the world that exists, towards imagining a more equitable and adaptive future.
At the beginning of this interview, Zhang Dong, partner of Z+T Studio, believes that landscapes of each nation should be closely rooted in its own culture and designing landscapes which praise China’s cultural identity should be a part of Chinese designers’ values and beliefs. Beside of integrating with strategies of sustainability and resilience, landscape design should also combine with environmental education. Zhang summarizes a landscape design process into “two objective aspects and one subjective aspect,” and points out that a designer’s professional knowledge, social values, and aesthetic preferences together influence his / her acquisition of information from sites and the design what and how he / she will make. While recognizing the importance of ecology and public participation to landscape design, he stresses that design essentially is to solve problems in a creative way and landscape designers should not neglect the fundamentality of spatial creation and aesthetics to the profession and the discipline. Finally, he explains the Whole- Process Participation design mode adopted by Z+T Studio, and how it helps improve designers’ capacity in observation and representation.
From the South: Global Perspectives on Landscapeand Territory is the first book publication by the ILC (International Landscape Collaborative). The book promotes a landscape approach that aims to understand today’s environmental challenges and socio-political transformations through the medium of landscape and to discuss sites of different scales in connection to their territorial context. While the world is increasingly being urbanized and its natural characteristics are being transformed by human societies, the individual site or person is connected to regional and even planetary systems and interrelationships. It is therefore important to create a sensitivity and understanding for such multi-dimensional dependencies. In this interdisciplinary and multi-scalar discourse, the landscape serves as a common ground to productively address contemporary issues of natural and built environments as a collective effort. The ILC as an independent think-tank wants to provide a platform and facilitate a dialogue among scholars and practitioners from different geographies and disciplines, including landscape planning, management, and design. The ILC’s approach to landscape and territory, the group’s mission in the context of the Anthropocene, as well as the content of the book publication is discussed in this article.
Observation is the beginning of reading site and inspiring design. When the site lacks obvious features, designers not only need to observe in detail but also step out of the site’s physical boundaries and expand the scope of observation. This process involves reflection on the intrinsic factors of the site, seeking landscape reference in the broader context according to the subject’s core connotations, through which design concepts can emerge from the simulation, selection, and expression of scenarios. The new Duke Garden, located in the city of Kunshan in Jiangsu Province, is situated in a typical Chinese suburban area, which bears little distinction in geographical features. The ordinary site condition forced designers to search for deeper characteristics of the place through alternative methods which allow designers to examine the site from three perspectives: 1) through the study and comparison of precedents which share a spiritual lineage; 2) through the physiographical investigation on regional ecosystem to which the site belongs; and 3) through a revisit of the preceding phases of the project and a probe into the temporal connection between adjacent sites. Observations from these three perspectives have enabled the design of Duke Garden to explore contemporary spiritual connotations of the landscape typology of “garden” and intepret it through this project.
Observation and representation are the fundamental and core processes and methods in landscape design. By transforming a historical industrial site into an urban cultural park for citizens’ recreational needs, the Jinhua Memorial Park in the Suining City demonstrates how landscape designers observe and represent in post-industrial renewal practice. Designers continuously deepen their understanding of the site through a process from site observation and perception, research and exploration to systematic analyses. During this process, designers were inspired by the industrial production process and textile products, and then applied such concepts in spatial arrangement and prototype for physical renovation. As the skeleton of spatial arrangement, the main road of the campus connects various functional spaces and landscape nodes of the park. Five design strategies, including in-situ preservation, transposition retention, material reuse, appearance protection, and spiritual revitalization, are applied to protect and reorganize the industrial heritages to recall the past prosperous scenes. Landscape design approaches, intuitive or implicit, are adopted to tie up the past, present, and future of the site while making a park that meets the needs of all kinds of users.
Located in the suburb of Nanchang City in Jiangxi Province, the Nanchang Red Earth Heritage Park is positioned as a country park that features vast vermicular red earth and Pinus massoniana forest. The off-site review and on-site exploration suggested that the site was confronting with problems of severer soil erosion, biodiversity loss, and intensive human intervention. Both to preserve the symbolic red earth in the site and to reduce cost due to limited budget, a country park requiring low intervention and maintenance was proposed. The park would also engage citizens with geological and scientific education programs and create diverse interactive experience. The design strategies were optimized through continuous site observation and reflection, both with historical and existing data in a broader sense and individual feeling by on-site exploration. This way of dialogue and connection to the site finally gives birth to a natural country park that stays in harmony with nature.
Can architecture prompt the body into more complex actions? An active body is a joyful body, and our sedentary behaviors are inhibiting the delightful encounters of spaces. Architecture should, in fact, inspire active and engaging experiences.
Íchni is a playful exploration into how spatial devices can increase the body’s potential to act through the use of interactive technology; an investigation in generating affective feedback loops between surrounding objects and the body through a physical-digital system. Through developing “choreographic devices” — playable structures embedded with physical sensors —and a virtual projection overlay, the physical forces of movements are captured as data points, then translated and projected back into the environment, heightening the awareness of our actions to affect the manner in which we move through a generative environment.
Mount Kumgang, located in the middle of the eastern coastal area of the Korean Peninsula, has been a cultural symbol of this region historically. It stretches across two countries, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Republic of Korea (ROK). The former enjoys two thirds of the total area and rich natural landscape and cultural relics, which is now known as the Mount Kumgang International Tourist Zone. The design responds to the bond of both DPRK and ROK people through design approaches while celebrating the rich natural and cultural resources of Mount Kumgang. By building a tourist zone planning system based on a visual network, the design would improve the sight-seeing system for the both sides of Mount Kumgang and provide references for the local government on the future development of the area. However, when faced with challenges such as the inadequacy of literature, missing data, and difficulties in field survey, the author explored into the Korean culture and studied the blue-and-green-color landscape painting and line drawing techniques from the famous Korean painting Geumgang Jeondo and the “Panorama Map of Diamond Mountain” (1939), combining with computer-generated graphics in the design drawing. Meanwhile, to help audience better read the site and design concepts and strategies, two types of material models were also introduced. Finally, the suitable design strategies and deliberated representation together provide thoughts for the development and construction to Mount Kumgang in the future.