Apr 2021, Volume 9 Issue 2

  • Select all
    Kongjian YU

    Although experienced too much bitterness in the COVID-19 pandemic, the author took part in the online global Frontiers Forum. Inspired by one of the lectures which highlighted the view of Big History, the author argues that the human history—no matter how earthshaking it is praised to be—is just barely even worthy of mention. Illustrating with the seasonal farming sceneries and the family history of thousands of years in Xunjiansi village, Wuyuan County, Jiangxi Province, the author elaborates the vibrancy and resilience of local society and vernacular landscapes. Big History insights warn us that the immoderate exploitation of natural resources, increasing carbon emission that exceeds the carbon sequestration capacity of the nature, the overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, disappearing water bodies, biodiversity loss, etc., will eventually lead to a complete collapse and unpredictable disasters that threaten humans’ survival and may rewrite human history.

    Tao LUO

    Scientifically recognizing and wisely intervening the evolution of landscape is an important topic in Landscape Architecture, since evolution (change) is absolute. For human, landscape changes, however, can be measured in a relative sense. Upon such an understanding, the concept “persistent landscape” highlights the landscape’s continuity and stability over time, as well as the stable variety of physical environment. The key to understand this concept lies in landscape architects’ observation of not only the stability of natural ecosystems but also the harmony of cultural-social contexts. However, the rapid urbanization has caused many pressing problems such as the loss of characteristics in urban and rural area, environmental pollution, ecological fragmentation, and cultural fracture, which calls for landscape architects who can re-recognize the man-land relationship and formulate scientific strategies for sustainable development. In this issue, LA Frontiers hopes to offer landscape architects with insights to meet contemporary needs by embracing new landscape forms and implications, so as to create healthier and more poetic-quality living environments with cultural and spatial characteristics.

    Zhen HUANG, Jiang LIU, Tao LUO, Xinchen HONG

    The extensive growth in most Chinese cities at the expense of local identities of living settlement. Taking the 60 residential neighborhoods in county-level cities of varied climate zones in China as examples, this paper explores their spatial–temporal changes and differences in morphology, based on 12 morphological indicators through Principal Component Analysis and correlation analysis by ArcGIS 10.2, SPSS 22, and Origin 2021. The results show that 1) the construction dating of the 60 sample neighborhoods conforms to the development of China’s housing reform; 2) the spatial morphology of residential neighborhoods in county-level cities of different climate zones could be charaterized by 5 factors, i.e. neighborhood shape, development intensity, neighborhood size, layout order, and aggregation degree; 3) the disparities in the spatial morphology of residential neighborhoods in the same climate zone in different period of time are mostly indicated with 3 morphological indicators, i.e. Building Density, Neighborhood Area, and Green Space Ratio; rather, the morphology of residential neighborhoods built during a same period of time varies largely between climate zones, mainly indicated with Green Space Ratio, Degree of Building Angle Disorder, and Degree of Building Distance Disorder; and 4) China’s housing policies, climatic conditions, residential building patterns, and the urbanization of each city together influence the spatial–temporal changes in the spatial morphology, offering references to policy making, planning, and construction to protect the regional characteristics in the future.


    Planners, designers, environmentalists, concerned citizens, and government officials are interested in the management and preservation of small rare and unique ecological environments. Scholars have discovered that land-use and visual quality metrics often co-vary together and that various land-uses reside on a continuum scale from high respondent preference (biospheric land-uses) to low respondent preference (noospheric land-uses). This study assessed and documented the visual metrics for the Maxton Plains alvar/alvar grassland plant communities found on Drummond Island, Michigan, USA. These unique, small, and rare landscape types are not usually studied by large-scale visual quality mapping efforts which assess urban areas, woodlands, water, farmland, pastureland, and prairies. The visual metrics were assessed using two versions of predictive visual quality assessment models. Results from 60 field photographs reveal that the visual metrics assessment for the Maxton Plains alvars/alvar grasslands have a moderate visual preference, consistent visual quality scores: ranging from the low to middle 50s with the first equation and high 40s to low 50s with the second equation. Compared to many landscape and land-uses, these environments have scores that indicate a moderate visual preference and appreciation. Scores beyond±2.5 of the mean would indicate a significant (p≤0.05) perceivable drift from the existing conditions. The visual metrics provide a numerical framework for managing the spatial contents within and adjacent to the alvars. Landscape features such as buildings, invasive woodlands, agriculture, and pavement would all decrease the visual quality beyond the ± 2.5 score range.

    Yushu LIU, Zhenyu WANG, Zhuoran SHAN

    Suzhou City enjoys its regional water networks as a driver to promote the evolution of urban-rural landscapes, where water space is an important part of urban-rural public spaces that defines spatial characteristics, supports public health, and offers recreational opportunities. Cultural ecosystem services (CES) ranging from aesthetics, recreation, education to culture are the core public demands and a key aspect in shaping the identity and vitality of water spaces. However, along with the rapid urbanization, the historical city-water spatial pattern, social connections and relations, and regional cultural spirit have gradually faded away. Such problems can be addressed through inventory renewals and cultural revivals of water spaces based on CES enhancement. This research introduces the Importance–Performance Analysis to study CES of water spaces by examining representative water spaces of Suzhou, in order to examine the correlations between CES types and landscape elements/factors. By collecting the residents’ assessment data on the importance and performance of a series of landscape elements/factors, this research measures and evaluates the demand–supply relations of the studied water spaces, conducts a strategic zoning to identify the landscape elements/factors to maintain, of over-supply, needs no priority or to improve, respectively. Finally, the paper proposes planning strategies and construction guidance for enhancing water space CES in Suzhou in the aspects of ecological management of water network, highlighting of water town image, and planning and scheming of local projects.

    Yichi ZHANG, Junzhe WANG

    In response to increasing attention from international academia on Chinese gardens, this article advances China’s landscape studies by exploring international research trends on Chinese gardens during the 21st century. It mainly adopts a diachronic perspective to examine the journal Studies in the History of Gardens & Designed Landscapes—a leading journal, and Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection (Trustees for Harvard University)—international academia’s leading institution on landscape studies. Using a bibliometric approach, it first carries out a statistical analysis of the rules and trends of development to explore the distribution patterns of Chinese gardens. Based on this analysis, it uses time series analysis to study the relationships of related academic discourses and contexts. The study reveals that Chinese garden studies led by Chinese scholars has attracted increasing attention from international academia and has involved growing numbers of scholars from various disciplines. Consequently, it has not only shaped much of the output from China and Britain, but is also driving a paradigm shift away from studying Chinese classical gardens to modern designed landscapes, drawing upon a monolithic approach to investigate the pluralistic, and from focusing on Chinese national interaction to transnational interaction.

    Yadong LIU

    The persistence of public landscapes is a critical approach to community resilience and sustainability. But in China’s landscape architectural field, it is neglected in both planning and design, and post-occupancy operations and maintenance. With the case studies of three public landscape sites in North Carolina, the United States this article introduces the concept of stewardship, and outlines the contemporary public landscape stewardship practice as management efforts predominantly driven by the landscape architect’s long-term duty and proactive care to create a sustainable landscape for the site. This article emphasizes that the essence of stewarding public landscapes lies in the ethics—the attachments to and the responsibilities and care of the land and the landscape; and modesty, discernment, and enthusiasm when facing the ever-changing socio-ecological systems—and the outcome of public landscape stewardship typically takes the form of developing and implementing new and futureoriented master plans for the sites. This article also summarizes a set of site-based principles and approaches to public landscape stewardship. Finally, based on the discussion about the case studies, this study points out the practical implications of public landscape stewardship for Chinese cities which are progressively entering into an era of inventory development. Recommendations for its application to the Chinese landscape architectural profession are further addressed.

    Holger BEHM, Jiang LIU

    The multifaceted historical development of a landscape typically represented by archaeological sites are often overlooked in spatial planning. In this article, Managing Archaeotopes was proposed as a new concept connecting archaeological research with spatial planning. The concept advocates that an interdisciplinary approach could help to build the “Archaeotopes” of archaeological sites, which brings together their archaeological, aesthetic, and ecological values in the landscape. The authors argue that the temporal dimension, i.e. landscape history, especially in terms of the remaining relics of historic development and events in the landscape today, and the dynamics of landscape changes should be treated as necessary information for spatial planning. Thus, knowledge should be acquired from relevant disciplines reflecting the timeline and dynamics of a landscape, such as Geology, Paleontology, Archaeology, Historical Geography, as well as other relevant sources and disciplines providing local characteristic information such as Biology and Onomastics. Knowledge from Sociology and Psychology would be needed when considering human requirement. At last, topics in the present and future were proposed in five aspects to facilitate Managing Archaeotopes, and emphasized the key role of the acceptance and realization of interdisciplinary work for a successful planning in the future.

    Huaiyu ZHOU, Hailong LIU

    With the rapid advance of digital technology under the fourth industrial revolution, digital landscape and smart landscape architecture have gradually become the research hot spots in design professions. The Internet of Things (IoT), as an emerging digital tool, has shown great potential to assist operational information modeling for built landscape projects. This article, focusing on the post-operation for built projects, deliberates IoT-based approaches to operational information management (OIM) through vacancy analysis and literature review. It first argues that OIM’s main goals are performance evaluation and refined management, and points out the absence of effective monitoring tools for ecological performance and dynamic modeling tools for data storage, analysis, and visualization. Combing with existing cases, it also demonstrates and summarizes the methods for IoTbased ecological performance monitoring and dynamic information modeling, as well as the principles for related application. In addition, landscape architects and project managers should pay attention to emerging research trends of IoT technology, and more importantly, emphasize authentic application scenarios to avoid blind practice. As for the future of Landscape Architecture, this article attempts to reveal the profession development trajectory that technological upgrade leads to demand upgrade, which will also bring about changes in landscape architects’ contemporary mission and the methods for talent training, and about the innovations of landscape design and research tools.

    Martin ALLIK

    The design of Jubileumsparken in Gothenburg, Sweden runs on two parallel tracks—a permanent park will be completed and opened in late 2021, and before that a series of temporary parks and installations had been set up during several public workshops since 2014. The gradual evolution of the site allows ecosystems to adapt and invites the public to leave their imprint on the park through not only directly building and planting, but even more importantly, indirectly voicing their interests and desires which impacts the final design of the permanent park. With a focus on the existing fragile ruderal and coastal ecosystems, as well as the socio-cultural heritage of the site, a 1:1 scale landscape laboratory—the Shoreline Park—was built up together with the public. It allowed for testing new materials, work methods, planting and maintenance techniques that would then be used in the permanent Play & Learn Park. The design process also highlights the need for a closer collaboration between landscape architects and maintenance staff to achieve the sustainability goals and the aesthetic value of the park over a longer period, as well as the importance of landscape architects’ continuous involvement in park maintenance and the use of digital tools. The project also adopted geotechnic infrastructure to create a gently sloping wetland and proposed a mixed planting plan of indigenous species, natural succession and exotics to address climate change, and to create preconditions for high biodiversity even in the long term. Through such prototyping and testing, the wider public, maintenance staff, and experts got engaged in this project, which initiated a dialogue about the persistence in landscape between urban ecosystems, wildscapes, and aesthetics.

    Xiaoxuan LU

    Dark Matter, a research by design thesis, investigates the ecological value of human remains, and their latent agency for advancing biological diversity in urban cemeteries. The project proposes an expedited aboveground decomposition process (Natural Organic Reduction) to convert human tissue and bone into nutrient-rich soil-like materials. Following decomposition, human remains merge with non-human ecologies over time to offer mourners an extended period of ceremony and remembrance. Transference of energy and matter to adjacent non-human life is emphasized in the transition, and a memorial’s embodiment in physical space is expanded to include natural systems and ecological productivity. The funerary landscape is thus decentralized from a static site of memorial to an evolving memorial system that invites engagement with the living.

    In an age of pandemic, mass extinction, and deepening climate crises, a commitment to an environmentally ethical funeral practice connects the loss of the individual to global patterns of ecological ruin and environmental decline. These layered scales of grief are experienced at divergent timescales, suggesting the need for a new typology of memorial landscape that positions the human life within larger natural cycles of birth, death, decay, and metamorphosis. Rituals of commemoration, management, and activism would be alchemized to unexpected outcomes when the program of memorial, ecological preserve, and a theater for collective actions are merged. Dark Matter proposes a network of biodiverse public landscapes where bodily death events meaningfully contribute to ecological systems of propulsive regenerative life.

    Jiacheng CHEN

    The Black Dirt Region in the State of New York has been well-known for the unique taste of its onions, which is attributed to the organic matter that weighs over 80% in the soil. In recent years, however, the rigid economic pattern restrains the development of this area. In the meantime, local agricultural production is more and more vulnerable to flooding. When this region is labeled as “highly productive of crops,” the persistent factors that have been shaping the black-dirt landscape are omitted. The other name of the place, “the Drowned Lands,” may better capture its entangled relationship with water.

    In this article, hydrogeological dynamics and human desire are regarded as the factors that sustain landscape continuity and stability. Based on the research on historical sedimentation in the Drowned Lands, this article attempts to delineate a local scenario of covert landscape evolution since the Last Glacial Maximum. The proposal initiates a composite pathway of ecological functions and touristic values in the agricultural region. Within a series of “landscape prompts,” a lesser-known tale of local geology and prehistoric culture is told. Through design interventions, alternative possibilities of rural landscape are tested, embedded meaning of the agricultural land becomes tangible, and a more adaptive human–land relationship is restored.