Turenscape's largest applied project is an ecological master plan for Beijing, but at the national level, our ideas on ecological safety patterns (which I developed in my GSD PhD at Harvard) have been incorporated into their planning efforts by the Department of Lands and Resources. Its goal is to protect China's most sensitive ecological zones and develop a strategy for land protection and development, including surface water protection, soil erosion control, stormwater management, and water control. of floods, measures against desertification and the protection of biodiversity and cultural heritage. To achieve an ideally high level of security, we argue that it is necessary to protect 75% of the national land from development and build infrastructure/ecological network to protect natural processes and cultural/historical values. Our goal is to remove channeled concrete embankments, restore wetlands, and attempt to store rainwater on site. Several cities are working with us to achieve these goals, though the vast majority continue in their old, destructive ways. In Beijing, our green plan is an official policy, but it is not yet implemented.
We are designing a green city for 100,000 people in Wuhan, Hebei Province, for a private developer, with the help of Mark Johnson, Director of Urban Design, Planning and Landscape Architecture at Civitas in Denver. We do everything from land use and infrastructure planning to the schematic design of individual buildings. Meanwhile, in other parts of China, we are designing about fifty parks focused on ecological synthesis; We also participate in competitions in the United States, South Korea and Spain. OurParque Houtanat Expo 2010 in Shanghai examines how the landscape can be used as ecological infrastructure to purify water, and our well-knownred ribbon parkworks to create an inviting public space with the lightest, least intrusive touch in the country. The new buzz word in China is "low carbon", which is what we pursue through low maintenance and low embodied energy in materials. Although I have been driving these issues for ten years, in the last three years my company has thought more deeply and carefully about them.
InParque HoutanScientists measure the change in the river water that flows through it: with a weekly crossing of 1.7 kilometers, the water starts at the lowest quality level, the bottom 5, and improves to the top 3, that is That is, 2,400 cubic meters per day can be used as service water for the fair. This water improvement has received a lot of media attention, and the mayor of Shanghai said that he wants to use this model for the entire city water system and divert all rivers. But land managers in China do not know how to care for riparian corridors, instead focusing on landscapes with ornamental flowers and rejecting "weeds."
Turenscape's influence was on government decision makers from ministerial level to mayors. I send mayors my bookThe road to the urban landscapeand present at least ten times a year at meetings of mayors and city-level decision makers. I get more invitations to speak and interview from newspapers than I can handle. At the Beijing Mayors Forum, I speak to about fifty mayors at least twice a year. Most of my clients are mayors. As one of two articles on urban planning and design, my lecture "Building an Eco-City" is included in a textbook to be published by the National Library for Chinese ministerial-level officials, and my article on Zhongshan Shipyard Park "The culture being ignored and the Beauty of Weeds: The Regenerative Design of an Industrial Site” is now part of the mandatory textbook for secondary schools in Jiangsu province. I also wrote the Declaration on the Protection of Industrial Heritage in China for the Ministry of Cultural Heritage; The Shipyard Park is the first protected site of its kind in China.
So our impact is significant and growing, but we are still a long way from influencing most of China's landscapes. The hydrological engineers who channel the rivers still have control over the water in the landscape, which is essential for national ecological security. I am a disapproved outsider in university landscape architecture departments, but my influence goes further: our work is better known in China than it is in the United States, but among landscape architects internationally it may be more appreciated outside of China.
It shouldn't take fifty years to implement our national environmental safety guidelines because the Chinese authorities can do things quickly on command. I wrote a letter to the Prime Minister about our proposals and received responses from the Department of Land and Resources and the Department of Housing and Urban-Rural Development.
We cannot always trust that landscapes are well or adequately maintained. Dedicated homeowners will see to it, but our Red Ribbon Park will be unduly expanded: a pedestrian bridge will be built across the river; Added rock garden and background music. It is very difficult to change conventional cultural and aesthetic attitudes; this will take decades.
This is how I set up the Graduate School of Landscape Architecture at Peking University and the Turenscape office: After my PhD from GSD, I worked at SWA Group in California for almost two years. I then accepted a teaching position at the Department of Urban and Environmental Sciences at Peking University, where I set up a center for landscape architecture. A year later I started Turenscape as a side job to practice what I preached and support our students with their research. In 2003, I expanded the center into the Graduate School of Landscape Architecture, and this year I expanded it again into the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, which combines the Center for Architecture and the Graduate School of Landscape Architecture. I am the founding dean of both. Peking University is primarily dedicated to arts and sciences. At first, other schools at the university did not understand what we were doing; I had to convince them that landscape and urban design are crucial to our future. Turenscape gave me the opportunity to test my ideas and influence the real world.
After attending one of my conferences, I was hired for projects and the income allowed me to grow the business. At first they were just research projects, but then I asked clients to let me do the actual project. Shipyard Park is my first serious built work. In China we have no competition in terms of size (we have more than 500 professionals) and technological sophistication. Usually people call me because they know me, so they don't think about other designers. We don't usually participate in competitions in China, except for very important and serious competitions like the Beijing Olympics and the Shanghai Expo. The norm in China is still the ornamental garden, and I am not invited to create it.
All students at the school only do research projects in a separate area of our building; they do not participate in Turenscape design projects. We now have six Ph.D. natural science students. Until now, Peking University only grants credits for research papers, not for design projects. Turenscape has a post-professional program for our staff, and this year four or five will graduate professionally. Every year we hire five to ten of my former students after they have completed their research projects at the university. Other alumni work both in practice and in academia in China, establishing research institutes at other universities and promoting green design and planning.
So often I lose battles and the landscapes I have fought in are built: the terribly barren, empty, hard-surfaced, flower-filled Olympic Park in Beijing is just one example. But most of my fights are not with ornamental gardeners, but with hydraulic engineers. Only engineers can carry out hydrological work; they have to follow unenlightened laws about what to do to prepare for twenty, thirty and fifty year floods. They are not informed about ecology; They just calculate how the water flows and still pour tons of concrete onto the land. On the rare occasions that mayors take a gamble, regressive hydrologic codes are ignored. The problem in China is that the profession is stratified. Hydrologists should workinsidethe profession of landscape architect.
One of the keys to improving landscape practices in China is changing national regulations. There is no code that tells you how to manage stormwater well, how to pave and build roads, or how to use wetlands. Changing these codes could be very difficult due to interests deeply rooted in the status quo. Those who believe in us, like the Ministry of Lands and Resources, are actually changing that kind of code. China's huge problems will require huge answers.