Text by Li ShuyaUncredited photographs courtesy of Yu Kongjian
In 2001 a group of 100 experts were invited by the municipalgovernment of Zhongshan, Guangdong Province, to assessa plan for Zhongshan Shipyard (Qijiang) Park designed byYu Kongjian, who earned a Harvard Ph.D. in 1995. Expertsoverwhelmingly rejected the project,voting 99 to 1 against it. Theirarguments were convincing:Parks should be beautiful; who wouldwant to visit an area characterized by weeds and old broken downmachines?
Despite the opposition, the park was completed in May 2001thanks to support from the local government. It was honored with anaward from the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA)in 2002. Yu Kongjian became the first Chinese designer to be recognizedas such.
Most of Yu Kongjian’s designs for rural landscapes were inspiredby his childhood in Zhejiang Province, southeastern China.His ecological concepts were enhanced by his time at Beijing ForestryUniversity and then Harvard. He now enjoys a global reputationfor landscape architecture fueled by agriculture and ecology.In the ten years since 2002, he has received nine prizes from ASLAand many other honors both at home and abroad in realms of architecture,environment, and geo-science.
Today, Yu Kongjian serves as dean of the College of Architectureand Landscape Architecture at Peking University, a YangtzeRiver Scholar appointed by China’s Ministry of Education, and chiefdesigner of Turenscape.
For Yu, landscape design is more than building a park to decoratecities. “What I’m doing is enhancing the environment throughinnovative ideas and values,” explains Yu. “I want to deliver a novelway of life: low carbon, energy-saving, and healthy.”
“A Net In Front of Me”
In 1997, Yu Kongjian quit SWA Group, a US-based world leaderin landscape architecture, planning and urban design, and returnedto China to found a landscape planning and designing center atPeking University, where he made only 1/20 of the salary offered bythe American firm.