China’s New Landscape
The urban population of China has risen from 26% in 1990 to approximately 50% in 2010. Increased urban-rural polarization has created a new form of settlement patterns, resulting in massive construction of designed landscapes such as parks, boulevards, shopping streets, and tourist attractions throughout China. Simultaneously, other types of landscapes have emerged as support and consequences of this rapid economic growth—infrastructure, brownfields, displaced populations, and many more. This list draws from architecture, urbanism, political ecology, and other fields and attempts to paint a partial picture of the landscape transformation in China since the “opening up” in the 1980s to frame some of the pertinent social, political, and ecological issues that landscape architects must confront today.
Zone: The Spatial Softwares of Extrastatecraft
China’s recent economic boom relies on the introduction of special “zones.” From the earliest Special Economic Zones that provided enclaves of unregulated capitalism to the proposed Free Trade Zone in Shanghai to rival Hong Kong, the Chinese government skillfully deploys these political tools and initiated unprecedented urban transformation. While Keller Easterling’s essay does not focus only on Chinese zones, it helps contextualize the landscape change in China of recent years.
Manufactured Landscapes (Film)
This documentary of photographer Edward Burtynsky’s work provides a quick overview of the extent of environmental change in China due to rapid industrialization and urban development. The massive landscapes of production, extraction, waste, and infrastructure are portrayed in rich resolution, and the film reveals related social tensions and political contradictions.
Shenzhen: Urban Myth of a New Chinese City
Journal of Architectural Education
The urban villages of China exist as exceptional enclaves of property rights within sprawling Chinese cities. Juan Du describes how the success of Shenzhen relies on contrasting rules of government and zoning within the urban villages that provided housing and other services for the massive floating population to fuel its economy.
Original Copies: Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China
University of Hawaii Press
Architects, urban designers, and landscape architects outside of China often cringe at photographs of new urban developments such as Thames New Town or Anting New Town in Shanghai that blatantly mimic European cities and architectural styles. Bianca Bosker’s book documents this phenomenon but provides an alternative view of the cultural and historic roots of artistic mimicry in Chinese culture and argues for a nuanced reading of such design practices.
Techno-Pastoral Fantasies at Hong Kong International
Tourism is the fastest growing industry in China, and Hong Kong, due to its proximity and notoriety in the Mainland, has experienced swarms of tourists and governs one of the busiest border zones in the world. Max Hirsch documents the landscapes associated with the Hong Kong International Airport that cater to increased tourism and infrastructural investments underway to support the city’s economy.
The Big Foot Revolution
Designed Ecologies: The Landscape Architecture of Kongjian Yu
Kongjian Yu’s battle cry against ornamental (bound feet) landscapes and advocating for ecological and performative landscapes (big feet) has created waves within landscape architectural practice in China. Yu’s manifesto contextualizes the internal conflict of the desire for Chinese cities to create an “image” through landscape projects and realities of environmental degradation.
The Warriors of Qiugang (Film)
Yale Environment 360
While SEZs and other urban destinations were set aside for industrial development, early foreign investment and industrialization often occurred informally in rural villages. Ruby Yang’s documentary of Qiugang depicts a village’s battle for environmental justice and one cannot help but wonder about the ecological challenges ahead for the under-represented rural population.
Homecoming: Contextualizing, Materializing and Practicing the Rural in China
Urban growth is often accompanied by rural decline, but yet the two are still intimately linked by fragile familial ties. The Chinese government has invested in widespread transportation infrastructure, bringing the rural closer to the urban, and we are starting to see reverse migration back to rural areas. “Homecoming” is a collection of projects and musings that explore design practices in rural China.
The Great Himalayan Watershed: Agrarian Crisis, Mega-Dams and the Environment
New Left Review
What is next? China is currently undergoing the largest landscape transformation in its history with unprecedented infrastructural projects. The Three Gorges Dam was 70 years in the making and the South to North Water Diversion Project is finally in place after decades of construction. China’s quest for resources necessitates the need for landscape designers to become involved in the design and implementation of nation-wide and transnational infrastructures.