In his text ‘Weak Architecture’ Ignasi de Sola Morales writes that,
“Contemporary Architecture, in conjunction with the other arts, is confronted with the need to build on air, to build in the void. The proposals of contemporary architecture are to be constructed not on the basis of any immovable reference, but under the obligation to posit for each step both the goal and its grounding”.
We here in the Department of Architecture + Landscape, Kingston University, are interested in what it takes to make thoughtful work in architecture and landscape architecture today. Each week practitioners are invited to present to students and staff from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines.
In this series of 14 podcasts we speak with practitioners, planners, developers and others who visit our school about their motivations and methodologies. To listen to an audio podcast click here. Open iTunes to download and subscribe to podcasts here
The following text is taken from Kingston University’s Architecture + Landscape Summer 2017 exhibition catalogue:
Image: Rory Johnson
TUTORS: Pat Brown, Vladimir Guculak, Ruth Olden
CRITICS: Fenella Griffin, Richard Woolf, Helen Neve, Alax Seitl, Christoph Lueder, Judi Farren Bradley, Dimitris Grozopoulos, Pablo Feito Boirac, Leah Fusco
- MLA Year 2: Ruth Chittock, Rory Johnson, Khadijah Khan, Camilla Piccolo, Haojie Qin, Stefan Tebbenhoff
- PGDip Landscape Architecture: Sigita Paplauskaite
- MA Landscape & Urbanism: Yiying He, Karamjot Kaur Kang, Arsia Mesbah, Utkarsha Patil, Karvy Bharat Yadav
The Thames estuary has been part-shaped by London’s human history of trade, navigation, industrialisation, militarisation and tourism. It evidences the relations that Londoners have extended to a regional water ecology and associated landscape – sometimes affirmative, and at other times troubling. But the estuary is no mere residual landscape: it is also an entity in its own right and must be understood on its own terms. This landscape has distinct spatialities, temporalities and agencies of its own, and it is rich with resources for reimagining the relationships that London has historically extended to it. Is this not the entrance to London?
Images: Stefan Tebbenhoff
Collectively we have worked towards understanding the elements of the estuarine landscape: its tidal waters, mud, darkness and light, marine ecologies, military ruins, estuarine communities, shipping and associated industries, dialects, abandonment and disturbed ecologies. This picture comes into focus following a sustained period of investigation of shoreline scavenging, stargazing, soil sampling, personal accounts from the field, archival research, public engagement and mapping.
Images: Sigita Paplauskaite
This collective archive of the region is the primary resource for thinking about possible futures of the estuary’s urban edges, marshlands, islands, ruins and postindustrial communities. Sites have been selected in the estuary, and site-responsive briefs have been written, motivated by the very real problematics of site and region. Research questions have been posed with an eye to environmental futures and cultural prospects, and these have been answered through fieldwork. The resulting design projects respond to a host of different challenges and opportunities: how to frame the relationship between the tide, the landscape, light and darkness; how to link postindustrial heritage and the Thames estuary’s distinctive marshland ecologies; how to reanimate post-industrial infrastructure with recreational programmes; how to introduce a bathing and wellness culture in the estuary, by re-appropriating former sites of waste? Many possibilities hold in this shifting landscape.
Images: Yiying He
With the waters of change lapping at the estuary’s post-industrial limits, the challenge of acknowledging the agency of London’s peripheral landscape is more urgent than ever. The landscape professional’s ability to capture complex material worlds by listening well through field work and design thinking is an essential role for our times. By putting these skills to work in the estuary, we find that this peripheral landscape is no mere putty in London’s hands. Mud, darkness and tidal waters persist here, estuarine communities dwell here. These are all agencies that present an important prompt to place-based thinking and new forms of environmental engagement. And they must be present, co-author even, in the task of future thinking.
Images: Ruth Chittock
Images: Haojie Qin
A Resilient Landscape: Yanweizhou Park in Jinhua City – Kongjian Yu, Peking University College of Architecture and Landscape, and Turenscape
- Location: Jinhua City, Zhejiang Province, China.
- Size: 26 Hectares
- Client: Jinhua Municipal Government
- Design Firm: Turenscape
- Design Team: Kongjian Yu (design principal), Hongqian Yu, Yu Song, Yuan Fang, Shuiming zhou, hui Tong, Shenghui Li, Chujie Lin, Dengfeng Chen
- Completed: 2014
The Yanweizhou Park, Jinhua City project by turenscape landscape architectures, is a finalist for Rosa Barba Prize and was presented at the International Biennial of Landscape Architecture in Barcelona on September, 2016. Turenscape also designed Qunli Stormwater Park: Heilongjiang Province, China
Site and Challenges
In Jinhua, a city with a population of over one million, one last piece of natural riparian wetland of more than 64.acres remained undeveloped. It is located at the juncture of the Wuyi and Yiwu Rivers to form the Jinhua River, now the site of the Yanweizhou Park.
Before the Yanweizhou Park project was implemented, the three rivers, each of which is over 100 meters wide, divided the densely populated communities in the region. As a result of this, the cultural facilities, including the opera house and the green spaces adjacent to the Yanweizhou were underutilized. The remaining 50-acre riparian wetland was fragmented or destroyed by sand quarries. The existing wetland is covered with secondary growth dominated by poplar trees (Populus Canadensis) and Chinese Wingnut (Pterocarya stenoptera) that provide habitat for native birds.
4 major challenges to the landscape architect:
- Can the remaining riparian habitat be preserved while providing amenities to the residents of the dense urban center?
- What approach to flood control should be used (prevention with a high, concrete retaining wall or cooperation by allowing the park to flood)?
- Can the existing organically shaped building be integrated into the surrounding environment to create a cohesive landscape that provides a unique experience for visitors?
- Can the separated city districts be connected to the natural riparian landscape to strengthen the community and cultural identity of the city of Jinhua?
Fig 1. Aerial view of the park during the monsoon season with uninterrupted connection of the city through the bridge
Fig 2. Aerial view of the park during the dry season, with lush tall grasses covering the terraces on the embankment. The terraces are enriched by silt deposited during the flood season
Design Strategies: Resilient Landscape
- Adaptive Tactics to Preserve and Enhance the Remnant Habitats
The first adaptive strategy was to make full use of the existing riparian sand quarries with minimum intervention. In this way, the existing micro-terrain and natural vegetation are preserved, allowing diverse habitats to evolve through time. The biodiversity of the area was adapted and enhanced through the addition of native wetland species. This enrichment, particularly of species that provide food for birds and other wildlife, increases biodiversity.
- Water Resilient Terrain and Planting Design
Due to its monsoon climate, Jinhua suffers from annual flooding. For a long time, the strategy to control flooding was to build stronger and taller concrete floodwalls to yield cheap land for urban development. These walls along the riverbanks and riparian flood plains severed the intimate relationship between the city, the vegetation, and the water, while ultimately exacerbating the destructive force of the annual floods.
Following this formula, hard high walls have been built, or were planned to be built, to protect the last patch of riparian wetland from the 20-year and 50-year floods. These floodwalls would create dry parkland above the water, but destroy the lush and dynamic wetland ecosystem. Therefore, the landscape architect devised a contrasting solution, and convinced the city authority to stop the construction of the concrete floodwall and to demolish others. Instead, the Yanweizhou project “makes friends” with flooding by using a cut-and-fill strategy to balance earthwork and by creating a water-resilient terraced river embankment that is covered with flood adapted native vegetation. Floodable pedestrian paths and pavilions are integrated with the planting terraces, which will be closed to the public during the short period of flooding. The floods bring fertile silt that is deposited over the terraces and enrich the growing condition for the tall grasses that are native to the riparian habitat. Therefore, no irrigation or fertilization is required at any time of the year. The terraced embankment will also remediate and filtrate the storm water from the pavement above. Although the design and strategies employed address only a small section compared to the hundreds of kilometers of river embankment, the Yanweizhou Park project showcases a replicable and resilient ecological solution to large-scale flood management.
Fig 3. Terraced embankments were built by removing the concrete floodwall and through a cut-and-fill strategy that balances the earthwork on-site. The terraces create a flood resilient zone that allows people to enjoy the lush tall grasses adaptive to the seasonal floods
In addition to the terraced river embankment, the inland area is entirely permeable in order to create a water resilient landscape through the extensive use of gravel that is re-used material from the site. The gravel is used for the pedestrian areas, the circular bio-swales are integrated with tree planters, and permeable concrete pavement is used for vehicular access routes and parking lots. The inner pond on the inland is designed to encourage river water to infiltrate through gravel layers. This mechanically and biologically improves the water quality to make the water swimmable.
Fig 4. Inner pond is designed to allow water to infiltrate from the river through the gravel layers that make the otherwise dirty river water suitable for swimming.
- A Resilient Pedestrian Bridge Connects City and Nature, Future and Past
A pedestrian bridge snakes across the two rivers, linking the parks along the riverbanks in both the southern and northern city districts, and connecting the city with the newly constructed Yanweizhou Park within the river. The bridge design was inspired by the local tradition of dragon dancing during the Spring Festival. For this celebration many families bind their wooden benches together to create a long and colorful dragon that winds through the fields and along narrow dirt paths. Musicians sound gongs and beat drums, to the accompaniment of singing, dancing and yelling by villagers, young and old. The Bench Dragon is flexible in length and form as people join or leave the celebration. The dragon bends and twists according to the force of human flow.
As water-resilient infrastructure, the new bridge is elevated above the 200-year flood level, while the ramps connecting the riparian wetland park can be submerged during the 20-year and larger floods. Floodwaters cover the park for a very short period of time. The bridge also hovers above the preserved patch of riparian wetland and allows visitors an intimate connection to nature within the city. The many ramps to the bridge create flexible and easy access for residents from various locations of the city in adaptation to the flow of people. The landscape architect designed the bridge to reinforce the festive, vernacular tradition, but also as an art form with a bold and colorful combination of bright red and yellow tones that are strengthened by night lighting. All together 2,300’ (700 m) long, the bridge is composed of a steel structure with fiberglass handrails and bamboo paving. It is truly a resilient bridge that is adaptive to river currents and the flows of people while binding city and nature, future and past.
- Resilient Space for a Dynamic Experience
The large oval opera house (designed by the Zhejiang Architecture Institute) posed significant challenges for the landscape architect. First the building shape tends to repel rather than embrace the user and landscape. Therefore, the first challenge was devising innovative forms that would welcome and embrace the visitor. Secondly, the area near the building needed to accommodate the large opera audience as well as the need for intimate spaces and ample shade. Finally, the designers were challenged with the problem of how to integrate the singular flood-proof big object into the floodable, riparian waterfront. The design uses curves as the basic language, including the curvilinear bridge, terraces and planting beds, concentric paving bands of black and white, and meandering paths that define circular and oval planting areas and activity spaces. The spatial organization and design forms establish an extensive paved area for a large audience during the events at the opera house. However, the forms and the inclusion of alcoves create places for the individual, couples and small groups.
Fig 5. The surface of the inland area is hundred percent permeable. Generated from on-site materials, gravel is recycled to create pedestrian surfaces. Gravel surfaces alternate with unit pavers and permeable concrete to create a distinctive pattern. Bio-swales are integrated with tree planters, and permeable concrete pavement is used for automobile routes traffic use and parking lots.
The dynamic ground of the pavement and planting patterns define circular bio-swales and planting beds, densely planted with native trees and bamboo, bound by long benches made of fiberglass. The circular bio-swales and planting patches resemble raindrop ripples on the river. These curves and circles are the unifying pattern language that integrates the building and the environment into a harmonious whole. The reverse curves simultaneously refer to the shape and scale of the building while forming a contrasting shape that is human in scale and enclosed for more intimate gatherings. They also reflect the weaving of the dynamic fluxes of currents, people and material objects that together create a lively pleasant and functional space.
After the park opened in May 2014, an average of 40,000 visitors used the park and the bridge each day. The local media exclaimed: “the whole city is crazy about one single bridge!” And now, the Yanweizhou Park has created a new identity for the city of Jinhua.
Text and images : http://www.turenscape.com
Kingston University’s Landscape Architecture MLA (LI Accredited) is a two-year ‘conversion course’, accredited by the Landscape Institute, which is aimed at graduates and professionals from disciplines including architecture, spatial design and ecology who can bring their knowledge, expertise, inquiry and creativity to the expanding field of landscape architecture. It is designed to engage with the interdisciplinary nature of contemporary landscape practice and research, as well as new opportunities for creative collaboration and co-production.
RORY JOHNSON: NATURAL SWIMMING POOL MODEL
Studio 3.5 and MLA1: Helen Goodwin & Fenella Griffin
“This year the first year of the course was taught alongside a third year Architecture Studio – engaging both Architecture and Landscape students, offers an integrated educational experience based on a holistic understanding of site. Furthermore, collaboration with The Peabody Trust and Trust Thamesmead allowed us to engage with the social, economic and political context and to embed our thinking in the real world
beyond the studio.
Group Site Model
Our work this year has taken us back to the civic spirit and optimism which lay behind the project for Thamesmead, the GLC’s most ambitious housing scheme conceived in the 1960s as ‘a modern community where 60,000 people will live in environmental conditions unmatched by anything that has gone before’. If only dreams came true. It is hard to find places where today’s largely migrant populations in Thamesmead might rub shoulders.
CAMILLA PICCOLO: TOWN HALL SQUARE
In response, our studio’s community spirited vision for the town proposes a collective living room in the form of a new Town Hall and public square on the edge of Southmere Lake, drawing inspiration from Alvar Aalto’s humane architecture with its roots so firmly embedded in the landscape. The Town Hall becomes a place with civic representative value for Thamesmead, with proposals also helping to address the fragmentation of residential areas, to mediate between elevated highways, buried sewers and fragile marshlands and to articulate traces of a more ancient human inhabitation of the land that far pre-dates the carpet of concrete. Foyers and public spaces offer gathering places for the community whilst atmospheric halls act as vessels for a host of civic and recreational activities from where the community can appreciate Thamesmead’s watery landscapes as well as its concrete towers.”
Haojie Khan Shokravy: Site Section
Characteristics that promote creativity and innovation
The paper discusses urban design and sustainability assessment methods plus characteristics that promote creativity and innovation. Eight key characteristics that promote creativity and innovation in urban design were identified:
risk-taking in idea generation
team understanding and commitment
clear, and ideally visionary, brief and strategy
access to relevant information and appropriate and sufficient resources
ownership of ideas
good communication skills, including visualisation and diplomatic skills
working well with stakeholders outside the design team
The interviews with UK built environment professionals on the relationship between sustainability assessment methods and creativity and innovation in urban design confirm many of the core findings within urban sustainability research. The authors have established that sustainability assessment methods do impact creativity and innovation in urban design, and that many current methods are described more negatively than positively in terms of their impact upon creativity and innovation.
There also was broad recognition of the value that sustainability assessment methods have in elucidating sustainability issues and in providing guidance on how they might be addressed. This, in turn, provides a platform from which urban designers can be creative and innovative, both at specific points in the urban design process and throughout the process. Based on the above findings, the authors propose the following principle: a sustainability assessment method will promote creativity and innovation in urban design if it engages competently with sustainability, works at a scale that allows for breadth and depth (typically greater than the building scale), and incorporates a set of eight key characteristics designed to promote creativity and innovation. This principle should guide any new sustainability assessment methods under development.
The findings also suggest that the people creating sustainability assessment methods should think more broadly about those who will use their methods and for what purpose(s). At the moment, many methods appear to be designed to work within a more deterministic, normative, empirical and scientific framework. They either fail to understand or ignore the creative and innovative aspects of urban design and the designers who use them (and who work in a more ‘designerly’ way) (Cross, 1982). Perhaps, when sustainability is more embedded in society, sustainability assessment will naturally encourage creative processes as well as creative and sustainable design solutions.
To download the full text click here
The UK’s Department for Communities and Local Government has recently published revised green infrastructure guidance as part of the National Planning Practice Guide (PPG). Green infrastructure now has its own section under ‘Natural Environment’ (along with landscape, biodiversity and ecosystems and brownfield land). It provides a definition of green infrastructure and describes its value to delivering sustainable development and planning policies, including building a strong, competitive economy and delivering a wide choice of high quality homes.
What is green infrastructure?
Green infrastructure is a network of multifunctional green space, urban and rural, which is capable of delivering a wide range of environmental and quality of life benefits for local communities.
Green infrastructure is not simply an alternative description for conventional open space. As a network it includes parks, open spaces, playing fields, woodlands, but also street trees, allotments and private gardens. It can also include streams, canals and other water bodies and features such as green roofs and walls.
Why is green infrastructure important to delivering sustainable development?
Green infrastructure is important to the delivery of high quality sustainable development, alongside other forms of infrastructure such as transport, energy, waste and water. Green infrastructure provides multiple benefits, notably ecosystem services, at a range of scales, derived from natural systems and processes, for the individual, for society, the economy and the environment. To ensure that these benefits are delivered, green infrastructure must be well planned, designed and maintained. Green infrastructure should, therefore, be a key consideration in both local plans and planning decisions where relevant.
What is a strategic approach to green infrastructure?
To assist in planning positively for green infrastructure local planning authorities may wish to prepare an authority-wide green infrastructure framework or strategy. This should be evidence-based by, for example, including an assessment of current green infrastructure provision that identifies gaps in the network and the components and opportunities for improvement. The assessment can inform the role of green infrastructure in local and neighbourhood plans, infrastructure delivery plans and Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) schedules.
Local Plans should identify the strategic location of existing and proposed green infrastructure networks. Where appropriate, supplementary planning documents can set out how the planning, design and management components of the green infrastructure strategy for the area will be delivered.
This strategic approach to green infrastructure may cross administrative boundaries. Therefore neighbouring authorities, working collaboratively with other stakeholders including Local Nature Partnerships (LNPs) and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), may wish to consider how wider strategies for their areas can help address cross-boundary issues and help meet the Duty to Cooperate.
How can green infrastructure help to deliver wider planning policy?
Green infrastructure can help to deliver a variety of planning policies including:
Building a strong, competitive economy
Green infrastructure can drive economic growth and regeneration, helping to create high quality environments which are attractive to businesses and investors.
Delivering a wide choice of high quality homes
Green infrastructure can help deliver quality of life and provide opportunities for recreation, social interaction and play in new and existing neighbourhoods. More broadly, green infrastructure exists within a wider landscape context and can reinforce and enhance local landscape character, contributing to a sense of place. Green infrastructure is also an important approach to delivering ecosystem services and ecological networks.
Requiring good design
Well-designed green infrastructure helps create a sense of place by responding to, and enhancing, local landscape character. Green infrastructure can also help create safe and accessible environments in new development and the regeneration of brownfield sites in existing built up areas.
Promoting healthy communities
Green infrastructure can improve public health and community wellbeing by improving environmental quality, providing opportunities for recreation and exercise and delivering mental and physical health benefits. Green infrastructure also helps reduce air pollution, noise and the impacts of extreme heat and extreme rainfall events.
Meeting the challenge of climate change, flooding and coastal change
Green infrastructure can help urban, rural and coastal communities mitigate the risks associated with climate change and adapt to its impacts by storing carbon; improving drainage (including the use of sustainable drainage systems) and managing flooding and water resources; improving water quality; reducing the urban heat-island effect and; where appropriate, supporting adaptive management in coastal areas. Green infrastructure networks also help species adapt to climate change by providing opportunities for movement.
Conserving and enhancing the natural environment
The components of green infrastructure exist within the wider landscape context and should enhance local landscape character and contribute to place-making. High quality networks of multifunctional green infrastructure provide a range of ecosystem services and can make a significant contribution to halting the decline in biodiversity.
How should green infrastructure be planned for in the long term?
As with other forms of infrastructure, green infrastructure requires sustainable management and maintenance arrangements to be in place if it is to provide benefits and services in the long term. Arrangements for managing green infrastructure, and for funding its management over the long-term, should be identified as early as possible when planning green infrastructure and factored into the way that it is designed and implemented.
How should green infrastructure be considered in planning decisions?
Where appropriate, planning proposals should incorporate green infrastructure in line with local and neighbourhood plan policies and site specific considerations. As a component of sustainable development, green infrastructure should be considered at an early stage of a planning proposal. Depending on individual circumstances, planning obligations, conditions or the Community Infrastructure Levy may all be potential mechanisms for securing and funding green infrastructure.
The Kilmahew / St Peter’s commission plan sets the building within the wider landscape as a total artwork and makes it the fundamental source and starting point for all future interventions. It is a powerful vision for a singular integration of the built and un-built environment that will generate a new form of creative landscape for the twenty-first century.
Tramp through the atmospheric woodland that surround the abandoned St Peter’s Seminary building complex -located on the outskirts of Helensborough, close to Glasgow on the west coast of Scotland – and gradually the looming concrete structure appears from the gloom. This modernist ruin, dating back to the 1960s, has been transformed by a stunning ‘son et lumiere’ spectacle, Hinterland, for the official launch event of Scotland’s Festival of Architecture 2016. Off limits for many years this site has become an iconic building – a place of pilgrimage for graffiti artists, rave goers, architecture students and those who seek out ‘other-worldly’ spaces.
‘Hinterland’ reveals the full glory of the towering concrete ruin, combining moving light installations and projection with a haunting choral soundscape by composer Rory Boyle, recorded by the St Salvator’s Chapel Choir of the University of St Andrews. The St Peter’s Seminary building, set in the midst of the Kilmahew Estate in Argyll and Bute, was opened in 1966 but only served its function as a training centre for Roman Catholic priests for 13 years. These days the magnum opus of the architects Andy MacMillan and Isi Metzstein sits, hidden from the nearby Clyde Estuary by the forest of Kilmahew.
‘Hinterland’ has been developed and produced by NVA – a Scottish based arts organisation that creates participative, site-specific environmental art works, in urban and rural landscapes using sustainable technology. The event is described on the NVA website as, “an open manifesto for the ground-breaking creative work that will be programmed at St Peter’s Seminary from 2018 onwards. The long term plans will rescue, restore and reclaim this outstanding example of 20th century architecture and bring it back into productive use as a national platform for public art and world-class heritage destination.” Source: hinterland.org
The design team of Avanti Architects, NORD Architecture and ERZ Landscape Architects, have developed proposals that will deliver an iconic cultural resource where powerful art and heritage learning will sit side by side. This will include the consolidation of the main Seminary building as a ‘raw’ frame, with restoration of the chapel and sanctuary including the stunning ziggurat rooflight as an enclosed events space. There will also be reclamation of the main pathways and repair of the historic bridges and late mediaeval castle keep. The Victorian walled garden will be brought back into productive public use and will act as a hub for community growing and learning activities.
‘I like the wild, unspoiled nature of the grounds without the formality of signs. It’s a place of discovery in an age of spoon-fed recreation.’ Local resident
What is most fascinating about the regeneration process is the decision to use the surrounding landscape as the conceptual starting point of the project with an emphasis on the landscape as a tool to re-animate the site. Most notably, this project’s boldest innovation is the consideration of the building as a sculptural element within the landscape. A working landscape will be created – a place to do things and be involved in generating the site’s future. The collective actions that will bring Kilmahew / St Peter’s back to fruition will take many years, but every step has value in the site’s transformation from its current state of glorious abandonment.
“The plan considers the remarkable building and its 45 hectare woodland setting together, creating a public resource that aims is to shift people’s relationship to the landscape from one of being a passive observer or detached consumer to having an active physical or intellectual engagement.” Rolf Roscher, erz Landscape Architects.
To read the full report on this landscape led regeneration project – click here