Architecture globally is now facing critical challenges on how to work with nature that relate more broadly to the human condition in the face of environmental and social crises. For the past hundred years, in the context of economic development and its un-limited consumption of natural resources, land reclamation has drastically turned major forests, first into farmlands and then eventually into built-land for development. Confronted with global warming and the increasingly fragile ecology of our earth, how can architecture coexist with natural environment? With global resource depletion and social in-justice, how can architecture sustain humanity and ecology by coordinating with communities, respecting nature and landscape, facilitating the recycling of resources and creating a sharing society?
After nearly a half-century of accelerating urbanization, the scale of expansion for buildings and cities in China has been drastically multiplied reaching a speed that has never appeared in the human history before. By transforming the agricultural and culture landscape into speculative real-estate for construction and despite the proliferation of green building regulations for implementing sustainable strategies we are actually moving further away from an architecture of landscape and nature. With a rich cultural background comprising art, literature and philosophy historically developed in relation to nature, how could a new architecture in China contribute to discourses of landscape and sustainability that are rooted in nature and ecology?
An architecture of landscape integrates architecture with the landscape. It is an integral part of an ecological system working together with geology and topography, location and hydrology, green plants and other organic lives. Beyond addressing the visual pleasure of certain landscape architecture, an architecture of landscape makes architecture part of the cultural landscape of place. The cultural landscape of place comprises relationships with production and inhabitation as well nature and ecology. An architecture of landscape is both landscape architecture as well as architectural landscape. It requires great attention to the variation of contour and datum levels, a good understanding of water flow on and beneath the ground, knowledge of the movement of the sun and the change of the wind, and a strong perceptual and ecological understanding of the trees and forest, insects and floras.
An architecture of landscape not only addresses the visual integration of architecture with landscape, it also addresses the functional integration of architecture into its natural environment including ventilation and lighting, water, energy and resource recycling within the natural ecology. At the same time, an architecture of landscape integrates materials and construction with nature exploring a sustainable tectonics of poetic beauty. An architecture of landscape could most likely be low-rise, however, multi-story or tall buildings could be adopted strategically as they may help conserve land for nature. An architecture of landscape is phenomenological and perceptual. It is a natural landscape of memory with a sense of place. An architecture of landscape reflects the aesthetics of authenticity integrating a culture of simplicity with nature and its ecological environment. An architecture of landscape also stresses the beauty of societies with openness and justice allowing communal and civic participation in the building up of the foundation of nature conservation and environmental protection.
Choose a building site of around 1000㎡ from an urban-rural environment of 10000㎡, in which you understand the transformations of its culture and natural landscape through studies and land-traces.
Weather it is a place among nature or a piece of natural landscape within a city, avoid choosing environmental or ecologically sensitive site that should not be built upon, without a strong reasoning. You are to identify the meaningful natural elements and cultural landscape: hillsides and valleys, trees and fields, streams and lakes, insects and fishes, cottages and stone-walls. Within the 1000㎡ chosen site, design a building or a building complex with floor area of no less than 100㎡ and no more than 1000㎡. Your design should have more than one floor-level. It should be used for certain functions such as living, working, learning or experiencing. You are to think critically on how to achieve a symbiotic relationship between architecture, landscape, ecology and environment, illustrate in your design how the site and architectural spaces interact with natural elements of topography, tree, water, land and climate. Please consider the changes your building undergoes from day to night and through the seasons. Consider how water and air flow through your building. Pay attention to how sunlight and shade moves in your spaces. Figure out how the building can shelter you from rain, snow and wind, while also facilitating air and light circulation within so that the building breathes.
The most important thing is to imagine, 100 years later, how an architecture of landscape can sustain its symbiotic relationship with nature, when the human condition and events have transformed and renewed, and the new life of architecture begins.
- Ian L. McHarg: Design with Nature (Sea and Survival; The City: Process and Form).
- Kevin Lynch: Site Planning (2. Site Form and Site Ecology; 9. Sensuous Forms).
- Christian Norberg-Schultz:
Genius Loci -Toward a Phenomenology of Architecture (I Place; II Natural Place).
- Kenneth Frampton: Toward a Critical Regionalism: Six Points for an Architecture of Resistance.