Case Study of Landscape Urbanism


Landscape Urbanism has a long time track that from 1880s to 1970s, from green urbanism to limited planning, as well as today being as a strong theory that changing private focus to public. Landscape Urbanism for me means the taking public space as the starting point instead architectural massing. In addition, Landscape Urbanism also means the way using landscape to design. Last but not the least, Landscape Urbanism means change traditional planning theory into making public space as the main carrier instead of the spare space that crossing buildings and constructions.

The case I would like to talk about is Lower On Lands project in Toronto. It contains an ambitious plan, a comprehensive urban design development that based on ecology, and designed a landscape framework that including big and small parks, integral connections and wildlife space.


To make the post-industrial site of Lower Don Lands re-blend into the city it needs the determination to face the environmental, social and economical challenge directly. The estuary is the connecting point with two adjacent places, and inspired by this, MVVA design team reconsidered the relationship between city and the environment. So they designed a space with three important sites that makes this theme to be unique.


A large space of wetland park will occupy the core of new neighborhood development, through the change of typography, wide sight, and leisure will be the supplement of the high dense city. The large scale of change will highly improve the function of ecological and water feature. The whole plan improved landscape is the most effective reconciliation for urban ordering system and ecological economic block.


So the whole plan of Lower Don Lands will be developed a series of blocks that formed by river and harbors. This target is aiming to build up a exciting place to live and work, in this place, city, park, harbor and river will be the unique identity. Commercial, cultural and working spaces, public realm, water feature, different scale of parks will form this space.
However, what we need for Landscape Urbanism is making enough space for design. Landscape Urbanism should agree the potential of design, not being blind for ambitious. Also we need to change the arbitrary prejudice that all big projet is planning, all small project is design. So after we changed our mind, we can draw the conclusion that Landscape Urbanism can actually fully contain design and be presented by design. However, I think the important point is that nature also need planning and design, and we can not exclude the countryside and nature of Landscape Urbanism.
Image source:
Reference:Rachel Gleeson. Toronto’s Lower Don Lands. TOPOS, VOL. 73. 2011
Thorbjörn Andersson. Landscape Urbanism Versus Landscape Design. TOPOS, VOL. 71., 2010.

Understand design in the design process of cohousing



Figure 1. Source : Atlanta Web Design

As an international student, I deeply feel the difference of the Chinese and western cultural ideas from life to academic research. After graduating from university, I worked for one year, mainly contacted the business plan design, now I return to the university in Britain for further study, and in the transition of these different processes, I had different opinions to design in each stage, and also had different thoughts and attitudes to design.

I have always been thinking that city is an interesting and wonderful thing. We use our own idea and paintbrush to design and modify the whole city, so as to create a better living environment for the human beings. I think design serves people, and all designs start from people’s demand and desire to achieve a perfect effect. In this term, we begin to design the cohousing community project, and I find that human is not the only subject to be considered, because in the process of design, we must consider many other factors, for example, how to blend with the environment surrounding the site, and the treatment of natural environment and biological environment of the original site. Design does not mean to change the environment to adapt to the development and use of human beings, but it is to achieve the sustainable development of human beings and environment, and this is what we should think in the current process of design.

After the case study before design the detail, I found that the initial purpose of the cohousing was to make people live in a better community and help residents to create a happy life, but in the process of continuous development and improvement later, cohousing has become a new trend of sustainable development, because it reasonably solves the problem of sustainable development. The living concept of cohousing is let private resident centered on the common house to sharing community resources is an effective way to reduce the resources consumption and optimize the energy efficiency, so as to promote a sustainable lifestyle.

Figure 2: Landscape design plan in China20130717043306278


In the process of design, according to the socioeconomic conditions of Hexham, we designed three different types of houses, cohousing, social houses and private houses to meet the different housing demands of the local residents. In the treatment of outdoor space, in British they relatively stress the simple and freeway, and they pay more attention to the utility and guidance of the site, and more importantly, they create an appropriate public space according to the environment, but not to change the current status to achieve the purpose. On the contrary, in the business plan design of China, the designers and consumers pursue the external image excessively, and they often are more willing to spend more money and time meticulously building many different landscapes to enrich the public space of the community, for example, large spray fountain, meticulous sculpture and expensive decoration materials, now it seems that these landscapes of gorgeous appearances do not attract people to more participate in the outdoor activities, on the contrary, those meticulously trimmed lawns are prohibited to be stepped, while the high expenses behind the meticulous design, including the later maintenance and repair fees are borne by the residents, and this increases the living burden of the residents while the residents do not enjoy the outdoor space very well.

Therefore, in the study and design of different projects, include cohousing, nantes project and other design work. I deeply think and study the design concepts which I did not know previously, and it helps me understand design better and learn how to consider the design for different projects from different perspectives.


Figure 1. Source:

Figure 2: Landscape design plan in China. Source:


The Landscape urban that comes from Landscape Urbanism


In the past ten years, a new theory about city and urban design – landscape urbanism has been argued and became popular among the students in the north America and European landscape and urban design area. The main focusing point of landscape urbanism is landscape but not architecture that can be more capable to determine the typography and experience of the city. This idea made landscape design to the frontage of urban design, and that can be think as a re-discovery of landscape design. Beside, more interesting point is that it was developed by architects.

City is intensified by the forces of nature in the earth’s surface effect “uplift” and form, which is a concrete manifestation of natural process. Landscape urbanism all existing objects on the earth (natural or artificial) and its status and spatial summation of visual reading for the continuation of the spread of the landscape. This landscape is not only green scenery or natural space, more of a continuous surface structure, a kind of ” Thickened Ground “. As a kind of can exercise the function of the cascading structure, the ground of “thickening” to “sink”, “make up” across dynamic event and process, and can provide maximum contact, interaction, exchange, accumulation and dispersion, the possibility of mixing and into each other.

The case that FOA completed in 2007 of 2007 m2 in Istanbul, Turkey Meydan commercial center, is the a successful case in integrated architecture and field landscape.


The project from a three-dimensional multifaceted perspective, with sufficient emphasis on using the natural topography, such as city form, make the structure of the form no longer abrupt, instead it is the continuation of a city and the surrounding surface associated in the public space. Visitors can pass by not only through the central plaza, conveniently to the underground parking lot, shops and even roof garden on the floor; At the same time, because of the large area of building roof and surrounding streets are linked together, visitors can also be through the roof to the city in all directions. Meydan is no longer the traditional commercial square, because it offers visitors is not only a shopping experience, but a exchange hub. Here ” Thickened Ground ” represents an integrated shopping, entertainment, leisure, even traffic function of multidimensional system composition of landscape field, not only save the land, more fully embodies the “sense of place” and “place spirit”.



Reference: Landscape Urbanism, by Kongjian Yu, Available at

Image Recource:


Landscape Urbanism Case Study – Parc de La Villette

Many global risks of population increasing and climate change are concentrated in urban areas, such as heat stress, water& soil pollution, air pollution, and extreme weather events, which lead to a less liveable urban environment. Therefore, urban inhabitants desperately demand of natural environment to underpin our economic prosperity, health and well-being. City parks as a major part of green infrastructure of the city can make a huge active contribution to urbanism. Parc de La Villette in Paris is a successful case.

It was designed by a famous deconstructionist architect BernardTschumi in 1982. If the park of Palais de Versailles is the representative of traditional French Garden in 19th century, La Vilette would be the representative for the 20th century. It’s a unique modern park, full of charm, and profound ideological significance. It’s also a open green space combining sports, entertainment, natural environment and culture, simultaneously meeting citizen’s physical and mental demands.

When I came into the park in a winter morning, I saw many people jogging along the river, on the bridge, and in the green paths. Children play in entertainment area. Even Chinese do the yangko dance in the lawn. What a welcome place it is!

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Based on my experience, I would come up with some explanations for its success.

Firstly, Easy Access. It is a open park without boundary, well integrated into city context. There are also two metro stations around the park, which are the great connections to the city transportation.

Secondly, Creative Space Experience. The combination of points, lines, and surfaces create a rigorous and colourful space. The 26 red folies located at the cross points of 120m by 120m’s grid, controlling the park’s overall pattern. Some of them have real functions like cafe, information centre, art gallery, and infirmary, which provide more possibilities for people to go into and stay in the park. Ten theme parks as the surface offer different occupants relatively independent and private space. They look like multiple movie scenes, where tourists can feel the sense of multi-dimension of time and space. It’s quite interesting. The long corridor, bridge, and winding alley as the elements of lines, connecting the 10 theme parks, which also are the best touring routes. While walking through them, you can experience the colourful and vibrant spectacles in different zones.


Thirdly, Visitors’ Participation and Uncertainty of Function. It’s not a landscape only to be seen, but a participating and communicating place. Meanwhile, the function of those landscape structures and theme parks can be transformed at times to meet the occupants’ demands.

All in all, Parc de La Villette is a terrific place where natural environment and artificial landscape combined well, promoting health of urban inhabitants and encouraging social interaction and relaxation.

Neither Landscape Nor Urbanism?

landscape urbanism

What is landscape urbanism? Is it a method, a practice, or a result? Why has landscape urbanism appeared to grow so strongly over the past decade, and why is it critical now?


Landscape Urbanism is a theory of urban planning arguing that the best way to organize cities is through the design of the city’s landscape, rather than the design of its buildings.

A method, a practice, or a result?

The development of landscape urbanism as a theory and practice is the result of an evolving body of work by a number of people. In the 1870s, forefathers of landscape architecture such as Fredrick Law Olmsted and Ebenezer Howard demonstrated how the many environmental problems that plagued American cities could be mitigated by planned open space which served both infrastructural and recreational purposes. In the 1960s, Ian McHarg wrote Design with Nature, the first book to describe an ecologically sound approach to the planning and design of communities. However, it was not until the late 1990s that Charles Waldheim popularized the term landscape urbanism. In his 2006 book, The Landscape Urbanism Reader, Waldheim defines the term as follows: “Landscape urbanism describes a disciplinary realignment currently underway in which landscape replaces architecture as the basic building block of contemporary urbanism.”

Why is it critical now?

A number of reasons are apparent, relating to economy, collaboration, and authentic design.

Economy. In light of the recent economic downturn, traditional economics of construction are severely challenged, resulting in numerous stalled developments within and on the edges of cities. They range in scale from gap sites to district-size wastelands, and are weighed down by debt and unrealizable value—their function and usefulness appear lost.

In Edinburgh, Scotland, plans to transform post-industrial waterfront land into high-density neighborhoods have foundered: the sites repossessed by banks from bankrupt developers and left to quietly recover. These are places which appear quite different from the ideas of the polished and different “new towns” of the post-war period, yet are critical to the future evolution and consolidation of the city. If it is no longer economically viable to create new cities and towns, nor feasible to abandon cities with shrinking densities, what, then, is to be done with these stalled sites?

Collaboration across disciplines and communities. The ever-increasing pressure on other, natural, forms of resource also dictates a change in the way we think about urbanism and buildings. A renewed environmental responsibility has arisen, but we must translate these into significantly different approaches within the traditionally conservative construction and development sector. The current inability or unwillingness to consider the impact of unconfined development on natural processes must be challenged; better engagement on these issues across disciplines and across communities will be critical. The past era of nonchalance with regard to the environment is returning to haunt us, with the impacts increasingly becoming visible. Construction on floodplains, escalating surface runoff due to increased impermeable surfaces, and an increasingly homogeneity of amenity plantings cumulatively impact our city’s hydrological systems, ecological habitats, and our ability to identify and associate with natural elements in our built environment.

Drawing out the invisible. Beyond the prosaic and constructive side of landscape urbanism—and perhaps the strongest rationale for its longevity— there is the imaginative and poetic side to landscape: the ability to tease out invisible systems and make them part of our consciousness.

As design professionals practicing in the twenty-first century, we must reduce the energy demands of our designs, increase efficiencies, and integrate renewable energy. But beyond these planet-saving technical measures, we must ensure that new and revived urban areas are still places that g celebrate the intrinsic qualities of a site: landscape urbanism has the potential to bring out the hidden, the unknown and the delightful for those who inhabit these places. These abilities and processes will make landscape urbanism an ethos that appeals to professionals and people beyond the field.


1. McHarg.L (1994) Design with nature. 25th anniversary edNew York : J. Wiley.

2. Waldheim. C (c2006) The landscape urbanism reader. New York : Princeton Architectural Press