KU Landscape – Memories on Terrain: Themed Public Landscape

Project Location:  Baoan District, Shenzhen        Building Area: 3040sqm    

Design Period: 2019.09-2019.12        Status:  Completed          Category:  Public Space, Landscape Art Installation

The public landscape, 210 meters long and 16 meters wide, is the only link between the main exhibition area in the factory buildings and the exhibition area of Qiaotou Village. The site used to be part of the Aojing Canal, which flowed from under the dam of Lixin Reservoir through Qiaotou Village into the Pearl River estuary. The once open natural canal was covered due to odor and years of industrial pollution. The construction had been completed awaiting marble pavement when NODE got involved.

Of all the design possibilities, culvert could be among the most straightforward yet least thoughtful solutions. It ignores the local geographic and historical context, leaving homogeneous village spaces that can hardly distinguish themselves from those around. How could we recall the memories about the canal once running on the terrain and trace back its original identity? Through reflection on and redesign of the existing site, we aimed to explore its possibilities from the perspectives of landscape architecture and sociology.

Qiaotou Village, as its name suggests, used to have a well-developed network of water transportation. Water was also an integral element for the daily farming life then. Unfortunately, rapid urbanization has wiped out the natural scene and farming culture here. Under the theme of UABB, we explored the experimental and communal nature of the design, endeavoring to extend the engineering infrastructures into communal landscape with some social significance. Our first idea was to reopen the canal and resume the once open natural landscape for the community. After this was denied, we proposed to implant a new artificial "canal" on the original site. This new “canal”, as a "memories on the terrain", was expected to bring back the unique memories about this place and rustic natural landscape of the village.

Our concept of “dry (KU) landscape” continues the features of the original canal and farming tradition. The long and narrow site appear like a static river and terrain. The undulating landscape is shaped by ups, downs and squeezes underneath the terrain. The surges show signs of life through the gaps torn open. The regrown crops and human activities of unforeseen future suggest that the people and memories passing away are now returning in another form.

       The canal-themed landscape was an inspiring experiment that created landscape through an approach that involved no physical one. The abstract earthscape features showed the architect’s critical reflection on and re-creation of the nature and farming culture that had rapidly disappeared as result of rapid urbanization. The creative use of this public landscape by community users of varied ages after the opening of 2019 UABB on Dec. 22 also made us realize the significance and strength of design in rebuilding community life and characteristic spaces.