Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning Faculty Publications


From Traditional to Today: Revelation from Chinese Garden Design

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Urban Design International



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China, like many other nations, struggled in the twentieth century with defining an indigenous landscape design tradition. This was particularly true in addressing urban open space design after China implemented the Open Door Policy in the late 1970s, when Chinese garden design traditions became largely neglected. The objective of this study is to determine whether the traditional design approach could still effectively serve as modern design inspiration. Built upon a previous study by Wu (1999), our study is a reflective critique on modern Chinese urban public space design. We compare major types of traditional and modern Chinese urban open spaces. The percentage areas of five landscape variables that Wu proposed (planting, water, rock, architecture and pavement) were quantified using Photoshop and ArcGIS software. Although Wu (1999) compared only scholars’ gardens (a traditional model) with modern parks (a modern model), we include imperial gardens (another traditional model) and urban plazas (another modern model). In addition, we supplemented Wu’s plan analysis with perspective view analysis (photographs). Our results suggest more similarities between traditional and modern landscapes than previously suggested. This article concludes by suggesting that traditional models can be relevant to contemporary urban public space design in China.