PHYLLIS ODESSEY

the way in

beijing_zhonghuamen_1912What does it take for a landscape architect to be hired in China? According to Martha Schwartz, there are two manadatory components of a project proposal: a powerful narrative and a gateway structure.  This continues a tradition in Chinese architecture, painting and decorative objects.

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12th-century Chinese scroll painting entitled “Wind and Snow in Fir Pines,” artist Li Shan depicts a scholar warming himself by a fire. Photo courtesy of Smithsonian Magazine

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The ubiquitous blue willow plate tells a story. For anyone interested in the story connected with the plate: http://www.willowcollectors.org/legends.html

Here are two examples of Schwartz’s work in China: The Beiquijia Technology Business District, Beijing, China. The landscape area is approximately 60,000 square meters of a mixed use development.

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The gateway structure at night. photograph courtesy of marthaschwartz.com

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The gateway structure during the day.  photograph courtesy of marthaschwartz.com

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close-up detail. photograph courtesy of marthaschwartz.com

and the idea of narrative…

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Xi’an International Horticultural Exposition, Xi’an China. Completed 2011. photography courtesy of marthschwartz.com

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photograph courtesy of marthschwartz.com

One of nine international firms, Martha Schwartz was invited to design a small garden installation on the theme of “the harmonious co-existence of nature and the city.

“The owners brief specified that the designer should consider the limitation of local building materials and methods,and that the garden should be accessible to a Chinese point of view…The theme of this garden installation is “City and Nature” and is composed of four elements:  traditional grey brick walls and paving, Weeping Willows, one-way mirrors and bronze bells.  The aesthetic direction was derived partly from vernacular Chinese architecture and its close relationship to nature.”  marthaschwartz.com

This is a complicated project and I direct readers to marthaschwartz.com to see more images and read the text that accompanies the project. This installation/art piece illustrates how important the narrative is to the Chinese.  As Schwartz points out  the wall maize-like structure links back to the importance of walls as a popular element in Chinese culture, which relates not only the need to create space, but the need to protect privacy and express power.

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