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.


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


The ubiquitous blue willow plate tells a story. For anyone interested in the story connected with the plate:

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.


The gateway structure at night. photograph courtesy of


The gateway structure during the day.  photograph courtesy of


close-up detail. photograph courtesy of

and the idea of narrative…


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


photograph courtesy of

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.”

This is a complicated project and I direct readers to 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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