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Harvard Sylvester Baxter Lecture: Kongjian Yu-Adaptation: Political, Cultural and Ecological Design — My Journey to Heal the Planet



A peasant’s son, Kongjian Yu grew up in a small village with seven ponds next to a stream shaped by 36 ancient weirs. For his first 17 years, he was immersed in the challenges of adapting to a monsoon climate and floods and drought. While originally destined for a life as a farmer, he instead wound up a student of the high art of Chinese landscaping and later a Doctor of Design at Harvard. Drawing on traditional intellectual philosophies of Chinese landscape culture, the accumulated wisdom of centuries of Chinese farmers, and modern western ecological science and planning and design theory, Yu began envisioning his own form of ecological utopia in the basement of Gund Hall. His theory of landscape security patterns, which identify ecologically critical landscapes for protection, and his concept of the “sponge city,” which embrace storms rather than fighting them with concrete infrastructure, were technical approaches to stem the widespread deterioration of the environment and ecology in China. But it was his social and political advocacy that ultimately led to real change. Yu’s numerous letters and proposals to top leaders helped move his thinking from the theoretical realm to concrete national policies and on-the-ground implementation. His “Big Feet” revolution called for nature-based solutions and a new aesthetics of sustainability that has not only been recognized with 14 ASLA awards, the Cooper Hewitt National Design Award and the IFLA Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe Award, but has also radically transformed the profession of landscape architecture in China. Based on his 25 years of teaching and practical experience with projects in over 200 cities, Professor Yu will share with us his insights into ecological, cultural and political design.

Source: https://www.gsd.harvard.edu/event/kongjian-yu/

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