"Temporal Landscape" is a seemingly false proposition, since landscape is per se related to time. Landscape, as defined by the late cultural landscape scholar John Brinckerhoff Jackson, is "a space deliberately created to speed up or slow down the process of nature…represents man taking upon himself the role of time". In this sense, the terraced fields of Mount Ailao are a landscape created through the filling and excavation of hillsides by the Hani ethnic group to deliberately slow down the affects of time. The tree-networked farmlands of the North China Plain are a landscape slowed down by the wind. In contrast, the orderly-arranged orchards and fishponds, as well as the channelized rivers, are landscapes of accelerated natural processes. Time, as the sculptor of landscape, is ubiquitous.
Whether human activity leaves a trace on the land ultimately depends on the ruthless and irreversible time. Significant as the influence might be, splendid the accomplishment, enormous the power to either decelerate or accelerate natural processes, magnificent the landscapes or monuments, they will sooner or later perish with the time. Therefore, "the ancestors cannot be seen, nor can the future generations," cried out Chen Zi'ang, a poet of China's Tang Dynasty. Confucius could not help but sigh, "time passes away like the flow of water." It seems that such doleful exclamations are never ending. But, I take these proverbs to be a blessing because in this world, only time can be deemed as fair. Otherwise, our planet would be piled with monuments and pyramids left behind by kings and nobles.
The other expression of landscape as a time-related process is the so-called "the Sustainability of Landscape". With time as a ruler, the meaning of human activities can be measured. We need to evaluate the meaning of all landscape behaviors of human according to the overall sustainability of human beings as well as the only planet they live on. In this case, we need to go back to the standard given by Charles Robert Darwin, the founder of evolution theory, and later by Ian McHarg, the farther of ecological planning — Adaption! As living things adapt to the nature to propagate, so do human to prosper and become beautiful. With time as a base, McHarg superimposed layers of climatic, geologic, topographic, earth, hydrologic, vegetation, organic and processes of human activities to define the spatial distribution of landscapes, elaborating the process of living things adaptation towards nature, as well as that of human beings towards natural and organic processes, and proposes a basic principle of "Design with Nature" for landscape architecture, where human beings will evolve and prosper like other living things only when they know how to adapt to natural processes. To adapt to nature does not mean to be passive, but instead to control the role of time by decelerating or accelerating natural processes according to the patterns of natural processes and layouts. In doing so a harmonious state can be created between humans and nature—a display of "deep form", as described by John Lyle, opposed to "shallow form" or the "fake form".
Unfortunately, a significant portion of the landscapes I have seen in both rural and urban areas, ancient to modern, home and abroad, are "shallow form" and "fake form". In fact, "heaven", as the goal of landscape design has become a fake goal with disregard to time. Most of the wealthy property developers and influential urban decision-makers that landscape architects have come into contact with seek shallow and fake forms, without considering the patterns of time. For example, take a look at the evergreen trees and box hedgerows that are protected with heat preservation during the winter on the streets of Beijing. Or the silk flowers and plastic palms that are seen throughout residential areas. These shallow and fake forms are created because top officials wish to stop time, and are governed by slogans demanding that "trees be green in four seasons, and flowers seen in three seasons". It is often the dream of influential officials to build a paradise of "winter without coldness, summer without intense heat, and a whole year with green trees and flowers in blossom" — a heaven that can make them immortal. What the emperors and the nobles did not know is that while investing bottomless labor and resources into the fight against time, they were creating and maintaining the "shallow form" and "fake form". In the end, once these"paradises" become "the world without human beings" under the unrelenting force of time, they would eventually transform into a natural wilderness where weeds thrive and animals hunt. In contrast, the terraced fields in the high mountains have adapted to the process and pattern of nature with the most economical labor and low input. Seed-sowing, irrigation, and harvest are all carried out according to the rhythms of nature, a balance achieved between input and harvest, creating a deep form. It represents a balance between human desires and natural forces and has endured for thousands of years.
So "Temporal Landscape" is not a false proposition, because even in "heaven" dreamed of and created by human beings, the existence of time also is often ignored. (Translated by Jindong CAI)
Temporal Landscape: Slowed Down—the Liupanshui Water Ecology Conservation Project. Urban floods and water pollution are controlled at the sources. Small reservoirs and ponds have been designed according with the local terrain to retain and store rainwater while purifying water polluted by non-point pollution. River pollution and urban flooding in the lower reach is solved while creating a space of slower life. (Taken by Kongjian Yu, july 21th, 2013).
Source: Yu, K. (2014).The Layers of Time. Landscape Architecture Frontiers, 2 (1):5-7.