Just as New York has Central Park, Bangkok has just received its lungs of the City – the Chulalongkorn Centenary Park, the first sizeable green infrastructure project, which has been designed for the city to face the inevitable realities of climate change. We teamed up with the landscape architects of the project, Landprocess, to tell this story in an intimately visual way. Through a series of infographics, maps, diagrams and visualisations, we will be demonstrating the seemingly looming climatic uncertainties of Bangkok and the solutions that Chulalongkorn Centenary Park provides to mitigate these issues.
How is Bangkok sinking?
The inevitable reality feels like a distant fate until we explore the figures. Bangkok is not how it used to be and Figure 1 shows the creeping grey fingers of urban development that is eating away the agricultural land. This is a grey city with a lack of outdoor public space. Once upon a time, in the 1900s, the agriculture land absorbed the seasonal flooding and cycles of the monsoon rain. Today, the heavy construction process and designs have not explored ways to deal with climate change. Bangkok is a popular city that is rapidly developing and relies on hard landscape designs.
Unfortunately, we are telling the same sad story that most of the major cities in Asia are facing today. This reliance on hard landscape designs have created a city with urban heat island effect and one that is very thirsty for more green spaces and water management solutions. This poses a threat and Bangkok has experienced increased flooding and rising temperatures. For example, the percentage increase of the total accumulated rain over a year, since the 1980s, is expected to increase by 7% in 2020, and by 2090, this will further increase by 90% (see figure 2). That is within the lifetime of the young children of today! Moreover, being at sea level, there is an increasing list of threats from rising seas, storm surge, heavy seasonal and monsoon rain. And as figure 3 shows, there is no permeability for the excess water with an increasing amount of hard landscape.
The reality is that Bangkok is slowly and silently sinking. The need for resilient and protective design for today and the future is an essential solution for the city.
The Green Oasis
Chulalongkorn Cenetary Park is located in a major university campus in central Bangkok. As the name suggests, it was 100 years ago that the University was founded and for this celebration, the university has given this commercial area, which connects the campus to the city, to serve as a public park.
Bangkok’s reclaim to its historic waterscape urbanism is becoming more of a reality. The park then becomes an important and shared piece of green infrastructure with pedestrian and bicycle transport links and areas that perform ecological functions. The university’s symbol is the rain tree, which gives a basis for a strong conceptual and literal notion of the tree roots absorbing the water, meandering and reaching out into the city to create a green oasis once more.
Landprocess – Changing Bangkok’s cityscape one site at a time
Landscape architect Kotchakorn Voraakhom is the founder of Landprocess, a design firm dedicated to tackle resilient issues and protect the vulnerable communities from troubling climate change events. Her and her team are advocates for bridging the environmental and social needs, and Kotchakorn also founded Porous City Network, a landscape architecture social enterprise working to increase urban resilience in Southeast Asian cities. Along with the Chulalongkorn Centenary Park, Landprocess has also created productive public green spaces along the floodplain and coastal areas of the city.
A True City Park
The park is a system that absorbs and control water and provides a green, shady, climatic relief for everyone. The size of the park is about 5ha with a 1.3km green avenue. In order to provide proper water treatment function, there are components that make up the park’s water treatment system. It starts at the highest point, the green roof. Planted with native grasses and low maintenance weeds, they help to absorb water, which is stored in the rain tanks below. The overflow drains to the constructed wetlands, which are along the park’s sloped inclined plane. Features of the wetland are weirs and ponds where the water is cleaned thoroughly before reading to the lowest point of the park: the retention pond.
The retention pond completes the water circulation with the idea that during the dry season, water will be pumped up from the pond to replenish the ponds of the wetlands or irrigation of the plants. The water treatment system also collects water from surrounding neighbourhoods for cleansing and usage for both the park and the neighbourhoods. Interactive water treatment bikes, when ridden, will create movement and introduce more oxygen into the water. This of course will educate and inspire the public.
In addition, there are eight landscape rooms, which embody different spatial arrangements and qualities of outdoor classrooms, including programs such as a herb garden, an amphitheatre, meditation walk and reading area.
The project highlights some of the most critical situations we will face in cities. Not every city will be able to afford a large space for a park like Chulalongkorn Cenetary Park but there are many other creative solutions, such as sustainable drainage system (SuDS) solutions like swales, retention ponds, pocket parks, urban farming, urban forests, canal restorations and many more.
Sustainability has been a widespread topic over the last ten years and we are heading to the days of resiliency and creating more resilient designs to enable our cities to cope with these changes. Urban sprawl is inevitable and it is predicted that the number of people living in cities will continue to rise. How we handle this is up to us.
If you want to find out more information on how cities can transition from grey to green infrastructure network, head over to Porouscity.org.
There is a “Wandering Landscape Architect” currently making a splash in the Instagram scene. If there is a slight anonymity about the page, it is done so intentionally. The creator behind the page is landscape architecture graduate, Emily Sutherland. Having traveled thus far to 18 countries, Emily decided to create a profile on the visually stimulating social media platform three years ago. She recalls, “I’ve always visited many places, and I had so many pictures but never knew what to do with them. So I decided to create this page as a way of storing them for my own reference and to have record of where I’ve been.”
Since then, the Wandering Landscape Architect page has been gaining momentum. In a world of filters, there is a strong sense of authenticity and reality in her pictures. In this interview feature, this wandering graduate talks about the inspiration behind her travels, taking the leap of journeying and feeding it all back into her work.
“Natural landscapes is the driving factor,” Emily admits. Being originally from the Lake District, England’s largest and mountainous National Park, this is not surprising.
She has just come back from her solo trip to Asia, visiting seven countries in total.
ES: “When I was between Universities, I went on a trip to Thailand and I always knew I wanted to go back.”
From idyllic pocket parks of Japan to tea plantations of Malaysia, her childhood journeys have expanded into bigger and further ventures to search for inspiration.
ES: “I felt like I got to know Bali and Vietnam best just because I stayed there much longer (seven weeks each), which I think is a big part of liking somewhere. With Vietnam, I started from the south and slowly worked my way up to the north.”
Indeed, her journeys have a twist and her profile describes her “wandering the globe in search of inspiration.” Part of this process is to soak in the atmosphere.
ES: “Gardens by the Bay, for instance, I went to everyday for about three days in a row and probably spent more time there than the average person would. I can happily sit and watch the world go by.”
As organised as her page may look, Emily takes a loose approach in translating the visual content. She is quick to point out, “I don’t think it’s a travel account and I try not to edit my photos too much. I don’t photoshop them. I might up the saturation and exposure, but I never change the image.”
She adds, “I try to do it as soon as possible so that it’s still relevant but I don’t force a too strict schedule on myself.” As a result, her images seem tangible and within reach. It is this philosophy that makes the Wandering Landscape Architect page one of the most realistic and authentic pages on this social media platform.
ES: “As it has grown, I’ve liked the social side of it. From other landscape architects and travelers, you find out things. It is actually a social world.”
This inspiration is displayed for different groups of people from not just Landscape Architects but also travelers and Emily’s nearest and dearest. Most of us can relate when she remarks, “None of my friends know what we do!” Certainly, as her page has grown, it has become an accessible tool for the public to see the projects designed by landscape architects.
ES: “I have some friends that follow it and said they had never realised that this is the kind of work I do.”
There’s not enough done to get our profession understood in terms of what we do and using social media hopefully will become more common. Some companies have picked up on its importance but I would push it a lot more. – Emily Sutherland
When speaking about doing the journeys as a solo female, Emily openly shares her experience in creating a community through staying in Hostels, making new friends and looking out for one another.
ES: “It was a bit daunting at times, I’m not going to lie! But I am a pretty sensible person. I was always with a group of people and rarely on my own.”
Travelling as a solo landscape architect is a different story and Emily points out another relatable point.
ES: “When I would go visit a landscape, I would like to spend a longer time there and enjoy it longer than most people would.”
Creating communities of her own along the way hasn’t led Emily to remain closed off and her trips have also been about connecting with communities.
ES: “When I first arrived in Bali, I did some conservation work, and I worked in a sea turtle conservation organised by local people and volunteers and got a chance to speak to them, see their point of view, and how they used the land. That was probably when I got to know the locals the best.”
The experience has also raised her environmental awareness as she recalls, “We also did a lot of beach cleanup. We would clean the beach everyday and find the same amount of plastic each day. It was quite eye opening.”
Her wandering journeys are kept as flexible as her Instagram posts.
ES: “I would normally go to a recommended place while keeping a flexible schedule and once there, I would research projects nearby. For example, I would ask people if there are any nice gardens. Quite often, I would stumble across special places, especially in Asia where there isn’t much publicity.”
ES: “I am glad I didn’t book much because most of the travelers I met didn’t book much either and we went with the flow. That meant I could stay somewhere longer if I liked it. If I didn’t, I could leave and I would try to get cheaper plane and bus fare and let that dictate a lot of my trips while keeping the cost down.”
She confesses that she wasn’t always like this and that travelling taught her to go with the flow. Her wandering trips also led Emily to certain key projects along the way such as visiting Singapore to see Gardens by the Bay or going to Japan to see some Japanese gardens.
Indeed, our widespread professional field allows us to find inspiration in almost every place we travel and ultimately for Emily, her ventures have paused for now to enable her to do some saving and gain further work experience. She’s no stranger to the workplace, having worked across the different stages of work from planning to construction, she has a realistic view.
ES: “There’s so much to learn and you realise how much you didn’t know until you start working. In this day and age, people don’t just have one job, they can be in multiple roles. Our profession may be a bit slow on the take of that because we have quite a lot of traditionally-minded people, and at times it might not be geared up for part time work or flexible schedules. It’s interesting. But it is inconsistent work and we need money, so you have to be consistent! Certainly it is still something I am figuring out.”
She enthusiastically talks about her student research to design for homeless people as her Masters thesis.
ES: “I did my thesis on homeless people in the landscape and I had the opportunity to interview a lot of vulnerable people. It was called ‘Homeless People and the City.’ You see a lot about defensible architecture these days and we explored ways to help homeless people, including speaking to them about how they used the space, why they pick the areas where they sleep, what they need immediately, what are they lacking, types of lighting that’s best for them, etc.”
Her dream project?
ES: “Community led, high level master-planning of a deprived community with unlimited funds because we are in an imaginary world of course! That’s the dream.”
Eventually, it becomes clear that her ultimate goal is far more complex than she had anticipated, which is essentially to integrate into one job, a space for: pushing for public engagement and awareness within the profession, running a practice which creates designs for communities that need it rather than want it, and continuing practical knowledge and inspiration! Certainly, this is a loaded mission and the conversation turns to millennial generation’s approach to job seeking.
ES: “Our generation asks what can this company do for us rather than the company saying what we can do for them. We kind of switch it around. We are probably fussy about where we work! In London, people seem to move around a lot more between practices. There is less loyalty to a company almost. You don’t hear of people staying somewhere for 30/40 years, I don’t know why that is but I do find it interesting. The fact that I was at my last practice for two and a half years, they thought was quite a small amount of time.”
Emily encompasses a fine balance of the inspired, relatable, and practical adventurer and no doubt we can find ourselves in the snippets of her experience and thoughts. Undoubtedly, the journey hasn’t ended for her. The current step is to find a job, which will enable her to save and travel to more places. She is keen to take more short trips in between working life and, in her true wandering style, is keeping these plans flexible.
The Wandering Landscape Architect page is not only a source of public outreach, but also a reminder that there are wonders to be found in incidental and planned journeys. It is also a celebration of the work of landscape architects whose profession can most times be so subtle that its importance is overlooked.
If you want to know where the Wandering Landscape Architect journeys to next and to add a pinch of inspiration to your day, follow her on Instagram at Wandering Landscape Architect.
In 2017, 112 million Americans listened to a podcast and 42 million listen to a podcast on a weekly basis. This amounts to 15% of the total US population, which is five times more than weekly visits made to the movies.
“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something NEW.” – Dalai Lama
The reason why podcasts are so popular is because most of us want to learn new things and broaden our knowledge base. They are the 21st century’s offline radio. Podcasts can be a great tool for landscape architects to keep track of current trends and topics, feed new vocabulary to your brain, or give you a deeper perspective of the world.
Next time you are doing research for a project you should take 30 minutes out of your day, possibly on your commute to work, to listen to one of the podcasts listed below, they just might help you connect the ideas and make better-informed decisions.
This highly commended podcast is all about unnoticed architecture and design. While not directly related to landscape architecture, it will teach you about the history and information for things that shape our world, such as how air conditioning was invented or what research tells us about creative scientists and artists. It is basically a fact bomb for the curious. The shortest episode available is only seven minutes long and the longest is 30 minutes.
In a recent episode, 99% Invisible teamed up with VOX to create a visual podcast that talks about biomimicry and how designers should be bringing biologists to the table for the purpose of solving complex human problems.
Recommended Episode: “Biomimicry”
This podcast is dedicated to exploring one of the trendiest and most important issues of our time — sustainability. Every week, there are 30-minute interviews with forward-thinking individuals who are actively taking part in building smarter, more sustainable, and equitable communities. They stem from government officials and local organizations to savvy businesspeople. If you are dedicated to this topic, you will be blown away by the wide range of directions each takes.
Recommended Episode: “Authentic Community Engagement in Gentrifying Communities”
Hosted by horticulturist Peter Donegan, the SodShow Garden podcast host interviews several personalities across the industry. The 30-minute interactive episodes are very informative for tips and tricks on garden design. You will also find the podcast entertaining and moving.
Recommended Episode: “Live, Salt Lake City: Fritz Kollmann, Red Butte Garden. Thyme and Place”
This podcast is brought to you by the non-profit Common Edge to connect architecture and design to the public that it is meant to serve. Each episode lasts around 30 to 50 minutes and reports on public engagement in planning and design of the built environment. If you are interested in sociology and design, this would be it.
Recommended Episode: “Landscape Architecture in the Age of Climate Change”
This podcast connects the voices of landscape architecture and hosts interview prominent landscape architects of our time. Each episode is a pleasant listen, recorded with stories, intentions, and impacts of contemporary landscape architecture. The lengths of each episode vary from 20 to 55 minutes. If you want to know the thoughts and ideas behind the minds of leaders in landscape architecture, this is a great starting point!
Recommended Episode: “Feng shui and Landscape Architecture”
Here is a topic that we do not normally come across in our daily lives: what is the profound relationship between homelessness and public space? The podcast explores the spatial manifestation of homelessness on the landscape and features politicians, designers, public space managers, and researchers to help foster better spatial strategies for everyone. Each episode length varies from 30 minutes to an hour.
Recommended Episode: “Reflections 1”
For the plant geeks inside us, if you want a more technical, science-related podcast, this is it! The knowledgeable host tells stories about the smallest duckweed to the tallest redwood, sharing his love for plants as we take a peek inside the botanical world.
Recommended Episode: “For the Love of Growing Plants”
As the name suggests, this podcast is dedicated to cities and all things related to our urban environment. The weekly show, with each episode lasting 30-minutes in length, talks about what makes cities work or fail. The episodes are fascinating and give a global perspective by covering major cities such as Rio, London, and Dubai. We also get an insight to current innovative solutions that are trying to tackle urban problems.
Recommended Episode: “Land reclamation and prizes”
From a global perspective with The Urbanist to a communal perspective, Placemakers zooms into the stories of people that are shaping the community that they live in by solving complex issues from the bottom up. This podcast is very real and has a strong “Power to the People” feeling. Each episode ranges from about 20 to 30 minutes in length.
Recommended Episode: “The Greatest Misallocation of Resources in the History of the World”
Remarkable Objects is an outstanding podcast that looks at the intersection between natural landscape and urban design and how they both shape one another. With an average running time of 20 minutes, the episode topics are advanced in thinking. They include interviews that explore how including nature in our cities will create a more beneficial future for all.
Land8 has promoted this podcast previously, which hosts some of the most innovative and leading adaptation thinkers in the country to talk about how we as a society should adapt to climate change. The host of the podcast made a special trip to the ASLA Meeting + EXPO in Los Angeles. Listen below to hear his insights and takeaways from meeting with many in the landscape architecture profession and industry.
Recommended Episode: “Landscape Architects Adapt to Climate Change”
The podcasts listed above are a testament to smart technology becoming a positive source of influence. Within a relatively short amount of time, you can connect with community activists bringing important changes to their neighborhoods, learn about equitable development from a Professor at the University of Southern California, hear a landscape architect speak about design of commemorative landscapes, and so much more! We are interested to hear what you think about our recommendations.
Lead image: Elizabeth Quay in Perth, Australia courtesy of Peter Bennetts
Development in China is known to happen very quickly. Imagine the intensity of the design process from project conception to construction, which amplifies the importance of getting it right within a small time frame. Vanke Huafu Mansion Model District has done just that. Vanke Mansion Real Estate’s brand is one that promotes elegance and zen spirit of traditional Chinese mansions in a contemporary manner. The design direction was not only to design the low-density high quality residential development itself but also, more importantly, to design the main entrance area of a future residential community and the sales center within the ancient Chinese capital of Xi’an. Resolving practical issues of circulation satisfy the residents and visitors to the sales center. As the saying “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression” goes, the designers had a heavy task at hand.
What Makes Up the Zen Spirit of This Place?
There are many ways to approach this curiosity, but in this context we can pick up a sense of quiet rhythm. If a place could resemble the soft tones of a piano, this would be it. Users are led down to this quietness through a sequential approach. Circulation is divided via a series of courtyards, carefully arranged to take them down from a loud urban surrounding to a tranquil community area, transitioning from this bustling urban town to an exalted mansion.
This zen spirit is also represented through sculptures. The stone sculptures, which we will come to discuss later, add an earthy element to the place. They are solid-grounded and rooted so majestically that the place further radiates an inner peaceful quality.
Following the Traditional Ways
In the ancient times, common people lived in houses that shared one or two courtyards. Houses with three courtyards only belonged to nobles. To create this rich and majestic sense, the design follows the three courtyard tradition. This provides a grand entrance, bringing a sense of ritual. However, a courtyard atmosphere is also very communal and can be interpreted as a welcoming return to one’s home. The Gate, one of the three courtyards, is a luxury mansion with a repeated gateway entrance. The Courtyard, the second of the three, has a square water pool that reflects the sky and clouds.
The last courtyard, Mountain Hall, includes a 25-piece yellow sandstone mountain sculpture on a mirror of flowing water representing a metaphorical concept of Qinling Mountains.
Qinling Mountains sit adjacently to the south of Xi’an City. The notorious mountainous region, also known as the “Szechuan Alps,” create a natural boundary that divide the northern and southern parts of China, which brings more significance to this sculptural reference.
Around the doorway just after the courtyard series is a smaller courtyard for the marketing suite, which is used to showcase the district. This space, in particular, has been divided into several pieces. As it currently lacks activity, the area will be used for marketing but from abandoning the traditional vacant lawn design, it becomes a multi-functional space.
The first model house or “Outdoor Sanhao Mansion” is located after the courtyards. Being the furthest away from the urban town and as the last space, Sanhao Mansion is truly serene in nature and provides an exemplary outdoor space for future development.
The scale of the external area is designed to even ensure that the grass area can be mowed comfortably, including satisfying the requirements for a cultural gallery function for the future community. In order to strengthen the zen musicality within the courtyard, the designers have replaced traditional community planting with a floating evergreen planting pool, made out of a curved aluminum board. A group of mountain-cloud themed sculptures also sit within the middle.
A Subtle Kind of Beauty
There is a sense of purity and innocence within the project because a subtle language of poetic design starts to be formed by the materials and the rhythmic layout. An example is the “cloud” and “mountain” stone sculpture that is combined with the effect of fog and lighting to create a sensory experience.
You can catch the trunk and narrow branches of the young trees casting patterned shadows on the vertical and horizontal elements that narrate the transient beauty of nature and its cycles.
It is exciting to see the emergence of residential development of this quality — one that is contextually well considered and brings forward the design of outdoor areas to the forefront of the overall scheme. The clever conception of the project is building the sales center (a model home to allow prospective buyers to explore the design of home) first with exemplary spaces. This sets the standard and the notorious rhythmic tone for the future housing area.
The artistic sculptural quality of the scheme also contributes a charming layer of aesthetics that is not usually associated with residential developments. This is what makes it unique. This project makes the perfect “first impression” that is so important in today’s design world.
Project Name: True Love, Vanke Huafu Mansion Model District
Project Address: No.4 Heyanqu Road, South Park Road, Xi’an City, Shanxi Province
Project Area: 5000 ㎡
Date: March, 2017
Completed Date: July, 2017
Developer: Vanke Real Estate
Design Firm: FLO Landscape Design Company
Design Team: Kai Fu, Lei Guo, Lixing Pan, Shiqian Luo, Jianhao Sun, Xiaoyin Wang, Shuyi Zhang
All images courtesy of FLO Landscape Design Company.