Is Landscape in China ‘Better’ Than in America?

You guessed it!! Landscape is a ‘better’ design field in China than it is in the United States. How so? Because Chinese culture developed out of a garden culture.

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Historically in China, the garden is a place where people make paintings and write poems; where governors reflect on social orders; where scholars contemplate. Then and now, the garden is intertwined and linked to Chinese cultural expression. By extension, landscape is collectively understood as a place that should be designed. In China, landscape is a cultural medium.

In the United States, landscape is not viewed through the same lens. Even a healthy number of American practitioners and academics believe that landscape is not a place for cultural expression. American culture, in comparison to Chinese culture, is in its infancy and may never blossom to believe that landscape represents culture. In China, the idea is ingrained: people of all kinds see the landscape as critical to culture.

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BAM feels that landscape is the most important field of design in China. China already has great architecture, but when observing city public realms, it is clear that architecture isn’t helping the urban condition. The design of landscape is severely important to the city, because it deals with everything outside of and between the buildings, a realm which not only has the ability to diminish adverse effects of rampant architecture and robotic urban planning, but also provides humanity with what cannot be gained through the design of buildings and infrastructure alone.

Humans have an internal drive to connect to nature. Simply evoking the idea of nature has a positive effect on people’s state of mind and sense of wellbeing. Apart from personal wellbeing, spending time outdoors in the landscape encourages social interaction, which is nowhere more comically observable than in the Chinese urban landscape—far more heavily used than the American counterpart. Parks, streets, plazas, nooks between buildings... Inevitably all spaces of the landscape, like the ancient garden, are used for socializing, debate, and play, during day and night, across all regions and climates.

If BAM were practicing in America, who can know what we’d be designing. But in China, it must be the landscape.


Often times people do not want to address their own culture. In our experience, BAM seems more sensitive and interested in local culture than many clients and local governments seem to be. Developing places tend to want to forget local history, preferring to imagine a more aspirational future, whereby (it may be incorrectly assumed) a break from the past or current situation will give rise to a better future.

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The problem with denying one’s own history is that when eventual development does occur, a place which was once unique begins to look like every new development across China.

Daxing is known for its watermelons, and to us, this is an interesting fact. Where BAM’s park is now was at one point in time watermelon fields. Far too often this kind of history and kind of culture is not what people want to be reminded of.

The Jiugong project is adjacent to what once was Imperial hunting grounds holding a unique type of deer called a Milu, or David’s Dear. Such are points BAM plays with heavily in early stages of projects. But as projects go through the process of becoming realized, most things that can make a place unique are often first to get removed.

中国景观更胜于美国景观 。BAM认为,在中国,景观是一个比美国更好的设计领域,因为中国文化是从园林文化发展而来的。

在中国的历史上,园林是人们创作画作、写诗的地方,也是官员们思考社会秩序,以及学者们沉思的地方。以至于到现在,园林与中国文化的表达相互交织并联系在一起。推而广之,景观被理解为一个该被设计的地方,一种文化媒介。在美国,并没有用同样的文化视角来看待景观。在美国,人们普遍认为,景观不是文化表现的地方,即使是从业者和学者也是一样认为。与中国文化相比,美国文化还处于萌芽阶段,而且对于人们会认为景观可以表现文化的方面上,可能永远不会有结果。在中国,这个想法在我们所做的事情中根深蒂固;人们认为景观之于文化是至关重要的。 此外,BAM认为景观是中国最重要的设计领域,不仅因为中国已经有了伟大的建筑,更重要的是,当观察城市的公共领域时,很明显的看到建筑并不能真正帮助城市。对于城市来说,景观的设计尤为重要,因为它涉及了建筑以外的及其之间的一切空间,这个领域不仅有能力减少肆虐的建筑和机械的城市规划所带来的副作用,而且能为人类提供一些无法单纯通过建筑和基础设施的设计来获得的东西。

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