Designers from SOM, ASPECT Studios, HASSELL, TLS and other international architecture firms came together at the All In One Space (AIO) in Shanghai to brainstorm how to build a more sustainable future at the Fifth Shanghai Landscape Forum. Sasaki, AECOM, and SWA hosted the forum to encourage designers to pioneer innovative practices that influence policy-making, raise awareness about landscape architecture’s vital contributions, and advocate for landscape architecture becoming a driving force of social progress.
This year’s forum focused on sensation as a theme for presenters to interpret in their work. Presenters offered several nuanced interpretations of how designers can use physical and emotional sensations in their work as landscape architects. Each presentation fell into one of three categories: memory, momentum, or expectations.
Sasaki and AECOM’s presentation on memory explored the relationship between history and the present through conceptual design. The projects presented aim to take into account an individual’s unique memories and the greater cultural memories associated with a place.
Read on for a summary of Sasaki’s full presentation and information about the other compelling presentations.
Dialogue with Memory of a Place
Our sensation of the memory of a place is difficult to express precisely. Memory of a place exists in everyone's mind, but it varies among different people with different cultural backgrounds. There are different explorations in the landscape design field regarding how to address the vague concept of memory. No matter which approach we take, as landscape architects, we all need to respect a site’s history, dialogue with the memory of the place, and consistently integrate memory into the design concept and construction details, rather than completely ignore the site's history. In Sasaki’s presentation, we shared three strategies that focus on different site conditions:
1. Construct the overall spatial framework based on the historical remnants on the site to provide viewers the opportunity to sense the different historical periods of the place.
2. Create design features from local ecology and culture. When there are no usable remnants on-site, we explore the natural landscape, soil, geology, hydrology, or the area’s culture, art, and various folk customs. Then we integrate memories associated with these natural and cultural features into the design by creating sensory and spatial features for the public to interact with.
3. Reflect the site's history through landscape design. When there are no traces of the area’s history on-site, we must research historical documents that we can then present as expressions of generational memory.
Sasaki’s presentation demonstrated the various applications of these three strategies within four of our previous projects: the Shanghai EXPO Cultural Park, Chongqing City Center Mountain Park, the Indianapolis Waterfront Master Plan, and Xuhui Runway Park. The last project, Xuhui Runway Park, is one of the best examples of a project employing this three-pronged strategy.
Case Study: Xuhui Runway Park
Xuhui Runway Park, an innovative urban renewal project, breathes new life into the land formerly known as Longhua Airport. Longhua Airport closed when another airport in the area, Hongqiao Airport, opened, leaving behind its 8.24-hectare runway. The Sasaki design team saw this runway remnant as an opportunity to put conceptual design into practice: what if the space was no longer the runway for airplanes, but rather a runway for contemporary life? Where thousands airplanes took off and landed, cars, bicycles, and pedestrians could travel.
However, before the space was reborn as a venue for pedestrian and vehicle traffic, the team had to decide how they would preserve certain physical components of the site. The team discovered pieces of concrete dating back to the runway’s construction in 1948, and decided to repurpose them by arranging them in the grassy strip alongside the bike path, pictured below. After a concerted team effort and more than three years of construction, the historical airport runway is revitalized and reintegrated into modern, urban life. Echoes of the past live on as people walk along the concrete paths today.
Why focus on memory as a centralized theme in our work as designers? “We believe that memory is like a roadmap to our lives,” explains Dou Zhang, landscape architect and principal on the project. “What we create now will become the roadmap for future generations as they, too, discover the sites we have worked on and add their own layer of history in its place.”
Quintessenz, GVL Gossamer, and the SWA team addressed the theme, momentum, through artistic and scientific installation pieces that use natural elements like light and wind to alter spectators’ impressions of the space. Photo credit to Quintessenz.
Addressing the theme, expectations, Aspect Studio, Hassell, and the GVL Gossamer team reached their audience through interactive design that played to the five senses using aesthetics and technology. Photo credit to Nicola Balch.
Many thanks to all who participated and contributed to the event’s success. The range of projects shown at the forum was as diverse and compelling as the range of participants. Guest speakers hailed from seven international landscape firms and artist studios; 21 media groups covered the forum; and Vantaly Art, Rainbird, Shanghai Yize Electromechanical Design Office and KOMPAN sponsored it. The forum also and received support from the American Association of Landscape Architects Professional Practice Networks.