Landscape architecture fosters everyday human activities

Keywords practicality, efficiency, fulfillment, public engagement, flexibility of use

Background and Definition
Landscape architects provide individuals and groups of people the ability to go about their lives with ease. Landscape architects’ designs achieve this ease by addressing both the relationship of humans to their physical surroundings and the relationship of the city to its natural setting. Common factors taken into consideration in the design process include, but are not limited to, arranging methods of transportation, establishing efficient infrastructure, and managing human interaction with ecosystems.

Physical connectivity has become even more important in recent years since the majority of the world’s population lives in cities (United Nations 2006). Increased urban populations require more efficient ways to get form place to place. Landscape architects use a variety of methods to implement modes of connection between one place and another which encourage social and economic activity. Some of these methods may include the planning and designing of a streetscape or a master plan of a community. One example of this idea is the designing of a pedestrian-only street, where human to human interaction and commerce can exist without the physical threat of vehicles.

Thoughtfully-designed infrastructure is critical to the operation of any given community. Landscape architects often work on a variety of infrastructure systems which play an important role in how the city functions. One of the main systems landscape architects address is stormwater management, which occurs because hard surfaces generally prevent water from being absorbed by the earth below. It is becoming clearer, especially with the recent droughts in California, that water is one of humanity’s most necessary elements. In many cases, a landscape architect is one of the key decision makers on policies and designs addressing natural resources and other forms of infrastructure in the city context. A street designed to allow buses, cars, and bicycles to safely share the same space is another example of a project landscape architects work on. There are also many other ways landscape architecture implements efficient infrastructure to allow communities to function more smoothly.

Healthy landscape practices have become a universal goal for most American cities. Communities can function better when their natural ecosystems are preserved or recreated, as floods are minimized and carbon dioxide levels are lowered. Healthy interactive ecosystems provide social and personal benefits through their role in connecting communities. Landscape architects provide this deliberate connection between ecology and humanity (McHarg 2002) through the projects they work on.

The profession of landscape architecture shapes the world in ways most people never notice. Landscape architects are able to design methods of transportation, configure necessary infrastructure, and provide ways for people to interact with their surrounding ecosystems. Landscape architects work behind the scene to make sure the public’s lives function more effectively.


How do landscape architects address natural elements such as rain and snow?

In what ways would a landscape architect improve connectivity?


Qunli National Urban Wetland
Client: The Municipal Government of Haerbin City
Year of Completion: 2011
Project Location: Tin Shui Wai, Yuen Long District, Hong Kong, China
Site Area: 85 acres
Landscape Architects: Turenscape

In the 1970s, the City of Hong Kong began to build a new district, Yuen Long, upon what was once rural wasteland near the coast (Lampugnani 1993). In doing so, the city needed a location to send this new district’s excess stormwater, as much of the land which previously absorbed it and sent it into the Shenzhen Bay had now been filled with nonporous surfaces, such as concrete, as a result of urban development. To resolve this problem, the Qunli National Urban Wetland was constructed. Qunli’s primary functions are to store excess stormwater and to provide a habitat for native ecosystems (Turenscape 2007, Yu 2011). The construction of this park, which is designed by Turenscape, allows the district of Tin Shui Wai to be developed for human residence and commerce, while maneuvering around the obstacles of natural elements such as water and wildlife. In addition, residents of a dense urban environment are able to have access to the natural environment by using a series of trails and pavilions that exist throughout the park.

7.1 Figure 7.1: Qunli National Urban Wetland, seen on the left side of this photograph at a high water level. The Tin Shui Wai New Town is seen in the center of this photograph (Kongfaat 2008).

7.2 Figure 7.2: Soil was excavated from the existing wetland and piled up along the edge of the urban development to create a larger difference in elevation between the park and the rest of Tin Shui Wai. This allows more volume for the water to be stored in the park while keeping the building foundations above the water (Yu 2015).


7.3 Figure 7.3: Trails weave throughout the rolling hills of Qunli to provide an unparalleled experience of nature for visitors (Yu 2015).


7.4 Figure 7.4: Elevated trails and overlooks give visitors the opportunity to hike the park, no matter the water level below them. Meanwhile, the pavilions provide shady places to rest along the trails (Yu 2015).


Penn Park
Client: University of Pennsylvania
Year of Completion: 2011
Project Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Site Area: 24 acres
Landscape Architects: Michael van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.

The land for this park was formerly a post office and parking lot, purchased by the University of Pennsylvania. Although the university’s campus is next door, train tracks separated the campus from its newest addition. Michael van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) was hired not only to provide a connection from the University to the acquired land, but also a use for it. In their design, MVVA created a series of pedestrian bridges connecting the land to the campus, and on the land, designed several outdoor athletic venues and all of the smaller spaces between and around them (Urbanski 2015). This design provides the University of Pennsylvania’s students and competitive teams with a place to play softball, soccer, field hockey, and tennis, plus safe and convenient ways to access these facilities (Penn Park – Michael van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.).


7.5 Figure 7.5: Aerial photograph of the current Penn Park, taken from above campus with the Schuylkill River and downtown Philadelphia in the background. One pedestrian bridge is seen beneath the elevated rail tracks, and playing fields are seen beyond the bridge where a former postal service office was located (Greg Benson, 2011).


7.6 Figure 7.6: Image of pedestrians utilizing the elevated pathway in Penn Park. The design’s pathways allows the users to move throughout the site with ease. (Elizabeth Felicella, 2011).


Lampugnani, Vittorio Magnago, et al. 1993. Hong Kong Architecture: The Aesthetics of Density. New York, NY: Prestel.

McHarg, Ian. 2002. “An Ecological Method.” In Theory in Landscape Architecture: A Reader, edited by Simon Swaffield, 38–43. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Nations, United. 2006. State of the Worlds Cities. London: UN-HABITAT.

Penn Park – Michael van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.

Spears, George, Kasia Seydegart, Emily Hansen, and Pat Zulinov. 2010. Landscape Architecture and Public Welfare. Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards.

Turenscape. 2007. Qunli Stormwater Park: A Green Sponge for a Water-Resilient City.

Urbanski, Matthew. “New Parks for the Reinvented City.” Ekdahl Lecture presented as part of the College of Architecture, Planning & Design’s 2015 Distinguished Lecture Series, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS, January 2015.

Yu, Kongjian. 2011. “Stormwater Park for a Water Resilient City – Quinli National Urban Wetland: The Landscape Architecture Firm Turenscape Developed National Ecological Security Patterns for all of China – Out of this Research they Designed Many Stormwater Parks for Cities all Over the Country; an Example is the Stormwater Park in Harbin City.” Topos: The International Review of Landscape Architecture and Urban Design (77): 72-77.

Figure References
Figure 7.1: Kongfaat 2008. “Tinshuiwai 2005.jpg” (aerial view of the Tin Shui Wai area of the Yuen Long district, Hong Kong, China). March 1, 2008 (upload date). Digital photograph by unknown photographer. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Accessed February 9, 2015. Reproduced from “File:Tinshuiwai 2005.jpg,”

Figure 7.2: Yu, Kongjian. 2015. Cut-and-Fill to Create an Outer Ring of Mounds and Ponds Acting as a Stormwater Filtrating and Cleansing Buffer Zone for the Core Wetland, and a Transition between Nature and City. View towards the South West. Accessed February 2.

Figure 7.3: Yu, Kongjian. 2015. The Mounds with the Dirt from the Excavations on the Park’s Southern Periphery Create a Valley Experience and Remind People of the Regional Natural Landscape of Rolling Hills. Accessed February 9.

Figure 7.4: Yu, Kongjian. 2015. The Skywalk and the Bamboo Pavilion Offer Places to Linger and Enjoy Views over the Wetland. Accessed February 9.

Figure 7.5: Greg Benson. 2011. Aerial View of Site . Photograph.

Figure 7.6: Elizabeth Felicella. 2011. View of Bridge. Photograph.


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