gooood Interview NO.21 – Z+T Studio

Enjoy and understand nature. Create high quality landscape projects that people could participate in.

Project Specs

Design Firm:

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gooood team interviews creative from all over the world. Your recommendations and suggestions are welcomed! gooood Interview NO.21 introduces Z + T STUDIO. More: Z + T STUDIO on gooood

出品人:向玲 Producer: Xiang Ling
编辑团队:向玲,陈诺嘉,武晨曦,许江琦,张曼青 Editor: Xiang Ling, Chen Nuojia, Wu Chenxi, Xu Jiangqi, Zhang Manqing



gooood x Z + T STUDIO 张唐景观




What is Z+T Studio’s design philosophy? Since Landscape architecture is such a broad profession, what does Z+T Studio focus?



We see landscape design as a link between nature and community well-being. It can serve as a catalyst to enrich the diversity, vitality and self-identity for people and their communities. It is also a vessel for our visions of sustainability and resilience.

The issues that the contemporary landscape architecture profession is focusing on are much broader compare to the architecture profession. This is mostly due to the project scale. However, large-scale projects in China are predominantly government funded projects, which require certain qualification that a small private firm can not acquire. Technically Z+T Studio is not qualified for those types of large-scale project. But, ironically, because of the legal procedures both in the design and implementation phases, designers who are working on the projects tend to have little control over the project quality. Since Z+T Studio was established in early 2009, its major focus has been on the private sector and relatively small-scale projects. We are interested in creating high quality projects and pushing the standard of constructed landscape in China to a higher level. This will eventually improve the quality of large-scale public projects.

▼张唐景观部分项目一览,part of Z+T Studio’s projects




How do two of you divide your work in the studio?


As the only two design principals, we tend to spend most of our time on projects and have other senior designers in the office taking care of marketing, finance, hiring and office management. Every time a new project comes in, we decide which one of us will be the principal in charge or the consultant. If neither of us is inspired in doing it, we will turn down the project. To make sure either of us can have enough time on every project, we keep the studio an intimate size and only accept about ten projects every year. Currently we have 28 on staff.

▼张唐景观工作室场景,working scene in Z+T Studio

▼张东和唐子颖修改设计图纸,Zhang Dong and Tang Ziying revising the design drawings

▼张东研究模型,指导员工,Zhang Dong, studying the model and instructing colleagues




How do you start a project and how do you find the spirit of the site?



Even though our design might be different with the work of other landscape architecture office, our design process is the same. We all start with conceptual design, move to schematic design, then design development and finalize with construction drawings. This is a common practice in the modern landscape architecture profession. However, in most LA firms in China, to improve efficiency designers are divided into two groups, one working on conceptual and schematic design while another group is working on design development and construction drawings. Z+T Studio keeps the same design team from the very beginning all the way to the end of the project. Based on our experience, this office management method has significant impact on improving project quality. In China everything moves and changes so quickly that it is hard to know what will happen next. The only thing one can predict is the unpredictability. We have to keep recalibrating the design in every phase according to any new information. Having one team working on these revisions definitely has its benefit.

To start, we will do extensive research about the site, collecting information on the topography, vegetation, hydrology, wildlife, as well as how people are going to use the site in the future. Ideas will come after the research and will continue to be developed throughout the entire design process. The more familiar we get with the site the more refined the ideas will become. There is always surprise that makes the project really unique. We try to be optimistic and positive when facing the uncertainty.

▼工作流程:第一轮概念 – 第二轮概念 – 方案深化 – 施工图 – 施工 – 建成,Design process: original concept – concept design – schematic design – construction drawing – construction – complete




You have a landscape design studio, an art workshop and a biophilic lab, how these three team work together?


▼艺术工坊部分项目,some projects of the Art Workshop
The Water Droplet Pavillion in Cloud Paradise Park (left 1); Ant sculpture in Shan Shui Jian (left2); Fish Bones in Children’s Farm (left 3); water installation (left 4)
The Glacier Corridor in Cloud Paradise Park (right 1); The Glacier Bridge in Cloud Paradise Park (right 2); Stream in Cloud Paradise Park (right 3); Wormhole Sculpture in Jiadu Central Park (right 4)

Z+T Studio started just two of us as landscape designers. After practicing for 5 years, we discovered that we really needed an art workshop to support the design team. Sometimes we had a crazy idea and the idea needed be tested before we felt comfortable to present it to the client; sometimes we had a great idea and the client had difficulty finding the right people to build it within the budget and schedule. The art workshop really helped us push the boundaries and make the idea happen. Biophilic Lab also supports our design team. With this backing our design team can better understand the ecological and hydrological systems of a site. The collaboration between the design team, art workshop and biophilic lab can happen at any stage of a project.

▼生态实验室部分项目,some projects of Biophilic Lab
ecological solution for Hainan Baoting (left 1, right 1); ecological solution for Jiadu Central Park (left 2, right 2); ecological solution for Shan Shui Jian (left 3); ecological solution for Hefei Feihe Intelligence Park (right 3)




How do you deal with the relationship between nature and contemporary materials, such as metal and concrete?


▼苏州樾园公园 – 透水混凝土园路和柚木坐凳,搭配使用现代材料和自然材料(点击这里查看更多),Yueyuan Courtyard – permeable concrete road and wooden bench, combination of modern and natural materials (click HERE to view more)

Material selection is always one of the most struggling and critical issues for designers. In Z+T Studio, we pay a lot attention to how to choose the right material for the project. There are many criteria for choosing a material such as: color, texture, context, perception, personal taste, budget, feasibility, availability, durability and toughness. There is no perfect choice. It is always a balance between all these considerations.

As landscape architects, we are fully aware of the essence of each material. Contemporary man-made materials such as metal, concrete and glass are very different from natural materials such as stone, clay, and wood. However, this does not mean natural materials will have a better relationship with nature. It is just different. They all can be the best choice in certain circumstances.

▼万科建研中心 – 预制混凝土与植被融合(点击这里查看更多),Vanke Research Center – prefabricated concrete merged with the vegetation (click HERE to view more)

▼山水间 – 锈蚀钢板和越秀木,Shan Shui Jian – Corten steel and wooden materials




What are your favorite materials? What do you think materials mean to landscape design?


Each material has unique characteristic. As landscape architects, we connect people and nature in an urban setting. Instead of rebuilding “nature”, which is nearly impossible, we bring an experience of nature into the city. Sunlight, fog, rain, creeks, waterfalls, cascades, ponds, riverfront, beaches, oceans, cliffs, woods, grasslands, wildflowers and meadows; all of these natural attributes can be experienced in the city. When designing those experiences, landscape architects need use some kind of medium which will eventually be broken down into a set of material selection.

▼安吉鲸奇谷 – 毛石墙,给人以自然的体验,Anji Marvel Valley – rubble wall creating a natural feeling


Z+T Studio tends to not have a predetermined material preference before designing a project. All material selections should base on the project. This is especially important. Since we have projects in different regions of China, we need look at vernacular landscape to see what is available. Some material selections can have an exotic or extraordinary effect on the project, while some other selections might make people feel the landscape was pre-existing and well fitted into the surroundings.  Both are possible choices. It really depends on what you want to bring to the project.

▼樾园公园 – 板岩墙和环境相融合(点击这里查看更多),Yuyuan Courtyard – slate wall being harmony with the environment (click HERE to view more)


Having said that, we do favor some materials over others because of aesthetic preference. We generally prefer earthy materials over artificial materials because they are more durable and perform better as they aged. But we also like some artificial materials such as acrylic glass. The smoothness and translucency can capture the changing of light. It also provides ambiguity between spaces, between man-made and nature. We think it is intriguing.

▼昆山白鹭名邸 – 亚克力屏风模糊人工和自然,Kunshan Egret Villa – Acrylic screens blur the boundary of artificial work and nature

▼玖著里 – 半透明U型玻璃屏风,Jiu Zhu Li – translucent screen made of U-tube glass




Please explain your concept of “participatory Ecosystem ”and any example?


If you look at a Chinese classical landscape painting, you will see people integrated in the landscape. Small man-made structures such as a small bridge, a pagoda, a pavilion and a shelter are interspersed in the grand landscape and indicate how people engage with nature. And if you walk into a classical garden in Suzhou city, you will find artificial, rocky, miniature mountains contained in courtyards and seamlessly integrated into everyday life. This human-nature relationship is very different from a western one. People are part of nature and enjoy interacting with nature in daily life. When we design a landscape, we want to celebrate this relationship.

▼山水间 – 阿基米德取水器,初次采用“参与性生态”概念,Shan Shui Jian – Archimedes’ screw, first practice of “participatory ecosystem”


The idea of a participatory ecosystem was brought out when we designed Hillside Eco-park, a small community park in the suburbs of Changsha City. The site was an overgrown, hilly area with a degraded fish pond in the low point. After the completion of the park, a large residential community would be developed in the surrounding areas and this park would be the only public open space available for the future community. We wanted to restore the ecosystem for the land itself but we also needed to take care the daily needs of the people. The ecological sustainability of nature needs be considered together with human activity. There has to be a balance. A sophisticated ecosystem was designed to address the hydrological issues and people were encouraged to interact with this system. We called it a “participatory ecosystem” to distinguish it from conventional approaches.

▼公园里 – 波浪水台(点击这里查看更多),The Park – waving cascade (click HERE to view more)

▼万科时代广场 – 人与水景互动,Vanke Times – interaction between people and the waterscape

▼云朵乐园 – 与水景亲密接触(点击这里查看更多),Cloud Paradise Park – intimate contact with the waterscape (click HERE to view more)




You have designed many playgrounds in your projects, what do you think are the most important facts of designing a playground?


The soclicitude for the vulnerable group including children and elderly are often missing in landscape design in China. There is a deficit in outdoor activities for these two groups during the rapid development and the urbanization process. The outdoor playgrounds and parks we have designed in past years responded to specific development context.  The site conditions, project objectives, implementation techniques and maintenance requirements of each project affect the design procedure resulting in the creation of different concepts, materials diversity or even fabrication sequence.

▼云朵乐园 – 鹿角爬网(点击这里查看更多),Cloud Paradise Park – horn climbing net (click HERE to view more)

▼云朵乐园 – 互动自行车(点击这里查看更多),Cloud Paradise Park – interactive bycicle (click HERE to view more)

▼儿童农庄 – 灌溉系统(点击这里查看更多),Children’s Farm – irrigation system (click HERE to view more)

▼儿童农庄 – 滑梯(点击这里查看更多),Children’s Farm – slider (click HERE to view more)


Any design work is a process of balance between multiple aspects besides satisfying functionalism and consumerism.  Maintaining the equilibrium requires wisdom of making decisions depending on the circumstance. Lyrical and aesthetic content should always be combined with healthy environmental system and a place for energetic play.  One ideal should not compromise or contradict another, instead, the three can be inspiring to each other. Aesthetic consideration is not the top priority; however, it is always the innermost thoughts of a designer and it will influence the final decision through his/her instinct.

▼宇宙探索乐园,儿童设施让景观更加美丽丰富,universe exploration park, children facilities enrich the landscape




Which kind of role landscape architecture profession should play in the city? How do they improve the society well-being?


It is more recognized and understood now, during the time of either climate change and profound environmental issues. It may not stay as simple as planting trees or designing pavement as the only choices but become more diverse such as melding boundaries with ecology, art, engineering, social economy etc. People and the environment are key considerations of landscape architecture; thus, the profession has a nature of focusing on humanistic concern. A synthesis of different disciplines brings social equilibrium and fundamental benefit to both human beings and their environment. It will become more and more important for both academics or practicality.

▼嘉都中央公园,社区里私密的游乐设施,Jiadu Central Park, private playground in the community

▼山水间,社区里的游乐设施拉近人与人之间的关系,Shan Shui Jian, playing facilities enhance communication between people


In a city, landscape architecture mostly deals with public space while architecture dealing with private ones. The quality of the public open spaces in a certain way influences the quality of public life of a city. For example, in a new residential neighborhood, public open spaces will help bring individual property owners together to form a community. The open spaces including parks, street, plaza and playground will encourage people to meet and get to know each other and will eventually link the people together for a better community, society and city.

▼万科时代广场,开放的城市景观,Vanke Times, city landscape open to the public

▼云朵乐园,城市中的景观可以将更多人联系在一起(点击这里查看更多),Cloud Paradise Park, landscape in the city create connection between people (click HERE to view more)




What do you think the relationship between human economic development and ecological sustainability? How do we achieve a balance?


人类自认为是地球上最聪明的物种,所以总想制定游戏规则。无节制的利用自然又想让它健康本身就是矛盾的。自然总是有自己的规律。我们不要总想控制它, 其实彻底了解它都很难。欣赏它,理解它,并且与它合作。我们终归都是其中的一份子。

Agriculture has been deemed the most destructive movement in history regarding the ecosystem. The monotony of crops destroys the variety of species in the environment. Industrial societies may create more or less pollution than farming, but the damage will be felt for hundreds of years to come.

Society believes human beings are the most intelligent species and has the right to dominate others. The recklessness of extravagance and nourishment is a contradiction and never works at the same time. Nature has its own principles for running the world and mankind never thinks to model it. Observe it, appreciate it, and coordinate with it; we all part of the system.




Please give some suggestion to the young generation of landscape architects

我们觉得年轻一代景观学子会有更好的想法也会做的更好。做自己相信的事情, 要有耐心。

We believe that the next generation will have better ideas and will do better. Just do what you believe and be patient.




What is your future plan?


Nothing special. We will keep doing what we are doing right now, embracing the uncertainty and being prepared for the challenges. Our current ideas, thoughts and design principles are based on our previous experiences, which are quite limited. What we have experienced is only a fraction of the landscape architecture professional practice. With the social, cultural, environmental, economic and demographic development in the future, this profession will change, and, as landscape architects, we will be expecting new challenges all the time.

▼张东先生和唐子颖女士合影,photo of Zhang Dong and Tang Ziying

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