A bosom friend afar brings distant land near. The Oversea album shares the lives of Chinese living abroad with all. The No.65 episode is about Yujia Wang from GSD.
Why going abroad?
I hope to bring in new academic perspectives and ideas, as well as new cultural experience.
What impressed you the most when you are abroad?
很多人非常直白的追求自己agenda，自己的work life balance，也尊重对方的时间和选择自由。比如说同样在GSD的景观项目里面，设计和研究上就有很多的视角和方法，能够产生很多方向的内容；同时在自己的时间里又有很多的角色。虽然时间上作为设计行业可能不是那么容易，但我非常喜欢这样的状态，同时也享受一些把兴趣和工作融合的可能性。
A lot of people are very clear and insistent about their own agenda, their time and their own work-life balance. I think this is one of the reasons for the wide variety of approaches and perspectives toward design and research at the GSD, the diverse and inspiring body of student works, and the proactivity. It also allowed many to be top notch in their field of interest other than design. It’s a great thing, very effective and I have a lot of respect for it.
What do you miss the most about China?
Obviously families, friends, food, and all the other great things and feelings about home. And my dog too.
Will you come back China? Why?
I tend to think so. First and foremost are families and friends. The ground for practicing is exciting too both in terms of cultural familiarity and the urban movements there. At the same time exchanges (cultural, historical, professional, etc.) should be both ways and I’m interested to see what I can do while in the U.S.
Is it more distinct to view China in a different environment after going abroad? Any thought?
It sometimes does. I often compare with what I know in China with what is here. For China there are of course things to improve on, but its advantages are quite exciting as well. The strange thing, however, is that China becomes really fragmented and flat for me, due to the limited info and the distance. Only when I actually step on Chinese soil can I realign my perception with the three dimensional reality.
There is one specific thing I want to talk about. I only began to look at the discipline in a very zoomed-out way when I left China. I think it’s becoming increasingly obvious to me the importance in establishing the relevance of Landscape Architecture in today and tomorrow’s urban issues. That means stop getting satisfaction from the historical achievements, stop talking only about aesthetics, or only about culture, but think about the capacity of this profession in bringing together all the aspects – social, ecological, economical, aesthetic, cultural, and so on, to respond to complex issues. How we position ourselves will have profound implications on how others perceive us, and perception is so important, from getting commissions to having talented young student join us. I believe this is something we can still improve on in China. I think the professional media is also very important in bringing the frontier of the discipline to the general public.
What makes the curriculum of your school different from other architecture schools?
GSD可能已经被谈的比较全了吧，我就讲讲自己比较喜欢的几点。一个是设计和研究之中的抽象元素，GSD景观一部分的设计课是非常开放式的，例如去年跟Eelco Hoftman做的题The Possibility of an Island，最后组内做出来的作品在类型、尺度和方向上几无重合。这种题可能不像一些特定类型的景观设计那样有个特定的结果，但是在拿着一个题去解题、立意、尝试不同的方法的时候，能够激发从其他领域的知识转换，或者是去提炼现有的景观手法的原型，把它们回炉重造之后应用到一个新的类型上。这种思维过程我自己认为是收获非常大的。GSD同时也很支持各种形式的研究，有不少可以申请的项目经费是一个方面，同时也有例如Independent Study这样的架构，相当于学校允许用一个学期做一个类似Thesis的项目来代替上一门课，支持学生把自己的研究兴趣以各种方式深入的做下去。当然还有互相交流的氛围，这一点从硬件上来说有Gund Hall的独特设计支撑，软件上来说有各种自发的或者是由学院组织的交流平台。总的来说应该是五个字：你值得拥有
I’m sure GSD has got enough coverage but I’ll highlight a few of the things that I liked a lot. First is the emphasis on research, and on abstracting and prototyping design. We have quite a few open-ended studios, both in Core and in Option. There is of course a more thought-out structure in the Core studio, but regardless, these studios are ones that don’t have a pre-set answer, and not really a precedent to look for. Everything needs to be researched, abstracted, and re-modeled to work under each one’s own thesis. The ability to extract and abstract and to apply it to new set of issues has really helped a lot in my research and design capacity. Second thing is that GSD is very supportive for student’s agenda in research, with the research funds available for application, and structures such as Independent Study. This way, students have the infrastructure to pursue deep of their interests. The peer learning here is also incredible with the unique design of Gund Hall and many different organizations that facilitate exchanges among students.
Who is your favorite artist (in wider range such as art, music, movie)? What is the influence?
最喜欢的艺术家，想一想应该是维梅尔。最开始了解到他其实跟绘画本身关系不大，而是来自于一本叫做《维梅尔的帽子-从一幅画看全球化贸易的兴起》的书，看书的过程中就细致的跟维梅尔的画作相处了好一段时间，越看越觉得喜欢。后来在波士顿美术馆又看了一个展，很奇怪，维梅尔的作品我见到它几乎都不是那么关乎绘画本身的主题下。这次这个展叫做Class Distinction，讲的是一系列荷兰画家笔下的作品展现的当时不同的阶级生活状况。我自己觉得维梅尔的作品的魅力来自于对生活的一种非常朴实细致的记录，但这个过程中通过展现社会经济方方面面的痕迹，带有了一种时代的力量，同时他选的那一些生活瞬间，和抓取、表现的光影和色彩，又非常的撩人，甚至有一点神性的感觉。这方面比如说跟城市景观及其自然原型之间的关系很相似，例如纽约的Teardrop Park，或者像是Christo的大地艺术，乃至于东方的一些美学，都有一些这样的“借力”和“点睛”的意味在里面。
I would say probably Johan Vermeer. I first came to know of his works in the book Vermeer’s Hat: The Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World. As you can see it’s not really talking about his works, but extending from them. I spent some good time with the book and find the paintings very pleasant and interesting. I did not have the chance to see his work in person until in Boston in an exhibition called Class Distinction, where a set of paintings from a group of Dutch artists was curated to show the living conditions of different Classes at that time. Again not so much about the paintings as objects but more as “windows”. I think many of his works are true and simple documentations of life scenes, which are empowered by the view into the social, economical situation of his age. At the same time the moments of life that he chose, the light and color that he captured are also very compelling and attractive. This in a way echoes what we have in Landscape Architecture. Look at Teardrop Park and how it captured the great geography of the region, for example, or the land art works of Christo.
In addition I like to see just about anything visual. They often give me inspirations for my own expressions.
What fascinates viewers the most in your portfolio in your opinion?
哈哈，其实开始的时候没有想着能用迷人这两个字来形容自己的作品，我做东西早期理性偏多，其实现在还是理性，如果理性能算迷人的话。不过在GSD受了很多新的影响，尤其是Martha Schwartz和Eelco Hoftman这两位，再加上表达技法上也在扩展，更多的能够把脑子里的印象式的东西做出来，这也是我现在对自己的作品觉得最喜欢的部分。
I think a lot of my early works are very rational, in fact they still are today. But at the same time for each project I always have an image in my head, which are very emotional, impressionistic and qualitative. This only got stronger at the GSD with the influence of professors like Martha Schwartz, Eelco Hoftman and Bridget Baines. I’m also getting better at materializing and expressing these impressions, having expanded my tool kit quite a bit at GSD. This is what I like the best in my recent works.
When did you start to follow gooood? Any suggestions?
Been a reader for at least five, six years, although still have trouble counting the “o”s. I think a media platform such as gooood has the great capacity of not only providing exchanges within the disciplines, but also expressing our voices to the general public. I hope gooood can bring more of the ideas, researches, designs, and people beyond the boundary of professional dialogues.
W O R K
Redrawing Ground and Power
2016 Spring Landscape Core Studio
With Sergio Lopez-Pineiro
Group + Individual Work
Collaborator: Yifan Wang GSD MLA ‘17, et al.
这是一个开放命题的设计，在GSD的景观Core Studio关于Political和Military Landscape的母题下。小组的研究场地在美国华盛顿特区。我们提出了一个关于反纪念碑和去中心化的母题。
The Landscape Core Studio is an open-ended studio focused on political and military landscape. The site of the Sergio group is in Washington D.C., and we developed through the course of the semester a thesis of de-monumentalization and decentralization.
The critical dissection began with the iconic Pentagon – a fortress, one of the world’s largest office building, and in itself a representation of U.S. Military Power. The construction detail here reveals the power structure: the only places where soft surfaces – i.e. lawns – are found are where the VIPs would pass through. In this way, a relationship is established, that the soft surface indicates, represents, and inscribes power.
The National Mall, often regarded as the front garden of the U.S., is also a projection and inscription of the permanence of power. This is done by imposing control on the color and condition of the ground. It is ironic that the National Mall stands for this permanence and for liberty and democracy, which are contradictory sets of ideas. The maintenance scheme for the idealistic image of the lawn greatly suppresses the resiliency of the plant species, and sometimes prohibits access for people. The proposal questions and challenges this perfect color of green, and instead proposes for realignment with spatial freedom, democracy, resiliency and sustainability.
To further this thesis of democratizing ground, pattern of mass distribution on the Mall is studied. The study found a fixed pattern of concentration and flow, framing the dialogue on the Mall by placing monuments at the center of focus that are viewed in a very specific way. Again an inscription of power and permanence.
The proposal used surface condition, specifically humidity as a way to intervene. Using sprinklers, the surface can be dry, moist, wet or flooded, thus altering the pattern of usage without changing the constructed form of the space, but a temporal re-draw of the Mall. This can serve many purposes, from reinforcing the plazas where demonstration happens, to creating new ways to experience the Mall. It is also possible to imagine different vegetative zones beginning to form in response to irrigation conditions.
Finally the group curated together an exhibition, using the Piper Auditorium as a 1:1000 ground of the D.C. Diamond. The exhibition featured all of our individual project under the thesis of de-monumentalization of D.C., with maps, 3D objects, models, diagrams and renderings. The lights represent the one-mile grids of D.C.
The possibility of islands
2016 Fall Landscape Option Studio
With Eelco Hoftman and Bridget Baines
The research began with an exploration of island as a global object. The self-definition of the islands comes from its relativity towards civilization, or traces of civilization. It is established with both long-term structures and settlements, and temporal flows, as illustrated by the Friendly Floatees.
An index is established to illustrate the dynamic of both. It is proposed that an island should be a participant of the global flows as a dynamic object, in a way that would give it the ability to determine and change its relativity towards civilization, and thus constantly redefining its identity. A few morphological and functional models were proposed and tested with simulation software.
Then zooming in from the global and abstract scale, the proposal chose Tokyo Bay as its site. The identified issue with Tokyo Bay was eutrophication leading to low level of dissolved oxygen especially in the center of the inner bay area. In this stage, a body of research was assembled on the topic of Tokyo Bay ecological conditions and water quality/ exchange.
Here the focus is on improving water and oxygen flow. Based on understandings of maritime traffic pattern and on the way the hull and the prop interact with water, it is proposed that Tokyo Bay traffic pattern be re-organized so that the ships can be essentially “mowers” which constantly move, aerate and mix the surface. Artificial islands can be beacons and regulators that govern the new navigational rules. The islands themselves can also aerate water and enhance existing water flow and exchange. Reorganization of flows in this way becomes the rational side of the proposal.
On the other hand, I worked on to explore the impressionistic images I have for this unique middle ground between land and sea, which gives it this sense of utopia. Here the attempt was to create a spatial enclosure and definition by using four basic landscape elements proposed: mountain, water, forest and field. The enclosure formed, primarily by the floating mountains, is one that opens up at certain directions, while closing in at others. Placing in close proximity of the Tokyo Metropolitan, this is a way to make the reality landside fragmented, while creating a small world with the fields, caves, mountains, waterfronts, wind turbines, etc. I then went on to make a few renderings depicting the character and quality of these scenes. My favorite is this “micro globalism”, which is an exaggerated imagination of different global flows coming together at one point, bringing together all kinds of exotic, misplaced creatures. This is the compelling image that an island can offer, being so close to a city yet so distant, so wild, and so different.
So here it is, an interpretation of the possibility of islands. It is divided along the waterline, with underwater being the rational, functional machine to improve water quality and ecological conditions, and the above water being the imaginative, utopia kind of new public grounds. It is difficult to shy away from the Metabolism Movement last century, and my argument is that the recognition of the dynamics and the flows, the questioning of relentless growth, and the emphasis on relativity and process, represent a more metabolic interpretation of Metabolism.
2015 Fall Landscape Core Studio
With David Mah
Group Work with Yun Shi GSD MLA ‘17
这个项目是与石韵一起合作的GSD景观Core Studio的Final Project，历时大约一个月。场地为哈佛位于Allston的新地块的开发。这个项目提出一种具有灵活性的发展框架，着眼于解决长期的、大尺度的、多利益相关方的城市发展项目所面临的不确定性，并希望确保大学项目的所应有的公共属性。
This was a four-week final project by the team of Yun Shi and myself during Landscape Core III at the GSD, which looked at Harvard’s new urban development in Allston. The core of this proposal was a flexible and adaptive development framework that addresses the uncertainty of similar large scale, long term, and multi-stakeholder projects. Our hope was to keep the land as open and public as the University should be.
Here we chose circle as the geometry for our conceptual urban units. These units were of variable sizes depending on the need, and provided a way to phase the urban scheme into developments of each unit. A set of rules was created to govern various aspects of the units, including COV/FAR, circulation stormwater management, porosity, public space etc, depending on the unit’s size. These rules give definition of the urban fabric of the units but allow flexibility for development.
At the same time, the geometry had an inherent inefficiency, as they cannot fully align with one another along the edge. These undeveloped lands in-between of the urban units then became the ecological matrix, and where public functions can also be inserted. In this way, certain social amenities and ecological services can always be guaranteed regardless of the changes along a complex and long-term urban development. The public land added to the current green space system in Boston, and also expanded public access to the Charles River waterfront.
Infrastructure as Intriguing Landscape: Boston Climate Change 2060
2017 Spring Landscape Option Studio
With Martha Schwartz and Markus Jatsch
Climate Change is an inevitable challenge in the years to come, and cities will be the forefront of the fight against it. For a costal city such as Boston, the risks are on two levels. First, a system-wide risk brought by the rising sea level, i.e. a lot of the key urban areas are prone to being flooded and underwater.
As a response, I proposed the Boston Seawall, a defense line for the entire city. It consisted three segments, which totaled 5 km in length, with greatest depth at around 20m. This closed the geometrical defense line that naturally existed, and it would be able to stop the rising water level outside of the Bay. A ship lock would be in place to allow maritime traffic to pass through.
However, it is proposed and emphasized that the Seawall should not be seen as merely a hard infrastructure. The proposal envisioned a new coastline for Boston, with rich opportunities for both social and ecological uses on the bay side. This would include transferring endangered sand dune communities, creating artificial wetlands, and inserting beaches, theatres, and waterfront activities. On the ocean side, it would incorporate the idea of living seawall, using unique prefabricated concrete modules to host certain species. People will continue to have access to the ocean front.
The second level of risks is the consequences of Climate Changes on people and local communities. These consequences include extreme temperatures, polarized precipitation pattern, etc, which, according to researches on the topic, will be witnessed even if the world reaches Carbon Neutral today. They were addressed with street level designs of three street typologies within the Study Area.
The argument was that it would no longer be effective or possible altogether to fight the risks on individual-basis. Instead, the effective scale would be community scale, with members sharing the risks and the infrastructure that would protect them. This then brings new opportunity in community level infrastructure and landscape design.
The first typical design focused on repealing part of the road space to form a large open space in the middle, for water retention, shade, and social ecological uses. It is divided into segments, giving each section a unique language and identity. In the second typical design, it was proposed that the shared open space between row houses to become a community scale water retention facility, using micro topography and underground water tanks. This would protect the every house within the community from being flooded, and the water collected can be recycled to water the plants. The space can be used for things like urban agriculture or community garden during normal days. The third typical street features a much narrower backyard. It was proposed that each four unit share a retention pond, and the spaces connect with each other to form a linear landscape.
In all, the proposal placed great emphasis on the emotional aspect of design, even when dealing with infrastructures and risks. Landscape design can provide a qualitative change for people by creating intriguing places that have strong character and identity. It should never just be about solving problems, and this is what is great about Landscape Architecture.