A bosom friend afar brings distant land near. The Oversea album shares the lives of Chinese living abroad with all. The No.105 episode is about Jieru He (Hedy) who graduated from University of Pennsylvania and is now working for SWA Houston office.
Why going abroad?
To take a positive and proactive stance in urban development.
My undergraduate major is environmental engineering when I learned the treatment and purification of sewage, air pollution and solid waste. However, I take this as a relatively passive gesture to improve the natural environment. Since pollution has already occurred, all I can do is through engineering means to solve the environmental impact at the end of urban development.
When I happened to read Ian McHarg’s Design with Nature, I found that the landscape planning and design profession integrates a series of knowledge in the fields of ecology, environment, planning, and design, which can indeed influence the development of the entire city and the ecological environment before pollution occurs. So I decided to transfer to landscape planning and design at the graduate level and to go abroad because landscape planning and design in the U.S. is forward-looking and inclusive of various disciplines. I was lucky to be accepted by the Department of Landscape Design and Regional Planning of the University of Pennsylvania.
What impressed you the most when you are abroad?
Some knowledge refreshes us when we look at it again and again. For example, the cutting-edge education I received abroad is in contrast to what I see every day in the United States. The urban infrastructure looks old and the city environment is a little short of beauty. The disparity confused me. But after I engaged in real professional work in the States, my perception changed. The local planning and design projects in the United States make me realize that the people’s ideas are very respected. The implementation of projects is thus slow due to the participation of the people in decision-making. To a certain extent, this has pointed me towards exploring the entire city, including the city at its presentative level, at the policy level, and its internal mechanism.
What do you miss the most about China?
The warmth between people’s interaction and vitality in my motherland are what I have a great affection for.
I miss my family and friends in China and Shanghai, and I also miss the passion and vitality of Chinese.
Will you come back China? Why?
I don’t plan to settle down so I will not return back to China in recent years. However, I have always had my desire to help the development of China. Nonetheless, I think I can still make my contribution to it regardless of my geographical location.
Is it more distinct to view China in a different environment after going abroad? Any thought?
The answer is yes. In a single environment, the information we receive is often fragmented and representative, so that the way of thinking about solving problems is relatively simple and passive. For example, when I was at Penn, I created a year-long independent research and design project on water resources problems caused by coal mining in Shanxi Province (the work will be introduced later). At the first glance, Shanxi Province has conflicts between water shortages, environmental destruction, natural resource extraction and sustainable urban development. At the same time, in order to continue the future development of these resource-exhausted cities, the provinces and cities actively promote cultural industries. The passive approach of sustaining a city is universal. Resource-exhausted cities in foreign countries are seeking the means to survive, and the cities that are not yet so urbanized are also first exploiting natural resources and developing urbanization, and then solve the corresponding problems.
So I personally have achieved a totally new thinking about urban development issues and urban and landscape design. I am interested in re-investigating the so-called questions and having dialectical thinking about (design/planning) issues. I also began to explore how to initiate a beneficial process through the intervention of design and planning from the beginning to build a resilient and sustainable development mechanism.
What makes the curriculum of your school different from other architecture schools?
The pedagogy of the University of Pennsylvania and its landscape planning and design department have two major features. First, the forward-looking ideas are supported by technology teaching each semester so that the curriculum is set in a perfect way. The second is that the tutors are strict in educating students, and they greatly support the individual development of students.
What are the characteristics and interesting points of your firm?
The SWA Houston office where I have been working at can provide young designers with broad project design opportunities. For example, I have engaged in the entire phases of the Shenzhen Longgang Blueway Landscape Planning and Design project, which deepened my knowledge of ecological waterfront design and implementation. To be specific, the design concept became solid through communication and collaboration with co-workers, design consortium, and professional experts in different fields. In addition to in-depth study of landscape and urban design, designers can also be exposed to project management, cost budget control, and communication with clients and partners, which is comprehensive for growth. The colleagues and supervisors are also interesting parts of the company. Everyone has well-rounded professional knowledge and is passionate about design.
Who is your favorite artist (in wider range such as art, music, movie)? What is the influence?
I personally appreciate Jackson Pollock’s paintings. He is able to create rhythm in the chaos and power in beauty. I think a good design or planning work should also be creative enough to explore and build a variety of relationships. There is a certain logic or talent behind the seemingly chaotic process, and it has the quality of charming results.
What fascinates viewers the most in your portfolio in your opinion?
My work bridges urban planning, landscape design, environment and ecology, engineering and hydrology, politics and culture, etc., to explore the nature of planning and design fields and site problems. It cares about sustainable and resilient urban development; at the same time, my work contains a good portion of research. However, research, design, and representation in my work process are not independent but inform each other to inspire new solutions and planning and design languages.
When did you start to follow gooood? Any suggestions?
I started browsing through the gooood website in my undergraduate when I became interested in the design field. I would recommend having more videos posted on your website, including personal interviews and dynamic recordings of design projects or cities.
W O R K
THE FOURTH REGIONAL PLAN IN THE NEW YORK METROPOLITAN REGION
Internship Work @ One Architecture (New York)
The regional plan association plans to release the Fourth Regional Plan in late 2017 for the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut metropolitan region. The plan provides a set of recommendations for future infrastructure investment, spatial planning, urban and economic growth, and new policies and modes of governance. It also demonstrates how the region can create additional opportunity and become more equitable, affordable, and healthy, while at the same time adapting to a future of climate change and sea level rise.
As part of the Fourth Regional Plan, a design initiative supported by the Rockefeller Foundation engaged four teams to contribute to the Plan through the development of four different, yet interconnected geographic “corridors,” focusing respectively on the ocean, forest, suburbs, and city. I joined the ONE + Only team in the summer of 2017 and assisted on the project City Corridor. During my internship at ONE, I got a more comprehensive understanding of resilient city design. The realization of a resilient city includes landscape design, and also includes many other instruments such as urban planning, risk management, policy and financing, and considers the integration of the above aspects.
▼实习期间的弹性城市金融手段研究，Researching Financing Strategy of Achieving Resilient Cities in Internship
New York City’s Triboro Line, extending from Brooklyn to Queens to the Bronx, is over 24 miles in length and covers 80 square miles in area, with a population of 2.6 million people. Due to the increasing unaffordability in the Manhattan and city core area, the aim of the design proposal is to transform this often-neglected corridor which is located in the so-called outer boroughs to be a major part in the future of the region. The project goes beyond traditional transit-oriented development thinking, that is, only focusing on the developments of transportation nodes, but enhancing the design in those in-between places. It is worth mentioning that the project proposes quite smart and integrated design thinking. It communicates the opportunities and importance of the region to the local community and stakeholders based on the research of economic development, industrial growth and organizational collaboration, in order to make a pathway towards positive transformation. In the future, this city transit corridor for 100,000 daily riders will not only improve regional transportation, but also add many other values. It also addresses inequities along the transit corridor, incentivizes economic development, increases job opportunities, creates chances for affordable housing, improves public health, and makes the transportation network more resilient to storms, flooding, and climate changes.
▼引导未来经济，Processes for the Next Economies
▼构建低碳廊道，Create a Low Carbon Corridor
LEARNING LANDSCAPES OF THE UNIVERSITY CAMPUS IN RIO DE JANEIRO
导师：Maria Altagracia Villalobos & Oscar Grauer
团队成员：Allison Koll & Rivka Weinstock
The city development issues in developing countries is one of my long-time interests. The continuity of inequality in Brazil’s entire social and economic system has led to serious education problems. A large proportion of children and teenagers of poor economic condition do not have access to educational resources. The Rio city provides scattered and rare educational opportunities. Moreover, the university which is located on an isolated island is also established with an initial intention of separating people apart rather than connecting them. The master planning approach thus does not seem to be appropriate in this social context.
In this project, I once again explored landscape design and planning across multiple scales. The project proposes taking the design of the learning landscape of the University of Rio as an opportunity to rebuild the coastline of Rio. By re-stitching connections of transportation and seeding learning programs between the campus and the vibrant Rio coastline, the campus is integrated into the entire city in a smart way. This allows more access of children to educational resources and enhances social equality. In the landscape design of the campus itself, the small-scale place making combined with ecological education and other functions stimulates the transformation to the greatest extent. Small-scale interventions pave the way for larger-scale changes in the future.
▼创建普遍化的学习机会，Learning for All
▼通过大学设计来重构里约的海岸线，Redefine the City Coastline through the Rio Campus
▼大学内部节点设计，Nodes Design in the Campus
IN-BETWEEN WATERS/INTERCEPTING WETNESS: LIBERATING AND INVENTING RAIN IN MINING LANDSCAPES OF WESTERN GHATS, INDIA AND SHANXI PROVINCE, CHINA
导师：Anuradha Mathur & Dilip Da Cunha
Jieru (Hedy) HE. In-Between Waters /Intercepting Wetness: Inventing Rain in the Mining Landscape of Shanxi Province, China[J]. Landsc. Archit. Front., 2019, 7(4): 139-149.
项目背景 | Project Background
The project begins with my interest in investigating a shared problem, mainly the issue of flooding, in both developed and developing countries, no matter how advanced the infrastructure they are equipped with. Western Ghats, India and Shanxi Province, China are two seemingly contrasting terrains with the only apparent similarity at first glance being extensive mining. Western Ghats is “wet” caused by the monsoon rain, engaging in surficial mining practices, such as iron, while Shanxi located on the Loess Plateau is “arid”, with an extensive underground coal mining industry. However, through my further investigation, the two terrains share common grounds. One common ground is problematic. Both countries are actually facing flooding and drought simultaneously. To solve the “water problem” of flooding and drought, both countries invested hugely in constructing a massive inter-basin river linking water infrastructure. But the flood and drought persist.
My project against such a background examines two aspects. First, it acknowledges floods as a man-made designed disaster caused by ideology of land-centric urban development. The project provides new strategic design thinking and ways of considering the idea of water excess and scarcity resulting from mining operations in both terrains. The hyper-classification and separation in the current society leads to a fact that people can only see “water” and “water” related problems – floods and drought, but they don’t realize the indivisible systems in the entire geographical environment. Based upon that, the project proposes a pre-disciplinary design ground which is ubiquitous wetness. Second, it challenges the current tools and language we are currently using in the planning and design field, including a plan-dominated research and design approach. The methodology is taking “design” to “investigate” instead of letting the so-called problems guide design. It allows research, field work, representation, design, and planning to inform and design each other in order to calibrate research questions and to find planning and design interventions proactively. By doing so, the project not only reveals the truth about the water problem – flood and drought, but also finds design initial interventions. The found seeds trigger a series of trajectories to keep the region being transformed in the future.
Both these two seemingly different regions are challenged by both droughts and floods. However, the environmental damage caused by mining can be mitigated by recovering the entire terrain for both regions
▼工作空间展示了多领域内容，Work Space Exhibits Multi-disciplinary Knowledge
实践和方法 | Practice and Methodology
This project is a relatively special course of the Penn Design School called Thesis Studio. Students take the initiative of setting up topics, write syllabus, and then select an instructor, which can be carried out after obtaining the approval of the professor and the school. Thus, the whole process is very challenging. My project consists of three semesters’ work. I took two semester independent research courses first, which researched the correlation and difference between the two major areas around the drought and flood problems caused by the mining industry, and researched the Western Ghats in India in the second semester. The knowledge gained in the beginning paved the way for the final semester’s independent design course for Shanxi Province in China.
Fieldwork is one of the most interesting parts of the project. I chose to investigate the flooding problem of the Western Ghats in India during the most humid summer season, and conduct the investigation during the driest winter in Shanxi, so as to examine the problem thoroughly. For example, the investigation in India not only proved that the surface mining of metal mines aggravated the debris flow and flooding in the monsoon season, but also allowed me to notice more conflicts. The precious natural resources of the Western Ghats are sacrificed because of urbanization. Land on the mountain which belongs to farmers has made way for modern infrastructure, including reservoirs and infrastructure. However, land has therefore lost its original capacity to deal with floods. Large modern infrastructures which are supposed to provide water sources or prevent people from disasters have loopholes in the planning and implementation sequence, which intensifies flood hazards. Nonetheless, in contrast to this series of challenges and problems is the nature of the terrain per se, which brings the possibility of design.
“包括E.F.Schumacher, Mahatma Gandhi, Lewis Mumford, Sir Patrick Geddes之所以成为规划设计领域的先驱一大部分是因为他们有着自上而下理性的思考决策，同时他们也有着自下而上的对场地和人的了解，两者的结合让他们成为领域中的先驱“，这是引用导师Dilip的一句话。辩证全面地了解地域和城市发展问题本质并给出解决方式，从而缓和城市发展和环境破坏之间的关系并实现社会公正和正义，这也是最后针对山西省的独立设计课想要达到的目标。
The drawing shows the Kudremukh iron ore mining area in India and the infrastructure connected to it on the Kudremukh mountain are both set in the wrong location. When monsoon comes, the overall watershed of Bhadra river and its reservoir in which the mining area is located are much more impacted by siltation and flooding. Some reports show that it is a planning mistake. However, my investigation claims that the planners who determine the location of the mining area did not recognize the overall hydrological and natural environment of the mining area because they tried to understand the relationship between the infrastructure and the environment from a plan rather than a profile of the region.
Da Cunha regards E.F. Schumacher, Mahatma Gandhi and Lewis Mumford were the pioneers with complexity in the field who were seen on one side as rational, top-down designer and planner, while on the other side as grassroots believed in bottom-up thinking. The duality in these figures who see conflicting problems too in a way make themselves pioneers. The goal of the independent design studio for Shanxi Province in the last semester is to dialectically and comprehensively understand the nature of regional and urban development problems and provide solutions to mitigate the relationship between urban development and environmental degradation and eventually achieve social justice and justice.
The project has designed two frameworks of synergy from medium to small scale to solve the water problem caused by the coal mining industry in Shanxi Province, China. One is to propose an autonomous mechanism to obtain water while the other is to enhance the connection and mutual benefit between cities on the low ground and mountains to break the development bottleneck of cities with exhausted natural resources.
独立设计课程的设计内容概览 | Brief Review of the Independent Design Studio
Rather than trying to provide “water” for the Shanxi region, which the intent of the Shanxi inter-basin river linking infrastructure, and preventing the terrain from getting more arid, this landscape research and design project asks a more critical question – how can one engage and construct wetness from rain before it becomes waters that is contained in reservoirs, embanked river, urban drainage system and mining wells. It aspires to provide new ways of considering the possibilities of design that counters the language of excess and flood, scarcity and drought. The hypothesis of the future of Shanxi is the potential of engaging and uncovering embedded wetness of a certain gradient through trajectories of mineral extraction, hydrologic exchange, monsoon movement, vegetation growth, human migration, economic flow and so on. This is a radical shift from a problem-solving approach of water linking infrastructure to one that uncovers potentialities.
The independent design studio of Shanxi examines four nested scales from regional Shanxi province scale to the small interventions on existing mining area.The examination and drawing out between problematic water thinking and opportunistic wetness thinking of each scale informs where the project in the next scale should be. In other words, the drawings in each scale are the beginnings of design and open-ended processes of transformation. Thus, the design can remain open and adaptive to changing situations.
因在山上进行的采矿业不但导致水资源短缺，当采矿作业严重到上游地下水层缺水时， 下游的城市和乡镇将面临洪涝和干旱的双重威胁。该图在展现相关联的旱涝同时揭示了两种设计方法，一是将采矿作业中的污废水进行转化，二是从头收集雨水再通过改变 植栽、土壤、地形等方式延长其留存时间。
Mining in the mountains not only leads to water shortages. When mining operations affect the aquifers on the upper stream, the downstream cities and towns will face the dual threats of floods and droughts. The drawing shows the related droughts and floods and also reveals two means of design interventions. One is to convert wastewater from mining operations, and the other is to collect rainwater and extend its retention time by changing plants, soil, and terrain.
WATERSHED PLANNING AND FLOODWAY LANDSCAPE DESIGN OF THE SLATE BELT
This work is very meaningful at my graduate level. It paves the way for my later works aiming to bridge landscape design and multidisciplinary fields such as ecology, hydrology, and environment. I tried to exert all my energy and multidisciplinary education background to realize a multifunctional landscape infrastructure.
In the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania, a place with abundant natural resources was exhausted due to the excavation of slate, which puts an end to the development of the entire area. Some quarries are used as landfills for garbage from other states. Some are as left abandoned as the surrounding towns. In the large-scale research and planning stage, I made recommendations for designing and planning the entire watershed from upstream to downstream based on the life-cycle stormwater control concept. I also decided on one of the quarries, the Bangor Quarry, as the most critical location to manage stormwater in a regional level. The second scale of the design was then logically deducted.
▼区域规划之特拉华河流域水资源短缺研究，Regional Planning – Researching Water Shortage of Delaware River Basin
▼区域规划之流域雨洪控制和寻找设计突破点，Regional Planning – Watershed-level Stormwater Management and Finding Key Design Area
▼场地系统设计，Site Design – System Design
In Bangor quarry, by calculating the different amounts of water during floods and earthwork during the rain period, the original floodway was transformed into a series of amazings and interesting stages, such as a curtain theater, a viewing platform, an exploratory tunnel and a terraced ecological grass slope. These dramas show up in different periods of the rainy season. The entire system not only constitutes a major role of flood control and ecological restoration, but also brings the possibility of the development of leisure and entertainment industries for regional development.
▼场地泄洪道的设计结合工程计算和景观场所打造，Site Design – Transformation of a Floodway Based on Engineering Calculation and Landscape Place-making
Where: Philadelphia, Manhattan, Houston
Name: Jieru He (Hedy)
School: University of Pennsylvania – Landscape Planning and Design Department (3 years)
Office: SWA Group Houston office