Thought Leaders

As many know who have worked in the Leisure Industry in China, there has been an obvious business and investment down-turn over the last two years. To me, this is an opportunity to take a closer look at the existing paradigm. My conclusion has produced strong feelings that “bigger is not necessarily better”. Rather, “better is actually better”. Over the last three years, some colleagues and I have been determined to re-examine the very approach to the Leisure Destination industry in China. It is a paradigm shift. We have met with some success with this attitude. However, this requires change and the biggest difficulty is convincing investors and potential employers the wisdom for such a change.

I contend my process of concept development, utilizing a restructured and new leisure destination paradigm, site reconnaissance and in-house debate (Using my specialty: quick sketch design development – See my web site), provides a more cost effective and streamlined process that has been honed-down from waste and outlandish construction expenses we often see. It is also more in harmony with modern and contemporary needs of the buying public.

The following first excerpt of four, walks through the logic of such a paradigm shift. Here are my findings. I hope you enjoy the read.


Chinese gardens are ancient in their design using traditional elements, i.e. pagodas, rocks, waterfalls, etc, in their quest to represent Heaven and Earth in one vessel. They are positioned to portray their belief in the feng shui aspects of nature, seeking a balance of the elemental forces in order to attain a state of serenity or peace as understood by Buddhist and Confucius concepts. As a result, many elements are involved revealing the Chinese design philosophy is not “less is more”. Instead, the approach often becomes “more is more”.

Modern Times

Landscape Architecture, (including theme parks and golf resorts) have only been in China for about 25 years and have relied heavily upon these traditional settings for their design inspiration. However, times have changed and currently many designs lack a relationship to the content. Traditional elements, as mentioned earlier, pagodas and the like, have been used in joint efforts with more Western approaches to landscape design. Examples are baroque hedges, sculptural elements and rigid patterns, with expensive modern materials creating a colorful design mix. But this mix is not necessarily effective.

This approach to current landscape design is a symbol of China’s commerce and progressive-oriented culture. The seeming need for such design conditions are caused by a client’s conception that they must have all of these elements represented for the tastes of China’s rapidly growing middle class and upper class who desire to display their newly acquired wealth in a living environment. Hence, we get things like Spanish styled villas in Shenzhen or for that matter, Inner Mongolia.

The cost of rapid development is such that landscape architecture takes on new significance in light of rapid urban growth, unparalleled in human history. And an income level that is rising at such rapid rates creates an entire new middle class.

At the end of the day, residential development is the driving push behind most development in China and also falls within the realm of the philosophy of “more is more” creating the developer’s solution to bait and switch, which has become the rule of the day.

This need to develop and the internationally well known fact that China is one of the worse polluted countries on the planet, the question now becomes; How can a landscape architect in China take on the significant problems inherently found in its rapid modernization? How can it find solutions from its traditional restricted models or by borrowing from foreign models of design to fulfill the needs of international standards yet satisfy local and regional requirements, those requirements being to add value to existing property for residential development?

Answer: It can’t. Not until a new approach is taken which responsibly addresses the multiple issues and applies intelligent solutions in a practical manner. I am here to suggest a typically unused approach to landscape design in the Middle Kingdom and revitalize the industry.  To be continued;

Share it

Join us


No comments yet