Founder & Principal Designer, Turenscape; Professor & Dean, College of Architecture & Landscape Architecture, Peking University, China
Last updated: February 09, 2023
He is also the founder and president of Turenscape, which is an internationally awarded firm with about 500 professionals and is one of the first and largest private landscape architecture and architecture firms in China.
Kongjian Yu has been a professor of urban and regional planning at Peking University since 1997, and the founder and dean of the Graduate School of Landscape Architecture at Peking University. He is a visiting professor of landscape architecture and urban planning and design, Harvard University Graduate School of Design.
Kongjian Yu has been practicing in the fields of landscape and urban planning and design and is a five-time winner of ASLA Honor Awards (The American Society of Landscape Architects) in the past five years for his ecologically and culturally sensitive projects.
He obtained his doctorate in design from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (1995) with a dissertation on Security Patters in Landscape Planning. He joined the SWA Group (1995–97) at its California office in Laguna as a landscape planner and designer before returning to China in 1997.
Kongjian Yu’s academic career has focused on addressing deteriorating urban ecologies and the environment. His research on Ecological Security Patterns (1995), and Negative Planning and Sponge Cities (2003) were adopted by the Chinese government as a guiding theory for nation-wide ecological protection and restoration campaigns and supports the transition from economic development-centered urbanism towards ecologically prudent urbanism.
He defines landscape architecture as the art of survival. His guiding design principles are the appreciation of the ordinary and a deep embrace of nature, even in its potentially destructive aspects such as urban flooding. He drew on inspiration from his childhood farming experience and the ancient wisdom of water and waste management to design and test a series of nature-based solutions, including strengthened constructed wetland for water filtration, “green sponge” for storm water management and ecosystems services-oriented design for brownfield remediation. He has then upgraded and standardized these solutions to become replicable ecological engineering modules that can be implemented at large scale in a cost-effective manner to solve multiple urban ecological problems in a symbiotic and holistic way.
Kongjian Yu has published over 200 papers and 16 books. His current book is The Art of Survival: Recovering Landscape Architecture (Images 2007). He is the chef editor of Landscape Architecture, China. His major research interests include the theory and method of landscape architecture and urban planning for sustainable cities, cultural heritage, and landscape ecological planning.
He was a member of the master jury of the Aga Khan Architecture Award in 2010 and its steering committee in 2015-16. He was the winner of the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe Award (2020) that celebrates a living landscape architect whose “achievements and contributions have had a unique and lasting impact on the welfare of society and the environment and on the promotion of the profession of landscape architecture.” In addition, he received the John Cobb Common Good Award (2021) for his contribution to the development of the philosophy and practices of eco-civilization.
He was Main Author of the Holcim Awards Acknowledgement prize winning Green-Blue Network in China, a project for the transformation of an existing infrastructure into a sustainable green-blue network for the city of Shenzhen. The project was praised by the Holcim Awards jury for its “symbiotic approach that deploys vegetation at the center of the proposal.”
Kongjian Yu will be a member of the Holcim Awards 2023 jury for Asia Pacific.
Ecogradia Podcast – Landscape as “Art of Survival”
Kongjian Yu from Turenscape asserts that we all want to live closer to nature in this podcast hosted by Nirmal Kishnani.
But can urban landscapes be designed to mimic natural systems and processes? And if replicated, what would a nature-based design approach mean to future cities?