Dr. Mengyixin Li

Dr.-Ing. (TUM)

Large Parks as a Concept for Contemporary Urban Landscape Planning
A Cross-­cultural Study on Theories and Practices of Large-­scale Parks in North America, Germany, and China

A new park model called large parks was developed in the field of landscape architecture in North America in the 1990s. The concept was initiated by North American professionals, James Corner, Julia Czerniak, George Hargreaves, and others. The model of large parks, which is influenced by Ian McHarg’s “Design with Nature” (1969) and J. B. Jackson’s conceptual understanding of landscape (1984), oversteps the functional and spatial boundaries of the classic and ideal ‘static’ 19th park model.

The large parks model, which is a design concept of ecological processes in urban landscapes, is an implementation of the landscape urbanism program like its protagonists into practice. The North American organic model of large parks, a large-scale landscape architectural concept for urban landscapes, is parallel with the German model of likewise large - here so called structuralistic parks and the Chinese model of country parks. Comparative analyses of these parks draw conclusions about dynamic contemporary and cultural conditions in terms of urban spatial structure, society, and ecology and potentials in the theoretical and practical developments in international landscape architecture.

Two methodological approaches are employed in the research and practice of contemporary landscape architecture: James Corner’s critical thinking for process-ecological methods and Peter Latz’s here so called critical structuralism for context-syntactical methods. Both approaches are based on the paradigm of critical rationalism (Popper 1957), which has played a significant role in western planning cultures since the late 1960s. The park model of Corner focuses on designs from cultural imagination, whereas Latz emphasizes structures bases on cultural contextualization. Both concepts developed from the social uses and ecological function of large-scale urban parks and are primarily focused on regional cultural identities and ecological balancing effects. These concepts are evident in all projects and theories in terms of complexity, diversity, sustainability, appropriation, and identity. The practical and theoretical conditions of the park models are analyzed for comparison in the current study. Practical considerations pertain to selected design projects, and theoretical considerations focus on the urbanistic concepts of urban landscape in North America, careful renewal or critical reconstruction of European cities, and regional landscape development in Germany.

The analytical results of the two models are adopted in the examination of the landscape architectural park models and urbanistic theoretical frameworks in China. The current Chinese urban landscapes of country parks are investigated in this context in terms of similarities and differences. Thus, international park models can influence various socio-cultural, ecological, and aesthetic developments. Studies on landscape architectural theories and schools of the North American landscape urbanism and German landscape architectural structuralism as well as their two large-scale park models reveal remarkable similarities and differences between the two cultures in terms of their understanding of landscapes (coherent vs. creative), landscape and ecology (representation vs. metaphor), and landscape and life (diversity vs. unpredictability).

These analytical results are conceptualized as cultural interpretations, which are adopted to rethink the third cultural model of the Chinese country parks.