Landscape of the year 2017
In less than 50 years Chengtoushan has transformed from an unknown mound on an intensively cultivated flood plain in China, to an award winning landscape of international repute.
Honoured as Landscape of the Year 2017 at the recent World Architecture Festival in Berlin, the Chengtoushan Archaeological Park earned praise for it’s “hopeful and creative mixture of archaeological history, rice production and tourism.”
Accidentally discovered in 1979, Chengtoushan holds the earliest city in China, as well as the place where rice was first found cultivated.
The judges were impressed with the “productive engagement between visitors and farmers who are able to maintain their traditional livelihoods.”
One of those judges was New Zealand’s Henry Crothers of LandLAB. He was taken with the story behind the six and a half thousand year old archaeological site.
“It wasn’t just a piece of design but it offered something back as far as landscape, ecology and community,” Crothers said. “There were cultural, social and economic aspects to it.”
Designed by Turenscape the project features a series of rice paddies providing employment and food in the poor rural area. There’s a pedestrian route through the park, including a glass bridge lifting sightseers four metres above the ground.
“We (the judges) were looking for something sustainable, practical and relevant,” Crothers says. “Something with a deeper connection to place.”
He feels that’s something New Zealand’s landscape architects do well.
Last year an Isthmus project - the Kopupaka Reserve in West Auckland - won the World Landscape title.
We “absolutely stack up” Crothers says, in terms of calibre on the world stage.
“In New Zealand we have an inherent understanding of landscape systems, ecology, culture and community.
“A lot of these projects (at the World Architecture Festival) are quite showy, there’s not much behind them.
“I think in New Zealand we can’t get away with saying we did something because we liked it.
“We do tend to embrace culture, and the Resource Management Act makes us justify what we are doing.”
Crothers was in good company on the judging panel this year. Alongside him was Charles Jencks - an American architectural theorist, landscape architect and designer - and Robert Schafer, who founded Topos magazine.