As expected, I haven't had time nor energy to write during the first phase of this project. Despite being a great way to clear your mind and sum up the workday, I simply don't find the time to write without it affecting my sleeping or leisure hours. Today, though, apart from being the first day of Easter and April fool's, is our half-time rest, giving my the chance to summarize the first 50 days of my diploma project. In brief, I am working on a hybrid park, a new kind of urban typology, in Beijing. Essentially a synthesis of recreational space (park), productive landscape (agriculture) and habitation (housing), the project rethinks an industrial zone and dried-out river in the west part of Beijing, and its junction with one of the city's main axes: Chang'an avenue. It all started in December last year when I was introduced to the area by my teachers at Tsinghua University, Ron Henderson and Brian Chang. Ron being a landscape architect, we were given in-depth knowledge about the region and its history, the Yongding river and Shougang steelworks. My pilot project in the urban design studio was a strategy based on the observations of the Chinese use of the axis as a way to organize buildings and complexes. By extending the Chang'an axis as a series of buildings instead of just extending the road, a new kind of identity could be given to the area, highlighting its environmentally abused surroundings by contrast.
In January, after returning to Copenhagen, I developed the strategy in my programme, written as a series of small essays on the history of Chinese planning, landscape architecture and public space, as well as analyses of precedents such as Parc de la Villette in Paris. The intention of the programme is to implement a developed strategy comprising two major layers: Fields and Locales. The locales is the string of new public functions along the axis and the fields make out the horizontal layer of recreational and agricultural space. The real challenge is to design the planning and development of these layers over time, essentially a kind of choreographed architecture that assumes its position halfway between top-down and bottom-up design strategies.
I started by documenting surrounding sites which describe some of the the programme of the new park; agriculture plots, the riverbed, hills, gravel pits, villages, industrial sites and housing communities. As I could get aerials from every year between 2002 and 2009, I could see how the sites have evolved over time and what forces are at play in the landscape (in a general sense). These registrations will be essential to the formal and conceptual development of the project. The first attempts to formalize these became very attractive, collapsing the layers into a complex weave of lines and solids. I used a custom-made table to superimpose the layers onto a sheet of paper or eventually photo sensitive paper, which I developed in the lab.
Finally I attempted the same approach in the virtual environment, superimposing the drawings onto my own site and making collage-like drawings that could give the same kind of suggestive complexity as the photo prints. Despite creating very compelling images, it didn't really work in line with my design strategy and I am now back at square one, struggling to find a method to draw and build my project in different stages of its transformation.
Concluding this first half, I am taking small steps only to go back to my original ideas. In general I am slowly understanding how NOT to work, that is, by producing beautiful images from research and using them in a formal way. Instead, I should focus on the genetics and behaviour of my "prototype sites". Which is, needn't be said, quite abstract.
Hopefully I will be able to contribute with some slightly more elaborated thoughts on the process further on.