The opening keynote of the first day of the Yenching Global Symposium 2017 was given by Yu Kongjian. He is the Professor and the Dean of the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at Peking Univeristy. He received his Doctorate Degree in Design at The Harvard School of Design and is well-known for his work on sustainability and green landscape architecture.
Yu Kongjian delivered his speech on the topic of “The Art of Survival” that is especially important in the present-day China, because the nation is facing many environmental issues, such as air, soil, and water pollution. Professor Yu highlighted the inefficiency of the Chinese conventional engineering, which is far from being sustainable and only worsens the situation by draining the environment of its resources.
The presentation featured several alternative solutions to the traditional architecture resolutions. Yu Kongjian displayed many impressive sustainable landscape projects he has undertaken in the past years. The main ideas that he mentioned dealt with the learning from the nature and using natural sceneries in the process of producing an aesthetic and self-cleaning settings. For example, he suggested “making friends” with the floods that are usually fought in the cities by building concrete walls for protection. Instead, a better option is to remove the concrete and simply let the water come in to the urban settling. During the flood the rivers might expand, however after the flooding, the soil is naturally fertilised and turns into natural parks for recreation.
Another important point, which Yu Kongjian used to completed his presentation, is to start from one’s own home to make a massive difference. If every single urban family, in more than 40 billion square meters of city landscape, made their homes greener, the whole Chinese environment would benefit. Professor used several examples from his home – he planted a vegetable garden in his otherwise unused space of the balcony and also went on to educate various communities about doing the same.
Yu Kongjian proved everyone that a natural environment with minimal intervention can become the way of the sustainable future, while also being aesthetic. The art is about survival!