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Confronted with the destruction of natural environment and the convergence of local identity caused by urban sprawl and economy-led massive development, Landscape Urbanismhas been widely accepted as a new approach to urban design under the global consensus of sustainable development. In the lecture, Landscape Urbanism, delivered by Geoff Whitten, we went through the theories and practices about how landscape should be fundamental or dominant in forming cities. What mostly inspired me was James Corner’s words quoted to introduce the background of Landscape Urbanism in the beginning of the lecture.

In the opening years of the 21st century, that seemingly old fashioned term landscape had curiously come back into vogue. The appearance of landscape in the larger cultural imagination is due, in part, to the remarkable rise in environmentalism and global tourism and the associated needs of regions to retain a sense of unique identity, and to the impacts upon rural areas of massive urban growth.

It can be seen that Corner (2006) concluded three rationales, the last one of which raised my concern. Since last two decades, rural landscape has been destroyed due to urban sprawl, which reveals that rural development is bound up with urban construction. However, in the discourse of Landscape Urbanism, less attention was paid to rural areas. During my first degree in China, I was involved in a practice of rural construction that started from landscape renewal. In my opinion, to some extent, this case demonstrates that landscape is an essential element of cities as well as rural areas.

The definition and categories of landscape are more inclusive now. As the physical environment that plays an ecological role, landscape is not only the symbol of regional culture, but also the collective place for sense of belonging especially for rural areas. In brief, landscape consists of natural landscape, cultural landscape, habitat landscape (L.Y. Wu, 2014), and complex of environmental, spatial, and social context (G. Whitten, 2018).

Located near the western fringe of Xiamen Island, Yuanqian SHE is a semi-rural historic village since Song Dynasty, showing the typical agricultural landscape of the southeastern Fujian Province. (Fig.1) Since the Reform and Opening Up when China began to develop rapidly, Yuanqian SHE has experienced 1) the destruction of landscape under the influence of urban expansion, and 2) the rebuilding of community under the guidance of the landscape renewal.

1) The destruction of landscape under the influence of urban expansion from 1978 to 2013

During this period, there happened two controversial things causing negative impacts upon the landscape of Yuanqian SHE. At the beginning of 1980s, a stone factory started at the north of Yuanqian, which caused water shortage and pollution to Yuanqian SHE due to the factory’s high demand of water and discharging waste water without purification (Fig.2). Therefore, residents there gradually abandoned their household wells that used to be the main household water supply in Chinese traditional lifestyle. There is a public waterfront space named Da Hejiao, also suffering from the destruction by urban development. It was until 1980s when the stone factory was built that the residents stopped bathing or doing the laundry in Da Heijao because of the decreased and polluted water. In 2012, water stream from the north source of water was cut off by the construction of the Maqing Road’s tunnel. The Da Hejiao became stagnant and dirty so that people didn’t come here any longer (Fig.3). At the end of 2013, moreover, Yuanqian SHE was going to be demolished due, in part, to the poor living condition and rural hollowing (Y.S. Liu, et al., 2010), and then to be constructed into housing estates in the future planning of this district (J. Han, et al., 2018).

2) The rebuilding of community under the guidance of the landscape renewal from 2014 till now

In 2014, owing to the rising concern on rural construction nationwide and the policy “Together to Create a Beautiful Xiamen”, Yuanqian SHE got a chance to transform from the demolition village to the well-known Fujian-Taiwan eco-cultural village. The beginning of the transformation is a series of landscape renewal based on public participation, including repairing the natural landscape like water system, reconstructing the habitat landscape like housing courtyards, reshaping the social landscape like the Da Hejiao (Fig.4), and restoring the cultural landscape like historic buildings and so on. The practice of this series of landscape renewal has not only gradually stimulated the environmental awareness and landscape aesthetics of residents in Yuanqian SHE, but also cultivated the awareness of multiple participation in community development and decision-making, all of which would accomplished the whole process of community building in Yuanqian SHE.


In conclusion, although landscape destroy and renewal is definitely not the only reason contributed to Yuanqian SHE’s dramatic development, but it is predominant. What we can learn from the case is that, on the one hand, landscape play an important role in not only the physical living environment, but also sense of identity and coherence; on the other hand, landscape design or renewal process makes a difference to the community rebuilding or rural sustainable development.



[1] Waldheim, C., 2006. The landscape urbanism reader, New York: Princeton Architectural Press.

[2] Wu, L.Y., 2014. History of Habitat in China, Beijing: China Architecture & Building Press.

[3] Whitten, G.,2018. Landscape Urbanism, Newcastle: Principles and Practice in Urban Design.

[4] Liu. Y.S. et al., 2010. China Rural Hollowing in Rapid Urbanization, Beijing: Journal of Geographical Sciences.

[5] Han, J. et al., 2018. An Exploration of the ‘Ecomuseum Ideal’ for Living Heritage Management under the Context of Rural Revitalization in China: the Case of a Peri-rural Village in Xiamen, Fujian. Advances in Social Science, Education and Humanities Research.

Sources of Images:

[1] Feature Image is photographed by author in Yuanqian SHE.

[2] Fig1 is drawn and photographed by author and the Rural Construction Society of Xiamen University.

[3] Fig2&3 are drawn by author and Wencan HUANG, an Architecture Postgraduate of Xiamen University.

[4] Fig4 is provided by the local institute named Ji Shengyuan Cooperative.

School of Architecture
Planning and Landscape
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