Recovering China’s Landscapes: A Symposium

Renewing Confucian values of harmony and balance in nature through architecture and design

Changing Chinese Landscape.

'Recovering China's Landscapes' builds on a 2015 UB architecture studio on Xixinan, a rapidly growing rural village outside Beijing. This photo by student Eliana Drier captures an almost sculptural terraced rice field in the village, reflecting China's ancient traditions of living with the land.

October 26 | 3:30 - 7:30 pm | Hayes Hall 403 | UB South Campus

World-renowned practitioners and scholars will discuss their work through the lens of renewed relationships between nature and culture, and examining new models operating at the intersection of urban design, planning and ecological systems.

There has been a recent movement back to the countryside in China, as well as a reconnecting with the agricultural landscape for food and clean air, as intellectuals, artists and the elite are seeking retreat from the ills of the industrialized Chinese cities. What are the ways in which we can engage, through design, sustainable solutions and hybrid interventions into this landscape?


Panel discussion: 3:30 - 5:30 pm
Elisabeth Condon, Artist | Ou Ning, Columbia GSAPP
Millie Chen, UB Department of Art | Kristin Stapleton, UB Department of History | Li Yin, UB Department of Urban and Regional Planning

Keynote lecture: 6 pm - 7:30 pm
"Art of Survival and Its Deep Forms"
Kongjian Yu, Peking University, Turenscape

Learn more about our featured guests

Kongjian Yu, FASLA | Peking University | Turenscape

Kongjian Yu.

Kongjian Yu is Changjiang Chair Professor of the Ministry of Education of China, One Thousand Talents of China, selected by The Ministry of Technology; and is the founder and dean of the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at Peking University. He founded Turenscape, an internationally awarded firm providing architectural, landscape and urban design services. Yu is a globally celebrated leader in ecological planning and design.

Full bio

In his practice, Yu tries to reconstruct ecological infrastructure at various scales and to define a new aesthetics based on ecology, normally against the relentless development trend, and has successfully achieved the integration between ecology and aesthetics that are demonstrated by his numerous high performance and low maintenance landscapes. Big Feet Revolution, Ecological Security Pattern, Negative Planning and Sponge City are some of the key concepts that he invented to build up his theory of ecological planning and design. His projects have received numerous international awards including the 2009 ULI Global Award for Excellence, The 2015 National Energy Globe Award (Energy Globe Foundation) and multiple Awards of Design Excellence and Honor Awards from the American Society of Landscape Architects. He received the National Gold Medal of Fine Arts Award (Cultural Ministry of China) in 2004. 

Yu is a global lecturer and prolific publisher who founded the website Landscape Architecture China and has been the chief editor ofLandscape Architecture Frontier. He received his Doctor of Design at the Harvard GSD in 1995 and is a fellow of American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Elisabeth Condon | Artist

Elisabeth Condon.

Elisabeth Condon is a painter, traveler, and Chinese scroll aficionado, whose work re-interprets Chinese principles of balance for an information-saturated world. Condon received the 2015 New York Pulse Prize for the body of work she created during a six-month residency at the Swatch Art Peace Hotel Shanghai in 2014. 

Full bio

In 2015 Condon received the New York Studio School Alumni Association's Mercedes Matter Award. Other awards and fellowships include a Hanban Confucius Institute Understanding China Fellowship, Pollock Krasner Foundation Grant, Florida Individual Artist Grant and numerous University research grants. Recent artist residencies include the Florida Everglades (AIRIE), Swatch Art Peace Hotel Shanghai, Grand Canyon National Park, Wupatki Natiional Monument, Corporation of Yaddo, Fountainhead and Red Gate, among others.

Condon has exhibited in venues such as the Museum of Fine Art in St. Petersburg, FL, National Art Museum of China, Beijing, Shenghua Art Centre, Nanjing and 1285 Avenue of the Americas Art Gallery, New York. Condon's work is held in public collections including the US Embassy Beijing, Swatch Art Peace Hotel Traces Collection Shanghai, and The Sweeney Print Collection at the Museum of Fine Art in St. Petersburg, FL. 

Ou Ning | Columbia GSAPP

Ou Ning.

Ou Ning is a multi-disciplinary practitioner from China. As an artist and filmmaker, he is known for the urban research and documentary projects such as San Yuan Li (2003), commissioned by the 50th Venice Art Biennale; Meishi Street (2006), commissioned by the Kulturstiftung des Bundes and premiered in MoMA New York. 

Full bio

He initiated the biennial art and design exhibition “Get It Louder” (2005, 2007, 2010) and has served as curator or co-curator of sound installations at Battersea Power Station in London (2006); the Shenzhen & Hong Kong Bi-city Biennale of Urbanism and Architecture (2009) and the Chengdu Biennale (2011).

As a writer and editor, he is known for his seminal books New Sound of Beijing (1997), Odyssey: Architecture and Literature(2009), The Chinese Thinking: Rem Koolhaas and Hans Ulrich Obrist Interviewed China’s Leading Figures (2012), South of Southern: Space, Geography, History and the Biennale (2014) and his literary bimonthly journal Chutzpah! (2011-2013). As an activist, he lived in a small village in Anhui Province and founded the Bishan Commune (2011- 2016) and School of Tillers (2015-2016) to join the new rural reconstruction movement in China. Ou Ning was the member of Asian Art Council at Guggenheim Museum (2011) and has served on prestigious design juries including the Benesse Prize at the Venice Art Biennale and the Yokohama International Media Art Festival.

Millie Chen | UB Department of Art

Millie Chen.

Millie Chen is a visual artist and professor in UB's Department of Art. Her installations, videos, and interventions are intended as sensorial experiences that prod the perceptual and ideological assumptions of the audience. She has exhibited her work across the U.S., Canada, and China, and in Mexico, Brazil, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, and Japan.

Full bio

Among her past awards and grants is a Chalmers Fellowship to produce “Demon Girl Duet,” a dual-screen video based on two river journeys down the Yangtze in China
and the Niagara in Canada/USA, most recently exhibited in the Canada Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo. Chen’s work is in several public collections and she has produced a number of major permanent public art commissions. Her writing has appeared in publications in the U.K., Canada, the U.S. and China.

Chen's methodologies, tools and materials are always contingent on the needs of the moment. But at the core of all her projects is social inquiry. How can art express the human condition? She has been exploring the potency of the invisible within visuality. What are those elements that trouble easy, complacent viewing? And how do those elements impact our relation to place and history? Essential to her practice is the role of sensory modes of perception in the generation of knowledge. She has experimented with materiality and with immaterial, non-visual elements like sound and scent within specific contexts in order to interrupt habits of viewing. Within her visual art practice, the act of looking is interrogated.

Kristin Stapleton | UB Department of History

Kristin Stapleton.

Kristin Stapleton is associate professor of history at the University at Buffalo. Her research focuses on the transformation of Chinese cities and urban culture across the twentieth century, particularly in the interior of China. She is the author of Civilizing Chengdu: Chinese Urban Reform, 1895-1937(2000) and Fact in Fiction: 1920s China and Ba Jin’s Family (2016). Her current projects include a study of how cities were affected by the 1950s project to introduce socialism in China. She serves on the International Advisory Committee of the Urban China Research Network based at University at Albany. Read more

Li Yin | UB Department of Urban and Regional Planning

Li Yin.

Li Yin is associate professor of urban and regional planning at UB. Her research focuses on practical applications of spatial models, joining amenity and location theory with applied GIS and simulation methods to explore the complexity and dynamic processes of urban systems for environmental planning, urban design, and sustainable development.

Full bio

Building upon research across disciplines on innovative methods, Yin studies the impact of amenity on urban growth and the built environment to help understand location choices and the dynamics of growth and decline. To advance this research she has been working in a rapid development area which draws on planning and computing as well as several other related fields to develop strategies for sustainably managing smart urban community growth and change. Yin has played a key role in several funded research projects totaling several million dollars, working with researchers representing various disciplines and types of organizations across Colorado, Utah, and New York.

Related: Global studio designs for China's return to the countryside

A recent UB architecture studio proposed development and design interventions for ecological, social, cultural and economic assets in Xixinan, a rural village outside Beijing. Their clients-collaborators were Xixinan village leaders and the internationally regarded landscape architect Kongjian Yu. Read more

'Recovering China's Landscapes' is co-sponsored by the School of Architecture and Planning, the UB Confucius Institute and UB's Asian Studies program.