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The Times Garden

Narrating Topography

Designing with nature is to observe the tension between design freedom and the laws of nature itself. This means that design creativity is not solely spontaneous and intuitive. It must pertain to both principles and procedures. T.R.O.P’s design direction for the Times Garden began with its own precepts. Its goal was set on the negotiation between rules of composition and laws of nature. Creative work in this sense becomes a matter of expressive communications that are both syntactical and semantical.

The design of the Times Garden reveals T.R.O.P’s sensitivity to the natural world. It shows how architecture and landscape are enmeshed in a network of relationship that sustains civility. It addresses more specifically topographical issues of siting buildings as well as arranging internal and external settings. Each and every exterior spaces are created as coordinating sequential network, visually interconnected with surrounding interiors. The flow of space from one onto the next is never forced for while it creates a sense of continuity, it also stirs a sense of surprise.

Bounded in familiar syntactic forms of courtyards, each space creates its own phenomenon, yet intertwined into a unified ensemble of tell-the-tale stories. Located in Hangzhou, the sense of place is localized not by borrowing directly from the natural landscape of its region, but through careful reinterpretation of collective memories. The Qiantang River, the West Lake, the Xixi wetland provide points of references that are at once near and remote. Vaguely familiar, never overbearing, experiences in each and every space are not rigidly directed, but loosely orchestrated, always leaving doors for every visitor to make the place his own.

In this sense, unified experiences in the Times Garden eliminates separation between the room and the garden, allowing one space to pass over into the other and a new openness to emerge. In order for space to flow, walls and enclosures need to be transformed into natural demarcations. And that is exactly what the design of the Times Garden aims to achieve. This allows interpenetration of outside onto the inside that indicate a strong desire to integrate building and landscape. Spatial passage is always complemented by what might be called experiential passage, signifying the movement of our physical bodies as well as visual perceptions. It is always a border crossing between inside and outside as well as between body and mind.

Through careful coordination between architecture, landscape and the natural world, the Times Garden is a reminder that the differences between artifice and nature does not have to be eliminated. Traces of this differences make both the building and the landscape a legible narrative of their operations and of the life they sustain. This suggests a kind of assimilation between a project and its place. Creating communicative topography does not mean that differences between a landscape project and nature needs to be overcome in a perfect blending of one with the other. Instead, what the project achieved is the design narrative that indicates the way both landscape architecture and nature carry their separate means to reveal their secrets. This leads to a new meaning of design freedom that the Times Garden creates. It is a renewal of a close relationship between artificial topography and nature. When the natural world both informs and shapes foundation for design decisions, artificial topography thus becomes intertwined within the laws of nature it both follows and recreates.

Project category: Public Project
Role of the entrant in the project: Leading Landscape Architect – T.R.O.P: terrains + open space
Other designers involved in the design of landscape:
Design Director: Pok Kobkongsanti
Project Design team: Peerasit Saengwanloy, Thongchai Sinsansiri, Yunya Tang, Yichiao Lin, Kittinan Sookpan, Xu Ke
Project location: Intersection of Qianjiang Road. And Yongjiang Road, Shangcheng District, Hangzhou
Design year: 2018
Year Built: 2019

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