BAM is a multidisciplinary team of landscape architects, artists and architects founded by Daniel Gass, Jacob Walker and Allison Dailey. BAM’s work originated from the creation of installations in the public realm. Over its 12-year history, BAM has evolved to become one of China’s leading urban and landscape design firms with offices in Beijing, and Shanghai.
As new technology and rapid urbanization drastically shape the environment, perceptions of where and what nature is, are slow to be reimagined and continue to become more outdated. As our relationship to nature changes, so too does how we value our urban and rural surroundings. BAM believes that just as the constructed landscape is a cultural artifact, the definition of what nature is, lies in CULTURE. Humanity’s varied and culturally conditioned definitions of NATURE are reflected in the urban spaces and infrastructural systems of cities. Now that the majority of humans live in urban conditions, most of the landscapes which humans interact with are constructed, thus to deny the understanding of landscape as a constructed CULTURAL medium devalues its inherent power.
BAM, as a design practice, typically focuses on the design of urban landscapes. In our definition, The Urban Landscape is everything outside of the buildings, and BAM is interested is in all the spaces in between; the edge conditions, boundaries, and periphery. BAM sees urban landscape as the true material of the city and believes that in the future, landscapes rather than buildings should be the true icons of the city and that the culturally considered landscape is paramount in creating places where people can enjoy living.
Continuous change and evolution have been inherent in BAM’s development. Although always focused on the landscape spaces of the urban realm BAM’s strategy of ‘just say yes’ has led to an extremely diverse, Ballistic, body of work, which fits uncomfortably into traditional definitions of Landscape Architecture, Urban Design, Architecture, or Installation. At BAM, we believe that a good idea can come from anywhere. Therefore, we try not to limit ourselves to one type of work or shy away from project types we have little experience in.
As BAM moves forward and continues to evolve in new and unforeseen ways, our unwavering stance that the landscape is the most important design realm of the 21st century forms a core pillar of our belief. The perpetual debate within the professions in and around the medium of landscape regarding the relationship of landscape to aesthetics, culture, and the environment further illuminates BAM’s enigmatic slogan “Nature is an Idea.”
Finite/Infinite – Beijing Garden Expo –
The Finite/Infinite Garden is a collaboration between BAM and Peter Walker & Partners. It is defined by one device that creates two contrasting conditions. A simple circular parterre garden is bisected by a pathway lined with two walls, each covered with mirrors on both sides. Centered in the pathway is a line of Sycamores on a five-meter spacing. For the viewer inside the two walls the pathway and its trees are transformed into an infinite landscape by the ‘barbershop’ effect. The line of Sycamores becomes an orchard that multiplies into infinity. The cobble path becomes a datum that extends endlessly into the deep space of the mirrors. The exterior of the mirror path presents an opposing condition to the expansive infinity of the interior. The parterres, half-circles in plan, are completed as tranquil and uninterrupted circles in the mirror. A viewer rounding the parterres reaches a final gesture: two rows of slender Poplars create a secondary axis perpendicular to the Sycamores. In the mirror walls a puzzling alley forms across the circles of the parterre. The treetops of the opposite parterre mysteriously complete the images of the trunks in the mirror. The Finite/Infinite Garden recalls Peter Walker’s early landscape experimentations, aimed at finding minimalist expression for the landscape. Finite/Infinite is at once more grand, more global, and more cerebral. Walker workshopped with BAM in our Beijing studio using mirrors and model trees to outline fundamentals of the design. BAM carried the design forward through further model studies, detail mock-ups, construction drawings, and construction.
Location: Beijing Garden Expo, Beijing, China / Construction: 2013 / Site Area: 3500 m2 / Client: Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development
The Indigo Playgrounds are set within a public-private park adjacent the Indigo mixed-use complex containing office space, retail, food and beverage, a winter garden, and the East Hotel in Beijing’s northeast Jiuxianqaio sub-district. The two unique playgrounds are entirely separated, designed for the needs of different age groups. The concept for the first playground, aimed at younger children, is to create a playroom within the park space. A canopy of bright orange circles and donut acts as a sunshade and casts playful shadows across the topography of the room. Kids enter the play area by stepping down two large wood benches, which further create a sense of enclosure and security for both the and their supervisors. A pinstripe rubber ‘carpet’ creates a soft and forgiving floor. Children can choose from a multiplicity of play equipment or invent their own games on the crescent-shaped hill and sandpit. More adventurous children are welcomed further into the park to the ‘King of the Hill’ playground. Taking its namesake from the children’s game, a thrilling mountain occupies the center of the space. Arrays of pipes, climbing holds, and climbing ropes offer a range of challenges to reach the coveted peak. A nest-like lookout at the peak is home to one Maple, the true king of this hill. Luxurious white marble slides offer summiteers an express route down the mountain. Aside from the mountain, the playground also includes islands featuring swings, spinners, and an additional climbing structure. To complete the whole space a mist system creates cooling clouds of vapor around the base of the mountain and in the tree canopy.
Location: Beijing, China / Site Area: 1780 m2 / Client: Swire and SinoOcean / Construction: 2015 / Photographer: Jonathan Leijonhufvud
The Guomao intersection constitutes the largest area of public space within the Beijing Central Business District (CBD). As Beijing races to become one of the great cities of the world, this center of the CBD becomes a glaring contradiction to the city’s otherwise futuristic ambitions. When mapped, it is possible to see that Guomao is an incredibly complex, multilevel, interconnected landscape. It is not only an intersection for cars but contains all forms of public transport and is extremely heavily used by people, yet entirely foregoes the humanity of its occupants in its narrow-minded interpretation of infrastructure. Guomao is a landscape and needs to be designed as one. Above all else, the Guomao intersection needs to be designed for humans, not for machines. In response to various existing proposals for Guomao both theoretical and real, BAM perceives a void. Theoretical proposals tend to not deal with the reality of the site condition. On the other hand, the ‘real’ proposals are nothing more than corporate architectural and planning professionals fulfilling requirements as set forth by government bureaus and developers, lacking any imagination for how to fundamentally improve the condition. In either case, Guomao design proposals be they theoretical or ‘real’ are inevitably envisioned as architecture, exclusively by architects. BAM’s proposal for Guomao intends to illustrate the true power of Landscape-Thinking when applied to desperate urban conditions such as the Guomao intersection, and work to debunk architecture-oriented visions of urbanity and infrastructure.
Location: Guomao Intersection, CBD, Beijing, China / Site Area: 13.6 ha / In Collaboration with Systematica Transport Planning and Mobility Engineering Consultants
Daxing New Town Green Hub & Park
Unlike most parks, Daxing Park touches the doorstep of the surrounding buildings. It is not severed from the city, nor isolated by a perimeter road.
It does not sit as an island but extends as a park territory directly from the material of the architecture. The parking garage, subway station, restaurants, homes, and commercial spaces all plug directly into the fabric of the park. In this context, the design of the park does not call for the broadly planted zones or grand spaces of the larger world parks. Rather it calls for a scattering of outdoor rooms, a sequence of intensely programmed and useable park spaces that fill this territory between the architecture. The green interstitial spaces play an important role in providing tree canopies for shade, absorbing water run-off from paths and architecture, storing and treating stormwater for park irrigation, and all of the other benefits ornamental landscapes provide. But it is very clear that these functions are secondary to providing much needed human environments for cultural engagement. The Daxing Park prompts questions of the park typology in an era where private developers are keen to edge out competition by partnering with public interests. Can these zones become truly public parks, or will they become neighborhood territories dominated by the lucky residents surrounding them? The case of Daxing Park points to a wide user base promoting a more public approach. Residents of the houses opening onto the park play chess and Ping-Pong alongside those who have travelled by bike from the surrounding developments. It remains to be seen as the park matures if the subway and park and ride facilities will pull in an even broader public to enjoy the park.
Location: Beijing, China / Site Area: 13.9 ha / Client: Vanke Beijing 北京万科 / Construction: 2016-2019 / Photographer: Nathaniel McMahon, Shu He, Amey Kandalgaonkar
Shenzhen is a place of utter newness, a city born in the 1990s. It is the cradle of tech innovation in China and regards itself and its urbanism as entirely future-focused. BAM’s project site is set within a mountainous region of Shenzhen, resulting in dynamic height differences. The landscape of the project consists of two entirely different types of landscapes, an undulating streetscape that traverses drastic sectional conditions which encircles the flat central landscape from which the residential towers emerge. At the lower level of the site, the streetscape provides access to retail and a small bus terminal tucked below the overhead landscape podium containing recreational gardens for the residences towering above. The podium level landscape is unceremoniously cut in two by the required emergency vehicle circulation. BAM adapts this element into a zigzagging pathway which serves to tie the two sides together by camouflaging the vehicular road through aggressive and insistent patterning. This zigzagging path at once, is the primary factor which divides the site, while also bringing it together, meanwhile acting as the main circulation leading residents to their open-air tower lobbies. The playground at the center of the development is a constructed testament to the experimental nature of not only Shenzhen as a city, but its inhabitants. The mere existence of such an explosive gesture of planting, patterning, color, and materials which has become so quickly absorbed into the culture as common place, typical, or even generic, is a true testament to Shenzhen’s progressive nature and rapid future-oriented development.
Location: Shenzhen, China / Site Area: 18,691 m2 / Client: Shenzhen Legend 深圳里城 / Construction: 2019