Educational Feature: Department of Landscape Architecture, School of Architecture, Tsinghua University


Assistant Prof. Yong Guo

The landscape architecture education in Tsinghua School of Architecture started in 1951 with the "garden group", which was jointly organized by the Tsinghua Department of Architecture, Beijing Agriculture University, and the Construction Bureau of Beijing Municipal Government. The Department of Landscape Architecture was founded in 2003, with Prof. Laurie Olin (Academician of the U.S. Academy of Sciences, former head of the Department of Landscape Architecture at Harvard Univ., professor of U Penn) as the first Chair, and Yang Rui as executive Vice-Chair. Prof. Yang Rui has been the head of the department since 2008.


The mission statement, “Thorough knowledge of East and West and of past and present,” has guided the department to “being dedicated to foster Chinese professional landscape architects and tomorrow’s leaders in landscape planning, design, management, and research.


1. Pedagogical Philosophy


“Thorough knowledge of East and West and of past and present”

This philosophy is not only a continuation of the spiritual tradition of Tsinghua but also the settled wisdom of earlier Tsinghua scholars on the problem of how to inherit from history and learn from western culture. “Thorough knowledge of East and West and of past and present” emphasizes studying and combining philosophies to obtain holistic knowledge. If the LA education at Tsinghua is compared to a tree, then the social, economic, and cultural conditions in China are the soil in which the tree grows; the classical gardens and the mountain and water aesthetics of China are the roots of the tree, and modern theories and technologies of Landscape Architecture are the air and water required by the tree for growth. None of the above can be dispensed with. East and West, Past and Present, are only the means to the end, and only a thorough knowledge of all will provide reliable solutions to concrete problems at the proper time and place in the landscape architecture field – whether the problems appear in China or elsewhere. 


From the history of the LA education at Tsinghua, “Thorough Knowledge of East and West” marks the basic feature of the evolution of Tsinghua LA for half a century. “Thorough Knowledge of Past and Present” gives more reflection in theoretical research and practice. In recent years, Tsinghua has conducted research on the new dimensions of natural and cultural heritage protection, ecological planning and design, tourism and recreation planning and design, and urban landscape and large urban park planning and design.


2. Curriculum Features


The curriculum system of Tsinghua LA is composed of “4 levels—4 segments,” developed with expansions on the “Landscape Architecture MLA Program” proposed by first Chair Professor Laurie D. Olin.


“Four levels” refers to level 1 (Entrance Level) for undergraduates of Architecture, Level 2 (Comprehensive Training) for engineering masters (landscape planning and design program), Tsinghua-Chiba Design Studio, and full-time MLA, Level 3 (Career Advancement) for MLA, and Level 4 (Comprehensive Research) for engineering doctors.


“Four segments” refers to the “Landscape Planning and Design Studio,” “History and Theory of Landscape Architecture,” “Technologies of Landscape Architecture,” and “Applied Natural Science” segments, among which the first is a segment focusing on hands-on ability and the other three focus on knowledge.


Of the “4 segments,” “Landscape Planning and Design Studio” is the core segment, with all the other three centered upon the studio teaching. The studio corresponds to the multiple scales and covers the four dimensions of site design, urban landscape design, regional landscape design, and integrated planning design in its curriculum. The first three dimensions are courses of growing scale with the last one integrating multiple scales. It is intended to.


offer students comprehensive training on the “design amidst planning and planning amidst design” ability. Meanwhile, this curriculum system also incorporates natural and social science, “Landscape Ecology,” “Landscape Hydrology,” “Landscape GeoScience,” and other natural science courses are the first steps; “Landscape Sociology,” “Landscape Economics,” and other social science courses will be added gradually to the list.

image 276
Left to right: Flow chart of the 4-level LA education of Tsinghua University | Four segments of the LA education of Tsinghua University

The Tsinghua LA curriculum system represents the characteristics of integration between “East and West,” “Past and Present,” “Knowledge and Action,” and multiple disciplines. At Tsinghua, integration is the key feature and goal of the LA discipline.


The key focus of “Integration of Multiple Disciplines” was put forward by Professor Wu Liangyiong, with the emphasis on integration rather than cross-discipline in a general sense. The “Integration of Multiple Disciplines” is advocated for because it is the modern trend of development. “While science is constantly breaking down, there is an emerging tendency of science integration.” This tendency has become a common practice of scientists today.


The “Equal Emphasis on Knowledge and Action” was borrowed from Ming thinker Wang Tingxiang. The “Equal Emphasis on Knowledge and Action” (or the “Equal Emphasis on Theory and Practice”) is advocated because, it goes without saying, knowledge is important, both as a theoretical foundation of past “practices” and as theoretical guidance for future practices. The features of the discipline of LA at Tsinghua show the importance of knowledge. LA, in the end, is a practical science on the same footing as planning and design of space and form (of site and environment). The importance of the discipline of LA is determined by what contribution its planning and design practices make to social and economic development and environment protection. In this regard, the action is indispensable when guided by theory and sound practice.


3. Planning and Design Studio


Planning and Design Studio is the core course in the curriculum. Design Studio of the first-semester focuses on the study and practice of project design and related theories and methods. Planning Studio of the second semester mainly involved in the planning and design of the large-scale landscape, learning the planning procedures and methods of each stage, including survey, analysis, resource evaluation, planning, environmental impact assessment, decision-making, and implementation.

image 278
Teamwork in the joint workshop in Barcelona
image 279
A student presentation in the Studio

One of the features of the Planning and Design Studio at Tsinghua University is the international collaborative way of teaching. In each Studio project, there are at least 2 international joint workshops. Students visit each other’s counties and worked intensively on the investigation, design teamwork, and presentations. It has cooperated with the University of Hong Kong (HKU), the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin), Polytechnical University of Catalunya (UPC), Architectural Association School of Architecture (AA), Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), Technische Universität Berlin (TUB), Chiba University, National University of Singapore, Southwest Jiaotong University (SWJTU), China University of Geosciences Wuhan (CGUW) and so forth.


The selected themes of the Studio are focal and practical issues that respond to the need for urban and rural development, as well as the frontier of the profession of Landscape Architecture in both international and domestic perspectives. The themes include regional landscape planning, natural and cultural heritage preservation, green infrastructure, ecological restoration, cultural identity, and landscape. Through the course selection, we explore how landscape architecture can face the focal topic of the times that has a wide and far-reaching impact on all levels of ecology, society, and culture.


In recent years, the themes of the Planning and Design Studio have been related to international events, hot topics, and important demands. For example, in 2017, planning and teaching on sports, rural and regional ecological restoration were carried out for the 2022 Chongli Winter Olympic Games. In 2018, the joint workshop dealt with the "Greater Southern Waterfront" and "Gateway to Southern Asia" redevelopment projects in Singapore, together with Chiba University and the National University of Singapore. In 2019, the Studio worked on design proposals for the identity and prosper of communities along Shanhaiguan Pass of the Great Wall. In 2020, the Studio was in a virtual way due to the Covid-19. It took the Tsinghua campus as the subject to explore the possible contribution of the landscape to fight the pandemic.


Under the pedagogical philosophy “Thorough knowledge of East and West and of past and present”, Planning and Design Studio of Tsinghua LA acts as the core of the curriculum. It is the primary practice of interactive education starting with the interaction between the Past and Present, East and West, Theory and Practice, among multiple disciplines, and more extensively between learning and teaching, planning and design, and partnership of schools.


image 280


image 281

image 282
Selected Work: From Sewage Canal to Green Corridor: River Bank Landscape Renovation for Xiaojiahe Section of Qinghe River(student: Que Zhenqing, Supervisor: Yang Rui),2007

image 283

image 284
Selected Work: Regional Landscape Design of Summer Palace Southwestern Exterior(student: Lv Hui instructor: Eva Castro) , 2011

image 285

image 286
Selected Work: A Study of Landscape Design of Gyana Marnyi Stone Mound, Yushu (student: Xu Yuan, Supervisor: Zhu Yufan),2012
image 288
Selected Work: Landscape Design for the communities by the Shanhaiguan Pass of the Great Wall  (student: Wang Luyuan, instructors: Zhu Yufan, Wu Dongfan, Xu Yuan),2019
image 289
Selected Work: Landscape Design for the communities by the Shanhaiguan Pass of the Great Wall  (student: Zeng , instructors: Zhu Yufan, Wu Dongfan, Xu Yuan),2019