Topology and Imagination: Between Chinese Landscapes and Architecture

This course deals with landscape architecture and architecture in contemporary China. Its purpose is twofold: to articulate new perspectives on the challenges facing designers, and to demonstrate the pertinence of issues to a broader range of international discussions.

There are three major aspects involved:

– An expanded vocabulary for understanding design challenges in both urban and rural settings. We shall discuss a range of terms, taken from local Chinese discussions and from Western contexts, that can enable a more precise grasp of issues. In particular, the understanding of Chinese gardens in terms of topology (from the work of Zhu Guangya) shows a way for going beyond the idea of static “composition.”

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– Cultural dimensions relevant for the understanding of architectural and landscape experience. This part of our study will involve both reading texts (in English translation) and analyzing extant gardens. The main topics will include: long-term and short-term memory, the pitfalls of thinking in dualistic dichotomies, the opportunities presented by different kinds of clientele, and the limitations of various kinds of regionalism.

Course format:

Includes attendance at lectures, seminar presentations, responses to readings, and a final research paper.

Prerequisites: None. Course materials and discussions do not presume previous knowledge of Chinese topics.