Productive Urban Landscapes

Research and practice around the CPUL design concept

Masterplan of Shenyang Architectural University showing the position of the rice fields (source: Turenscape Landscape Architecture 2022)

Rice Field Campus, China

As to a country with 1.3 billion people, both food production and sustainable landscape design are vital to every Chinese landscape designer. The Shenyang Architectural University is situated in the North China Liaoning Province with 80 hectares suburban campus. The 3-hectare project is situated in the campus’ southwest. It was been awarded the Design Honor Award in 2005 by ASLA. Kongjian Yu’s concept for the campus had two major objectives: creation of a high-quality environment for education and incorporation of elements of the traditional agricultural landscape as a symbol and reminder of the historical and contemporary role of agriculture in China. Agriculture is becoming understandable and accessible to everyone in the campus. ”Both, farming and observing the plants’ natural processes offer educational opportunities.”

Students harvesting the rice in front of the university campus. (source: Turenscape 2022)

Students partake in the harvesting of the rice. (source: Turenscape 2022)

This working landscape is an example of Yu’s “big foot” aesthetics – being beautiful by being productive (William Saunders 2012). Productivity creates new aesthetic values. The project shows that the productive urban landscape combines with the environment and creates a cultural identity with the Chinese traditional agricultural civilisation.

Aerial shot of the grid of pathways and rice paddies on the campus. (source: Turenscape 2022)

The landscaped rice fields comprise outdoor classrooms. (source: Turenscape 2022)

The campus was designed into a functional rice paddy with many other native crops which support the campus’ student dining rooms and are given to school visitors as a gift called “Golden Rice”. Both the farming and harvesting process are a good opportunity for participation and experiment.

Students sit in seating areas amongst the rice paddy. (source: Turenscape 2022)

Rice paddies have study spaces incorporated into them to allow integration of students to the agricultural landscape. (source: Turenscape 2022)


+++ researched and written by our colleague Dong Chu +++


For further information see the project’s own website.

Image: Masterplan of Shenyang Architectural University showing the position of the rice fields (source: Turenscape Landscape Architecture 2022)


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* architecture* building-integrated agriculture* food systems* urban agricultureChina

Dong Chu • 1st April 2017

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  1. Renato 26th October 2022 - 07:19 Reply

    Thank you for the recent post to have and share to us as a readers.

    • Katrin Bohn 5th November 2022 - 18:58 Reply

      Dear Renato,
      Thank you. It is our pleasure to bring together projects that show the beauty and ecological potential of food-productive urban landscapes. Please feel free to alert us to any such projects that you come across.
      All best, Katrin

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