The relationship between built and organic landscapes can sometimes be a fraught one. Too often, urbanization is undertaken at the expense of the natural environment rather than in support of it. But it doesn’t have to be this way. When architects respond thoughtfully to a site’s native ecology, development can elevate nature and shape meaningful, enduring spaces that enrich the planet and the lives of its population.
These exceptional winning landscape projects from the 10th Annual A+Awards achieve precisely that. From challenging traditional urban typologies to innovating exciting new approaches to ecological design, discover the remarkable ways that landscape architects broke new ground in 2022.
1. Innovating Water Management
AN VILLA by TROP : terrains + open space , Shaoxing, China
Jury Winner, 10th Annual A+Awards, Private Garden
Shaoxing’s fascinating topography informed this daring residential garden. An ancient town of meandering canals and bridges, the area’s vernacular and waterscape have been translated into a private outdoor scheme. Heritage roofs in the region utilize overlapping tiles and the same design is employed here across a number of striking water features. The curved tiled installations and purposeful landscaping create nooks and corridors, evoking the palpable atmosphere of wandering along the riverbank and labyrinthine streets of the old town.
As well as aesthetic impact, the water features serve a vital utility. Heavy rainfall isn’t unusual in Shaoxing and these clever installations double as water management devices, the grooves of the tiles allowing rain to run off and drain away. The result is a nostalgic, architectural space that offers ingenious protection from flooding.
2. Combining Conservation and Development
Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Research Base Expansion Project by Shanghai TIANHUA Urban Planning & Design, Chengdu, China
Jury Winner, 10th Annual A+Awards, Urban and Masterplan
InIn southwest China, Chengdu is one of the fastest-growing cities in the world, but it’s also situated in the only native habitat of the endangered giant panda. Negotiating the conflict between urban development and wildlife conservation was the central challenge of this landscape project, which involved a sensitive extension to an established giant panda research institution.
The architects’ guiding philosophy was ‘animal-friendly, human-friendly’. The design pays acute attention to the environmental needs of the pandas, from the terrain to light levels. However, the careful addition of tourism infrastructure is expected to open up the center to around eight million visitors a year, creating an invaluable opportunity for education and funding. This scheme is a remarkable masterclass on how development and conservation can be complementary, rather than competing, ends.
3. Reinventing Traditional Typologies
Little Island by Heatherwick Studio, Manhattan, New York
Jury Winner, 10th Annual A+Awards, Public Parks & Green Spaces
Piers are something of an architectural legacy from the 19th century. This pioneering project disrupts established typologies of the pier by shifting the focus from the infrastructural uses to the atmospheric experience. Little Island sits both within and beyond the hubbub of Manhattan. The transition from busy urban streets to the calming waters of the Hudson River is transformative — the organic terrain of the park envelops the user, establishing a spacious haven at arm’s length from the densely populated city.
While piers are traditionally flat, the park features an undulating topography. Its unique design was formed by a series of piles that extend into planters filled with indigenous trees and foliage, merging to create a unified surface above the water. The piles’ staggered heights create playful contours and carve out spaces for outdoor amphitheaters, while the elevated corners of the island allow natural light to reach marine life below the park.
4. Merging Old and New Landscapes
Xiaoyunlu 8, MAHA Residential Park by Ballistic Architecture Machine (BAM), Beijing, China
Popular Choice Winner, 10th Annual A+Awards, Private Garden
Nestled on the northern edge of Beijing’s Chaoyang Park, this site was a mismatch of built and natural landscapes, encompassing traditional Chinese and Roman gatehouses, a replica of the Imperial Garden, a mature manmade forest and residential tower blocks. Architects BAM created cohesion in the diverse environment with the addition of new minimalist landscapes that soften the transition between spaces. Circulatory paths and elegant, streamlined planting create a harmonious, timeless scheme.
However, the private park is still a work in progress. While the architects planted the seeds, so to speak, the gardens were designed for the future — to flourish and mature into a rich, resplendent landscape that shifts and evolves with the passing seasons and years. The final ingredient in this masterful design is time.
5. Allowing Ecology to Lead the Way
International Consulting on the Urban Design of Xichong, Nan’ao, Shenzhen City by RJRX Urban Planning & Design Consultants, Shenzhen, China
Popular Choice Winner, 10th Annual A+Awards, Unbuilt Masterplan
This ambitious masterplan defers to the natural ecology of Xichong to shape its development into an eco-tourism hotspot. The restoration and protection of native ecosystems, both on land and at sea, is prioritized, including the reintroduction of the green sea turtle. The project includes investment in environmental education facilities for all ages, reinforcing the region’s natural and cultural heritage.
Instead of a uniform plan of urbanization, tourist areas will be encouraged to grow organically through the existing traditional villages, allowing the local community to benefit from the influx of visitors. Rather than obtrusive interventions, the development strategy is oriented around hiding new infrastructure within nature and channeling an ecology-first approach to architecture.
6. Memorializing Through Nature
416 Memorial Park by UNITEDLAB Associates and vtrilloarquitectos, Ansan, South Korea
Popular Choice Winner, 10th Annual A+Awards, Unbuilt Landscape
Dedicated to the victims of the 2014 Sewol ferry disaster, this extraordinary cultural park concept sublimates the tragedy and the emotional journeys of families and survivors into the landscape. The terrain itself reads like a poem — undulating ripples of earth atop the memorial center evoke the ocean, as well as the oscillations of grief. Across the grounds, 250 birch trees will be planted in remembrance of those lost, while the living roof symbolizes new life, a hopeful emblem shrouding the building.
An inclining walkway cuts a corridor through the manmade hills to the building’s entrance. This transitory space can be closed off to form an outdoor venue for performances and memorial events. Inside the center, the scale of the interior gradually deepens with every descending level until it reaches the Commemoration and Enshrinement spaces.
7. Responding to Climate Change
Jury Winner, 10th Annual A+Awards, Unbuilt Landscape
This radical concept offers an innovative solution to dealing with the devastating consequences of climate change across global shores. The architects’ vision centers around Marine Multifunctional Landscape Infrastructures (MMLI), which can be tailored to meet the evolving needs of coastlines. These could range from artificial reefs and sandbanks designed to protect shrinking shorelines and restore marine habitats to structures that can harness and store hydropower and even desalinate seawater to repurpose it for drinking or irrigation.
The realization of such infrastructures would be game-changing, though research has flagged two overlooked challenges: social support and spatial integration. In response, the research team at ORG Permanent Modernity has devised a generic toolkit with a wide application, which involves both supporters and opponents from the initial design stages. Plans can be customized to fit specific tidal zones, environments and land formations, as well as allowing degrees of flexibility for the future.
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