The landscape architect making friends with flooding

Erica Gies, The architect making friends with flooding, MIT Technology Review, December 21, 2021.

Adapted from her book, Water always wins: Thriving in an age of Drought and Deluge, available from Slow Water World.


“For years, Beijing landscape architect Yu Kongjian was ridiculed by his fellow citizens as a backward thinker. Some even called him an American spy—a nod to his doctorate from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and his opposition to dams, those symbols of power and progress in modern China.

Yu’s transgression: he advised working with water, rather than trying to control it.

Yu is at the forefront of a movement that aims to restore the ebb and flow of water to urban environments. His landscape architecture firm Turenscape, which he cofounded in 1998, creates flexible spaces for water to spread out and seep underground, both to prevent flooding and to be stored for later use. His vision is to heal the natural hydrology that we’ve disrupted by tightly confining rivers with levees, putting buildings or parking lots where water wants to linger, or erecting dams that have, to varying degrees, dried up 333 rivers in the Yangtze area. “