Nearly two years ago, the area outside of the city of Tangshan in China’s Hebei province was considered to be a vast, brown urban wasteland that resulted from years of neglect after the 7.8-magnitude Great Tangshan Earthquake in 1976 that killed nearly 250,000 of the city’s residents.

Today, the once-sparse denigrated area that had been used as an urban- and industrial-waste dumping ground has been transformed into a 105-square-kilometer recreational area that touts some of the world’s most contemporary green features. The area integrates on-site waste materials into the landscape design, incorporates traditional forms of Chinese architecture into building plans and uses reclaimed water to fill the parks’ two lakes.

After garnering numerous international and national awards for the project, Tsinghua University’s Urban Planning Design Institute has helped to pave the way in green design and planning through its low-cost and low-carbon design initiatives that are implemented in all of their designs.

In an effort to encourage strengthened ties between the University and Tsinghua University’s Urban Planning Design Institute, Hu Jie,@@ the organization’s director who helped in the design of Beijing’s Olympic Forest, spoke to nearly 70 people crowded inside a University lecture room in Fenton Hall about the benefits of incorporating green design into urban landscape projects.

“I think Professor Hu is to China as Hideo [email protected]@ or Peter [email protected]@ have been to this country,” said Deni Ruggeri,@@ an assistant professor of landscape architecture, in his welcoming remarks. “Through his inspirational and contemporary use of landscape architecture, he’s the kind of visionary and is the kind of landscape professional that we need, so we are very privileged to have him visit our campus.”

Although there is no exchange program in place, Robert Liberty,@@ the executive director of the University’s Sustainable Cities Initiative, said he is hopeful that the University will be able to create potential internship opportunities for University students in the Department of Landscape Architecture.

“What I think is important is that you can see in the example of Tangshan the transformation of something that was really the site of a human and ecological disaster into something that was remarkable,” Liberty said. “There is a lot of care put into ecological function, restoration of nature and green cities, and I think that is what we see as a foundation for cooperation.”

Although most of the research that has been conducted in the United States has not been applied as much as it has been in China, Liberty explained that the level of urbanization in China is occurring at a faster pace and a much larger scale. As a result, Liberty said that a collaborative effort would allow ideas and plans to be used as models and executed on a large scale.

“I think part of the idea for the collaboration is that ideas are executed in China and then evaluated here,” he said. “One of the research areas that is of interest to the Sustainable Cities Initiative generally is the evaluation of programs, whether they’re plans, green buildings or administrative structures — and this is not just doing a critique for the sake of doing a critique or publishing a paper but to turn that evaluation into an improvement.”

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