I had the opportunity to see Yu in his natural environment that evening. He escorted me and Geng into the arena through metal doors that had been carved across the courtyard, and the floor was covered with thick glass. Inside we were ushered into a basement of a large table located at the bottom of the open area. Sitting in fancy chairs, carving and drinking cucumber juice, I looked up at the moon above it. The finance ministers were also going to visit the club that evening, so Yu walked around between our tables. Before we left, he gave me a reminder: a heavy tome called Natural Design: Kongjian Yu Landscape Architecture. After the meal, his driver loaded us into an Mercedes minivan and drove us to my hotel, where Yu made his way home, according to his daily routine.
A week later I visited one of the Turenscape projects in progress: Yongxing River Park, located in Daxing, a remote area of Beijing. Satellite imagery of the last three years showed a straight river and closed by concrete slopes. The “Now” photos were vivid with the houses surrounding a generous, water-curved path.
The project was nearing completion. The park follows the river, about two and a half miles[2.5 km]long and about two blocks wide. Workers cut concrete along the river and dug into it to make way for the river to expand. That soil was made into a large cross-sectional berm, forming a two-way street. The river flows in one direction; another method has large holes of varying depths that act as filters. In the summer, the filter section is filled with a little bit of smoke from the toilet bowl. The meadows in the ponds are highly polluted, and the slow movement allows water to filter underground. During the rainy season, the canal is stored for flooding, and wastewater is dumped into factories.
Geng and I walked down a narrow concrete path over the middle berm. Many of Turenscape’s designs feature lanes, such as high-altitude wetlands, so people can take their place throughout the year and appreciate climate change. Along the banks of the great rivers, freshly loosened in concrete, are dotted with dozens of tiny droplets planted in close proximity to cover the earth, as a form formed by space. . We passed by small willows, which are on the banks of rivers that can survive the floodwaters. Elsewhere, reeds, dwarf lilyturf, and other native plants settle in the soil. Turenscape often uses natural vegetation because it enjoys the water, climate, and nutrients available.
In the summer of 2020, during the dry season, Yu sent me photos of Yongxing River Park. The trees and grass had grown so much since I went there. The canal was flooded with water but there was nowhere to go. Turenscape still has no idea how much of Yongxing’s flooding, flooding, or water purification operations, but Yu called that year’s storm management “a good thing.”