Chinese Landscape Architect Kongjian Yu Wins 2023 Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Landscape Architecture Prize

Chinese Landscape Architect Kongjian Yu, a global champion of the “Sponge Cities” concept for addressing climate change-accelerated urban flooding, has been awarded the 2023 Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Landscape Architecture Prize (“Oberlander Prize”).

Photo courtesy of The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF)

The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) recently announced that Beijing-based landscape architect Kongjian Yu is the recipient of the 2023 Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Landscape Architecture Prize (“Oberlander Prize”).

The biennial prize includes a $100,000 award and two years of public engagement activities which focus on the laureate’s work and landscape architecture more broadly.

Yu is the global champion of the “sponge cities” concept for addressing climate change-accelerated urban flooding, which was adopted as a national policy in China in 2013. The biennial prize is awarded to a recipient who is “exceptionally talented, creative, courageous, and visionary” and has “a significant body of built work that exemplifies the art of landscape architecture.”

Yu was selected from over 300 nominations worldwide by an international seven-person jury, supported by Oberlander Prize Curator John Beardsley.

“He lives and breathes his conviction that landscape architecture is the discipline to lead effective responses to the climate crisis,” said TCLF president & CEO Charles A. Birnbaum, “and his ideas are inspiring planners and decision makers in Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, England, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, and elsewhere.”

Yu’s “sponge cities” concept addresses climate change accelerated urban flooding with large-scale nature-based infrastructure. This includes constructed wetlands, greenways, parks, canopy tree and woodland protection, rain gardens, green roofs, permeable pavements, bioswales and other measures that act as sponges soaking up and storing rainfall as opposed to relying on traditional concrete reinforced riverbanks, dams, pipes, drains, and other conventional engineering solutions.

Over 70 cities in China have implemented the “sponge cities” concept since being adopted as national policy in 2013, with the goal that by 2030, 80 per cent of the cities would be able to absorb 70 per cent of their rainfall.

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