On November 16, 2011, Jie Hu returned to his alma mater at the University of Illinois to present Shanshui City – An Ecological City with Chinese Characteristics. After receiving a Bachelors degree in Architecture and first Masters Degree in Landscape Architecture in his native China, Hu attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and received his MLA in 1995. Following graduation, Hu worked for the Office of Campus Facilities at the University of Illinois designing and constructing various landscapes around the schools campus, including the creation of the master plan and design of the University Arboretum. Hu then went on to Sasaki Associates, working on large-scale urban planning projects for eight years, before returning to China to begin his teaching career.
Today, Hu is an associate professor at Tsinghua University, and also serves as Director and Chief Designer of the Department of Landscape Architecture at the Beijing Tsinghua Urban Planning & Design Institute. In 2003, when he began at the Design Institute, Hu was tasked with creating the Landscape Architecture Department. Within only a few years, that department has grown into a successful 30-person branch. Hu has led his team in the design of projects that have received numerous national and international awards, several of which were featured in his evening lecture, part of the 2011 Stanley White Lecture Series.
The evening’s lecture began with a warm introduction from Robert Riley, Hu’s former professor at the University of Illinois, who spoke highly of Hu’s skill and voiced pride in welcoming back such an accomplished alumnus. Riley also pointed out that Jie Hu was a pioneer—the first citizen of the Peoples Republic of China to have completed his Landscape Architecture degree at UIUC. This is a marvelous point because, today, so many of our graduate students in landscape architecture hail from China.
Hu’s lecture focused on three of his most famous projects: Beijing Olympic Forest Park, Tieling Fanhe New City, and Tangshan Nanhu Eco-city Central Park. Each of these projects were designed to incorporate Chinese characteristics integrated with ecological restoration, resulting in highly functional landscapes. A short video featured the revitalization of Tangshun-Nanhu Eco-city Central Park, a former urban and industrial waste brownfield transformed into one of the largest urban parks in China. Hu’s presentation emphasized the “Shan-Shui City” concept whereby projects combining nature, humanity, and the city, may enable people to live in a garden environment within the city. Each of the three projects illustrated strong links to traditional Chinese culture in the use of symbolic structures—for instance, a stream in the shape of a dragon, and classical Chinese architecture. The lecture clearly demonstrated Hu’s belief that “it is always important to bring the idea of respect to nature,” a perspective that will undoubtedly lead to even more important, and successful, future work.