The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) has named Beijing-based landscape architect Kongjian Yu (DDes ’95) the winner of the 2023 Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Landscape Architecture Prize, a biennial honor that includes a $100,000 award and two years of public engagement activities focused on the laureate’s work and landscape architecture more broadly.
Yu recently delivered the Sylvester Baxter Lecture at the Graduate School of Design (GSD), “Adaption: Political, Cultural, and Ecological Design—My Journey to Heal the Planet.” His guiding design principles are the appreciation of the ordinary and a deep embrace of nature—even of its potentially destructive aspects, such as flooding. Yu’s thinking about “ecological security patterns” helped shape environmental protection efforts throughout China. And his promotion of the “sponge city” concept, which uses landscape to capture, filter, and store rainfall for future use and reduce flood risks, helped to spur the Chinese government to launch an ambitious sponge city campaign across the country and has gained global attention.
Named in honor of the late landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander (BLA ’47), the Prize awarded by the TCLF is bestowed on 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.”
The international, seven-person Oberlander Prize Jury selected Yu from among more than 300 nominations from across the world. In naming the 2023 winner, the Oberlander Prize Jury Citation noted of Yu, he is a “brilliant and prolific designer … [who] is also a force for progressive change in landscape architecture around the world.”
“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.
Gary Hilderbrand, Peter Louis Hornbeck Professor in Practice of Landscape Architecture and Chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture at the GSD, adds that Yu is the “all-time greatest spokesperson for landscape architecture in China—a nation that needs environmental rescue on a colossal scale.”
Yu is Professor and founding dean of Peking University College of Architecture and Landscape, and founder and design principal of Turenscape. His projects have won numerous international design awards, including 14 ASLA Excellence and Honor Awards and seven WAF Best Landscape Architecture of the Year Award. Yu is also the author of over 20 books and more than 300 papers and is the founder and chief editor of the internationally awarded magazine Landscape Architecture Frontiers. Yu was elected International Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2016 and received the IFLA’s highest honor, the Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe Award, in 2020, which celebrates a living landscape architect whose “achievements and contributions have had a unique and lasting impact on the welfare of society.”
The Cultural Landscape Foundation, founded in 1998, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit founded in 1998 to connect people to places. TCLF educates and engages the public to make our shared landscape heritage more visible, identify its value, and empower its stewards. Through its website, publishing, lectures, and other events, TCLF broadens support and understanding for cultural landscapes.