Applying Systems Philosophy: General Models Integrating Architecture with Landscape Design to Create a Sustainable Built Environment in Light of “Feng-shui”

By Ping Xu.

Published by The International Journal of Sustainability in Economic, Social and Cultural Context

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

The sustainability movement has become a global phenomenon, impacting every professional field. It is more urgent than ever to integrate various fields in the built environment. This paper explores general models to integrate architecture with landscape design by applying the theory of “Systems Philosophy” (By Ludwig Von Bertalanffy and Ervin Laszlo). According to “Systems Philosophy,” elaborating on principles and models applying to “systems” provides an interdisciplinary approach to integration between systems. Thus, discovering general models is the key issue for developing an integrative approach. Departing from the conventional methods, Systems Philosophy can be traced from the roots of ancient thoughts (Laszlo). Ancient models, such as feng-shui, a Chinese practice used to harmonize people with their environment, can provide clues to explore general models for contemporary environmental design. In the theory and practice of feng-shui, there is no separation between architecture and landscape design; rather feng-shui practice deals with the built and natural environment as a whole, where cultural values are also significant. Combining the ancient concept of the “whole” and elaborating research on the issues of the contemporary environment, a new way of thinking and methodology will orchestrate solutions. Architecture and landscape design share common principles, particularly in the design process. Applying “Systems Philosophy,” inspired by feng-shui models, and synthesizing the methods applied in both architecture and landscape design studios, the author developed two general models of the design process to integrate the design fields. The two general models have been tested in design studio education for over a decade, providing a valid integrative process with the framework for practice in design studios and guiding students with systematic thinking. Furthermore, this paper proposes a new synthesis major, “Architectural and Landscape Design”, that would be beneficial for creating a sustainable built environment. The endeavor integrating architecture with landscape design indicates a new direction of design fields, more synthesized, which the global flow of sustainability requires.

Keywords: Systems Philosophy, General Model, Integration, Synthesis, Correspondences, Feng-shui Models, Nesting Spaces, Cultural Value, Sustainability, Architecture and Landscape Design, Synthetic Major

The International Journal of Social Sustainability in Economic, Social and Cultural Context, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp.159-174. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 3.157MB).

Prof. Ping Xu

Professor of Architecture, College of Architecture and Planning, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA

Dr. Ping Xu is a professor of architecture at the University of Colorado at Denver/Boulder. She practiced as an architect in China for eight years. She is also a feng-shui consultant practicing in the United States and China. Xu holds a Doctor of Design degree from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, a Master of Landscape Architecture degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and Master and Bachelor degrees in Architecture from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. Xu’s research interests focus on integrative and comparative studies of feng-shui, cultural models in the built environments, integration of architecture and landscape, and prehistoric landscape setting patterns in the U.S. Southwest.