Elegy to Soil
By Kongjian Yu
Whenever there is a mention of soil, two vivid scenes always appear in my mind: one from my earliest memories, the other from a distant history.
In the first scene, a group of men and women in mourning apparels were crying and walking around a coffin in a deep pit; each of them grabbed and sprinkled soil on top of the coffin, in which lain one of my elders. I was among the crowd too, walking round and round in the pit. I was very scared, scared of death, scared of the ultimate end of myself being buried in this darkness of underground. The fear accompanied me through my growth. This fear of soil has slowly gone until my forties because I realized it is the most equitable and inescapable fate of human beings — to lay in soil and rest.
The second scene dates back to more than 2,600 years ago: Chong’er, the second prince of Kingdom Jin, crawling in the loess gullies with his partisans, a tribe of bravos. Dying of hunger, thirst, and exhaustion, they begged the local farmers for food. One of the farmers offered them a bowl of soil, implying that one gets no food without working hard. Chong’er was furious. But a wise partisan told him that that was the most precious gift and Chong’er should perform the prostration ceremony for the local, because soil symbolized Kingdom and land. Before long, as expected, Chong’er returned to Kingdom Jin and became the king to rule everything. Life and prosperity were brought back to the Kingdom.
It is recognized both in Eastern and Western ideologies that soil is not only the matrix of all human activities, but also their end result. God forms man out of dust, and ultimately returns man back to earth. For thousands of years this circle continues. Moreover, soil becomes a valuable part of my personal life experiences and memories. When I was young, my mother used to apply loess on my wound to keep away infections and make me healed; I used to make tanks and various animals with mud, and once they dried up in the sun, they became my favorite toys. I also used to put my feet deep in a pond, and feel the wiggle of loaches. When I left my homeland, I even took a pack of loess from home to accompany my travels overseas.
In Chinese, “土” (earth) may be one of characters with the most indescribable, complicated, and richest meanings — it is not only the territory for state and homeland (领土), the land as a means of production (土地), but also the medium in which we grow crops — soil (土壤). Precisely because of it, soil arouses all kinds of complex human feelings: devotion, anger, fear, appreciation, shame, jealousy.... Both the greatest and most despicable acts of human beings may be generated from soil. Therefore, “Mother” is the word that a man calls the ground beneath his feet; or “God,” the word beyond the connotation of “Mother” — indeed so, land is God!
Interestingly, a man can express his understanding and feelings for soil by a handful of dirt in his hands. It is soil, a ubiquitous, common thing. The scientific definition of soil is the minerals generated from weathering stone, it is a mixture of minerals and organic matter. Studies inform us that in ideal hydrothermal conditions, the formation of each cubic centimeter of soil takes 300 years. Soil, as valuable as oxygen and water to human beings, is yet the least appreciated and well-treated existent!
It gets stripped off from mountain slopes, only because it contains coal, metals, or other substances that can bring huge profits to people; it gets covered by concrete, only because soil looks too ordinary and plain; it becomes so contaminated and poisoned that no life can exist in it any more....
The first time my feelings for soil got hurt was over 20 years ago when I lived in the United States. In front of my rented house, there was a piece of land where I intended to reclaim and plant some vegetables. Unexpectedly, I was immediately alarmed by the neighbor that the soil might be lead-polluted and it would be too risky to plant vegetables or crops, or let kids touch the soil! In the reputed “most developed” country, how could the soil be dangerous? Since then, I have constantly heard reports of lead-poisoned children all over the United States.
20 years later, when I look at my own homeland, the soil no longer looks the same as it did in my childhood: over the past decades, I had visited abandoned factory campuses in cities, where polluted water flows with the soil in unusual colors. By accident, I went to an industrial waste dump in suburb, where exuded putrid smell and none of the trees alive. I also used to step in farmlands far away from the city, where the crops were withered and inanimate crops. Local farmers told me that the use of chemical fertilizer year after year has rendered the soil harden and unarable. When I sought for the pure land in the secluded river valley and mountain forest, all I found was the riverside fertile soil replaced by hydropower station, and mountain slopes covered by grey concrete. The dreamt, sacred land has now become nothing but devastation!
At this moment, I am wondering what would Chong’er have in his mind if he had that bowl of soil in hands again? What would happen to me if I tried to heal my wounds by loess again? The elder of mine, resting underground, would he still feel peaceful and safe?
Translated by Angus ZHANG Catherine De ALMEIDA
“泥土：DIRT YUTA SUELO UDONGO TÈ”展览（奥纳基德•沙巴克）
【英文刊名】Landscape Architecture Frontiers • Designed Soil
【作者】罗伯特•凡•德•格拉夫（Robert van de GRAAFF），沃伦•沃博伊斯（Warren WORBOYS），郑晓笛（Xiaodi ZHENG）等
Modifying the Soil to Make it Suit the Plants
作者：罗伯特•凡•德•格拉夫，沃伦•沃博伊斯 Robert van de GRAAFF，Warren WORBOYS
In establishing a garden, a municipal ornamental planting, a city park or remediating highly disturbed soils for use in agriculture or horticulture it may be necessary to change the quality of the soil material at the chosen location to make it suitable for the chosen purpose. Soil science today has achieved a high degree of understanding the physics, chemistry and microbiology of soils to be able to help.
This paper discusses how by using a mixture of special composts and lignite (brown coal) it was possible to improve highly acidic, infertile and low water holding natural sandy soil to enable many different Australian native plants to be grown successfully in the Royal Botanic Garden at Cranbourne, near Melbourne. Lignite is not a commonly used soil improver and the use of it required special testing and experimentation.
Soil Limitations; Composts; Organic Matter; Lignite
Interpretation on Duisburg-Nord Landscape Park Through the Lens of “Brown Earth-Work”
作者：郑晓笛 Xiaodi ZHENG
“Brown Earth-Work” is identified as the core element of brownfield sites, emphasizing the physical and spatial dimensions of contamination. The establishment of landscape systems during the brownfield regeneration process is closely linked with Brown Earth-Work. Duisburg-Nord Landscape Park located in the Ruhr Area in Germany is regarded as a milestone project among brownfield regeneration practice worldwide. Through the lens of Brown Earth-Work, this paper demonstrates how a landscape approach can be adopted while facing multiple challenges and problems during the regeneration process of this project. The relationship between the remediation process and the central design strategies of Brown Earth-Work is examined as well.
Landscape Architecture; Brownfield Regeneration; Brown Earth-Work; Duisburg-Nord Landscape Park; Peter Latz
From “Cadmium-Polluted Rice Hazard” to “Ten Clauses of Soil”
作者：陈能场 Nengchang CHEN
This interview starts with a discussion on the current issues of soil environment in China, including the general soil contamination condition at a nation scale, the profile of healthy soil, and the common misunderstandings and knowledge gaps neglected by landscape designers in urban construction. Then more severe and serious soil issues are criticized, especially the concerns on the lack of ecological soil management and the legislation system and process of soil protection and prevention in China.
Healthy Soil; Action Plan of Soil Environmental Protection and Pollution Control; Soil Contamination Remediation; Soil Protection; “Cadmium-polluted Rice Hazard”
From Soil to Supper ：Food Security from the Grounds
作者：张志维 Chih-Wei G.V. CHANG
This article broadly discusses the relationships between healthy soil and food security. From seemingly harmless substance in soil that may cause colony collapse disorder and enormous agriculture loss, to efforts of phyto-technology in cleaning up contaminated soils, and China’s potential in soil remediation research. Healthy soil offers numerous ecosystem services, and its preservation and sustainable management are essential for food security and our future.
Healthy Soil; Food Security; Colony Collapse Disorder; Soil Remediation; Poplar
Below and Beyond: Long-term Performance of Urban Planting Systems
作者：埃里克•克雷默，斯蒂芬妮•夏，罗伯特•尤利格，布莱恩特•斯查理柏罗奇，凯尔比•斐蒂 Eric KRAMER, Stephanie HSIA, Robert UHLIG, Bryant SCHARENBROCH, Kelby FITE
Landscape architects are dedicated to planting trees in the city, but the contemporary city is not hospitable to healthy mature trees. In response, we rely on often-competing planting strategies and details. Rarely, however, do we analyze the relative outcomes of our choices of soils systems, pavement details, and management practices. In response, two landscape architects, an arborist, and a soils scientist joined forces to undertake a comparative study — through fieldwork and laboratory testing — of plantings that have endured the stresses of an urban environment in Boston for between 5 and 45 years. Our findings are preliminary and suggest that additional data gathering and analysis is necessary, but they do begin to shed light below the surface of the city, indicating that soils under pavement are indeed highly dynamic systems that are influenced by their context and they mature and change over time.
Urban Soil; Manufactured Soil; Structural Soil; Urban Trees; Long-term Performance
Brooklyn Botanic Garden Visitor Center
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden visitor center establishes a visionary public interface between city and garden. The integration of the site’s ecological engineering and horticultural design — making the stormwater management component as ambitious as possible, getting complicated soil specifications right before planting, and tracking down niche growers to supply the carefully chosen plant palette — offers a new pedagogical paradigm with the Garden’s first high-performance botanical exhibit.
Stormwater Management; Design of Soil Profile; Green Roof; Rain Garden; Sustainable Designs
PROVIDENCE DIGS — Designing Infrastructural Soil for Grounded Urbanism
作者：萨曼莎•达布尼 Samantha DABNEY
Emerging from the rubbles of a dismantled highway corridor and a post-industrial landscape, Providence Digs Park creates new sensory, cultural, and spatial experiences by designing a healthy soil landscape within the city. PROVIDENCE DIGS is an exploration of urban soil as a design frontier. This project demonstrates a deep understanding of urban soils as they relate to ecosystem functions, cultural uses, and human experiences that can lead designers to create resilient and beautiful urban landscapes.
Urban; Soil; Landscape Architecture; Providence; Ecology
Longwood Gardens Master Plan and Main Fountain Garden
作者：West 8城市规划与景观设计事务所 West 8 urban design & landscape architecture
Longwood Gardens’ first-ever master plan provides a clear framework for the gardens’ next generation. West 8’s plan provides a way to affirms Longwood as one of the greatest, most beloved gardens in the world. Simultaneously, the master plan solves real problems on-the-ground, resulting in a practical, living document that outlines an incremental and ongoing transformation by combining a number of exciting, high-visibility projects, such as the renovation of the Main Fountain Garden with crucial infrastructural and operational upgrades. Advanced soil design is adapted to the Main Fountain Garden's need to accommodate increasing visitation and expanded programming. Both nuanced and bold, this plan is the map achieving another century of joy and wonder at Longwood Gardens.
Longwood Gardens; Main Fountain Garden; Master Plan; Revitalization; Soil Design
“泥土：DIRT YUTA SUELO UDONGO TÈ”展览
“Dirt Yuta Suelo Udongo Tè”
作者：奥纳基德•沙巴克 Onajide SHABAKA
泥土—从岩石圈层、食土习俗到宗教仪式—很难被定义，因为它是一切事物分解后的形态，是生命的终点和归宿。然而，泥土又是自然的意象和治愈的“良药”，这些定义重新赋予这种锈红色氧化物以生命力，更为一场艺术实践的开展注入了种种灵感。展览的名称“Dirt Yuta Suelo Udongo Tè”对应着多种语言中的“泥土”一词，分别为英语、塔加洛语（菲律宾）、西班牙语、斯瓦西里语（东非）和克里奥尔语（海地）。虽然在策划初期，“泥土”这一展览的理念非常开放，但该展览最终呈现的14位艺术家的作品的焦点则更加明确。在1997年时，我第一次在明尼苏达州的朱铁矿带上采集了一杯泥浆，随后其成为了我个人在雕塑和绘画等艺术实践中所运用到的一种材料。然而，经过一次与朋友的交谈，我希望可以由此促成一个有趣的展览。尽管该展览以“泥土”为核心，但并未局限于泥土的物质性，而是强调其隐喻性，显露出对于表现“个人及社会的异化”的侧重。
Dirt, from the lithosphere to geophagy to ritual is difficult to define since it can represent the dissolution of everything; the final stop and conclusion to life. It is, however, nature and a salve of iron red oxide that resurrected this material an afterthought. The exhibition, “Dirt Yuta Suelo Udongo Tè,” points to dirt through various linguistic references: English, Talaandig (Philippines), Spanish, Kiswahili (east Africa), and Kreole (Haiti). Although a very open idea, the exhibition took on a slightly narrower focus. I first gathered up some mud from northern Minnesota’s Vermilion Iron Range in 1997 and have continued to use it since in my own art practice as drawing and sculptural material. However, after a conversation with a friend I thought it would make an intriguing exhibition. Although central to the exhibition, dirt was not just about the substance but took on a more metaphorical bent with personal and societal pollutions as an important exploration.
Dirt; Exhibition; Art; Sculpture; Photography
Terraforming Cultivation: Landformation for Agricultural Continuity
作者：蒂莫西•卫 Timothy WEI
How far can landform be pushed to generate new localized climates?
Today, a gargantuan 35 gigatons of earth are moved annually, a number that rivals that of geomorphologic processes. The sculpting of the planet’s surface has fallen to human hands. At the same time, due to projected rises in global temperature, a significant number of agricultural production zones and their crops are at risk. The above two aspects bring the idea of terraforming back into focus. Born in the realm of science fiction since the early 1900s, terraforming is the hypothetical process of re-engineering a planet’s environment to support human life. The literally meaning of terraforming, or “earth-shaping” is applied in my project, where in the large-scale landforms are designed to create viable microclimates for agricultural continuity. Through careful manipulation of geometry, agricultural risk can be mediated by curating specific microclimates: altering temperature, solar exposure, wind velocity, and hydrologic retention. Using Peru’s Ica Valley, one of the largest global exporters of fresh green asparagus, as a terraforming ground zero, it is possible to design a new climatically centered form of agricultural settlement. What emerges is not only a temporary solution for the continuity of the asparagus, but a new process of agricultural practice for an increasingly demanding world. Terraforming is the first step to building future landformed cities.
Terraforming; Microclimate; Agriculture; Asparagus; Landform