Date of Award
Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA)
This is a research-design project looking for tools to rebuild the lost connection between city dwellers and the cosmos through visual effects, spatial experience and materials implemented in public spaces in a modern city. Disturbed by high-rises and their neon lights at night, New York citizens tend to look around instead of looking up. The sky has become unfamiliar to most people. Without seeing the same vastness above us, people forgot how small we are compared to the universe, as well as how much we resemble each other. This project started with a wish that everyone could remember our commonalities, rather than our differences, so that we can abandon bias towards any culture. The question of this project is: How can the visual connection to the sky be rebuilt in a diverse metropolitan city that interacts with buildings and streets through public landscape?
We are not only linked materialistically – through financial transactions, social medias and trading of goods. There is one more profound subject that all our ancestors responded to: the sky. Before modern concrete cities were built, humans looked up at the day sky and night constellations, and used the sky to inform the layout of cities, the building of monuments and the organization of civic activities according to certain celestial phenomena. People still participate in traditions and festivals created for celestial phenomena today, but no longer observe what changes above us. This link to the sky has not been recognized as a common cultural element that could be utilized as a design language in contemporary public landscape design. This project was seeking to rebuild visual connections to the sky by learning spatial design techniques of ancient sites. The final outcome was expected to develop new spatial strategies for adding another layer of astronomical meaning to public space, which eventually would encourage diverse citizens to realize more of our cultural similarities, and the share public spaces in more active ways.
To capture and amplify celestial phenomena and begin to reconnect people, this project studied symbolisms and forms from ancient astronomical monuments during the first phase. The cultural values of cardinal directions, winter solstice, the equinox, and summer solstice were recognized in different cultures. The second phase explored how New York City is related to the cosmos. The street grid of Manhattan is roughly aligned with the summer solstice sunset, which accidentally gives the city an opportunity to interact with the sky. Central Park was selected as a site where design strategies could be developed due to its geographical conditions and civic programs. The intended scale and form of the final design was developed based on astronomical calculations of key locations that were identified according to important celestial dates.
The final design outcome was expected to train visitors’ senses of time and orientation by observing shadow changes, the way that our ancestors used to practice, so that visitors would be able to use their experience to sense time without using electronic devices when they are back in the city.
Qian, Yiyang, "Look up, city skygazers" (2017). Masters Theses. 82.
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