Mingcui Lake

Zhu Renmin made fifty-four trips over six years to a 10,000 mu (667 hectare) saline-alkaline desertified marsh in China's sandstorm-prone west, restoring it into the only "national wetland park" in the west or along the Yellow River Basin.

   Yinchuan's winters are sunny. In this broad expanse of more than 13,000 mu (867 hectares) of barren, flat land, a lone willow tree stands on the vanishing horizon, like a pale gold impressionist painting. 

   The wind is still, the water calm. Neither shadows nor sunlight are perceptible in the dusk. This is the natural course of things in the winter. Where are the Azure Dragon and the White Tiger? Where are the Vermilion Bird and the Black Tortoise? [Note: These ancient mythological creatures are the Four Symbols of the Chinese constellations. They correspond to the four cardinal directions and four seasons. These celestial deities are important for astrological orientation in fengshui.] Who will tap into the qi (life force) of the dragon veins (the earth’s underground meridians)?  This is necessary to determine the precise geomantic orientations on this 13,000 mu of sand. 

Gripping the topographical map, I stirred up the dry loess with the toe of my shoe over and over again.  Where did this strong and lush old willow tree on the Northwest China plain come from? Regardless of its origin, the water source that nurtures such life must be plentiful beneath this site! Undoubtedly, in the coming spring and summer, I will turn it into a place of splendid beauty, reminiscent of the region south of the Yangtze River. I will release this body of water onto this site and use it to delineate a verdant maze. 

I held my breath and caught a hint of flavor, a gentle breeze, a handful of loess, a ladle of lake water, and distinctly heard the sound of thousands of acres of marsh reeds swaying; clearly saw the light and shadow of millions of waterfowl taking flight. This thin, watery sound and elusive image weave the park into its natural ecology. Here is where I found the qualities, order, and artistic naturalism I sought. I dared not give even the slightest offense to the celestial or earthly spirits, so I placed a thousand-step-long covered bridge very carefully on the southeast axis of this site. This boardwalk, constructed on a light frame, cuts across the park from north to south without disturbing the terrain. 

--Ecology is the soul and life here.

                     Zhu Renmin, Spring 2001

 

Origins

   Before the end of the last century, not quite yet 1999, a group of proprietors in Western China’s Ningxia Autonomous Region announced that they would openly recruit bona fide designers domestically and internationally in order to complete the two famous tourist sites in that region, the Yellow River Cultural Tourism District and the Wetland Ecological Resort.  A delegation led by the director of the Science and Technology Department of the autonomous region and the head of the state-owned assets company was sent to visit the six coastal provinces. Each province selected three first-class big-name design agencies to confer with and make inquiries about these projects. They hoped during that period to carefully select the most suitable designers for the Western Development Strategy to undertake the task of completing these two important scenic areas, which consist of more than 10,000 mu.  At the time, I was the dean of the School of Landscape Architecture and Design at the China Academy of Art. The design institute at that time was still in its early stages, but it was well-known in the region.       

  So I sat down for a solo meeting with the delegation, and the design concept of a West Lake landscape struck me.  This sparked the interest of the western guests and they suddenly asked, “This West Lake concept is brilliant. I have been waiting for this for ten years. The natural environment of West Lake is lush; whatever is planted here grows well. Whereas the west is just a patch of wind-blown sand; whatever we plant dies quickly. How would you deal with this?" Well, wow! I excitedly exclaimed, "A patch of wind-blown sand! Whatever is planted dies. It’s this that I want. As an Easterner visiting the West, why would I travel so far to see what’s already in my backyard?  Wouldn't I just go to the West Lake to see it? Would I not go to the South to see it? I intently said: I go to the West to see the vast expanse of desert, a pillar of smoke rising into the sky, the orb-like sun setting over the Yellow River [a quote from Wang Wei’s Tang Dynasty poem "Sent As an Envoy to an Imperial Border Stronghold"]. Are there trees in Mecca?  What about in Dunhuang? Do the pyramids have trees? Why do tourists flock there? --Because there is culture! There is history! There is religion! Desolation is also a kind of culture! Give this historical barrenness and desolation a complete makeover and sell it. My creative idea is “selling desolation”, “selling the desert”, “selling hardship.” The proprietor excitedly said that he had never heard of such a thing, so he was pleased beyond expectation, and decided on this idea. 

   Trust is power. I put aside my multi-faceted work at the design institute and, with a hero’s hesitation, embarked on the six-year journey to develop the West.

 

What the old willow tree conveyed -- Here was once a wetland

  When I stepped onto the original site of the park, one unusually inspired scholar from Eastern China, I was filled with boundless passion for every part of the park. I conducted a site survey that had already changed the Yellow River “red” with success. An expanse of fine, ocher-yellow sand, more than ten thousand mu, stretched to the western horizon.  It gave me a feeling of “The sky was black and earth yellow; space and time vast, limitless.” (This is the first line from “The Thousand Character Classic”).  

   Suddenly I found a tiny gray speck on the horizon of the park’s vast desert. The drive amazed me! In this world of grays and yellows, how is there such an old willow tree, big enough to wrap your arms around, standing alone in the cold with its indomitable spirit? How mighty, how obstinate, how bleak! The setting sun drags its shadows out longer and longer.  Whether or not it has quietly waited for me for thousands of years, it is silently telling me: underneath is the wetland that historically surrounded Yinchuan. Since it has a hundred-year-old willow tree, it must contain a plentiful underground water source, otherwise how could the old willow tree be so lush and green? Although the park’s water and soil is extremely saline-alkaline, the old willow tree at least has a fresh water source, not to mention the Yellow River is only ten kilometers away from the site. This scientific rationale gives one hope, encouraging spirit and strength.  It confirms my original hope to squeeze in the lushness of the Yangtze here.  Restoring the ecology, history and rehabilitating all parts of the Yellow River Hetao Plain became my primary objective in building this park.

I abandoned the creative goal I had promised the proprietors of “selling desolation, selling the desert, selling hardship."  It is decided to build a deep jade-green Yangtze River region in this expanse of yellow sand, so that the old willow tree will forever authenticate the history of this time and space, as well as everything the people of Eastern China have done for this site.  So I surveyed the tens of kilometers of boundless sand, investigated the local geological history of the land, and browsed materials on the local culture. I told the proprietors that I’d pay the funds myself to do exploratory excavations and uncover the water, according to my plan to restore the site’s Yangtze River lushness.  If I can't uncover the water, I’ll pay the tens of thousands of earth-boring fees. The mayor said to do what the experts suggested, but not to hire them for pay.  The din of bulldozers rang out across the 10,000 mu of desert sands in my plan. 

 

Creating a relationship between ecological protection and use of the park

   After more than half a year of surveying and excavation, the park was remarkably transformed. Its natural spirit, the changes in its vertical landforms, and alterations in the water level of the Yellow River, along with data reports on groundwater levels all conveyed the park’s verdant splendor, in sync with the Chinese character “Cui,” which means “emerald green.” Historically the site was originally a natural body of water and reed marsh environment. I began to excavate, restore and strengthen these rare ecological specimens of China’s western region.  Even though there is water in the park, it is saline-alkaline and so cannot be used for irrigation. Even if it could be irrigated, the salinized soil cannot be cultivated.  Our method is to 1) extract and reduce the alkalinity of the soil, 2) select a variety of reed that can grow in saline-alkaline water, and 3) deposit artificial soil for cultivation. Each tree has sprouted verdant foliage. I hope that after three years the reeds will be seamlessly woven into the natural environment. Of course, natural scenery is not like that of a garden. Only through the selection of elements and materials and the layout and composition of the different sections can we make the environmental landscape align with the public’s perception of a park. Here is where the customs of the area south of the Yangtze River are realized. The local circumstances and artistic concepts preserve the “emerald green” quality of the site forever, and make it into a great place for people to relax and stay healthy together. 

 

Planning for ecological protection and utilization

   The site is naturally trapezoidal. The park is laid out according to each section’s topology. The ecological zone around the central part is divided into three equal sections. I have divided this into three functional areas: the eastern, central and western districts. These protected ecological sections are also divided into active use areas, quiet areas, transitional areas, and absolute ecological areas. This has led to a perfect balance between protection and utility, gloriously  uniting these two aspects. If one loses, they all lose. This was still a practice in China at that time.

  1. The main functions of the Eastern District are gatherings and leisure activities. This section is comprised of the water viewing platform, the six bridges of the eastern embankment, the leisure center, villas, and so on. This section belongs to the active use area, with aspects of both movement and stillness.

  2. The Central District is an ecological zone and is the soul of the park. The ecological zone is bounded by a thousand-step covered bridge and can be divided into a reed maze zone and a completely protected zone. In this area, we set up an observation tower to monitor and inspect the ecological system as well as the safety of the tourists in the ecological zone and throughout the entire park. This strictly prohibits any people or objects with pollution from entering the park and also acts as the tourism information center.  This area is bounded by a covered bridge, with an ecological maze zone to the north and an absolute ecological zone to the south. The ecological maze zone is a relatively quiet area. It restricts access to visitors in pollution-free vessels for sightseeing cruises, while to the south, all people and vehicles are forbidden in the absolute ecological zone. Installed in the center of that zone is a bird island, where birds can live, roost, and breed in a completely natural habitat.  This is an absolute quiet zone.

   3. The West District is the main tourist area and control center of the park. The principle tourist facilities, such as the main entrance, the observation deck, the food and beverage center, park management and the cruise ship terminal, are all located here.  At the same time, large-scale land greening has become an ecological component of the entire park. This is an active zone where the flow is not impeded. The two major sections of the East and West Districts face one another and share the ecological landscape of the Central District. In order to resolve the contradiction between tourism and ecology, a transitional zone has been set up between the eastern and western regions and the central region. The principle of strengthening environmental protection measures in the transitional zone guarantees that the ecological environment of the Central District will be absolutely protected. The transitional zone is divided mainly by bodies of water, making it easy to control and isolate. A controlled thousand-step covered bridge acts as the only thoroughfare between the east and west districts, effectively ensuring the environmental protection of the ecological zone. For example, there are two transitional zones in the three major districts, one each in the east and west districts. The thousand-step covered bridge that runs through those districts cuts through the main functional sections of the park. The ecology has been put to use while at the same time it is being consciously protected and developed. When people are immersed in the natural scenery of the region south of the Yangtze River, they will understand that we have used, renewed and developed history, creating a relationship between ecological protection and utilization.

   We pay attention to the relationship between the three sections of the park -- the active, the quiet, and the active -- and the park’s theme as a whole. This relationship requires us to focus our attention on the transformation of the functional space in the broad expanse of this park. We considered each space from the perspectives of its scale, shape, topology, and specific characteristics, so as to better adjust and express the functions of each section within the theme, and connect them in a series of amazing/imperceptible and ever-changing routes.  Planning here is two-dimensional, but the designer's mind must be three-dimensional or even multi-dimensional, full of color and life. 

  We set up a command post in each of the three districts of the park. First of all, these form a stable center in the park’s triangle. Along with the park’s entrances and exits and its ecological zones, they enclose and connect the space of the entire park.  The three points of the triangle are the central points of the eastern, central and western districts, and also the high points of the central part of the park. From any position in the park, one can appreciate the stability of this triangle. 

  The three points, lines and faces of the triangle contain within them the essential characteristics and key elements of the park. From the observation deck to the observation tower and then to the water viewing platform, the thousand-step covered bridge connects the two major active use areas in the east and the west districts, which are both distinct from and in harmony with one another, indicative of the uniquely beautiful landscape of the Lake Mingcui Park. From the covered bridge in the center of the landscape, a teahouse has been set up with a road and the observation tower to the north and south. The bridge runs through the center line of the triangle which forms the central axis of the park, further emphasizing the significance and liveliness of the center. Analyzing the lines and surveying the landscape established the stability of the central idea and pattern of the enclosed central space of Mingcui Lake Park. 

 

Reeds are the largest eco-art creative element in the park.

  In promoting holistic “green” initiatives, I consider myself lucky that the original vegetation around the site-- the reeds-- thrive so easily. These will-o’-the-wisps are endlessly prolific. Each spring breeze gives life again to the West’s most outstanding greenery. As long as there is a little salt water, the reeds will spread unexpectedly, quickly propagating to take over all the sites in the park’s plan. This enabled the absolute ecological zone in my plan to take shape quickly.  Its immense and well-developed root system, nourished by the Yellow River system, kneads the yellow sands of the west tightly together to form a complex and enormous water filtration system, providing an excellent breeding site for hundreds of millions of insects, fish and birds in this western desert. The reeds attract insects, and insects attract fish and frogs, which attract birds. This enormous patch of reed marshes, covering thousands of mu, provides the best habitat in the west for the migratory birds of the south.  This is an unimaginable scene of western wetland ecology. I really don’t understand how the long-horned beetles destroyed all the white poplars. But the reeds are practically indestructible. Their robust health has astonished me. 

  In the spring and summer of the following year, the plan’s absolute ecological zone quickly took shape, and naturally became a green functioning part according to its landmark status.  We managed to achieve an orderly and regulated water channel according to the plan. Accounting for tourists, birdlife and the entire ecosystem, we leveled land at the riversides, and built beaches, river mouths, ports, harbors, and overflow sites, forming the first phase of the water maze, which has become a major highlight of western ecological landscapes.

    In the face of such a vast tract of reeds, I was very excited to devote myself to this long-term process of artistic creation. The park landscape faces the maximum degree of social use. The reed marsh landscape here is not only a matter of ecology and beauty. Its immense size and extraordinary nature can become a vehicle for certain artistic ideas, and it can express various forms. It can also generate artistic terrain designs and visual advertising designs for the park, as well as compete for additional and more extensive artistic and cultural concepts. By chance, a divine light came to rest and my mind flashed: Is this not a great work of land art?    

   On the base of the maze during the first stage, I designed and built four bird figures of approximately one kilometer in length, installing them on every side of the maze. They revolved around it, moving in cycles to spread their wings and flutter around. On behalf of the West, the park, the ecology and tourism, I have created something truly unique -- the ecological work of the century. Although it is man-made, it looks natural. It is my “In Praise of Reeds” (a poem by the contemporary poet Meishanzi).  The plan is to create a performance art style of the world's largest land artwork on the lake each winter when it freezes over, using bulldozers and helicopters.  I proposed that the proprietors buy a hot air balloon and charge fifty RMB per person for visitors to watch this land art performance. 

   The park’s reed maze is currently the world’s largest environmentally friendly work of land art. The maze pattern consists of four enormous birds, each with a diameter of 1.5 kilometers. This has yielded environmental protection through artistic means. It is Zhu Renmin’s pioneering work of environmental tourism expressed through art in the desert of western China. Five types of reed grow freely here, flourishing even more than the reeds in southern China. 

 

The interaction between ecology and function is a significant innovation in the park.

   The interaction between ecology and art is a significant innovation that integrates function, art and ecology within the park.  The environmentalism sweeping the world continues to make designers and planners to prioritize “ecology.” Even though compared to Europe and America, we have only recently begun this task, our designers’ sense of environmental responsibility is at a historical height, at pace with the rest of the world. Link your own mission to the entire planet and humanity. Respect nature, restore ecology, and advocate the preservation and recycling of energy and materials. Use local materials as much as possible. Reduce energy consumption in manufacturing, processing, and transportation, and reduce damage and waste on construction sites. Environmentalism was a central component of the entire design and construction of the park, from beginning to end. Thank Heaven for giving me a good "proprietor.” Through six years of park construction, he followed my complete development of the site, and seemed to have finished reading my entire doctoral curriculum, going from respect to worship even to superstition. So, our pursuit of ecology has surpassed the pursuit of function and form. What wonderful and touching progress this is. Such a transformation in the proprietors’ ecological perspective is incredibly difficult to achieve in China. Given this, what can’t we overcome? 

   After settling on a water system plan with ecological aims, the chief task was to complete the excavation for the water system layout before the arrival of the harsh western winter.  And use the excavated earth to make the necessary changes to the park’s vertical orientation.  On the slopes, platforms, embankments, mounds and greening projects, revetments, whether using natural or artificial water filtration systems, we consistently pursued the most efficient use of water sources, reducing water consumption by various methods. 

   In the context of China’s West, historical and cultural heritage is deeply rooted in development and construction. The park’s construction provides a particularly powerful example of this. The regional and individualized historical culture, combined with the needs and analysis of the spiritualism of the times, form the current "contextualism.” Context

Ideology is the indispensable soul of all successful landscape design. We have to mine this to its full extent, especially in the west.

   In the construction of each park, the context is realized through various means, and art is the most ideal vehicle for achieving this.  Through the artistic process, whether it’s via communication, or metaphor, decoration, exaggeration or imitation,

the relationship between the deep structure of the historical context and the functional needs of the public is established.   Every corner of the park is filled with the light of art, thought and culture.

   We are not involved in worldwide debates on the history of architecture and landscape, but in this timespan, we are qualified to select the requirements of the regional culture. Postmodernism, artivism, localism, figurativism, contextualism, minimalism... Regardless of the -ism, generally, throughout the world, the works that are handed down are not based on artistic merit; only functional perfection can be cherished for generations.

 

Art is the best way to reflect the context.

   A park needs to clearly convey its theme and cultural connotation to the public. It’s necessary to come up with an idea for a logo that flattens this theme and expresses it three-dimensionally. It will become a main element throughout the construction of the park, so that it is everywhere and constantly in one’s mind, yet not changed from its roots. 

   When the bodies of water and the reeds became the park’s most vivid main images, I continuously searched for the essence of its spirit and meaning. I had been ruminating over the concepts of environmental protection and “green” issues for a long time, and thought hard about this in a disorderly, abstract sense, ultimately to no end.

   One day at the construction site residence, I happened to glance up and see the shadow of my own hand under the lamplight. I swiftly put my hands together into the shape of a bird. I was thrilled: Yes! Birds! They are the representatives of all the park’s living things, and are indicators of the park’s environmental protection standards. Birds are the best natural judges of the quality of environmental protection initiatives. Where there are birds, there are frogs; where there are frogs, there are insects; where there are insects, there are grasses; and where there are grasses, there is water. Consequently the park is a tightly woven ecosystem. I incorporated bird imagery into all architectural, structural, and sculptural elements. And I had the idea to bestow it with wings spreading out to fly, perhaps an inspirational image! Six years later, dozens of species of waterfowl, numbering in the millions, have made their homes in the park, making it one of the most extraordinary landscapes in Western China. 

 

The Humanistic Art of Gardening in this Era

  Since historical times, from imperial gardens to private ones, to modern public parks, the history of the development of gardens is a history of the development of the arts and humanities. Chinese gardening today is not nearly as elaborate as it was historically, when gardens were cultivated primarily by aristocratic literati, officials, and imperial houses. Arts and humanities, as expressed through the style and form of gardening, reflect the historical and national cultural context of the time.  Historically the humanities held the “return to Nature” form of gardening in high regard. This was also the aesthetic manifestation of Chinese culture. Under the dominant culture of literati and government officials, Chinese gardening reached the pinnacle of perfection. Gardens like those in Suzhou are indeed recognized by global architecture circles as unparalleled achievements in architecture and gardening. Gardens today, in contrast, are mainly engineering projects funded by the government or by wealthy or powerful people. Moving the trees to create a lawn. These various forms of architectural styles all lack creativity. Typically they’re just secondhand international junk. There are thousands everywhere, and they’re all the same. Someone puts up capital and then they’re manufactured carelessly. Very few of China’s top humanistic artists are involved in gardening today. Instead, this earth-shaking urbanization movement is dominated by those seeking to show off their image and flaunt their political achievements.  Gardens require financial resources and authority, both of which humanities scholars lack. Gardening also requires physical strength, but humanities scholars tend to be rather effete. As a result, top-tier humanistic artists of this era have mostly withdrawn from the ranks of gardening. This has produced major shortcomings in current Chinese-style gardening.  On the other hand, contemporary Chinese scholars also tend to lack the thinking and spirit of traditional culture, not to mention that they are detached from the land, buildings, design and construction work, and have little interest in or familiarity with gardens. We only hope that our colleges and universities will cultivate artists and designers who possess the spirit of our great national culture, inheriting the essence of traditional gardening culture and becoming the eco-designers of this era. Presumably after we have made great progress in this era’s gardening movement, we can reflect soberly on the lessons we have learned, and create gardens with the distinct characteristics of both traditional Chinese natural landscape gardens and eco-friendly gardens. 

 

The park's buildings are characterized by waterfowl and local cultural elements.

   The buildings in the park are small and refined, and they are situated in the core area of the park. In order to avoid disturbing the birds’ habitat, the buildings are far from the ecological area, and their main colors are white, sandy yellow and the color of the stones of Helan Mountain. White symbolizes ecological purity and the waves of bodies of water. Yellow is derived from the color of this local sand, and the stones of Helan Mountain. This represents the local culture and history, giving people a sense of affinity and familiarity. Regarding the design of these buildings, I did not have any of the usual difficulty in constructing the site, no inaccurate drawings or other complicating circumstances. The difficulty was how to use this land’s space in a distinct and artistically significant manner, in line with its natural properties.  With regards to the architectural form, I made all the buildings into the simplest rectangular and cylindrical blocks. The usage rate was as frugal yet abundant as possible. It was only on the décor of the buildings’ façades that I truly racked my brain. It looks simple but actually I made no fewer than thirty or fifty plans for the buildings. Fortunately at that time one could still buy large quantities of stones from Helan Mountain, which became the main material for the buildings’ façade.  At that time, the buildings I designed used the stones of Helan Mountain. Later, due to numerous copycats, the stones on Helan Mountain were largely destroyed and became controlled. 

  The tower was designed as a vantage point for the entire park, a symbolic structure created to control all sides.  At the time, the design did not yet take into account the safety problems caused by the reed maze construction. Many tourists entered the maze but could not get out. This endangered people's lives. Now there are vertical markers to help visitors identify their location.   The top of the tower was originally a bird's nest. I came up with this idea long before the Olympic bird’s nest. But for various reasons, the bird's nest I designed was changed into a "rice bowl." This was disappointing, but at least it was completed. It is not easy in the west. At that time, the funds were extremely limited. Even now, several major designs, including the Thousand-Step Covered Bridge and the International Leisure Center, among others, have not yet been constructed.  Even so, the western proprietors have created a truly unique work of ecological land art.


 

朱仁民耗时六年,航程五十四趟,将中国西部沙尘暴中的一万多亩沙化盐碱泽地设计修复成中国西部地区、黄河流域唯一的盐碱沙地上“国家湿地公园”。

   银川的艳阳隆冬。一万三千亩的荒芜一马平川,仅有的一颗老柳树孤寂地站在将要消失的地平线上,一幅淡金色的印象派油画。

   风不动,水不行,阴不显,阳不露,这季节“秋收冬藏”。哪里是“青龙白虎”之所在?哪里是“朱雀玄武”之禅机?谁人将针灸般地拿准龙脉?在这一万三千亩的沙土上精确定位。

我夹着地形图,一遍遍地用我大头皮鞋拨扬起干涸的黄土。大西北平原上何来这一棵苍劲葱郁的老柳树?不论其来自天上或地底,哺育生命的水源必定浩荡地止蕴在这块场地之下!无疑不久的春夏我将使它变成塞上江南般的美妙,让水体把场地漫划成迷宫般的绿色。

我屏息捕捉那一丝气息、一缕微风、一掬黄土、一勺湖水,分明听见了万亩芦荡摇曳的天籁;分明看见了百万只水鸟掠起的光影;希声的大音,无形的大象将园区织入天然的生态世界。这便是我在这块场地中所寻求的品质、秩序和艺术自然主义之所在,我不敢对天精地灵有丝毫的冒犯,小心翼翼地在场地东南主轴上轻轻地置上了千步廊桥,它将穿越南北园区丝毫不犯地轻架于主轴之上。

——生态是这里的灵魂和生命。

                     朱仁民 2001年春

 

缘起

   上世纪未1999年,西部宁夏有业主说要在国内外公开招寻真正的设计师,完成其黄河文化旅游区及生态湿地渡假区两大西部著名的旅游区。派了由自治区科技厅厅长、国有资产公司老总为代表的一行专程考察沿海6省,每省挑三家一流大牌设计单位交谈、询问。希望在期间够认真的挑选出最适合西部大开发的设计师,担当两大上万亩的重要景区。期时我正任中国美术学院风景建筑设计院院长,当时的设计院还是很原始,但名称上也算是江南大牌吧。      

  于是我“单刀赴会”入席坐定,滚瓜烂熟地倒了一通西湖的景观建设理念。西部的客人入味一阵,猛然发问:“西湖的营建理念非常精采,我等胜读十年,西湖水土丰茂、种甚长甚,而我们西部一片风沙,种什么死什么,您该如何应对。“那好哇!”我振奋道:“一片风沙!种什么死什么,就要这个,我东部人去西部难道不远万里去看种什么长什么?我不会去西湖边看么?我不会去南方看吗?我加重语气一字一句:我去西部就是看大漠孤烟直,就是看长河落日圆。麦加有树么?敦煌有树么?金字塔有树么?为什么其游客如云?——有文化!有历史!有信仰!荒凉也是一种文化!将历史贫瘠荒凉予以整合改造,将其出售。我的创意理念就是“出售荒凉”、“出售沙漠”、“出售贫困”,业主振奋的说从未听说过,于是大喜过望,一锤定音。

   信任就是力量。我放下院里的多头工作,披着一身英雄式的踌躇,咬咬牙踏上了六年西部大开发的征程之中。

 

老柳树传达的信息——这里原是湿地

  当我踏入园区的原始场地,一股东部文人特有的灵感油然而生,我豪情万丈的步量园区的每一个疙瘩;踏勘那已变成“红”河的母亲河-黄河;几十万亩的赭黄,几十万亩的空旷,黄沙细细的若无其事地伸展向西部的天边。一片“天地玄黄、宇宙洪荒”之感。

   我突然发现园区的万亩沙地的地平线上有一个灰色的小点,驱车前往,令我震惊!这灰黄黄的天地之间,何以有这么棵合围的老柳树,独立寒秋,顶天立地。何等的威武、何等的倔犟、何等的苍凉!残阳将它的影子拉得老长老长。它是否静静的等了我千万年,它正悄悄地告诉我:它的脚下正是历史上环绕银川的湿地湖泊,既然有着百年的老柳树,必定蕴育着浩荡的地下水源,不然它老柳树何以如此葱郁蓬勃?尽管园区的水土极其盐碱,至少老柳树这块地下有着新鲜的水源,何况黄河离场地也只十来公里,科学与希望的传递,精神与力量的鼓励。印证了我原本对这块历史上塞上江南的跷望。还原生态,还原历史,与河套平原中的一切物链重归于好,倏然成了我营造此园的首要目标。

我赖掉了承诺业主的“出售荒凉、出售沙漠、出售贫困”的创意性宗旨。决计在这片黄沙中建立一个接天莲叶无穷碧的塞上江南,让老柳树将海枯石烂永远鉴证着这段时空这段历史,以及我这东部人为这块场地所作的一切行为。于是我踏勘了方圆几十公里的漫漫黄沙,调查了当地历史上的地貌情况,翻阅了当地文化世俗,我跟业主说,我出钱,挖挖看,挖出水,按我的塞上江南规划做。挖不出水,我付这十几万的挖土费。市长说按专家说的做,不能叫专家出钱。万亩沙地上,在我的策划中,响起了腾腾的推土声。

 

园区生态保护和利用关系的制造

   踏勘与挖掘进行了半年余时间,园区果然遍行自然灵气、地貌的竖向变化、黄河水位的标高变化、地下水位的数据报告传达着园区行将“翠”字的主导地位。历史上场地内本来就是自然水体、生态芦草,我开始将这些西部难得的生态区块进行挖掘、恢复、强化。当然园区即便有水,也是盐碱,不能灌溉,即便能灌溉,土地的盐碱也无法栽培。我们的方法一是拔淡土地的盐碱性,二是选择多种适合盐碱水生长的芦苇,三是堆垒人工种植土,每株乔木都给它穿上衣服,我希望三年后,这里弥天漫地的芦苇将编织进天然的环境锦屏之中。当然自然风光尚不是园林风光,只有通过元素、材料的选择、块面的布置与合成,将园区的景观形象、生态形象装入大众的心理形象之中,在这里体会江南风情中的物境、情境和意境才能使场地的“翠”字得以永恒地保留,并成为人们休息养身与之共存的好去处。

 

规划以生态保护和利用为宗旨

   场地自然地呈梯形,园区的功能分区按着区块的地貌,围绕着中心部位生态区自然分成三等分,我将其划分为东区、中区、西区三大功能区域,它们也分别是动区、静区、过渡区和绝对生态区的生态保护区域,保护和利用的关系在这里得到完善和统一、一荣具荣、一败皆败,这在当时国内尚属个列的做法。  

  1、东区是以水景台、东堤六桥、休闲中心、别墅等组成的以会议、休闲为主功能的景观区域。这里属流动且滞留的动区。

  2、中区为生态区,是园区的灵魂亮点。生态区以千步廊桥为界,可分为芦苇迷宫区和完全保护区。在这一区域我们设置了瞭望塔,观察、监控生态区及全园的生态系统和游客的安全状况,严禁任何带有污染的人和物进入,同时也起到旅游的情报中心作用。此区以廊桥为界,北面为生态迷宫区,南面为绝对生态区,生态迷宫区为相对静区,只允许由园区控制组织下供游人驾无污染船只入迷宫观赏游弋,而南面的绝对生态区一律禁止任何人和交通工具入内,并在其中心设置鸟岛供鸟类在绝对自然化条件下生存、栖息、繁衍。这里属绝对静区。

   3、西区为本园主要旅游区和控制中心,这里有主入口、观景台、餐饮中心、管理中心、游船码头等主要旅游功能体现。同时也以大面积的陆地绿化成为整个园区的生态组成部分。这里属于流动不滞留的动区。东西两大区块互相对望,共享中区生态景观。为了解决旅游与生态之间的矛盾,东、西两区与中区之间设置过渡区域。在加强过渡区域的环保措施原则下,保证中区的生态环境得以绝对的保护。过渡区基本由水体作为分割,便于控制和隔离。只有一条控制性的千步廊桥凌架东西两区作为唯一通道,有效控制了生态区的环保状况。如是三大区块两条过渡带,一条贯穿东、西两区的千步廊桥切割成园区的主要功能区块面。在利用的同时生态得到了有意识的保护和发展。当人们在塞上江南的自然风光中陶冶和休闲时,人们会明白:我们利用了历史、恢复了历史也发展了历史,制造了生态保护和利用的关系。

   我们关注园区这动—静—动三个区块与整个主题的关系。此关系就是需要我们集中注意力在这一马平川的园区中设置功能空间的转化。每一个空间要从尺度、形状、地表、特性上去考虑,从而更好地调节和表达每个区块自身的功能在主题中的作用,并将其串联成目不暇接、变化无穷的游线。在这里规划是二维的,但是设计师的心中必须是三维的甚至多维的,有色彩有生命的。

  我们在这园区内的三个区块分别立以三个园区的制高点,首先组成园区三角形的稳定中心,它们与园区的出入口、生态带组合,造成的整个园区空间围合和联系。三角形的三个点分别是即东区、中区、西区的中心点,又是园区的中心块面标的高度,我们站在园区任何一个方位均能体会到这三角形在园区中的稳定性。

  三角形的三个点、线、面实质上已包容了园区的基本特质和要素。从观景台到瞭望塔再到水景台,东西两个台的一条千步廊桥横连两大动区,既各自为政,又遥相呼应,为鸣翠园中的一道奇特亮丽的风景线。从这条风景线的中端廊桥设置茶廊又以一条道与瞭望塔南北呼应,在三角形的中心线上垂直廊桥轴线构成园区中心三角之中的对分轴线,使中心愈加显得重要和生动。行而上的分析和勘屿学的思维为鸣翠园的中心围合空间奠定了园区的中心思想和格局的稳定性。

 

芦苇是园区最大的生态艺术创意元素

  当提倡宏观的“绿色”我暗自庆幸的这块场地周边原有的植被——芦苇,这一野火烧不尽,春风吹又生的西部最优秀的绿色。只要有一点盐碱水,它会出乎意料地蔓延滋生迅速霸占园区规划中的所有场地。使我的规划中绝对生态区迅速形成。它那庞大发达的根系,在黄河水系的滋养下将西部的黄沙紧紧地揉捏在一起,形成复杂而庞大的滤水系统,使亿万昆虫、鱼类、鸟类在西部的风沙中找到了这一美好的生养之处。有了芦苇就有虫蝇,有了虫蝇就有了鱼、蛙,有了鱼、蛙就有了禽鸟,诺大的几千亩芦荡,为南涉的大型侯鸟提供了西部最佳的生存栖养之地。这是一个令人难以想象的西部湿地生态景象,我真不解西部的天牛能消灭所有的白杨,芦苇却是天下无敌,它的顽强健康令我震惊。

  次年春夏,规划中的绝对生态区迅速形成,按地标的高低自然变成绿色的功能性块面。我们因势利导按计划处理成有序有律的水系通道,为游人、为禽鸟、为整个生态系统制作出汀、滩、浦、港、湾和漾,形成了第一期的水上迷宫,成为西部的一大生态景观亮点。

   面对如此庞大的万亩芦荡,作为长期致力于艺术创作的我很是激动和亢奋。园区的景观面临的是社会最大程度的使用,在这里的芦荡景观不仅仅是生态和美的问题,它的庞大和出奇可以成为某种艺术思想的载体,它可以表现出多样的形式。它还能为园区带来艺术化的地形设计,广告形象设计,为园区争取更多更广的艺术,文化理念。不经意中的一道神光落定,我脑中一闪:这不是个伟大的大地艺术作品吗?    

   在第一期的迷宫基础上因物成形,在迷宫的四周我设计了每个长宽约一公里左右的四个鸟类图形,围绕迷宫周而复始地展翅飞舞。为西部、为园区、为生态、为旅游创作出“虽由人作,宛若天开”独一无二的世纪生态图就算是我在西部的《芦苇礼赞》吧。计划在每年的隆冬湖上结冰时以推土机、直升机创作出这行为艺术式的世上最大的大地艺术作品。我建议业主买个热气球,五十块一位,供游客观赏这一大地艺术。

   已建成的芦苇迷宫现状是目前世界上最大的绿色环保大地艺术,迷宫由四只直径一点五公里的大鸟组成回旋图案,以艺术的手法创造生态保护,是朱仁民在西部沙地上以艺术为载体所创造的环保旅游创举。五种芦苇在这里自由生长,繁荣臻漫之势甚至超过了南方的芦苇。

 

生态与功能的互动是园区的重大创意

   生态与艺术的互动是园区中具有功能、艺术、生态相统一的重大创意。席卷世界的生态主义不断地使设计师,规划师将“生态”列入创作的首要条例。虽然我们比之欧美方才起步,但是设计师的责任应该站在历史的高度,与世界同步。将自己的使命与整个地球、人类相关联。尊重自然,恢复生态,倡导能源与物质的自我维持和循环。尽可能多的运用当地的各种材料,减少生产、加工、运输的能源消耗,减少施工场地的破坏和废弃物。园区的整个设计、营造自始至终高举着这一生态主义大旗。感谢上苍赐予我一个好的“业主”。六年的园区建设,他跟着我满工地的跑,似乎读完了我的博士课程由尊重到崇拜甚至迷信。如是,我们对生态的追求,已经超过了对功能和形式的追求。这是多么美好和感人的进步。这是国内最难做到的的业主“生态”化。具备了这一条还有什么克服不了的哪一条吗?

   在以生态为宗旨的水系规划定局后,首要的工作是挖掘、抓紧西部的冬天“大跃进”般地开挖水系统布局。并根据需要将挖掘出的泥土制造园区的地标竖向变化。在坡、台、堤、丘和绿化、驳岸,自然和人工滤水系统中追求高效率的使用水源,减少水资源消耗的各种办法。

   在西部这历史文化积淀深厚的地区文脉是开发建设,园区营造的一项最强大的专利。地域性、个性化的历史文化加上时代的精神理论的需求和分析形成当前的“文脉主义”。文脉

主义是一切成功景观设计营造所必不可少的思想灵魂。我们自要彻底地挖掘运用,在西部更是如此。

   在每个园区的建设中,文脉通过各种手段体现,而艺术是最理想的承载物。通过艺术的处理、传达或隐喻或装饰或夸张或拟物,从历史文脉的

深层结构上建立与民众的需求功能关系。将园区的每一角落都充满艺术之光,思想之光、文化之光。

   我们无缘进入世界建筑史、景观史的争论,但在时代的跨越中我们有资格甄选地域文化的需求。后现代主义、艺术主义、乡土主义、隐喻主义、文脉主义、简约主义……不管什么主义大凡世上的传世之作无不是因为艺术的精良,功能的完备才能千秋万代流芳百世。

 

艺术是体现文脉的最佳手段

   一个园区需要将主题和文化内涵很明确的传达给世人,必须找到园区的思想Logo,并将其平面化和立体化的表达,由此成为整个园区建设中的主要元素,使园区的建设中念念不忘,处处体现,万变不离其宗。

   当水体和芦苇成为园区的最主要色彩形象块面时,其精神和内涵的元素,使我寻其千百度,我在绿色和环保的理念中荡漾了好久,在无序的形而上中苦思冥想,终不得其果。

   偶尔的一天在工地的住所看到了自己灯光下的手影,我赶紧双手合十,搭了个鸟的造型,激动无限:对了!飞鸟,它是园区一切生命的代言人,园区的环保好坏,人类的绿化保护优劣,鸟是最好的大自然裁判员,有鸟必有蛙,有蛙必有虫,有虫必有草,有草必有水,于是整个园区就织成了严密的生态系统网,我将鸟的形象演变成所有建筑、构件、雕塑的元素。并赋予其展翅飞翔的意念,或许是这一形象的感召吧!六年后,整个园区竟有几十种百万只大型水鸟在这里建立了它们的家园,成为西部地区的一大奇特景观。

 

这个时代造园的人文艺术

  历史以来,从皇家园林到私家园林,至近代的公共园林,造园的发展史就是一个时代的人文发展史、艺术发展史。如今国内的造园,没有历史上那样的精雕细刻,历史上的造园的人,都是高端的文人、官员、皇家,造园的方式形式所赋予的人文艺术都是那个时代背景下一个民族的文化反映。寄情山水,回归自然,是历史上人文所推崇,造园的方式,也便是中国文化的审美表现,士大夫文化、官宦文化主导下中国的造园达到了世界上登峰造极的辉煌,便像苏州园林就是世界建筑界上唯一认可的园林和建筑,目前造园,基本上是政府工程、富豪工程,移大树造草坪,各类风格的建筑无有创造性,基本上都是国际上的旧货,千遍一律,出资乱造,极少有中国高端的人文艺术家参与目前的造园,形象、政绩、炫耀在这个天翻地覆的城市化运动中占了主导地位。造园需要资金,文人没有资金,造园需要权力,文人没有权力,造园需要力量,文人手无缚鸡之力,于是这个时代高端人文艺术家基本退出了造园的行列,这给当前中国式的造园带来很大的缺陷。反过来说中国当代文人也基本缺乏传统文化的思想和精神,更何况他们与土地建筑、设计和施工相隔遥远,对造园几乎无有兴趣,也不熟悉。我们只企望我们的高等院校培养出具有大国文化精神的艺术家和设计师,既继承传统的造园文化精神,又成为这个时代的生态型设计师,想必度过这一时段大跃进式造园运动后,我们必定会冷静反思,吸取教训,造出中国特色的自然山水之园、生态环保之园来。

 

园区建筑以水鸟及当地风俗为元素

   园区的建筑少而精,布局在园区的核心地带,为了避免生态鸟类的影响,建筑远离生态区,并以白色及沙土的黄色以及贺兰山的卵石为主要色彩。白色象征着生态纯净、水体波浪,黄色表示这块沙土上的衍生物,贺兰山的卵石,这代表着当地的文化与历史,给人以亲和熟悉的感觉。这些建筑的设计,我没有难在任何场地面积等通常建筑时会发生困惑,无所顾忌的画图,难的是如何在这场地上营造出属性明确的又有艺术含义独特风格的使用空间。而在建筑形体的把握中,我将所有的建筑做成最简易的长方、圆柱体块,其使用率达到最节俭和充分,只是在其建筑外立面的装饰上动了脑筋,看似简单,其实我几栋建筑不下三五十张的方案好在当时还能买到大量的贺兰山卵石,它便成了建筑的主要外立面材料。当时,也就我设计的建筑用上了贺兰山的卵石。后来,跟风的无数,对贺兰山卵石破坏性极大,控制了。

  塔楼是为了让整个园区有个统制四面辐射八方的制高点,标志性构建而创作。同时,设计时还没用考虑到芦苇迷宫营造以后所造成的安全问题,有许多游客进了迷宫,摸不出来,生命都有危险,竖个标杆供游客有个识别。塔楼的顶端原来是个鸟巢,我比奥运会的鸟巢考虑早多了,但因为种种原因,我设计的鸟巢变成了一只“饭碗”,很伤心,但总是做成了,在西部很不容易,当时资金是及其困难的,至今为止,还有千步廊桥、国际休闲中心等几个主要设计都没有建立起来。然而西部的业主却已打造了一个世上独有的大地上生态艺术作品。