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Landscape Architecture - MPhil/PhD

Start date:


Mode of study:

Full time

Research title:

Uses and Meanings of Chinese Walls: Past, Present and Future


Yun Liu is currently undertaking her PhD in Landscape Architecture at ESALA. Her doctoral research focuses on rigid boundaries between green spaces and other urban areas in Chinese cities. More specifically, her research mainly aims to investigate the formation of rigid boundary spaces in urban areas and how to redesign existing boundary spaces to disintegrate them to form ecotone spaces which are more attractive, flexible and resilient to suit current congested urban spaces.

Prior to Yun Liu's PhD, she obtained the Master’s Degree of Landscape Architecture with distinction from University of Edinburgh in 2019. She was also awarded the Best Portfolio Prize form the Landscape Institute Scotland and the Helen A. Rose Prize for the Best Postgraduate Students in Landscape Architecture.


Walls have always been important elements in Chinese landscape and architecture. However, in 2005, the project “demolition of enclosures and greening” planned to break the walls along the streets and communities and use fences or other soft boundaries to replace this kind of rigid boundary and provide more open spaces and release the pressure of urban congestion. Many scholars consider walls also conservative and obsolete and the possibility of breaking them is seen as an opportunity to shape greener urban areas and build more public open spaces for people. However, other scholars hold the opposite opinions, they believe that walls should not be demolished completely because they still have some values. It should be recognized that it is a trend to design more open and transparent public spaces and the design of soft boundary become more and more popular, in the contrast, rigid boundary like walls looks outdated. However, from the end of 2019, Covid-19 has spread in the whole world and caused about 460 million people dead, it has influenced people’s lives in many aspects and no one knows when it can disappear thoroughly. It has been changing people’s lifestyles, for example: to control the spread of Covid-19, the Chinese government require every community to be closed and people cannot go outside; in banks or shops, there were baffles between each people to avoid the virus transmission; everyone wears face covering when they go outside. Here, “rigid and tangible boundary” seems to be more needed and could provide people more safety physically and mentally in this special period. Could Covid-19 influence the future’s boundary landscape development directions?

For my Ph.D. research, I mainly aim to discuss the following questions about walls in my homeland, China: 1). Chinese walls in the past: What do walls mean to traditional Chinese culture? 2). Chinese walls today: if walls still worthy to Chinese cities today? Is there any advantage for walls compared with fences or vegetation boundaries (no wall space)? If walls could provide a more comfortable microclimate for people compared with fences or vegetation? If walls could promote more activities for people compared with fences or vegetation? What are people’s attitudes to wall spaces and no-wall spaces (fences and vegetation)? Chinese walls in the future: Is there any design strategy that could balance of the contradiction between breaking walls and keeping walls to create a more attractive landscape?