From sustainable eco-initiatives to bold designs inspired by ancient local traditions, these design firms are redefining how we view outdoor space around the region
While other architects mould in brick and steel and glass, landscape designers navigate a far trickier toolbox.
At their finest, they define spaces and create miniature worlds. Their canvas evolves and shifts by the season, the hour, and the minute as their living medium withers, fades or flourishes. The manicured gardens, dramatically lit sculptures, and spiralling staircases, characteristic of some of Asia’s most illustrious five-star resorts, and residences serve as a necessary visual bridge between man-made artifice and its natural or urban surroundings.
Innovative landscape design in Asia is hardly new. Inhabitants of this continent have understood the vital role it plays for generations. Evidence of carefully composed landscapes can be found around some of Thailand’s earliest Lanna temples.
The Chinese concept of feng shui dictates how various natural and artificial elements should interact for the most harmonious final result. The name, which translates simply to “wind water,” fails to convey the weight that the idea expresses: that properly ordered landscape has the power to redirect life force and impact all beings that pass through it. Though the idea is thousands of years old, it continues to strongly influence architects today.
Similarly, artfully arranged rock gardens in Japan date back to the sixth century and the Heian period. These sparsely decorated gravel landscapes combed to resemble water ripples use the utmost precision to evoke a contemplative atmosphere.
Over the course of the last several centuries, Asian societies have developed in fits and spurts. Rice paddies and thick jungle have given way to some of the tallest skyscrapers and densest urban populations on the globe. As if seeking an antidote to all this accelerated industrialisation, designers often seek to incorporate greenery any way they can.
Much of the industry’s focus tends to centre on public and hospitality sectors. While it’s true that urban parks and five-star resorts do tend to sport the most flamboyant landscapes, many of the region’s top firms are conceiving of equally striking works for residential properties.
Here we highlight six of the most creative firms currently transforming landscapes in Asia and beyond…