Yi Tang Kao (TUDelft) proposes to maintain and bring back the traditional ponds of the land of a thousands ponds in Taoyuan county, Tableland, Taiwan. The ponds are a vital part of the natural systems, but urbanization is looming. Urbanization and covering of the ponds makes the researched areas more vulnerable to droughts and floods. By reviving the pond system in the urban network, the cities become more resilient.
Can you (briefly) explain your choice of subject?
When I saw the Circular Water Stories LAB in our department, I started to connect those stories to the declining traditional pond landscape in my hometown. A potential world heritage, can there be new possibilities? Is there a chance for it to be redefined again, to co-exist with people, and not only be used as space for urban development?
What or who are your sources of inspiration, and can you briefly explain this?
The interviews I executed gave me the most inspiration. When I interviewed the local pond managers, they mentioned that their lives and the ponds in the past were closely linked, but that’s no longer the case. Therefore, I spent a lot of time searching for information on how people used the ponds in the past, how farmers used hydraulics to obtain water, and how fish farmers kept the water in the ponds clean. These collected materials have become the nutrients and solid foundation for my follow-up design.
State and (briefly) describe the key moment in your graduation project
The key moment for me is to think about goals and solutions. In my case, I tried to design with dynamics to make the area more climate adaptive. The county needs to deal with too little and too much water. Due to the challenges, I transformed it to be an abundant design result.
The project is an example of using a declining traditional water system and its hidden knowledge as an opportunity for today’s challenges. Moreover, this landscape architectonic design emphasizes the latent green-blue network by adding ecological and experiential values and defining it as a public space.
The land of a thousand ponds is disappearing in Taoyuan County, Taiwan. These human-made ponds were storing water to irrigate the farmland. Today many ponds are neglected and filled to create land to construct on. The number of ponds rapidly declined from 4521 in 1904 to 745 in 2020.
Today, extreme climate change causes serious droughts and floods in the area; the county needs to deal with both too little and too much water. Therefore, keeping, restoring, and reusing the ponds is part of the solution to make the region more climate adaptive.
Three design principles are used to reactivate the ponds as a vivid part of the landscape.
1. Robustness – Integrating the ponds which are connected by canals in the urban tissue can transform the system into a robust green and blue network. The project consists of five types of spaces: green fields, pond parks, roads, farm ponds, and canals.
2. Reflectiveness – Transforming the ponds reflects the characteristics of the former cultural landscape and its use. Four strategies are used: topography, hydrology, vegetation, and recreation to redefine the new form of the ponds.
3. Flexibility – In the ponds, water is stored. Therefore, water level changes in the ponds (drought and wetness) can be experienced in people’s daily life.
To illustrate the potential of these ponds, one urban and one peri-urban pond as part of the network is spatially detailed. The urban ponds offer a temporary space for water, especially during floods and is transformed into a park landscape providing all kinds of urban activities. The primary function of the peri-urban ponds is to store water (retention), which can be used in the dry season to irrigate the fields and the green-blue network. In addition, the peri-urban pond offers space for wildlife habitat. Thus, all ponds cooperate in a network and function as an effective mediator between too little or too much water in the area.
What are you doing now?
Previously I worked as Landschapsarchitectuur at Buro Sant en Co, and participated in the competition of Rotterdam central library and small-scale construction drawing.
What hope / do you want to achieve as a designer in the near and / or the distant future?
I hope to implement landscape architects’ awareness of caring for the environment and implement the design on paper step by step from planning, design, and construction drawings.