a conversation with kongjian yu, landscape architecture winner

Winner of the 2023 National Design Award for Landscape Architecture,  Kongjian Yu is a globally recognized landscape designer, founder of Turenscape, and a founder of Peking University College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. Several of Yu’s core ideas for nature-based climate adaptations, including the sponge city concept, have been implemented nationwide in China. In this illustrated talk, Yu will discuss his work and how his landscape architecture methods and ideas can help mitigate climate events such as flash floods, superstorms, and tidal surges. After a presentation of his work, Yu will be in conversation with Matilda McQuaid, Acting Director of Curatorial.


This program will be livestreamed on Cooper Hewitt’s YouTube channel. To watch the program live, please visit this link.

  • Program Length: 90 minutes 
  • Interactivity Level: Low. Participants will hear a slideshow presentation from Kongjian Yu. Slides will be presented on a large screen. Participants are invited to participate in an optional question and answer session at the end of the conversation.  
  • Intended Audience: People interested in climate, landscape architecture, curious about design. No previous design or design history knowledge is required. 


kongjian yu

Kongjian Yu is a globally recognized leader in ecological landscape planning and design. A farmer’s son, he was trained at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He is the founder of the Peking University College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. Yu is also founder and principal designer of Turenscape. His multi-disciplinary firm specializes in the development of landscapes that combat flooding while repairing ecological damage. Several of Yu’s core ideas for nature-based climate adaptations, including the sponge city concept, have been implemented nationwide in China. Yu is a fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects and member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He lectures widely, and has received numerous awards, including the Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe Award in 2020 from the International Federation of Landscape Architects.

matilda mcquaid, moderator

Matilda McQuaid is Acting Director of Curatorial and previously Head of Textiles at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.  She oversees curatorial and exhibition programming often working collaboratively with other Smithsonian museums on projects and exhibitions.  As a curator she has organized nationally and internationally acclaimed architecture and design exhibitions with accompanying publications, including Extreme Textiles: Designing for High Performance (2005), Color Moves: Art and Fashion by Sonia Delaunay (2011), Tools: Extending Our Reach (2014), and Nature—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial (2019).  Formerly at the Museum of Modern Art (NYC) for 15 years where she curated over 30 exhibitions, she is also an accomplished author and editor on art, architecture, and design, with many books, exhibition catalogues, and articles to her credit.


  • Location: This program will take place in person in the Lecture Room at Cooper Hewitt (2 East 91st Street, New York, NY). The Lecture Room is on the ground floor of the museum and fully wheelchair accessible. There is an accessible restroom on the same floor. Theater-style seating will be available.  
  • What to Expect: This program will feature slideshow presentation by Yu, then moderated conversation, followed by an audience Q&A. 
  • Accommodations: For general questions, or if we can provide additional accessibility services or accommodations to support your participation in this program, please email us at CHEducation@si.edu or let us know when registering. Please make your accommodation request as far in advance as possible—preferably at least one week before the program date when possible.

About national Design week

National Design Week celebrates the power of design in our everyday world. Launched in 2006, National Design Week is held in conjunction with the National Design Awards. From October 2–8, Cooper Hewitt’s galleries will be free to enter, and programs will welcome all to engage with design. Join us for the presentation of the 2023 National Design Awards, and visit our calendar for a complete listing of programs during National Design Week.

Special Thanks

National Design Awards Partners

Shelby and Frederick Gans
Helen and Edward Hintz

National Design Awards Sponsors
Alexandra and Paul Herzan
Lisa Roberts and David Seltzer
Crystal and Chris Sacca

National Design Awards Patrons
Kimberly Schuessler
Richard M. Smith and Dr. Soon-Young Yoon
Jon C. Iwata
Agnes Gund
Scott Belsky
Victor Calise
Champions Design
Heller Furniture
Bobby Martin
Thomas Robinson
Margaret Stewart

Design learning at Cooper Hewitt is made possible by eBay Inc., The Hirsch Family Foundation, The Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation, The Pinkerton Foundation, PwC Charitable Foundation, The Richard and Jean Coyne Family Foundation, with internal Smithsonian Institution funds from the Youth Access Grants for Youth Innovation in Rural America, and public funds from New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

National Design Awards trophies are created by The Corning Museum of Glass.

Featured images: Kongjian Yu. Photo: Courtesy of Kongjian Yu;  Kongjian Yu, Sanya Mangrove Park. Restoring mangroves along coastal shorelines is a critical strategy for mitigating climate-change-driven urban flood risk in tropical cities. One of the key challenges is to find an efficient and inexpensive method to do so. In just three years, an area of lifeless landfill within a concrete flood wall was successfully restored into a lush mangrove park where ocean tides and fresh water meet (Sanya City, China, 2015). Photo: Kongjian Yu