The Yue-Yuan Courtyard


General Design

Suzhou, China | Z+T Studio Landscape Architecture | Client: Avic Legend Co. Ltd.

It’s a very built landscape. It’s a piece of art. There’s an honesty and purity about this project.

- 2017 Awards Jury


Lead Designers

  • Dong Zhang, ASLA
  • Ziying Tang, ASLA

Landscape Architect of Record/Firm

  • Xiang Qiao Landscape Construction Group


  • Z+T Art Studio

Landscape Designers

  • Qiang Du
  • Yanjie Fan
  • Peishuin Lin
  • Jialin Zheng
  • Hongchao Liu
  • Tianyu Hou
  • Chuan Sun



Client Coordinators

  • Jianping Zhu
  • Zhuo Wang
  • Haixin Hua
  • Zhigang An


The Yue-Yuan Courtyard is a meeting point of the modern architecture and the Chinese classical garden of Suzhou. Located in Suzhou, the landscape architectural design of the courtyard is beyond visual representation or replica of the classical garden of Suzhou, yet inspired by the sophisticated spirit and culture of the tradition. Embracing the distinctive natural characteristics of the region, the courtyard creates a metaphorical abstraction of nature. The high precision of the construction ensured the design was accurately realized.


The program and design strategy of the Yue-Yuan Courtyard were inspired by artistic concepts of the classical garden of Suzhou.

As water feature is a critical element in the classical garden of Suzhou, for this project, it is the visual connector through the site. It connects two main gardens in the Yue-Yuan Courtyard, the Creek garden and the Lake garden. The visitor starts to experience the courtyard from the Creek garden that is inspired by creek waterway. The water feature made from granite monolith is an artistic metaphor of the natural hydrological processes - how runoff goes through the surface for hundreds of years and transforms the land into a river valley. When the creek is filled with water, it becomes a curved reflecting pool with scenery-borrowing, which is an expression of the Yangtze River and ever-changing sky.

To generate a tranquil and meditative atmosphere, the single curved reflecting pool encompasses the evolving natural and artificial light in the central garden, the moving shadow of the surrounding building and the sound of the falling water into the creek. At the end of the creek, water flows into the large reflecting pool in the Lake garden. Inspired by the techniques of traditional Chinese painting, while the elements were only presented in high abstraction, the conciseness and precision in fact evoke vast imagination of the nature beyond this small courtyard that is less than 1,000 sq. m.

While appeared simple, the geometry of the curved water feature sculpture is in high complexity. The creates challenging issues both in fabrication and installation. With a collaborative effort between the landscape architects and craftsman from an art workshop, the sculpture was fabricated in a series of sections in the shop. And section by section, the sculpture was assembled and installed on site. Naturally, the high precision of the construction is the necessity for the project.

On the contrary to the classical garden of Suzhou, the Yue-Yuan Courtyard is designed with a minimum yet highly selective palate of plants and stones. The distillation of the materiality and plantings is often seen in the contemporary garden. Although being calm and meditative, the courtyard is highly engaged with the dynamic natural environment rather than an isolation. The natural phenomenon - sunrise, sunset, and rain - all are eloquently and artistically presented in the courtyard.