Students: ZHANG Mengting Yani; WEI Gongqi William
Instructors: Ashley Scott Kelly; Xiaoxuan Lu
Course: Studio Laos: Strategic Landscape Planning for the Greater Mekong
Programme: Bachelor of Arts in Landscape Studies
Date: June 2020
Today’s cultural tourism is a fragmented display of signifiers, a discriminating break of the primitiveness, and an indifferent journey for tourists. Behind all these homogenized culture representations, we are aware of a larger system imposed on a larger geography that constantly sustains the cultural landscape and it is greater than any tourism developers want to provide. The territory of culture is much larger than what we designers are aware of. In the modern knowledge system, scholars condense culture to a concept, a discipline of study. However, for designers, this concentration means simplification and laziness leading to only seeing culture representations rather than culture itself. While for developers, this concentration becomes an intrigue to commodify and homogenize the culture. Indigenous people will have ambiguous answers to the question of culture or nature, primitively. However, they know how to sustain their land and retain their identity as the owner of the land, which is exactly where their dignity is. They are much closer to the land than we are and the connection is sacred and spiritual. They live within one system. It’s a not A system we should design, it is the system they design. Negotiation is an ever-changing and inclusive process that is capable of keeping the issue on the table and forestalling the implementation of top-down plannings. To enable villagers to have greater authority over their land and preserve their dignity, we purposely focus on expanding the culture territory by concisely calculating and representing the territory without reducing its complexity. With this rigor and complexity, landscape architecture is giving villagers the ability of translating their introvert perception of land to the extrovert view of culture to negotiate for their future on their own.
Keywords: northern Laos; tourism development; ethno-ecology; negotiation; culture territory