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QI XUAN LI PORTFOLIO Selected Works ‘14

Master of Landscape Architecture 2017

Harvard University Graduate School of Design

CONTENT Academic Design Proposal Excavating the Hybrid Ground 2017 ULI Competition Entry Surface + Edge : Indeterminacy The Ephemeral Landscape of Cyborg Infrastructure Internship Work Sample

01 11 21 31 37

Excavating the Hybrid Ground 2015 March, 8 Weeks Instructor: Anita Berrizbeitia with Jill Desimini Core Studio II : Spring 2015 Over several decades of transformation, Franklin Park has lost its original spirit envisioned by Olmsted. Encroached by modern recreation, Franklin Park has become a container for a conglomeration of sports fields that have little connection with their surroundings. In response to Franklin Park’s current condition and its original spirit envisioned by Olmsted, my design proposes to excavate a hybrid ground that restores its spiritual and practical needs and creates a meaningful connection between them.



Before Circulation





After Circulation

Playstead Stadium 1949

Franklin Park Existing Condition

Existing Outcrop

Playstead Hybrid Ground


Franklin Park Excavating the Hybrid Ground (Proposed)

Modern recreation and urban development have gradually rendered Franklin Park obsolete. This is revealed in the spatial and social separation between modern recreation and Franklin Park, and poor park management that has resulted from this separation. A section through the schoolboy stadium reveals its interruptive role in users’ experience both inside and outside the stadium. Excavating the Hybrid Ground situates the problem in the Playstead and looks to resolve the park’s poor


conditions by excavating a hybrid play space that can accommodate modern recreational uses and restore the park’s historical qualities. My major design move is the introduction of a bowl-shaped landform that directs view outward when standing inside of it and directs view inward when standing outside of it. This spatial duality builds a visual language that captures Franklin Park’s original spirit while meeting the demands of Franklin Park’s current condition.


Section Perspective (North Entry)

Axonometric Section Summer

Section Perspective (South Entry)

User experience of arriving the bowl is carefully choreographed. There are two major entries into the bowl; the north and the south entrance. Spatial continuity is maintained from the circulation that connects the two entries. The long section shows that the bowl declines from south to north. The contour plan shows that the contour lines continue to descend as one approaches the south entry, vice versa, continue to

ascend toward the north entry. Users are greeted differently at different entries (section perspectives + perspectives); arriving at the north entry, one encounters the bowl space as enclosed and framed by the landform and the white pines; on the contrary, arriving at the south entry, one is greeted by a visual corridor that opens up as the landform falls back.

Axonometric Section Winter

Fine Sandy Loam


Sandy Gravel

Fine Sandy Loam

Sandy Gravel

Fine Sandy Loam

Concrete Pavement


“Scenery is more than an object or a series of objects; more than a spectacle, more than a scene of a series of scenes, more than a landscape, and other than a series of landscapes. Moreover, there may be beautiful scenery in which not a beautiful blossom or leaf or rock, bush or tree, not a gleam of water or of turf shall be visible. But there is no beautiful scenery that does not give the mind an emotional impulse different from that resulting from whatever beauty may be found in a room, courtyard, or garden, within which vision is obviously confined by walls or other surrounding artificial constructions. Given sufficient space, scenery of much simpler elements than are found in the site of Franklin Park may possess the soothing charm which lies in the qualities of breadth, distance, depth, intricacy, atmospheric perspective, and mystery. It may have picturesque passages (that is to say, more than picturesque objects or picturesque “bits”). It may have passages, indeed, of an aspect approaching grandeur and sublimity.” - Frederick Law Olmsted

Typologies The detail axonometric drawings show the bowl’s elegant integration into its surrounding as well as the bowl’s potential as a hybrid ground that restores, maintains and explores Franklin Park’s important role in providing meaningful and quality public space.



User experience is carefully choreographed. There are two major entries into the bowl; the north and the south entrance. Spatial continuity is maintained from the circulation that connects the two entries. The long section shows that the bowl declines from south to north. The contour plan shows that the contour lines continue to descend as one approaches the south entry, vice versa, continue to ascend toward the north entry.


Users are greeted differently at the two entries (section perspectives + perspectives); arriving at the north entry, one encounters the bowl space as enclosed and framed by the landform; on the contrary, arriving at the south entry, one is greeted by a visual corridor that opens up as the landform falls back.


ULI Hines Competition: Chicago North Branch 2017 January, 2 Weeks Advisor: Stephen Grey ULI Hines Competition: Winter 2017 Located in the center of three booming Chicago neighborhoods with distinctive characters - Bucktown, Wickle Park and Lincoln Park - our site has been challenged by its industrial past and is at risk of losing its importance in the larger regional development due to a combination of unfavorable conditions - inconvenient transportation, economic stagnation, outdated infrastructure, and environmental hazard. As urban planners and developers, we see a pressing need and a unique opportunity to unlock its value through both spatial recognition and strategic planning. We believe that it has tremendous potential to integrate yesterday’s industrial heritage into tomorrow’s technological innovation; to connect the lake front prosperity on the east (Lincoln Park) to the arts and cultural development on the west (Bucktown), and th form a strategic alliance with its north-south neighborhoods (the former Finkl Steel site and Goose Island) with the goal of invigorating the entire North Branch Industrial Corridor.



Our development aims to create a vibrant community where people work, play, and live. Over the next ten years, we will gradually bring in businesses that focus on technological innovations especially for the healthcare, manufacturing, and food processing industries, many of which are located outside of Chicago but will likely benefit from a more urban location. Meanwhile, a 64,000 sqft mixed-sports center on the east side of


the Chicago River will give adjacent neighborhoods better access to sports facilities, echoing Mayor Emanuel’s Morgan Park Sports Center project for the south side of Chicago. Additionally, the Clybourn Station of the Metra rail will be relocated to increase its area of influence and effectiveness in the neighborhood and at the same time enhance the new North Branch district’s connection to the Downtown area and the northern suburbs.

Design Strategy

Open Space System

Figure Ground

Insertion of programs at strategic locations to connect with adjacent neighborhoods and districts

Connecting the tech corridor and neighboring districts through an open space network and a trail infrastructure

Addition of new infrastructure and locations of new development

Transit Circulation

Road Circulation

Transit Circulation - Event Day

Existing and proposed bus, water taxi, Metra and subway lines. Relocation of Cybourn Station and addition of water taxi and bus stops

Addition of a circular trail and reinforcement of two major streets to complete the tech corridor and connect with surrounding neighborhoods

Re-routing of proposed major traffic flow on event days and expanding pedestrian space from plaza onto streets


Phase I: Intervention

Phase I Highlights - Channel North Avenue activities toward the center of our site through the existing Home Depot traffic and the new Industrial / Culinary districts visitors - A 64,000 sqft sports center on the east bank of Chicago River to attract new users, linked to our site through a new bridge and the Triangle Park - Establish the anchor business of the Innovation Corridor in the north, synergizing with Finkl Steel site


Phase II: Inter-connection

Phase II Highlights

Headquarter Office Office Condominum Apartment Retail Container Retail Sports Center Tech Exhibition Center Park Hotel 0%





- Phase out the temporary container retail and parking facility in the center of the Tech Corridor - Add waterfront apartments to the Residential and Sporting Park now embracing both sides of the river - A relocated light rail station to boost the neighborhood’s connection with Downtown and the northern suburbs - Create incentive for the existing manufacturing zone to upgrade old facilities to attract new tenants

Phase III: Integration

Phase III Highlights

Headquarter Office Office Condominum Apartment Retail Container Retail Sports Center Tech Exhibition Center Park Hotel 0%





- Elevate the visibility of the Innovation Corridor with a waterfront Incubator Hall and central plaza - A 400-room hotel at the intersection of the Innovation Corridor and the Industrial Re-design zone to re-affirm the area as Chicago’s newest hub -East bank apartments to enhance the Residential and Sporting Park with its newest luxury and family tenants - Bike trail fosters connection with neighborhoods

Headquarter Office Office Condominum Apartment Retail Container Retail Sports Center Tech Exhibition Center Park Hotel 0%






The Headquarter PROGRAM Office Parking

Innovation Square sf units 401,293 62,600 231

Block FAR: 5.75

PROGRAM Office Retail Tech Display Parking

Tech Grove sf units 559,099 38,750 32,292 36,112 133


Block FAR: 3.11

Block FAR: 5.44

Riverside Terrace PROGRAM Residentail Retail Parking Block FAR: 4.19


sf units 105,163 79,179 39,062 145

Office Retail Parking

Triangle Ranch Tower sf units 387,386 781 110,438 37,404 138

PROGRAM Residentail Retail Fitness Center Parking

sf units 659,758 1329 19,170 19,773 56,338 208

Our core design strategy involves turning a historically detached and inward-looking place into an open platform for knowledge sharing, cultural interactions, physical well-being, and collective growth. First of all, we identify that our geographic location is a great asset to foster connection with the rest of the city: We elevate the waterfront significance not only as a major

north-south transportation corridor but also as a physically and environmentally healthy place for recreational activities. On the residential front, we will provide a more diverse and affordable housing alternatives to the neighboring Lincoln Park and Bucktown.

Block FAR: 4.19


N Throop Street - Existing

N Throop Street - Proposed





side walk


car lane



5’ 4.5’

side walk


car bike lane lane bioswale




5’ 4.5’


car lane

car lane

car lane

bike lane bioswale

side walk

Waterfront Drive - Existing Within our site, the goal is to integrate our industrial heritage into faster growing industries. Four distinctive zones (Industrial Re-Design, Culinary Cultural Drive, Innovation Corridor, and Residential & Sporting Park) will maintain individual identities while interacting with each other at major venues, Center Plaza, and wa-

terfront spaces. The perspective above is showing the Center Plaza on an event day, where the intersection is closed off to vehicular circulation, allowing adjacent spaces to join as a single event space. The Exhibition Hall at the back will be a public venue for innovation and technology display.

Waterfront Drive - Proposed



sidewalk bioswale







car lane

car lane


pedestrian path

pedestrian path

6.5’ pedestrian boardwalk


Surface + Edge : Indeterminacy 2014 October, 8 Weeks Instructor: Gary Hilderbrand with Jane Hutton, Zaneta Hong, and Silvia Benedito Core Studio I: Fall 2014 This exercise asks us to conceptualize a new urban square on the Boston waterfront, which requires us to exploit the indifinite, moving edge between land and water. Initial formal investigations are derived from Snohetta’s Oslo Opera House.



Precedent Transformation of Oslo Opera House

An analysis of the project site’s urban context reveals that new residential/ commercial development along the Boston waterfront has a much larger scale than the older part of the city. One of my design intentions is to maintain the qualities of a small-scale urban fabric in large-scale urban development. My design strategy is to overlay a secondary network of circulation over a large plaza space.


Inside the urban plaza is a rainwater retention pool that is densely planted with tall grass. The retention pool not only manages urban runoff but also creates a controlled environment for a planting design opportunity. The pool also mimics the fluctuation of sea level.


A thin stripe of pathway at the north end of the urban plaza is peeled off the ground plane to create a skywalk that takes one up to 7m above water at low tide. When tide level rises, water permeates into the sloped plaza, surrounding the tip of the skywalk.

Walkways do not end when they meet the plaza plane, but continue inside the plaza in the form of paving pattern. To the top right of the detail plan is a sunken deck that provides an enclosed, quiet space for small group interactions.

Two cultivars of Panicum virgatum are planted on a sloping plane to create a wetland condition. Unlike the skywalk, here one would experience an intimate and enclosed space submerged in a field of tall grass. The sloping field of grass will also direct passerby’s view towards the new urban plaza.



view looking towards the ocean

view looking into wetland

Serial Section



Lines of trees are laid down to direct pedestrian circulation inside the plaza. Nyssa sylvatica is used on dry surfaces while baldcypress is used in the constructed wetland. The trees are deliberately offseted to create exterior rooms for plaza users. The trees produce a beautiful red color in the fall.

Learning from my precedent project, Oslo Opera House, this urban plaza uses a wedge form to orient users. Inside the plaza, a secondary circulation stitches together open spaces. This continuous pathway also takes one through a variety of spaces, experiencing both the dynamic waterfront as well as the quiet inner plaza.

Similar to the Oslo Opera House, the wedges are tilted to generate intimate semi-private spaces long the secondary circulation. Together with the large open spaces, the variety of spaces along the continuous pathway create a choreographed experience as one walks along it.



The Ephemeral Landscape of Cyborg Infrastructure

Qi Xuan, Li Harvard GSD



Geomorphology Modeling Table, Responsive Environments and Artifacts Lab. (Li, 2016.05.17)


This project was completed as final assignment for a seminar course (Cyborg Coasts: Responsive Hydrologies) taught by Associate Professor Bradley Cantrell at the Graduate School of Design’s Department of Landscape Architecture. The project explores responsive modes of design and technology through the development of a responsive hydrological infrastructure in two phases. Equipment and tools used in this project include: Geomorphology Modeling Table, Kinect (As Depth Sensor), Arduino Servo and Motor, Custom Built Parts, Processing. The project uses the geomorphology modeling table as the site and engages the phenomena present in this environment. Phase One: Sensing and Representation

The first phase involves exploration of a method of sensing that would recreate a real-time digital representation/visualization of phenomenon present in the geomorphology modeling table. My goal was to reveal the dynamic nature of the sediments when water was released to flow downstream through the sediments. My choice of media and technique engages Processing as a visualization tool (Figure 2) and Kinect as a depth sensing tool to retrieve and represent a field of topographic data points of the sediments inside the modeling table (Figure 4).





Qi Xuan (Tony), Li


Cyborg Coasts: Responsive Hydrologies (ADV-09139)

Instructor: Bradley, Cantrell TA(s):

Spyridon, Ampanavos Yujie, Hong


Harvard GSD


Processing Interface / Digital Representation of Sediments (Li, 2016.05.17)


System Diagram. (Li, 2016.05.17)

In the next page, you can see a sequence of images showing the Processing interface, with three different color pixels displayed (Figure 5); red represents sediment erosion, meaning decrease in topographic elevation, green represents sediment accretion, meaning increase in topographic elevation, and white represents constant elevation. The brightness of the colors reflects the amount of change, with the brightest color pixel (bright red or green) showing significant change in topographic elevation, and darkest color pixel (dark red or green) showing little change. The mechanism behind the color assignment follows that Processing records data every 250 milliseconds, and compares them with data stored in the previous frame, returning a value that represents change in topographic elevation, and is then visualized using the above color gradients (Figure 3). This Processing script produces a digital view of the simulated environment in the sand table, showing in real-time how flowing water continuously reshapes topography overtime.


This is ACADIA-Figure Caption. (credits author lastname, date, Š if applicable)

Phase Two: Real-Time Responsive Infrastructure

The second phase focuses on the interaction between the sensing and the response, the digital and the analog. In other words, it builds upon the method of sensing developed in the first phase, and engages hybrid approaches that oscillate between analog and digital techniques. Through iterative prototyping, I designed an infrastructure that would respond to data sensed through Kinect and interpreted through Processing. This prototype is constituted of two parts (Figure 4). The first part, the L-shaped arm, the lower part, moves linearly across a custom-built track powered by an Arduino motor. This part is designed to screen only the sediments, accumulating sediments behind it without intervening water flow. The L-shaped arm responds to the average location of where sediment change is occurring over a period of 10 seconds, which is also where water is flowing through; it repositions itself to the updated location every 10 seconds to encourage sediment deposition by accumulating sediments behind it.

TOPIC (ACADIA team will fill in)






Processing Interface Image Sequence. (Li, 2016.05.17)


Responsive Infrastructure Image Sequence. (Li, 2016.05.17)

TOPIC (ACADIA team will fill in)




Responsive Infrastructure Diagram. (Li, 2016.05.17)

The second part, the upside-down T-shaped arm, which sits above the L-shaped arm, rotates locally at the center of the infrastructure. It responds to the number of pixels that are assigned a color (red or green), which corresponds to the surface area of sediments that are being eroded/deposited; a large surface area of change would turn it to its 0 degree position, preventing water from flowing directly through, while a small surface area of change would turn it to its 180 degree position, allowing water to pass through without disruption (Figure 7). Together, this infrastructure attempts to recognize where water is flowing, and where sediments are flowing, and creates ephemeral landforms based on sensed information. Looking Forward

While the system still need to be further developed and refined, it shows promise for its ability to adapt to dynamic conditions based on obser ved, immediate conditions, rather than predicted conditions. Further development could potentially incorporate ideas of




Responsive Infrastructure Diagram. (Li, 2016.05.17)

machine learning as the system evolves in the long term; the idea that the system itself evolves over time.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS This project was completed in a seminar course (Cyborg Coasts: Responsive Hydrologies) in the Department of Landscape Architecture at Harvard Graduate School of Design, and was supported by the Responsive Environments and Artifacts Lab. I would like to express


Cyborg Infrastructure in Motion. (Li, 2016.05.17)

REFERENCES [Journal Article] Allison, M. A. & Meselhe, E. A. (2010). “The use of large water and sediment diversions in the lower Mississippi River (Louisiana)

[Book] Cantrell, B., Holzman, J. (2016) Responsive Landscapes: Strategies

Bio Qi Xuan (Tony) Li is a second year Masters of Landscape Architecture

for Responsive Technologies in Landscape Architecture. New York. NY:

student at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Prior to GSD, Tony


studied at the University of British Columbia where he received Bachelor

[Book] Galloway, A. (2004). Protocol how control exists after decentraliza-

who gave me the opportunity to work on this exciting project and who

tion. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

responsive technology in Landscape Architecture. I am also grateful to my TAs, Spyridon Ampanavos and Yujie Hong, for assistance with my Processing script and Arduino setup, which were critical to the operation of this project. Many people, especially my classmates, Leif Estrada, Yuanjie Li, Samantha Solano, Sonny Meng Qi Xu, have made valuable comment suggestions on this project. I thank all the people for their help directly or indirectly.

The Ephemeral Landscape of Cyborg Infrastructure. Li

scenarios.” Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, (138): 57-68.

for coastal restoration.” Journal of Hydrology, (387): 346-360.

my special thanks to my course instructor, Professor Bradley Cantrell, provided expertise that greatly broadened my knowledge on the topic of

landscape effects of Mississippi River diversions on elevation and accretion in Louisiana deltaic wetlands under future environmental uncertainty

of Environmental Design with distinction. His academic interest lies at the intersection of technology and design. He is particularly interested in investigating new forms of landscape representation in relation to tech-

[Book] Morton, T. (2007). Ecology without nature: Rethinking environmental

nology and research methods. He was recently awarded the Penny White

aesthetics. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Fund Prize for an independent research project for which he is using

[Book] Shiffman, D., & Fry, S. (n.d.). The Nature of Code. [Book] Reas, C., & Fry, B. (2007). Processing: A programming handbook for

animation as a research method to understand the invisible dimension and the tempo-spatial dynamic of the Hudson River’s real-time environmental sensing system.

visual designers and artists. Cambridge, MASS.: MIT Press. [Journal Article] Wang, H., Steyer, G. D., Couvillion, B. R., Rybczyk, J. M., Beck, H. J., Sleavin, W. J., . . . Rivera-Monroy, V. H. (2014). “Forecasting

TOPIC (ACADIA team will fill in)



SUMMER INTERNSHIP WORK SAMPLE Poly Zhuhai International Plaza SWA Group

Poly Zhuhai Int. Plaza Paving Design, SWA San Francisco

My main responsibility during the internship was Poly Zhuhai International Plaza’s paving design. The highlight of the above paving plan I was working on was the four plaza with special gradient paving. My workflow for the special pavement involved parametric operation using grasshopper and modularization. The process of designing paving pattern not only required technical knowledge, but also raised design


issues such as paving unit size in relation to plaza scale, negotiation of paving edge, and expectation of craftsmanship. One of the biggest challenge was to resolve limitations posed by paving module’s constraints. Paving module number 11 as you will find in the image below was one response to modular pavement constraints.


Paving Modules The special paving retains the basic pattern and color of the bigger plaza. Modular pavement is used to rationalize the special paving pattern. There are 12 paving modules, ordered in a gradient. A number of scale issues were considered in designing the modules. The size of each pavement unit and


the thickness of their joints were printed at 1 to 1 scale to test how they would affect the plaza’s scale. The left and right side of the paving modules are toothed to dissolve their edges.

Paving Module Arrangement Plan, SWA San Francisco


Staircase Detail, SWA San Francisco

Seat Wall Detail, SWA San Francisco

Bench Detail, SWA San Francisco Staircase Detail, SWA San Francisco


Other than paving design, I also worked on detailing staircases, benches, and seat wall, etc. The biggest challenge was of course material assembly and three dimensionality. I found detailing very interesting, because it also prompted design thinking

that involved hiding, revealing, fitting, matching of material detail. For example, incorporating groove was a way to dissolve inconsistency caused by stone veneer joints.


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Portfolio Qi Xuan Li