Yue-Yuan Courtyard

Yue-Yuan Courtyard (Suzhou, China) showcases a landscape expression of modern architectural motifs and powerful cultural history with respect to Suzhou classic garden.

A contemporary design that unites the distilled expressions of nature and the region’s cultural caracter.

The architects and landscape architects worked closely together at the intersection of building and landscape, prioritizing the landscape and outdoor experience in architectural decisions. The landscape strategies have not been focused on simple visual representations of a traditional garden, but abstracting the natural elements in a distilled expression.

Through interpretations of Suzhou garden at the Yue-Yuan Courtyard, travelers are able to gain an understanding of the region’s distinctive cultural character in a contemporary language.

Architectural plan of Yue-Yuan Courtyard.
Photography: Z+T Studio


Water feature as the critical element in Chinese classic garden is a visual connection to the site’s context, connecting two main parts of Yue-Yuan Courtyard: Creek garden, and Lake garden.

The visitor experience begins with Creek garden inspired by a creek waterway originated from lofty mountains and flowing water which is an allusion from the story of Bo Ya and Zhong Ziqi 1.

Installation process.
Photography: Jialin Zheng

The water feature carved out from large granite stone, artfully demonstrates the natural process of how runoff goes through the surface for hundreds of years and transforms the land into a river valley. The origin of the creek drips from a carefully designed water table.

When the creek is filled with water, it becomes a curved reflecting pool with scenery-borrowing 2 which is an expression of the Yangtze River and ever-changing sky.

The reflecting pool generates a tranquil, as well as meditating, atmosphere together with the light that pours into the central garden, the shadow from the surrounding building and the sound of water falling from the creek.

Lake Garden.
Photography: Hai Zhang

At the end of the creek, water flows into another reflecting pool which is the main feature in the Lake garden. Simple, yet highly artful, the imaginative coexistence with the flow and tranquil in this small courtyard, with an area less than 1,000 sq.m., is harmonious.

In addition, expressing the aesthetic of a famous regional rock, Taihu rock, the forms Ku (withered), Shou (thin), Lou (holey), and Tou (penetrate) integrate in the placement site and design of exterior spaces continuous with architecture in a contemporary way, this is one of the most successful points in the design.

The tour routes combined with the landscape gives access to the element of water feature and rock, as to the historic and cultural spirit of a classic garden.

Photography: Hai Zhang

Different to Suzhou classic garden, the minimalist palette of plants and stone expresses a distillation of the materiality and plantings of the contemporary garden.

The distinct culture and landscape are translated through different mediums such as water, rock, and living materials.

Harnessing the dynamic environmental context, the courtyard design registers the sunrise, sunset, and rain. 

The Creek Garden flows into another reflecting pool in the Lake Garden.
Photography: Hai Zhang

1   Tale about a functionary and a woodsman that built a relationship based on mutual respect and brotherhood, joined by their shared passion for music.

2   Term that refers to incorporating background landscape into the composition of a garden.