A Chinese art work more famous than the Bayeux Tapestry, a massive new town on the outskirts of Shanghai and key exhibits at a giant horticultural expo in Quingdao...
All three prestigious new projects will have more than a touch of Sheffield in them thanks to a burgeoning relationship involving Chinese students and a city architectural practice.
Nether Edge-based Weddle Landscape Design has built up an enviable portfolio of contracts in China over the last six years.
Its origins lie in the high regard Chinese architects have for Sheffield University’s landscape design classes.
Kenwood Bank-based Weddle currently employs four of the course’s Chinese former students, including Lu Zhong, who company principal Mike Browell credits with first introducing the Sheffield firm to the opportunities in China.
“Lu Zhong had 12 or more years’ experience working for a huge practice in Shanghai, before coming to Sheffield to study landscape design at the university,” Mr Browell recalls.
At the end of her course, she joined Weddle, initially – as was permissible then – until her visa ran out.
“She told us she knew how to get work in China and since then we have worked on a succession of projects, partly through the architects she used to work with. Working in China is all about who knows who and whether they have a good, trusting, long term relationship,” says Mike Browell.
Weddle’s most recent Chinese projects include designing a 200-metre long, seven-metre high piece of ‘landscape art’ for the city of Kaifeng.
The finished item will be suspended in front of a building which will house an animated digital image of a 1,000-year-old work of art called the River of Wisdom, that has already attracted bigger queues than those seen at Disneyland.
The company has also designed an ecologically and economically sustainable landscape that will surround blocks of high rise flats, currently being built 40 kilometres from Shanghai as part of a new town development.
Last, but not least, Weddle has responded to a last minute request from Quingdao, for which it has already designed a temperate glass house five times larger than the Millennium Gardens in Sheffield – another example of its work.
The new glass house is expected to attract a million visitors a week, but Weddle’s latest commission was to successfully create – in just a fortnight – the “British Garden” that will also form part of the horticultural expo that opens in April.