The Bartlett School of Architecture


The Emancipated Hills 隐山

Luofei Dong

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In Luquan, Shijiazhuang, China, the profit-driven destruction of local hills to build speculative housing development casts disruptions between the natural and the urban. In Northala Fields, London, UK, a set of algorithmically designed hills formed from the waste of nearby construction works act as a manmade noise barrier between the A40 and residential neighbourhoods. One site negates the natural topography while the other bloats the existing landscape. Together they guide us to critically reimagine the city’s co-existence with nature.

‘The Emancipated Hills’ uncovers the problematics of urban greening in contrast to natural topography. It seeks to comprehend how a hill vanishing into the city alters the place and its perception; and what happens when a hill emancipates itself. 

The work poetically intertwines Mandarin and English to communicate and connect cultures. A video documentary set in Luquan questions the consequences of the Anthropocene, the impact of capitalism upon landscape and the resulting loss of place-identity. An installation of ephemeral bamboo structures in Northala Fields encourages gathered publics to celebrate their ‘situatedness’ of being on the hill, their embodiment of its gradient through its crisp air, wild weeds and the muddy water flowing along the bamboo. 


1. The emancipated hill – Shijiazhuang, China. Luofei Dong, 2019. Video still.
2. The emancipated hill – Northala Fields, UK. Luofei Dong, 2019. Photo of installation detail (courtesy of Jan Kattein)
3. The emancipated hill – Northala Fields, UK. Luofei Dong, 2019. Photo of installation (courtesy of Jan Kattein)