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Happy Valley Garden' Wins Top Award at 10th China International Garden Expo

This summer, a team of Penn State landscape architecture faculty and students won the top award for their entry for the 10th China (Wuhan) International Garden Expo.

A detail of the project model. Credit:Image: Christopher Counts Studio

Christopher Counts Studio's "Happy Valley Garden" received first place at the expo and will be constructed, along with six finalists, in China within the next year.

Christopher Counts is Career Development Professor in Design in the Stuckeman School and Maria Debije Counts is an instructor in landscape architecture. Their award-winning team also included Penn State landscape architecture students Chase Weaver, Na Yang, Richard Conte, Rebecca Purtell, Qin Fang and Andrew Seirfarth. The students completed their work on "Happy Valley Garden" as part of a summer internship at Christopher Counts Studio’s satellite office in State College; the firm is based in Brooklyn.

“The 'Happy Valley Garden' is a 21st-century living environment imagined to instill a playful sense of wonder, exploration and fun to visitors,” described Maria Debije Counts. “It’s an experimental garden/installation intended to test boundaries.”

Created entirely in State College, Christopher Counts said the project is a “hyper-intensification of typography.”

Visitors will weave through miniature bamboo forests to discover alternate paths within the garden. Colorful plantings and dramatic elevation changes will add to the visitors’ sensual experiences within the space. Although the main goal of the garden is to evoke joy during a light-hearted journey, there is also an undercurrent of the values of sustainability and ecological health.

“Principles of sustainability, such as minimizing the consumption of new materials, balancing cut and fill, use of recycled materials, regeneration and restoration of refuse landfills, and water recycling will guide all aspects of the design and construction of the garden,” explained Christopher Counts.

"Happy Valley Garden" will be constructed as part of the 10th China (Wuhan) International Garden Expo, which will be held in Wuhan, China, from September 2015 to April 2016, by MOHURD (the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development of the People’s Republic of China) and the People’s Government of Hubei Province, and organized by the Chinese Society of Landscape Architecture, the Chinese Association of Parks, the Department of Housing and Urban-Rural Development of Hubei Province, and the People’s Government of Wuhan City.

“It’s truly an honor to be chosen,” said Christopher Counts. “I’m happy that our students’ hard work and experience with our firm this summer have paid off for them.”

This most recent honor is another feather in the cap of the Counts, who received a 2013 American Society of Landscape Architects Professional Award and were 2013 Visiting Artists at the American Academy in Rome.

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