Rowan Moore from The Guardian, in his list of top urban green spaces, recognizes the Summer Palace in Beijing as an 800-year-old retreat for Qing Dynasty emperors. Its appeal lies in classical Chinese gardens, pavilions, and Kunming Lake, providing tranquility amidst the city, while nurturing biodiversity.

The 7th Earl of Elgin’s contribution to world culture (Parthenon marbles) is well known. His son the 8th earl went further, ordering the destruction of much of the Summer Palace (as well as the Old Summer Palace) during the second opium war. Fortunately, the palace, an ensemble of lakes, gardens and buildings created for the Imperial family, was so vast that, with the help of restoration, it is still magnificent. Designed as a refuge from the city’s oppressive heat, some of its best features are devices for creating cooling breezes and shade. An almost inexhaustible series of spaces formed from buildings and nature together.

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