Thank you for coming, everyone. Today we have Xanging
Li, or Li Xanging, depending on how do you
order name, family name. And with us, as
many of you know, he’s teaching and this year
with us, this term with us, but his position in
Tongji University is now professor–
correct me if I’m wrong– and deputy dean for the College
of Architecture and Urban Planning and dean
of the Sino-Spanish College of Tongji university. And this is why we have had a
good relationship seeing him for the first time in Madrid,
then in Tongji, and then here. And he has several books written
like Experience Architecture, Down Architects and Chinese
Tactics, 2005, 2006. Architecture as
Resistance, [inaudible] show and his architecture,
[inaudible], 2012 and 2004. He’s also been very
actively involved in curating [inaudible] some
biennales, as this [inaudible] Hong Kong Biennale of 2015. Decide how you’re going to
space our season in 2015. And also, he’s a member
of CICA, “see-ka”, which is an international
organization that contains the most important
historians and critics. I have asked him to really try
to make in such a short time a panorama or a vision,
more than a panorama, his vision on what is happening
now in Chinese architecture. Because I think this
is a key moment for us, I mean, for Chinese
architecture. The young generation has
evolved and is not mimicking [inaudible] other cultures. And at same time,
we are beginning to understand the huge
amount of production has passed from the quantitative
to the qualitative now. And this is a very
important moment. So please will you join
me in welcoming Xanging Li and let’s give him a hand. [applause] Thank you. Do we have respondents
as [inaudible] that though mostly all of you
know because he’s teaching in the school from [inaudible]. [inaudible] is visiting
scholar and you may notice, not so long time ago,
teaching with us. Thank you for having me here. And thanks to [inaudible]
and also to GSD. Today, the topic is
building a new tradition. I’m going to– of
course, [inaudible] asked me to cover the kind
of history turn maybe, not a history turn,
but the Chinese new emerging architectural
practices that are trying to rebuild the
connection with our past, with our tradition
and history as well. So China has seen
cities and buildings that are advancing triumphantly
for the past three decades, so at a speed and scale that
are never seen in the West. So high-rise buildings
are springing up swiftly in the cities, while the
historic blocks built over hundreds of years
ago are being dismantled. So the rapid advent of
modernity is accompanied with the disenchanting
and the duplication of modern Western civilization. China’s construction
industry thus have received a severe criticism
from the international academia that perhaps the loss of
China’s unique cultural characteristics,
and its breaking from the past
construction tradition will bring about
nothing but water without a source and
trees without roots. So Chinese contemporary
artists are more sensitive to the
crisis of our own identity. Also, the breaking of a
inherent connection to history. Artists like artist
[? luong ?] Foon. This is one of the most
active and important contemporary Chinese
artists. [? luong ?] Foon illustrates that in-between the
situation of China’s history and future is imagination
and also its dirty reality. So why are artists like,
also another artist– this is [? wong ?] Foon. And another artist,
[? yangyong ?] Liao, tries to melt the
ever-growing urban landscape into a historic reflection
of Chinese traditional ink and wash paintings. So ironically rebuilding a lost
connection with China’s history and reality. So these are some
of projects that he worked on and also showed
in some exhibitions at [inaudible]. I am going to touch
upon this again. In a review made 10
years ago, I once pointed out that
China’s architecture were either adapting brand-new
architecture forms which had no culture association with
the Chinese tradition at all, or duplicating simply the
images of traditional Chinese architecture, or making
single appropriation of traditional Chinese typology. Such as gardens rather
than translating them into contemporary language. Today, when I look back and
rely on the changes that have taken place
over the past decade, I’m pleased to see that the
contemporary Chinese architects are employing constantly the new
product emergent in multitude to express their interpretation
to the traditions in plural, yet individual manners. A cultural
consciousness rooted in the connective
unconsciousness is taking on in varied contemporary forms. So as a matter of fact, that the
contemporary Chinese architects are more concerned with the
interpretation to the tradition due to influence from
these aspects as follows. Firstly, the presentation of the
mainstream architecture system to the so-called
Chinese-ness, or the subject that that embodies the national
image that symbolized the power is mainly shown in buildings
carrying the meaning of political declaration. I will use this example. For example, in the 2010
Shanghai World Expo, China pavilion took these
so-called oriental crowns as a form of metaphor. So this awkward, direct
borrowing of historic image always reminds me of a
Chinese artist’s work shown in an exhibition entitled,
The Living Chinese Garden in Dresedn National
Museum of Germany in 2009, in which I also participated. So this installation shows some
ridiculous gardening technology to create weird
shaped tree branches to satisfy a kind of unhealthy
appreciation of forms, also in the traditional
form of China. And also, it could be also taken
as a metaphor of distortion of architecture forms to satisfy
the weird pace the full history and power. So as a contrast, the good news
that the [inaudible] comprised, and an architect from Beijing,
Li Xiaodong, [inaudible], respectively played
a significant role in pushing China’s
architectural culture to turn to another direction. Thirdly, as the urban– so these
are some projects– thirdly, as the urban expansion
progress is going to a limit– when, you know, the
economy of China is going down a little bit, so
the speed will be slowed down. While expanding
outwards, the cities must turn to inside
themselves to tap into the potential for a
new round of development, so urban regeneration. That is, to take
urban regeneration and rural construction
as a main drive to the future
architecture development. Which also breeds
the possibility to recreate those
kinds of traditions. So in the city
centers, two evolutions are taking place simultaneously. One is the
transformation and reuse of existing urban architecture. And the other, the
conscious employment of traditional spaces,
materials, and processes in the newly built
public buildings and residential buildings. So in Beijing and Shanghai,
both the biggest cities in China, the wave of urban
renewal is in full swing. A series of
transformations to Hutong, a unique type of living
spaces in Beijing. This is one picture of the
life in Hutong have come up. Architect [? jiupei ?] instead
inserted a contemporary metal box into the traditional
space in a transformation of a famous Chinese artist,
[inaudible], courtyard. Hence forming a kind of
juxtaposition of tradition and modern materials. Another architect, a young
architect office, PAO Office, also introduced contrasting
boxes into the Plug-In Housing Project. This is the Plug-In
Housing Project. These starting [inaudible]
and life happening there. Also, another Illumina, and
that’s a graduate of the GSD, [? john ?] Kuo, whose office is
called Standard Architecture, recreated a kind
of routine space by inserting cereal of boxes
into its Micro-Hutong Program. And also the Arch Studio
implanted the artificial nature of the postings industry area
into the traditional texture of its Hutong Teahouse Program. It’s a new teahouse
building, the Hutong. So it is the case, was
the Hutong transformation by the TAO Office. In the meanwhile, architects
in Shanghai– so these are some teahouses in Hutong
in the city of Beijing. And another project by TAO. He’s a graduate from Yale
School of Architecture. And started this
architecture practice. No, that’s not– that name
shouldn’t be mentioned here, I know. And so in the meanwhile,
architects in Shanghai, so also the birthplace of
China’s modern industry, have completed a
transformation for cereal of industry buildings. Architects from Ateleir
Deshaus, the [inaudible], who gave a lecture at
[? piper ?] two days ago, revived the heritage of
industry architecture. The Long Museum at the west
bank of China, of Shanghai. The refined and made modular
application of the remaining structural elements
and created a kind of sympohny of light,
shadow, and structure. And another architect
office, Original Design, not only transformed
the power plant into the exhibition
space of the power station of art, which is
used as the Museum of Modern Art in Shanghai. Successfully, but also turned,
then, also an old spice factory into a brick wood modern
office space for its own use. This is the interior
of the Museum of Modern Art in Shanghai. And Taiwanese– Neri
and Hu– they’re a Singapore and Taiwanese
architect office– transformed the
kind of workspaces by the old wharf
in Huangpu River into a minimalist
boutique hotel. So it’s called Waterhouse. And [inaudible]
architect Zeng Qun transformed the multi-level
bus garage of a bus company– so it’s a huge–
this is the interior of the Waterhouse on
the Huangpu River. And this is Tongji
Architectural Design Institute by architect Zeng Qun who
transformed the multi-level bus garage of a bus company
into a modern headquarters of an architecture
design institute. So obviously, it is more
challenging to create contemporary buildings
in urban areas into than to transform
the existing ones. So also, the return
to the traditions due to options of
more strategies thus becomes the
expression of positions. Like Wang Shu has become a
flag of contemporary Chinese architecture culture
after winning the Pritzker Prize in the Southern Song
Imperial Street Project in Honjo. As he always does, traditional
wood, bricks and tiles are used to build a series
of good-looking cottages. Also the representation
of his Ancient Street still carries some
formal criticality. And in his [inaudible]
Guesthouse project at China Academy of
Art– this project– the spaces of traditional
Chinese landscape gardens are abstracted into
recreational promenade, which wings its way up and down
with the terrains and floors through the public
spaces of the guesthouse. So although the traditional
imperial roof is reserved, I think the joint forms of
traditional brackets components are pushed to extremes. Numerous wood components
are piled and repeated to form a kind of
dense texture, and even deliver a certain
sense of a kind of contemporary
baroque aesthetics. So in this work,
landscape gardens becomes a source to build
cultural imaginations and metaphorical forms. Similarly, the
critics often mention these works– his together
with several other contemporary architectural practices of
three other architects– mainly, Dong Yugan, Tong Ming,
and Ge Ming, who also deal with the garden spaces a lot. And are regarded as
four architects who teach at colleges while
conducting garden space designs as full content
[inaudible] garden masters. So more or less,
the stages of men of letters, or the
traditional Chinese literati, from the traditional
Chinese culture, which is almost impossible
in modern times, is reflected in both ther design
philosophy and their living conditions. They even have stirred up
a kind of cultural movement to study conventional
garden literature, making contemporary garden
research thriving in China for while. Absorbed in brick
construction, Dong Yugan combines creatively the kind
of brick buildings technology of something that reminds us
of Louis Khan or Carlo Scarpa with the traditional
Chinese garden spaces in a marvelous manner. So these are some other
brick buildings he built up. However, his pursuit of
the space monumentality in the Red Brick Gallery
and some other projects seems a far cry from
the aesthetic mood of landscape gardens. Rarely using traditional
architecture forms or materials, Tong Ming,
an architect from Shanghai, and Ge Ming, an architect
based in Nanjing, they both employ spatial
organization methods of landscape gardens
into their works, such as a series of courtyards
which enable concrete beams and columns. While walls and other
modern buildings components could be understood politically
as a kind of reflection of the traditional
Chinese garden spaces. For example, Tong Ming pursued
extreme spatial changes in limited spaces
based on modern forms and the materials in his Han
Tianheng Museum– this one. And also [inaudible]
Studio, which is a studio for a famous
contemporary Chinese artist. Through his [? ruyen ?]
Garden– and this is another studio designed
by Tong Ming for the artist Zhou Chenya. Another image of that. So in his [inaudible]
Garden design, [inaudible] the architect Ge Ming
presented a kind of evolution different from the series of
courtyards visual organization and the rock court in
traditional gardens in a contemporary
design language. These are some other
images of the same project. And also, besides in Jixi
Museum, architect from Beijing, Li Xinggang, takes the
leaning roof skylines in traditional Chinese buildings
as an echo to the surrounding natural landscape. So I think it’s quite
similar to the way that IM Pei was dealing
with this at Suzhou Museums, and also his hotel at
the Hill of Fragrance in Beijing many years
ago, who was termed as a kind of
postmodern approaches to deal with Chinese tradition. So similar method also appears
at the Nantong University, the Fanzeng Muesum
Gallery designed by Original Studio, where
dark and light gray tones and the translucence curtain
grills create conjointly a poetic image of a traditional
Chinese ink and wash painting. Rooted in northwest China,
architect Liu Kecheng blended the dignified
and the low technology and sustainability in
the form of earth houses or the cave houses from
the northern part of China. The construction style
of northern architecture into his works,
for instance, using clay materials and cave-like
construction from the Fuping Pottery Art Village
Museum and Artworks in the Shaanxi provinces. In the meantime of the
urban construction, also a new trend is
emerging in China. Growing in numbers,
independent architects leave cities for
villages to conduct the design and construction
of rural architecture. And they’re participating
in the transformation of rural society. Because of the air pollution and
unsafe food, and the traffic, all the problems in the
big cities, more and more, young architects are
moving to the villages and settle down there. Architects design
gathered in cities until the recent decades. Due to the low economic
and cultural level, villages are always
beyond the vision of architects in their
practices for many years. We don’t have architecture
design projects in the villages for many years. So over the past decade,
the congestion, and also industry pollution
in Chinese cities, have pushed architects to
return to the rural areas, while the kind of
nostalgic dream continues. So where they can find a
peaceful landscape there in the villages. For instance, the earth building
On-the-Bridge primary school designed by Li Xiaodong
won the 2012 Aga Khan Award for Architecture. And the House For
All Seasons designed by Hong Kong-based
architect, John Lin. This is the bridge school
that is used as a bridge to connect the two
parts from the river, but also could be
used as a school if they close the flexible,
adaptable, movable walls that you could divide the
bridge into several classrooms for the students. And also, the Hong
Kong architect, this is another project designed
by the same architect, Li Xiaodong. It’s a library in the
suburb of Beijing. And the Hong Kong-based
architect John Lin won the Ralph Erskine
architecture award because of this house for four seasons. Like artists, designers
and social workers who arrive at villages
to participate in the rebuilding of
rural communities, some independent
architects also choose to stay in a village to
continue the construction work. And even more move out
of cities to become part of the rural community. So this is the interior of
the House of Four Seasons. These are some architects are
working in the villages– Zhao Yang, Wang Hao, Huang
Yingwu, Chan Haoru, and He Wei among them. A number of works that combine
the professional training of architects with the rural
construction traditions, living customs, and also local
materials and climates emerge, such as the
Victory Street Community by Zhu Xiaofeng, the Scenic
Architecture based in Shanghai. Zhu Xiaofeng also
graduated from here, GSD. And Namchabarwa Visitor
Center by Tsinghua University Professor– sorry,
Zhang Ke, a GSD graduate and Standardarchitecture. This is Namchabarwa
Visitor Center. And another visitor center in
Tibet, Yushu Jianamani Tourist Service Center by Zhang Li, the
Tsinghua University professor. His practice is
called TeamMinus. So in addition, a
new pattern that combines digital technology
and the culture critic has come up in Chinese
architecture groups. They either borrow the
parametric design method of brand new digital
form from the West or express the attitudes
of critical transformation to the traditions,
or generated the kind of possibility for
culture reinterpretation to China’s low technology
and hand built traditions. For example, through
dazzling visual effects of stainless steel
and the bubble that looks like coming from the
outer space, MAD, Ma Yansong, remodeled Beijing’s traditional
Hutong social structure. Criticality was kind of
Hutong Bubble project. And also, in the Silk Wall
and Lanxi Curtilage project, an architect based
in Shanghai, also Tongji professor, Yuan Feng,
uses digital technology to translate the traditional
materials and intentions in traditional paintings,
such as silk and sloping roof, hence enabling the parametric
technology to be put into practice and strike roots
in the kind of construction reality of China. So from village to cities,
from culture architecture to residential architecture,
after two decades of destructive construction,
all the historic quarters are dismantled. China’s contemporary
architecture practice is expecting a kind of new
tradition of architecture. It is a careful borrowing,
rather than just literally direct and shallow appreciation
of the traditional building culture and space logic. And also, a cultural
renaissance after the baptism of the Western
modern architecture. Rather than conservative,
subjective construction, a coexistence of diversified and
varied solutions, rather than simple duplication to the
mainstream experience. So sooner or later,
the practices of these independent architects
will generate, similarly to acupuncture, a
kind of acupuncture because the mass
production of China still bears a lot of criticism
because of no consideration, no deliberation. But a kind of acupuncture
effect phenomenon that individual architects
are building small buildings to generate that
kind of dynamics, to initiate an evolution. So I call this
acupuncture effect through some individual
cases, and hence push forward the kind of
whole construction industry, and even the whole public, to
have a critical and innovative recognition to the tradition and
history in China in the future. Thank you very much. [applause] Thank you very much. Can you just move
to the position? You can stay here. You have to respond [inaudible]. You’re judged by the Q&A. Being questioned. So I don’t know if you want
to– you have a caller, or who wants to–
what we’ll try to do is short responses [inaudible]. Chris, you know well
this [inaudible]. So I have to start. I’m just gathering my thoughts. I mean, thanks for sharing this. Maybe I start with a
question, and maybe I will then follow up with my
interpretation of what you just presented. Of course, you’ve titled your
presentation “A New Tradition.” I mean, in a sense, it’s
somewhat paradoxical in terms of the two words. It’s both new,
but it’s also old. So if you could summarize, in
a sense, what to you is new, and what versions of
the old have been kept, perhaps it will help
me in my next response. I think in the beginning
of 20th century, in the generation
of Liang Sicheng, they started to
come here to study. They studied UPenn at that
time, which is the Beaux Arts. But when they go
back, they tried to turn to the rediscovery
of traditional Chinese architecture, but in a new era. I think I use the
term new tradition, that it’s not only looking
back to the tradition and try to reinterpret
and reproduce it, but building a new
tradition, which is a mixture of the influence
from the architecture education they had here. Most of the architects
I presented here, they graduate from here, GSD or
Columbia, Princeton, and Yale. But the problem
is that right now, they try to reflect
the kind of reality that when China was no longer
sticking to its existing, the older building
technology, like wood, because wood is not
impossible in China because the fire code is
very strictly prohibiting building with wood. And also, bracket
systems, which is the traditional
Chinese language. So they were bringing
a kind of language from modernism, like Le
Corbusier or Louis Kahn, or Carlo Scarpa,
whatever, to China, and to try to mix that with a
little bit of a Chinese essence of what they learned from
the things like gardens or the kind of painting
or contemporary art to reflect contemporary
conditions of China. That’s why I always
use Zhang Yimou as a case, the famous
Chinese director, that he was always showing
the images for traditional, the kind of imagination
of Chinese past. But instead, the younger
generation, like [inaudible], are reflecting more about
the real social and cultural conditions in China,
which is not very known to the Western world. But it doesn’t satisfy
the Western eyes a lot. But this is the real
condition in China. So I think in several
decades, or a half century, when people are
looking back to now, this will become a new tradition
other than the tradition of tradition we had before. So that’s why I used
the term new tradition. Right. OK. I think if that’s
the case, then I think we need to make a clearer
distinction between what we mean by tradition. Because I think in the
examples you showed, I think we could
see that tradition can be both an image, as well
as a way of working, right? And if I have to choose two
projects that you’ve shown and two architects
that you’ve shown, then let’s say I
would say Yang Feng. In a sense, it would
use a traditional image, but the process is
not traditional. Wang Shu would be the opposite. Wang Shu ends up
with an architecture that has no traditional
image, but in which its process and its method
is incredibly traditional. Now, let me eliminate
what I mean by that. I think Wang Shu’s
work, to me, is more interesting than this one
precisely because he uses– and I think this is also
your thesis– that that’s a certain retreat
to interiority, to the countryside,
to adaptive reuse. Because I think in
traditional Chinese culture, I think the concept of yin
and yang, a relational logic, is more important. That is to say that if
I were to compare, let’s say, a Palladian villa
that sits and punctuates a landscape in which it
sits as an autonomous figure in an expanded field. So we can say that the
relation between self and other is one that is
confrontational and separate. Whereas, let’s say we
were to take a siheyuan, a traditional Chinese
courtyard house that is composed of
walls and pavilions, that relation between
outside/inside, nature and architecture, is
not confrontational. It’s relational. That is to say that
the binary opposites. It’s one that
always tries to seek equilibrium between the
two, harmony in a sense. So that’s why I think if we were
to take that as an approach, then I think the work
of Wang Shu to me is incredibly interesting
because the way he uses material– to use brick,
to use timber– he’s not the first guy who
has used it and not the last guy who will use it. But it’s precisely
that the way he uses it to adapt to the existing
context, existing building, existing site topography. And to the extent
of the way in which craftsmen or builders
are able to use it. So it is an architecture. It’s incredibly imprecise. And it’s able to adapt to
these different conditions. So although the image
of his architecture, at the end of the day to
me doesn’t look traditional at all. But the approach, the
way of working, to me resides precisely
within this tradition of a relational logic,
finding equilibrium between two opposites. Whereas in this example,
I think, for instance, using a parametric approach,
each placement of the tile has to be incredibly precise. Any deviation would render
the entire composition useless or pointless, right? Because of the gradient. It has to be so precise. So to me, this
method of working, it’s not very, in a sense,
Chinese or traditional, although the image–
the roof, the material– is very traditional. So I think we need to make
this separation between what we mean by traditional. Are we recreating an
image of tradition, or are we working in
a traditional way? And what I mean
traditional, it resides in, of course, the
cultural history that is underpinned by Confucianism,
yin/yang philosophy, and Taoism. Do you want to respond? I think the argument
I want to make is that after the period of
the China Pavilion of Expo, which is the earlier way of
simply borrowing an image. So now there are people
from different perspectives and using different
methods and technologists, trying to break away from that
simple borrowing of image, and try to inject
different things into it. Even Wang Shu, I’m
very close to him. I wrote many reviews
of his works. He never showed you the
earlier works of himself when he was reading all those
books of Derrida and Foucault. And also, he was learning
from, I think, Peter Eisenman. He did some kind of
deconstruction architecture, but he never showed. But at that period, although
he doesn’t want to show it, but it’s critical to his
philosophy, development of thinking, because he tried
to combine the new things. He didn’t study outside China. He didn’t come here, Europe
or United States, to study. But generally, deep inside, he
knows the philosophical kind of reflection of the tradition. What he learned from
those books, maybe there’s a misreading of
Derrida or misreading of the French philosophers,
Roland Barthes. But I think at least he
tried to reinterpret, or look at the tradition
from different perspectives. I think this is inherent
in his own logic. That’s why he’s very unique. He’s also very self confident
about his own approach. This is very rare in
Chinese architects, or even among the
architects in the world. Because not often, he doesn’t
look at the works of others. He doesn’t read
architectural magazines. That’s something crucial
to his practice as well. So I think it’s very unique. But of course, in China, we
can’t have everybody work or design like Want Shu. So there are
different approaches, trying to approach something
from different angles or different approaches. That’s what I want to show
here as a kind of mosaic. We have to go with
shorter [inaudible]. Sorry. You can respond
whatever you want. Thank you, Xiangning, for
your interesting lecture. It shows a very rich and a
very complex [inaudible]. Maybe sometimes paradoxical
context and paradoxical program of Chinese
architecture nowadays. Maybe I’m wrong,
but my impression is that you have talked
about exceptions maybe in this search, this attempt
to create, to translate into contemporary
language or traditions, and all understanding
of Chinese architects. And so my question is that
maybe the challenge is not how to find a new language,
a new modern language, a new contemporary language. This is important, but
not the really thing. And the challenge maybe
has to do in the sense how to deal with the huge
urbanization of China today. So maybe the
exploration should be not only in terms of style,
in terms of buildings, but also in terms of types. How to deal with the complexity,
with the necessity on the one hand of having so levels
of density in cities, and how to create others
way of understanding the problem of the city, and how
to combine a new understanding of the city with new
architectural types based on the tradition? So I think this is a real,
maybe the actual challenge for Chinese architecture
because all those buildings are very interesting, are
amazing in some aspects. But maybe are just
small examples in the huge panorama of China. What do you think about? I think because this is only
one presentation with the topic of connection with tradition. So I selected a
small group of works that will satisfy the kind
of requirements by Inaki. But of course, in the courses
that I’m teaching here at GSD, there are two
lectures every week. So I presented under
different categories, like urbanism, of course, is a
very radical and contemporary issue pressing in all Chinese
architecture practices. Guys like [inaudible] and the
group influence from people are Rem Koolhaas,
and also MVRDV. The kind of diagram
is also very present in Chinese architecture. So these are some other topics
I covered in the lecture course as well. So from here, I’m
dealing with one aspect. I think it’s like a slice
of Chinese architecture from certain perspective. That’s why you see here. Of course, beyond
the mass production, this is one group of people. But I think that a way to
reframe the question of Eduardo is, do you think that
this approach has an impact in the way the
contemporary architecture is dealing with the
megaplot or the CBD, or all these other [inaudible]? There is a kind of link that
you can establish in the future. I think that the link may
be the intermediate scales between buildings and the
problem of the [inaudible]. And maybe this
problem of meeting the scales should be faced with
a reflection on types one more time. Maybe– I don’t know. So in this context,
the reinterpretation of the traditional types of
Chinese should be important. It’s not about style. It’s not about cities. But it’s something in between. So I think your direction
should be maybe more rich if you had presented this way
of understanding the type, how to translate old types
into contemporary types, as a kind to reflect
about the cities, about the future of
urban planning and so on. Also, one thing to
mention is that in China, there’s a very important–
I’ll use the term “problem”– that most of the large scale
projects are in the hands of national, and the state
owned, large design institute. So those kind of
independent architects here are excluded from when
they are designing projects like CCTV. They either invite international
architects or big companies to do. So all those independent
and individual architects are excluded from this system. That’s why here, you
see the kind of gap. That’s why at the
very beginning, and also in my
earlier many writings, I mentioned the gap between
the selected projects exhibited worldwide on
the neat taste and very nice articulation of
architecture quality, and also the mass
production, which you will see in any major
cities, the large plazas and the major boulevards,
urban design scale. You see the contrast and also
tension in China these days because the gap between the
two groups of people, one, the independent, good, cutting
edge architect, and also the large mass production
of architecture. I’ll use the term “design,”
but also production. It’s a design industry. And that’s the huge kind
of gap between there. My question comes at
it sort of sideways. One of the places,
obviously, where tradition and newness
or change intersect is in pedagogy or in education. For the first year this
year, I had a crash course during MArch II
admissions, as Inaki knows, in just looking through
hundreds of portfolios. And it was actually quite
fascinating to see and to get what was probably a somewhat
inaccurate picture of exactly the way the education is
playing out right now. So I’m just curious how–
one of the things that seemed to come forward
in a lot of student work was a kind of tension
between experimentation, a tremendous energy
and experimentation. But then that seemed
to be oftentimes placed into maybe a common software
format or something like that. And so my question is, how are
technological changes being taken up at the
level of education? You mentioned parametrics in
the level of the construction industry. But is that same dialogue
being played out now at the level of education? Or is it still the case of that
an architect or an architecture student will have to
come here to acquire certain kinds of technical
skills and then return? I think the pedagogical
method is also very divided. Among architecture
schools in China, there is also
debate about what’s the aim of training
those students? One is that you
want to encourage them to be very usable by
the big design companies. As soon as they graduate,
they could design proposals, projects like 100,000
square meters. That’s the situation that many
students, not like in Europe, that young architects,
when they graduate, they start with a table
design or furniture. And they get bigger and bigger. Chinese students, as soon as
they’re jumping into projects like 100 square
meters at the sudden. So there’s a bunch
of educators believe that this is the
aim of a student because this is the
need of the society. At the same time, there
is a group of, I think, good architects and
educators trying to encourage students to think
differently and critically. So this group of
students, most of them are coming to GSD and many
other American universities. Also, you see the reflection
in their portfolio. They’re struggling
between the kind of experimental aspect
of architecture, but also the kind of large scale
manifesto of Chinese ability of building things. So you still see the
kind of gap there, too. So you see some
students are doing very good experimental works. But at the same time,
there are monsters also in their portfolio. Can I add to this? Because this implies
all of us because it’s a global community,
the education. I think that’s one
of the frustrations I have with our admissions
process– I have many. But one, and the
biggest probably, is the lack of capacity
of the architects that are instructors here to
understand the different takes of different schools. For example, very
clearly, I think that we have lost some of
the best Nanjing– you’re from Nanjing, by the way. Yeah. Nanjing students
because in this school, we have very few people
that can understand the typology culture. If we were in [inaudible], would
have immediately identified these guys. And if there is not
a kind of parametric, if there is not a
kind of game of shifts of movement inside
it, we tend to think that they’re poor students. Once you begin to understand
the different cultures that you see in different schools,
who are the protagonists of this discussion? Which is not a battlefield. It’s a discussion, an
intellectual discussion. I think that changes completely
the program, completely. And I think this is
what is happening now. Some schools are
having, I would say, position that looks more
to some schools in Europe as a reference, but are
identifying their own position. Others are mimicking
literally other schools in the west coast,
those that are more radical in formal terms. Others are trying to mimic this
coast, like I’m more cultural, I’m more sophisticated. And you can distinguish
quite well the roots. All of us have a root
in other schools. But you can identify
very well these things. And I think it’s fascinating
in this moment, a panorama, a landscape, because all
these ingredients are together but we are unable
to distinguish them. I think that because of
the Chinese architecture education in the modern sense
starts from the people who study abroad. It happened that every
school is connected with a kind of tradition
from the Western world. Take the three major
architecture schools in China, namely,
Tsinghua, Tongji, and the Southeast
University in Nanjing. So I think Southeast University
used ETH as their model. So they were fixed on the
kind of very minimalist, very rational layout of an
organization of structure, that kind of thing. And also, Tsinghua is an
elite university of China. Not only architecture school,
but the whole university was pushing the students
to be the leaders in their respective disciplines. That’s why their approaches
are always different. And Tongji– of
course, Tsinghua was associated with the UPenn
because of their founders studying at UPenn. And Tongji, we said we
have a connection we used to be a German university. So we had a connection
with Bauhaus. But actually, the
founding director of the architecture
school of Tongji was a student of here,
of [inaudible] at GSD. So we have the
connection with GSD here. So you see the major
difference, distinguish of the different mainstream
lines of architectural schools in China these days. So I think it will
continuously in the future also have some impact on the
pedagogy ideas of architecture education, and also
practice in the future, because of the connection
with the Western world since the beginning
of 20th century. We have to go to
open to the public, but Chris wanted
to add something. Yeah, quick question. Short. I promise, very short. You said that architects
that you’ve shown here, they are in a way
outsiders to the process of urbanization in China, in
response to Eduardo’s question. Now, as we see today, as
China, especially the state, is becoming more ambitious in
exerting their cultural power elsewhere, and also
in China, do you think that architects
that you’ve shown here will be coopted by the state? And do they see them
as emblematic figures that portray a certain tradition
of Chinese architecture? I agree that you
see the reception. Before Wang Shu won Pritzker
Prize, nobody knows him. Then, when the
news was released, the first thing I think the
minister of construction would say, who is this guy? Because they never
heard about him before. They never paid any
attention to his work because it’s out of
mainstream kind of thing. And also later,
I think the value of this kind of
architecture practice is, as I said,
acupuncture, that is, the joins and the critical point
that you want them to be there. And after Wang Shu
won Pritzker Prize, there was some people
suggesting that Wang Shu should be the chief
architect of Beijing, and he would design all the
buildings along the [inaudible] Boulevard. So I think that would
be another disaster. The value of this
kind of things is that they are there
always as a measure of what we’re doing right now. So if everybody was
doing a Wang Shu building and Wang Shu
designed the whole city, that would be also a disaster. We are happy to
see, in certain kind of a sense, the juxtaposition
of the two things, a kind of a balance. Of course, they are discontent
about this kind of situation and they’re excluded
from the mainstream. But at the same
time, it is critical that we have this strength, and
not just stingy kind of things. So I’m sure that we have a
lot of people– yeah, Mark. I want to thank you for your
extraordinary talk, a range of projects, and
also your comments on the different practices and
your ability to group them. That was really amazing. And I also have to
commend the panel because those were three
really great questions that are hard to follow up on. My own initial
reaction was very much similar to Chris’s about
understanding the way that tradition is understood. It actually is kind of
reminiscent to me of Japan in the 1950s, where there
was a whole public debate among architects about the
new traditions that needed to be created in the
new, modern society, new, democratic society. And Kenzo Tange was very
much a public spokesman, but there were many,
many people involved. It’s interesting to me– this
is leading to a question– that although the
architects in Japan had long enjoyed a kind of
prominence that made them public intellectuals, in
a way that I think is only your story about Wang Shu being
unknown to the construction minister reveals that there’s
been a long period of anonymity among architects in big
questions about the city. But in fact, much
of the innovation, much of the enabling of the
creation of a new tradition, which involved creating
new construction methods and new ways of imagining
space, much of that was enabled by the research
and development capabilities of the Japanese
construction firms, which were, in some sense, leading
rather than following the initiative of architects. I’m wondering what role, what
kind of relationship you feel is taking place between
architects and builders and researchers
about construction to enable these kinds of new,
amazing kinds of structures to be built? You see a very dangerous break
among architects, and also the industry. So as I said, I know
that in Japan, architects are supervising the
construction companies. They are responsible for making
all the construction drawings and working out the details
instead of architect himself. But of course, he’s
sitting on top of them. But in China, we don’t
see the consciousness yet between the design and
builders that try to follow. So that’s why all these
independent architects, they spend at least four
or five times then energy. They need to design everything. You cannot select the best,
a nice door handle from the catalog of a company. So you have to tell them. Maybe you even
need to design one because you don’t have
the industry that’s supporting good design. So that’s the reason. But now it’s starting that
furniture makers and also construction builders are
turning their eyes and ears to architects. So it’s just a start. That’s why I said that when
Chinese architects are doing some projects in
China, they always spend much more energy
than they needed if they are going to do it here. Because of this
industry, it’s easier. The construction
quality is good. But there, you need to
spend much more energy to talk with the builders
because you don’t have the very mature system of
industry supporting architects as well. And at the same time,
when foreign architects, like Richard Meier or Stern,
they’re going to China. When they’re building
things, because they face the same problem, they’re
doing very bad, I have to say. Because if they lose the
support of the industry, and they’re facing
the Chinese market, the construction qualities
they cannot handle. That’s the big issue for them. Other? Yeah, [inaudible]. Thank you for organizing
this talk, Inaki’s effort. And also, thank you for Li
Xiangning’s teaching, the host master, to introducing
students to what’s going on in China in
the architecture field. My question is, I think
you used a very dangerous and a provocative
word, “tradition,” because for Chinese culture,
it has 3,000 years of history. And which part of
tradition we need to go back when we
build a building, and we need to find
affiliation with? I think that’s one question. Probably it’s going
to be challenging. That’s one. And then two, I think
among the architects that you’ve shown here, some
of them, in their process, they are critical. They are very thoughtful
in terms of material, in terms of the process. But some of them, I have
to say that there is the process of imitating form. Sometimes, we can
say that if there is a famous Western architect
creating a certain form, soon, you’ll find that
form being produced by some young
architects, it doesn’t matter, trending inside China
or trending outside China. You can find that
kind of imitation. So form is still a driver of
production of architecture here. So my question is,
how do you think that, as architects
in China, when there’s so many contemporary challenges,
the search for returning back to tradition should be a
component in their creativity process? So I think, to the
first question, the use of the term
“tradition,” there are two kinds of tradition
I’m talking about. One is the building and
technology, the materials, like Wang Shu was using. And I see a new
tradition, starting from the modern
architectural education. And I think if you go
to China decades ago, the old architecture
schools are providing the same courses
and the same cases that you didn’t
distinguish them. And these days, when you
see several generations, you feel the kind of thing,
like Frank Lloyd Wright has many students, and they all
develop into their own career. You see people like
[inaudible], and the group of young architects who
worked in his office before. And now they’re starting
their own career. You see the impact of
the older generation. You see the continuity
among generations. That’s a very good thing. You see Kenzo Tenge, and
Isozaki below him, and Toyo. So this is the kind of new
tradition also of education, and also build up through
the decades, I think, which is very critical. So you see that Zhao
Yang was a graduate. He used to work for [inaudible]. And now he started
his own career. And so still, you
see the trajectory and the impact of the older
generation to the younger. And also, what’s the
second question again? Sorry. [inaudible] Imitation. I think it’s very hard to say
which form is an imitation because as architect, if you
look at architecture images or magazines, consciously
or unconsciously, you are imitating forms,
like Peter Eisenman was doing something
very close to Frank Gehry, the kind of high rise. I think the critical
thing is not literally, just simply say that this
image is very close to that and that’s a copy. By copying images is also
reinterpreting is another way. By developing this thing
into something else, you want to look at also the
site-specific issues, like how to solve the problem
on this specific site. Then even the image
is a little borrowing. Like a Chinese ink
and wash painting, for centuries, they’re
almost the same. And Chinese calligraphy,
they’re almost the same. But when he was dealing
with a specific issue, then there was some
different editing to that. So it’s very hard to
distinguish, I have to confess. But at the same time, you
want to distinguish carefully between the simply copy
and the original copy. My second question is
less about imitation and more about in the process
of creativity, to what extent this huge word like
“tradition” from China needs to play a role
in that process? Because I have to say a lot
of architects, including us, we always feel that burden
of history and tradition. How are you going to
interpret that in the process? I guess that’s a huge question. But I’m just wondering
your own thoughts. I think yes, there
is huge burden. I think there’s another
case, which is Italy. I think if you
look at the history of Italian
architecture, it almost occupied half of
the architecture history of the whole world. But look at the
contemporary design. Architecture design is Italy
is pretty weak compared with Spain, with Germany,
with Switzerland. So the burden of history is
quite obvious there– in China, too. But the good thing
is that because there is a break in
generations, because it’s a bad thing that we
break with the tradition. But also, if the
young generation, they’re breaking away
from the tradition. But at the same time, if
they’re conscious in that they have the concept,
they have the idea, capacity to look
at the tradition not as you are the god,
I have to follow you, but something that I
could use for my own sake. This is maybe a chance
for Chinese architects. That’s why you see
that people are saying that [inaudible] is
the first modernist architect in China. I don’t believe so. But he’s a critical figure
because people believe, through his career, that
we see a different path from the earlier generation. That we could do an alternative
path in Chinese career. We are having to close, but I
cannot repress myself asking you a last question. Extending this idea, I
want to put on the table the new normal because you
talk about new tradition. And what we know is the
president was complaining against the iconic term,
and a very generic term, as it has come to us,
but has been interpreted by many as a return to the
most conservative and almost [inaudible]
architecture traditions instead of interpreted as a kind
of possibility of discussing the new trends or how much
these kind of positions can imply a revision of the
corporate, iconic [inaudible] and our vision of
the old traditions that doesn’t work anymore. And I think that– just to
put a bit of pressure on you– I think that people
like you that have a lot of responsibility
in communicating architecture in China, let’s put
it in a question. Do you think that you should
take responsibility and phrase this kind of challenge
in ideological terms? For example, the Biennales
are always generic. Hundreds of stuff,
but never– I remember with Aldo Rossi, the
Triennale of Milano, that he presented a trend and
changed the whole parameter of the world. Do you think that
there’s this possibility? Do you think the new normal
has something to do this? No. I have to confess that I don’t
know what the president means when he says “new normal.” But I understand that the
application and understanding of architects through that. In China, when the big boss is
saying something, for example, he was saying that we shouldn’t
build weird architecture. Behind that, I know the
behind-the-screen story. It starts with some
buildings like Zaha. I shouldn’t say this
because of Zaha. Then you know that the
interpretation of the people under him is very different. A policy is there. So I think the government wants
to talk about the new normal. It’s the way that the
governance is operated. But architects and
planners, of course, will take that as their own job
to reinterpret it or interpret the new normal. I don’t think new normal
will be a very pressing issue for architects and planners. Maybe for planners because
of the shifting of policy. But architecture, I don’t take
new normal that seriously. OK. Well, it’s more than
enough in terms of time, not in terms of content. Thank you, everyone,
for being here. Thank you, Xiangning. Thank you, all of you. It has been a great [inaudible]. [applause]

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