An Interview with MAD Architects’ Ma Yansong: Constructing Icons, Identity & China’s Future Cities

Ma Yansong, MAD Architects. Image © Edoardo Giancola

I look into myself, trying to express myself. I think sometimes maybe you have an idea from a dream. It sounds ridiculous but you draw something out of your dream. Where does this dream come from? It must somehow relate to some situation. So what I’m interested in is to keep discovering what is really inside of me. I’m not a genius that from the first moment I already know what I want. - Ma Yansong -

Beixinqiao district, in , is changing fast: the ancient urban tissue is being demolished as new high-rises are growing.Located in this environment, Ma Yansong’s office sits within an old and anonymous construction. In contrast to its exterior, the inside is characterized by wood, white walls and plants that transform the place into a sophisticated environment.International young architects are busy modeling new organic-shaped buildings on the other side of the world; meanwhile a golden fish swims in the eternal loop of the “fish tank” in the centre of the room.

In the following interview, Ma Yansong explains contemporary cities as environments that are out-of-scale with nature. He believes a new approach must be used, one that breaks the monotonous “chessboard” of contemporary Urban and re-establishes the balance between human beings and the natural world.

MAD’s Ma Yansong Named 2014 Young Global Leader

© ArchDaily

Ma Yansong, founder of MAD, has been named the 2014 . The award, bestowed each year by the (WEF), aims to “recognize the most distinguished leaders under the age of 40, nominated from around the world.” Winning the title from a collection of 214 young leaders from 66 countries, Yansong is the first Chinese architect to be awarded this honour. According to the WEF, Yansong “commits himself to exploring the future of architecture by combining the city density, function, and the spirit of Shanshui, to reconnect the emotional link between human and nature.” Watch our interview with Ma Yansong here.

MAD Envisions More ‘Natural’ Chinese Cities in the Future

Courtesy of MAD Architects

Ma Yansong of MAD recently presented a 600,000 square meter urban design proposal for the city of Nanjing titled, “Shanshui Experiment Complex,” at the 2013 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism / Architecture in Shenzhen, China. The concept takes into account the culture, nature and history of while reconsidering the methodology in which Chinese cities are built.

Harbin Cultural Center / MAD Architects

Courtesy of

Architects: MAD Architects
Location: Xiangfang Cultural Center, Zhujiang Road, Xiangfang, Haerbin, Heilongjiang, China, 150090
Directors: Ma Yansong, Dang Qun, Yosuke Hayano
Area: 1800000.0 sqm
Year: 2014
Photographs: Courtesy of MAD Architects

Workshop by Ma Yansong (MAD Architects) at Ajman University

, founder of MAD Architects, will be having a workshop at Ajman University of Science & Technology, UAE from October 7 to October 10. For registration you need to contact Dr. Jihad Awad at j.awad@ajman.ac.ae.

Chaoyang Park Project / MAD Architects

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As a continuation to his “Shan-Shui City” concept, which envisions a “city of mountains and water,” Ma Yansong of MAD Architects has proposed an interpretation of ’s ancient natural philosophy in the contemporary city: the Chaoyang Park project. Situated in the world’s second largest city park and surrounded by a typical Chinese business district, the Chaoyang Park project seeks to infuse the “vigorous Shan-Shui culture” with a new urban typology that unites architecture and nature as a single entity.

AD Interviews: Advice for Young Architects

Since ArchDaily started, we have interviewed close to two hundred architects to understand the diversity of our profession, and to give you insights from the most successful practices in the world.

Here is a round up with excerpts from some of these interviews, focusing on advice for the young architects.

Watch Bjarke Ingels, Charles Renfro, Einar Jarmund, Ma Yansong, Sam Jacob, Jim Eyre, and Andrew Maynard share their advice with the ArchDaily community!

‘Shanshui City’ Book Launch and Exhibition / Ma Yansong of MAD Architects

Courtesy of

Displayed earlier this month in a Qing Dynasty courtyard garden at Wu Hao in , Ma Yansong‘s ‘Shanshui City exhibition featured more than twenty architectural models and works of art that are scattered around the ancient courtyard. Among rocks, screen walls, bamboo groves, pools of water and beneath the sky, the scale of each piece varies and collectively they form a futuristic utopian urban landscape. The newly issued book “Shanshui City” – released simultaneously with the exhibition – is an important turning point for Ma Yansong’s ten years of architectural practice and theory. More images and information on the exhibition after the break.

China Wood Sculpture Museum / MAD Architects

© Xiazhi

Architects: MAD Architects Location: Harbin, China Director In Charge: , Dang Qun Design Team: Yu Kui, Daniel Gillen, Bas van Wylick, Diego Perez, Jordan Kanter, Huang Wei, Julian Sattler, Liu Weiwei, Tang Liu, Mao Peihong, Maria Alejandra Obregon, Nickolas Urano, Gus Chan, Shin Park, Alejandro Gonzalez Area: 12,959 sqm Year: 2013 Photographs: Xiazhi, Iwan Baan

AD Interviews: Ma Yansong / MAD

While we were in , we had the opportunity to visit an architect who we have been following for quite some time: Ma Yansong, founder of MAD.

Ma Yansong graduated from the Beijing Institute of Civil Engineering and Architecture, and went to Yale thanks to the AIA Scholarship for Advanced Architecture Research, where he received his masters degree in Architecture in 2001. Afterwards, Ma Yansong worked at Zaha Hadid’s office in London, and started MAD in 2004.

His strong research background is mixed with a deeper understanding and interpretation of traditional Chinese architecture, inspired by urban typologies such as the hutong and the siheyua. This can be seen in projects such as the Hutong Bubble, the Wooden Sculpture Museum (under construction) and the recently opened Ordos Art & City Museum. MAD’s vision for Beijing 2050 is a bold proposal that opens up debate, challenging what the future of the CBD (Central Business District, an area populated by tall generic buildings) could be.

Another interesting project is his Absolute Towers in (2006-2012). Not only did the project make Ma Yansong the first Chinese architect to build abroad, it also put his practice on the map.

 Ma Yansong represents a new generation of Chinese architects who have the important task of shaping a forward-looking architecture while at the same time understanding their rapidly growing country’s past. MAD also sponsors a travel scholarship.MAD’s office is located in a hutong neighbourhood in Beijing, where Ma Yansong works with principals Dang Qun and Yosuke Hayano.

Video available at Youku for our Chinese readers.

Projects by MADat ArchDaily:

Absolute Towers / MAD Architects

© Iwan Baan

Architects: MAD Architects
Location: , Ontario, Canada
Director In Charge: Ma Yansong, Yosuke Hayano, Dang Qun
Design Team: Shen Jun, Robert Groessinger, Florian Pucher, Yi Wenzhen, Hao Yi, Yao Mengyao, Zhao Fan, Liu Yuan, Zhao Wei, Li Kunjuan, Yu Kui, Max Lonnqvist, Eric Spencer
Client: Fernbrook / Cityzen
Year: 2012
Photographs: Iwan Baan, Tom Arban, Courtesy of MAD Architects

Huangshan Mountain Village / MAD Architects

Courtesy of MAD Architects

MAD Architects just unveiled plans for a high-density village near the Huangshan Mountains (Yellow Mountain) in Province, central . The low-rise residences echo the contours of the surrounding topography and offer unequalled access to one of ’s most famous landscapes. Their design affirms the inherent significance of this landscape. Composed in deference to the local topography, the village provides housing, a hotel and communal amenities organized in a linked configuration across the southern slope of Taiping Lake. More images and architects’ description after the break.

National Museum of China Competition Entry / MAD Architects

Courtesy of

Designed by MAD Architects for the 2011 international competition for a new national museum in , their proposal aims at being a city-sized museum where the public space is the greatest good. Situated on the central axis of the 2008 Olympic site, and part of a six mega volume masterplan, the main question became how to design something iconic on an unrealistic and inhuman city scale. Their response became a hybrid between an elevated public square and a floating mega building above. More images and architects’ description after the break.

Destination Forus / MAD Architects

Courtesy of

Designed by MAD Architects, Destination is intended to be a clear, robust and effective masterplan to become an exclusive commercial district, both in form and function, which radically differentiates itself from the surrounding building fabric. Increased density and urbanity on one side is juxtaposed against the openness of Park on the other. This sustainable commercial development includes good housing areas, an efficient infrastructure, an abundance of wildlife and agricultural areas, and forests and green fields. They are creating a place that is worthy of a strong identity. More images and architects’ description after the break.

CTBUH Names Best Tall Buildings for 2012

Absolute Towers - Courtesy of

Four innovative towers in Canada, Qatar, Australia and Italy have named the best tall buildings in the world for 2012 by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), the international not-for-profit association. These towers demonstrate the continued renaissance of tall building development worldwide, as a record number of 88 tall buildings soaring over 200 meters were completed in 2011, compared to 32 buildings in 2005. Another 96 tall buildings are projected to compete this year, with being the largest contributor.

The four regional winners include the Absolute Towers in Mississauga, Canada (Americas); 1 Bligh Street, Sydney (Asia and Australia); Palazzo Lombardia, Milan (Europe); and Doha Tower in Doha, Qatar (Middle East and Africa). Additionally, Al Bahar Towers in Abu Dhabi won the CTBUH’s first Innovation Award for the project’s computer sun-screen.

“The winners display remarkable creativity, as well as a respect for the environment, connection with place, and the urban surroundings,” said Richard Cook, awards committee chairman and founding partner of Cook+Fox Architects.

Continue after the break to learn more.

2012 MAD Travel Scholarship

MAD Architects recently launched their 2012 Travel Scholarship, which provides mainland Chinese students with an opportunity to travel abroad and research an architectural topic of their choosing. Established in 2009, and with the support of long-term sponsor VERTU, this year, 5 students will have the opportunity to travel for 7-10 days in their chosen city or region of independent study. Following their trip, the students will give a public presentation of their experience. The application deadline is June 30. For more detailed information, please visit their website here.

Video: The Story behind MAD Architects Absolute Towers

The curvaceous Absolute Towers of , a suburb located in the Greater Toronto Area, is a residential landmark many of you may be familiar with. Also known as the Marilyn Monroe Towers, the 56-story condominium tower serves as a gateway into the city and is known for its unique curves that correspond to the surrounding scenery. Residents are offered 360-degree views with continuous balconies that wrap the entire building, eliminating vertical barriers that are typically seen in conventional high rise architecture.

Absolute Towers were the first international win (2006) for the Beijing-based MAD Architects. First seen on Design Intelligence, this video shares with you the entire story behind this project. Want more? Follow these links to check out the towers in progress and more photos of them nearing completion back in June of 2011.

Studio Banana TV Interview with Ma Yansong / MAD architects

Beijing-born architect has become an important, emerging voice to a new generation of architects. Shortly after establishing MAD architects in 2004, his practice earned worldwide attention (2006) by winning an international competition to design a residential tower near Toronto, expected to be completed in the summer of 2012. In this interview with Studio Banana TV, Yansong discusses a few of his latest works, including MAD’s first museum completed last year in Ordos, Inner Mongolia. Continue reading for more information.