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AD Interviews: Xiaodu Liu / URBANUS

At the end of 2014, we had the opportunity to catch up with Xiaodu Liu, one of the three founding partners of Chinese firm URBANUS. Telling us about the role of architects in today's society - especially in China - he discusses how the creativity which URBANUS is known for plays a part in the business of their practice: "Innovation is actually everything for URBANUS, because the firm is doing projects for very challenging jobs. That's the only way we do marketing; we have to do something creative, otherwise we don't have any marketing tools to get something more conventional... we push ourselves to the limit."

Connected to this, he sees intellectual exchange as the foundation of their success, a mechanism that has allowed them to eschew more traditional marketing: "We have some people similar to us, that are well connected, people understand our work and support our work and they like us. Then we have that network and people refer to us and they actually bring jobs to us... networking is more like in the academic level - a more intellectual exchange."

Watch the full interview above and check out our past coverage of URBANUS below.

Nanshan Wedding Center. Image © Meng Yan & Wu Qiwei Maillen Hotel And Apartment. Image © Wu Qiwei Tulou Housing Guangzhou. Image © Iwan Baan Library of South University of Science and Technology of China. Image © Alex Chan

An Interview with Liu Xiaodu, Urbanus

“If you don’t know or really didn’t study the local culture, do universal design. That’ll keep the quality. If you want to do something that you don’t know, there is a big chance that it’s going to fail and have a bad impact on the city and the people here. Do it in your own way. If you do something good and beautiful back home, you should do exactly the same type and put it here. That’s also a good contribution because you show good architecture quality… Do something universal!” - Liu Xiaodu, Shenzhen, 2013

Founded in 1999, Urbanus is led by its trio of partners Meng Yan, Wang Hui and Liu Xiaodu, all of whom studied first in China and then abroad in the USA before returning to their native country at the very beginning of its construction boom. In this interview Liu Xiaodu discusses the changing realities of Chinese architecture education, the beginnings of their firm and the positive side to the “chaos” of the country's current urban expansion.

Diwang Park/ Partner in charge: Meng Yan, Liu Xiaodu (now demolished). Image Courtesy of Urbanus Maillen Hotel And Apartment / Partner in charge: Meng Yan. Image © Wu Qiwei Maillen Hotel And Apartment / Partner in charge: Meng Yan. Image © Wu Qiwei OCT Loft Renovation / Partner in charge: Liu Xiaodu, Meng Yan. Image Courtesy of Urbanus

Barcelona Commemorates 300 Years of Catalan Spirit With 7 Public Installations

Every year, citizens of Catalonia commemorate the events of September 11th 1714, a key date in the War of the Spanish Succession that has come to symbolize what Voltaire called "the Barcelonans' extreme love of freedom." With this year marking the 300th anniversary of these events, Barcelona Cultura enlisted the Fundació Enric Miralles to curate 7 public installations around the city as part of its Tricentenari BCN program.

The result is BCN RE.SET, organized by Benedetta Tagliabue of the Fundació Enric Miralles and stage director Àlex Ollé, which invited guest architects from countries all over the world to colloborate with local universities and create installations symbolizing 6 political and ideological concepts: identity, freedom, Europe, diversity, democracy and memory. These installations will be in place until September 11th. Read on after the break for descriptions of all 6 installations.

Europe / ETH Zürich + Urban–Think Tank. Image © Marcela Grassi Diversity / Yael Reisner + Peter Cook. Image © Marcela Grassi Freedom / Anupama Kundoo. Image © Marcela Grassi Memory / Grafton Architects. Image © Marcela Grassi

Lecture / Four Urban Models in China's Accelerated Urbanization: Local Public Space Implications

China's accelerated urbanization juxtaposes many local and global urban models in the contemporary urban space of the mega-city/metacity region. Since 1945 the global and local discourse on urban design and development has been dominated by four conceptual models. These four models, the metropolis, the megalopolis, the fragmented metropolis and the megacity/metacity have appeared in Asia with local characteristics and with special, hybrid characteristics. China's rapid urbanization has been based on an equally rapid industrialization that has telescoped the historical development pattern of western nations into 60 years. 

Venice Biennale 2014: Full List of National Participants Revealed

A few hours ago in Venice, Rem Koolhaas presented his curatorial vision for "Fundamentals" in a live-streamed opening press conference. As we reported last year, "Fundamentals" will focus on architecture rather than architects and history rather than contemporaneity. Koolhaas will not just curate an exhibition of his own, but will be coordinating the "collective effort of all national pavilions."

This year's exhibition features the participation of 65 countries--including 11 first-time participants (Azerbaijan, Côte d'Ivoire, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique, New Zealand and Turkey). See the complete list of national participants--which includes collaborations with Jacques Tati, Hans Ulrich Obrist, FAT, Iñaki Ábalos and others--after the break.

Click here to see all of ArchDaily's previous coverage of the 2014 Venice Biennale. And stay tuned... we'll be bringing you on-the-ground reports from Venice when the Biennale launches in the first week of June!

'Housing With a Mission' Project at the Hong Kong and Shenzhen Biennale on Architecture and Urbanism

1000 dwellings for the 'Ant Tribe'
1000 dwellings for the 'Ant Tribe'

The project ‘housing with a mission’, featured at the Hong Kong and Shenzhen Biennale on architecture and urbanism, is designed as a co-production by five Chinese and five Dutch architectural offices and aims at building 1000 dwellings for the ‘Ant Tribe’ in Beijing. This is the Chinese name for the generation of millions of young graduates who live in cramped conditions in the outskirts of cities and work in low-paid jobs. The Chinese offices include Standard Architecture, Urbanus, O-Office, Node and CAFA. The Dutch firms include aronsgelauff, Next, KCAP, NL architects and Barcode. More images and project description after the break.

International Skyscraper Competition Winning Proposal / ADEPT and Urbanus

Courtesy of ADEPT and Urbanus
Courtesy of ADEPT and Urbanus

The winning design of a large international architectural competition, ‘The Two Towers’, was recently announced in Shenzhen, China. The team selected to design this new Shenzhen landmark – comprising 100.000 square meters in total – is a constellation of ADEPT (DK) and Urbanus (CHN) with VSA (HK), Max Fordham LLP (GB) and Beijing CCI Architectural Design Co, LTD (CHN). The jury meeting was hosted at the Shenzhen Municipal Planning Building with Pritzker Prize winner Thom Mayne as chairman of the jury. More information on the competition winners after the break.

Shenzhen case pavilion at UBPA, Expo Shanghai 2010 / Urbanus

© Courtesy of URBANUS Architecture & Design Inc
© Courtesy of URBANUS Architecture & Design Inc

Chinese practice Urbanus (previously featured at ArchDaily with their Jade Bamboo Culture Plaza, the Integrated Teaching Building in the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Tulou Housing Guangzhou) shared with us the exhibition design for the city Shenzhen at the UBPA (Urban Best Practice Area), an exhibit aligned with the Expo 2010′s main theme “Better City, Better Life”, which tracks how major cities around the world are coping with the new problems arising from their urbanization processes,  as well as their effective and creative solutions, making it as highly specialized exhibition space. The city of Shenzhen evolved from a small fishing village to an international center in only 30 years, a complex process presented at this pavilion:

© Courtesy of URBANUS Architecture & Design Inc © Courtesy of URBANUS Architecture & Design Inc © Courtesy of URBANUS Architecture & Design Inc © Courtesy of URBANUS Architecture & Design Inc

Integrated Teaching Building, Chinese University of Hong Kong / URBANUS

URBANUS was awarded with the 1st prize on the competition for the new integrated teaching building at the Chinese University in Hong Kong.  Entitled “Windows on Community,” the building strives the link the two parts of the campus together, while also providing a visual connection with those who approach.  Through the implementation of a Moebius Strip, the design mixes the inner circulation of the building with the exterior circulation of the streets.  “This loop of circulation and urban internal street for us is not only a vertical linkage but more the heart of the college-a lively community space at the center of it all,” explained the architects.

More about the University after the break.

OMA´s new landmark for Shenzhen: Crystal Island competition

Shenzhen Crystal Island @ OMA / Ole Scheeren

Shenzhen is one of the most active cities in China, and was recently appointed “City of Design” by the UNESCO (2008).  A recent competition for Crystal Island, located in the center of the city, envisions the Shenzhen Creative Center, an iconic project in front of the city hall.

The project, won by OMA in collaboration with chinese firm Urbanus, includes  a major new cultural center, transport hub, and public landmark. The Shenzhen Creative Center takes advantage of such a central location, and disaggregate the program over a 20-hectare landscape of parks and gardens, on which clusters of pavilions and small buildings form “Design Villages” creating a micro urban system which includes buildings for Design Administration, Tourism Center, buildings for design retail and expo and a design campus. It also includes a big open space, the Ceremonial Plaza.

All these buildings and open spaces are connected by an elevated pedestrian system, the “Ring Connector”, which also connects to existing and future train and subway stations.

At the center of this circular project, a spherical void becomes a landmark for the city: the Shenzhen Eye.

The disaggregation of the program on such an active area has the potential to mix the creative industry with the rest of the city’s activities, potentiating  multiplicity, permeability, and openness towards creative activity.

The project collaboration between OMA and Urbanus includes the young Ole Scheeren and Rem Koolhaas, and Urbanus partner Meng Yan, with a team lead by OMA Associates Dongmei Yao and Anu Leinonen.

After the break, a schematic model of the program relations and another rendering.

Tulou Housing Guangzhou / URBANUS Architects by Iwan Baan

Urbanus' project
Urbanus' project

Architecture photographer Iwan Baan once again shared with us an impressive photo set on a social housing project by Chinese architects Urbanus.

The commission was to design a 220 apartment housing complex for people for low income families in Guangzhou. Urbanus decided to give the complex a nice and intimate atmosphere, by reinterpreting the traditional Hakka Houses. This housing typology correspond to 300 year old houses in the south of China, and as you can see on some pictures after the jump, they are basically a large housing project where complete families live as a community (aunts, nieces, nephews, etc.)

You can take a look at the Urbanus’ complete photo set over here, and the Hakka Houses photos over here.

Tulou affordable housing project in China / Urbanus

The Tulou affordable housing project by Urbanus was the subject of the 5th Solos Exhibition at New York’s Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum.

This 245 apartment structure is currently being built in Guangzhou, China. Besides the normal residential programming, the building also has a dormitory, hotel, retail space, gym, library, and a variety of communal and public spaces.

Seen at designboom. More images after the break.