Meeting with many leading, independent Chinese architects and visiting their built works throughout China in recent years has shaped my understanding of their contributions as regionally sensitive, poetic, photogenic, and even seductive. Yet, so many of these projects can be confused as being produced by a single, narrowly-focused practice. These works are often small in scale and built far from urban centers where ordinary people could benefit from them most. There is a lack of diversity and risk-taking. The following excerpt from my interview with Beijing-based architect Li Hu on his recent visit to New York overturned my doubts and gave me much hope for China’s urban future. Being educated at Tsinghua University in Beijing and Rice University in Houston, Li Hu worked with Steven Holl for a decade – first in New York and then as the director of his Beijing office, collaborating on several major projects in China. That unique experience prepared him well when together with his partner Huang Wenjing, Li founded OPEN Architecture, an experimental design and research studio based in Beijing. Since then they have realized a series of fantastic urban projects that we discussed along with Li’s inspirations, intentions, and why architecture can give people hope.
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