During the week of the final selection of ArchDaily China Building of the Year 2021 Awards, we received a total of 75,000 votes, thanks to our readers from all over the world. ArchDaily China strives to bring more Chinese firms to the wave of global exchanges and introduce Chinese architecture to the world.
This year, CCTN Design, with Shougang NO.3 Blast Furnace Museum, were selected for the first position, adopting the design strategy of “sealing the old, dismantling the surplus, and replenishing the new”, and transforming the industrial remains of Beijing into an inviting urban space. MAD Architects, with YueCheng Courtyard Kindergarten, won second place by dismantling and expanding the traditional courtyard house. gad, with Mountain & Sea Art Museum, won the third position by solving the problem of mountain construction and shaping the sculpture form of the art museum.
The selection of this award is based on the recognition of peers. Congratulations to all the winners! Below is an exclusive interview conducted by ArchDaily China with the winners.
1st：Shougang NO.3 Blast Furnace Museum / CCTN Design
2nd：YueCheng Courtyard Kindergarten / MAD Architects
3rd：Mountain & Sea Art Museum / gad
01 Archdaily: In order to better investigate public’s evaluation criteria towards “excellent architecture”, and to further reflect the diverse contemporary cultural backgrounds, ArchDaily China Building of the Year 2021 Awards is democratically voted and user-centered. What cultural backgrounds do you think our contemporary Chinese architectural practices have been endowed with?
Hongtao Bo from CCTN Design: As our urban spaces are rapidly evolving, nowadays the design challenges our architects are dealing with tend to be more multidimensional and fragmental. The aesthetic standards set by our society are also shifting from a single point of view to a diverse objective system with high tolerance. With the trend of pluralism rising in today’s world, architects are given more freedom and opportunities to design something that’s closer to their original intention. As a result, contemporary architectural practices are expressing the characteristics of our times, regions, and society from an open and direct approach. Correspondingly, the cultural background behind design appears to be more relaxing than real.
Yansong Ma from MAD Architects: I think contemporary architecture should focus on discussing people-oriented issues. It’s simply not sufficient to just debate architecture from the perspective of buildings. Sometimes, doing so could even lead to false conclusions. Furthermore, the popular topics that the contemporary Chinese architecture world has been discussing, such as context, building fabric, structure, construction, the relationship between architecture and its built environment, the tribute to tradition and culture, are all at risk of being interpreted superficially. The definitions of these topics are almost forming a checklist to evaluate the quality of buildings, and to make up the “significance” of such building/design. Nevertheless, I consider the essence of architecture to be human-centered and service-oriented. By the definition of “human”, I mean humans who not only live with nature but also live within our society, cultures, and interpersonal emotions. If the buildings we design are not meant to have interactions with people, then they are simply not meaningful enough. From China to the global environment, despite where we inhabit, everyone including myself is facing some degree of confusion and anxiety. Can our buildings provide a cure? If so, what are the cures?
Hongfeng Wang from gad: The contemporary cultural background tends to be complex and diverse, with a harmonious interaction that exists among all cultures, both geographically and historically. Under current rapid urbanization, there also appears to be a growing trend of fast consumption among regional cultures. For example, nowadays it is not rare to witness projects being constructed merely based on their instagrammability. Inevitably, contemporary Chinese architecture is experiencing such mixed trends between modernity and tradition, meanwhile expressing its own sense of oriental aesthetics.
02 Archdaily: In your works, how do you respond to the definition of “excellent architecture”? Or, which part of the design you feel most satisfied with during the selction of this award?
HB: Every city has its own narrative that requires designers to reveal. An excellent building must be able to listen to and respond to the story of its site, which is the locality I see. In our project Shougang NO.3 Blast Furnace Museum, personally, I am satisfied with how our structures have captured the relationship between industry and nature and provided a spatial link between the two. It is our intention to utilize design to sustain the collective emotional memories that this industry land carries. Memories are what touched my soul when I first visited the site. Memories are also the source of life that has the power to transform architecture into a spatial agency that could activate urban space.
YM: “Excellent architecture” will make kids aware of freedom, history, and future, and make meandering through these elements part of our daily routine.
HW: From my understanding, “excellent architecture” should have some cultural qualities beyond its spatial programming, so that it could make people stay. My most satisfying part of the winning project is the circulation design that varies from different elevations since it enriches the space and makes people’s lingering experience intriguing.
03 Archdaily: As you are facing the changes brought by a new era, have you encountered any design anxiety? Will you choose to do design in someone’s favor? What are the challenges you are facing at current stage?
HB: Everyone is equal in times of cultural upheaval. We as social animals need to master the ability to adapt to a changing environment. Instead of observing with anxiety and uncertainty, we should initiate some firm revolution. Bear in mind that designers and clients should grow together, just like boat and water. While designers are pursuing their goals from a professional and social level, they should also take clients’ economic concerns into consideration. Excellent designers should be able to guide their clients and seek common ground. Therefore, there should not be any design that exists in someone’s favor, instead, a good design should guide a be a mutual benefit. As architects are being given more and more responsibilities, we need to find a better way to work between our clients and construction teams.
YM: No. I am not having much anxiety. I always attempt to design beyond my own imagination.
HW: I do have some anxiety, yet it does not have much to do with the changes of the era. My anxiety comes from the project itself. After the project is completed, I often doubt whether or not I have designed hastily without paying attention to details. I am concerned about how the project is going to present itself to the public. I am not quite sure if any of our projects were done in any parties’ favor, as every project tends to vary for external factors. I agree that we need to achieve some balance to accommodate demands from all stakeholders. However, I try my best to put my focus on the elements of the site, the feelings of our users, and the response to our academic pursuit. With all these in mind, I always re-evaluate the functional requirements set by our clients and review my design frequently to see if the balance has been achieved. Currently, in my professional career, I am facing challenges with increasing expectations from my clients, and self-breakthrough from my own heart.