There is a group of young Chinese architects that define themselves in their own unique way and inform the public about the "new generation" of architects. They do not adhere to the definition and break the regulations. They think what they think and do in accordance with their beliefs. Besides from just being architects, they are also artists, painters, sculptors, and researchers. Identity is no longer unique among the new generation; the way they work is determined by what they pursue; and remaining on the route they choose will lead them to a new direction and a new life.
What is the new generation?
Zhao Zhao:” I think the new generation is the generation that can overturn the old generation.”
Han Li:” I think the new generation, is the one that should be different from the previous generation next to them.”
Yulu Ge:” Maybe it’s someone who doesn’t agree with the current order. Anyone who doesn’t agree with it, I think is a new generation.”
Zigeng Wang:” There is no way to answer this. The new generation means that you have reached your age, but you have not reached some age.”
Youyu Ni:” The new generation is the generation that has not yet been fully identified.”
Chen Liang:” Strictly speaking, I don’t think the “new generation” is really existing. I prefer to believe in different and vivid individuals. The youth is not always more progressive than the senior, and vice versa. This is true in any era.”
Tianzhuo Chen: "I think the new generation can not be defined by established rules and identity frameworks."
A new phenomenon is happening, some young architects are shaking up the traditions in a way that has never been done before, in different fields. Recently, the exhibition "Be a Better Person", curated by independent curator Cancan Cui at Beijing's Wind H Art Center. The exhibition brought together the most representative artists, designers and architects of China's new generation – Tianzhuo Chen, Drawing Architecture Studio, Yulu Ge, Xiangyu He, Liao Li, Chen Liang, Zuizhi Mei, Youyu Ni, Wenmin Tong, Zigeng Wang, Zhao Zhao, Yilun Zhou and Sha Zhu - to discuss " The Methodology of the New Generation - New Work, New Identity, New Direction, New Life".
The "new generation" starts with a new work approach that breaks with the scope and methods of the past. Drawing Architecture Studio ( Han Li, Yan Hu), Aleph-LiangChen (Chen Liang), Pills Architects (Zigeng Wang), these four exhibitors with architectural backgrounds have found a new identity and a new direction through a new task. Wind H Art Center, designed by architect Dong Yugan. Multiple elevations are created by superimposing spaces through functional distribution. At the same time, the space "gap" is created to form a 'inner court' with complex space and rich courtyard view.
Drawing Architecture Studio ( Han Li, Yan Hu) collaborates with Syracuse University School of Architecture, Three-dimensional architectural models grow out of two-dimensional images and are presented as "architectural sandboxes" to discuss the relationship between replication and innovation. Chen Liang tried to use a series of hypnotizers (dynamic light space installations) as the interventions to connect the non-exhibition areas of Wind H Art Center, the work explains the richness of the scale and connection of the architectural space of the Wind H Art Center. The work of Zigeng Wang is a single-person theater installation with a personal narrative. This installation originated from the personal memories of a father and son. It also tried to express the emotional connection of dependency, antagonism, and regret embedded in every relationship.
They are architects, and they are not architects. They are doing things other than building houses by using architectural methods.ArchDaily interviewed Han Li, Chen Liang and ZiGeng Wang to find out the "The Methodology" behind each work, and talked with curator CanCan Cui to discuss the architects' conceptual expression and the meanings of the participation.
Han Shuangyu / ArchDaily: How did you conceive this work?
Han Li / Drawing Architecture Studio: In the beginning, it was a academic visit course of third-year at Syracuse University, equivalent to a collective artistic creation. We planned to draw Beijing and then make models based on that; In the end, we combine drawings and models to create the result as a whole. But then, Cancan Cui found us to discuss the exhibition. In order to fit the subject” new methodology”, we redesigned the result based on the exhibition space. Finally presented as a “ a large-format architectural diorama“. Laid the drawings on the sandbox and put the model on the drawings to focus all the power on one point. You can see the two-dimensional three-dimensional mixed together by adding a specular reflection of the plate.
Han Shuangyu: It was supposed to be a course, as you said, with an experimental method of pedagogy. What kind of "new" of this course?
Han Li: We have a topic “ Copied in Beijing”, which related to my personal methodology in the past two years. With the age of information technology, capturing and obtaining information is easier. Of course there are those who oppose such era and look less information insisting on their originality. I don't think there is much originality, and every project involves a lot of information searching. And now the Official Accounts( Wechat) , and Instagram are provided with a quick search function. Architects, artists, designers will definitely search for relevant cases before starting a program, in addition to their own research methods. This research process is becoming more and more important. And essentially turned some people's approach to design into one that starts with images and information and gradually finds the inspiration. We are always concerned about how to aggregate information into a whole.
The reason why it is called “copied in Beijing” is that the information is ready and we “copy” these. The “copy” is not simply plagiarize, but paste them together to create a new entity. Our blueprint is The Complete Map of Capital Beijing from the Qing Dynasty, we copied its basic structure and do partly adjustment, and then implanted the the classic architecture into it. For example, “Meow Temple” combines Neviges Mariendom designed by Gottfried Böhm in western Germany with the main ridge, vertical ridge and diagonal ridge of roofs, winding corridor and corner tower of Beijing's buildings. We also blend the two images together by algorithmic tools and design by image interpretation.
So even every build is a duplication, but in fact, the objective portrayal also contains the element of active creation, and sometimes copying is also a kind of originality. With today's information explosion, using existing information, copying and recombining also creates new creativity. We tried to avoid to give full play to personal ability of originality in the whole process, and strictly restrict the methodology to make sure every step is objective and origin from prototype. But the mixture of the two is manipulable, and by mixing them to achieve a completely different result, no trace of the prototype.
When we entered the gallery and had a new space, we did a redesign of the exhibition space. In addition to the 8 models and blueprints from the course, we changed the map and pulled up some blocks to form an axonometric map. Usually the base map of a sand box is a plan, but our base map is an axonometric drawing. This creates the illusion, starting from the flat 1-dimensional to the 2.5-dimensional, and then finally to actually growing out the 3-dimensional block model, which is beyond the course and a new creation generated by the exhibition.
In addition, we used the tape for sticking. There is always a contradiction, because we create digitally with great precision all the time, but we also particularly desire a physical realization. I think the most ideal situation is to output a physical drawing instead of representing it on the computer. We will definitely not only be satisfied with printing when we get to the physical level, but also collaging different materials by sticking, such as reflective materials like adhesive strips. These effects, which are hard to get on digital media, but exist objectively on physical media, have reflective materials that can bring a different visual experience. The final blend of many ideas, not only used a lot of reference, the whole production process ideas are also very complex, and finally create a bright entity.
Han Shuangyu: A mirror was set up in the exhibition space, and the reflection from the mirror is another kind of "copy"?
Han Li: It can be said that. Due to cost restrictions, it is not possible for us to do a perfectly flat mirror image, like Eliasson. We used a very cheap mirror acrylic. At first, I predicted that the mirror surface has seams, but also did not imagine that not flat. But the interesting thing is that the mirror unevenness actually brings a better effect. The sand box shape is twisted with the unevenness, and the 2D drawing and 3D model blend better in the mirror due to the distortion. There is a sense of both reality and illusion. So, yes, you could also say it's another kind of copy, and each copy is a new creation.
Han Shuangyu: You are an architect and started your career with graphic design, what do you think is the difference between graphic and spatial expressions? What can be expressed more accurately only through graphics? Which can only be expressed more accurately through space?
Han Li: We initially draw standard axonometric drawings to derive the 3D model into a 2D image. At this stage it could be simply understood that the image is a two-dimensional projection of the three-dimensional world. In these years we keep exploring what is difficult to express in the 3D world, but easier in the 2D image world instead. Mr. Zhang Yonghe also talked about that the space in the painting or the image is not the same as the three-dimensional space, it can simulate the three-dimensional, but after all, it is two-dimensional, it is very free. For example, those contradictory spaces drawn by Escher are impossible to realize in the three-dimensional world, but the two-dimensional world allows such contradictory existence. For me, I can be more extreme in terms of precision and scrutiny in the two-dimensional world. The physicality of the three-dimensional world is unattainable in the two-dimensional world.
Han Shuangyu: I think you guys represent this theme pretty directly. In terms of architecture students, you are new work, new identity, new direction, and bring new life. How do you understand the new generation of architects and what are their characteristics?
Han Li: Since the beginning of the work, I have been more concerned with architectural images, and by coincidence, I have followed the great mass fervour of image. With the popularity and spread of cell phone selfies, the power of images can be felt more and more strongly, and even the future will be somewhat challenging for architecture, such as the curtain walls of office buildings are installed with LEDs. In theory, they are all turned into images, but this one attracts more attention. Sometimes space is relatively abstract and can capture people's attention when it is used as a whole. Images and objects that stand out and are outside of the space are easier to capture people's attention, and the cost of images is low. So even though the use of the flat image to express space is criticized , I think the combination of space and image is the new trend in the future. It's not just the future. In ancient China and the Renaissance, architecture and fresco were combined, only to be split up in the modernist period. I think it is inevitable that these two things will be mixed together in the future.
It started out as a hobby and personal research focusing on images, but gradually it also brought a kind of new way of practice. In the past few years, we are commissioned to do more and more work on images and urban frescoes, so that perhaps architecture has disappeared and turned into the other extreme. But my own work is still based on architecture, even though the presentation is two-dimensional. I just turn the CAD used by architects to sketch into a tool for me to draw; the drawing is not a drawing for constructing a house, but becomes a work in itself; the model is not just a model for constructing a house, but becomes an artwork, sculpture, and installation in itself.
Han Shuangyu: How did you initially conceive this exhibition ?
Chen Liang / Aleph-LiangChen: At the beginning, the Curator Cancan Cui contacted me, hoping that this exhibition could use every corner of every space in the Wind H Art Center. He understands my working methodology, and also the integration with special spaces is always a direction I focus on, so he wanted me to handle these non-exhibition spaces. This makes my site become large, including the outdoor street, the café, the corridor, the preface hall, the courtyard, the tiny second floor, in short, the non-exhibition space in the art center. Kahn talked about served space and servant space in architecture. For art centers, the exhibition hall is the served space and the other spaces are the servant spaces. And this exhibition is in the servant space. At the same time, I received a functional request for the proposition to direct the audience to the exhibition space of Wind H Art Center II, which is easily missed. It was a pretty huge challenge, the space used for the exhibition was a series of points, and there was no way to string them together with one work. So use a group of works to express and consider the connection between them.
Han Shuangyu: How do you understand the theme of new identity, new work, new life, new direction?
Chen Liang: From the outside world, Chen Liang seems to be involved in everything. I have done architectural design; I have done solo exhibitions in art museums as an artist; I have curated exhibitions in institutions as a curator; I have also done some display designs; I have done research on Dandong, and some people may think I am a historical researcher. People know me through different practices and media, and these identities are given by others. But in fact, all my identities are unified in one working method, namely "spatial hypnosis".
I started to use This method when I was doing my undergraduate diploma, and it is a relatively intact theory. At that time, it was an experiment or a rough imitation of Braudel's historiographical method. This was a starting point for the study of modernity and historical evolution of cities in Northeast China, which later derived into the study of Dandong. The first step of "spatial hypnosis" is to hypnotize a base by treating it as a subject, and seek clues from its subconscious and history. For example, for architecture, clues are the geological conditions, the history of the city, the relationship with the residents, etc. For interior, I want to find the story of this room or this building, the initial construction drawing documents, how the owner conceived it in the beginning. All these initial desires and ideas are present in these tiny pieces of history, and I want to dig this out. When many fragments of the subconscious are exposed, the second step is the intervention, and I want to intervene clearly and strongly.
So I work in the same way, just on a different scale. There is no such thing as professional identity for me, the original point of all my stuff is Dandong research, my hometown is my starting point and the zero point of my reference coordinate system xyz. I was born there and grew up there for 20 years, and it is the initial place where my interests and aesthetics were shaped, and where all my subsequent research can find its coordinates. Japanese architect Kazuo Shinohara said, "Tradition is the starting point, not the end point." I also look for my own tradition through the research of my hometown, but it is not the final destination either. That is my "first style", since then, it began to evolve itself.
Han Shuangyu: Your series of works are closely connected with the space of the site, how do you understand the space of Wind H Art Center? How do the works interact with the space?
Chen Liang: The most interesting thing about this project is that Mr. Dong Yugan has designed many abundant staggered layers and gaps in the service space of Wind H Art Center, which is an expression of his research and practice of classical gardens. I understand that Mr. Dong wants to turn this part of the space into a state similar to a fake mountain, where one can stay and wander, like a person walking in the Taihu rocks. It is a kind of three-dimensional maze. Therefore, you can see three staggered layers from the section in the entrance space. This long work crosses three levels. Although the light source moves at the same elevation, the light and shadow created in the process of moving back and forth is actually changing and It's like I drew a horizontal line on the staircase. And I want the light source to be like a "Lake Tai ball", the closer it is to the ceiling, the more solid the shadow is. Which is used to reveal the spatial interest that Mr. Dong wants to transmit to everyone, and is also a hint to guide people to go inside.
I hope to create a new experience out of the past experience of people through the intervention of works. I hope that people have visited Wind H Art Center before the exhibition to get a feel for the original space. My design will develop new boundaries to the space, as well as the possibility of a different division and a completely different experience from the original. The intervention allows people to briefly explore many details in this space, such as Mr. Dong's carefully designed elevation. People may not have noticed this in previous exhibitions, but they may notice the difference in height between the floor and the ceiling by adding this horizontal line. Through the intervention of one work, to reveal the qualities of this site and the spirit of place.
Han Shuangyu: This exhibition also has a title "New Generation", what do you think are the characteristics of the new generation?
Chen Liang: The first point, in my opinion, is the identity border. Young people do not have that much burden. I don't work from my identity anymore; it's no longer an issue for me. Every day, I create new works in a similar way and at various scales, and this is the part that I enjoy and am at ease with. But I can't represent an entire generation; I can only represent myself.
The second point is to emphasize individuality and a personalized experience once again. It's been stated that the 80s and 90s generations are becoming increasingly egocentric, focusing exclusively on themselves and lacking a sense of collective honor. True, such things did not exist in our social environment when we were growing up. And this individuality comes from my Dandong research; I simply want to learn more about my heritage. Many people ask me what I think of Chinese architecture, but I didn't grow up with sloping roofs in my childhood and was born in a border city, So I'm not deserving of the tradition? I believe that the new generation is probably the most courageous generation in terms of focusing on the individual. When I fill up the individual, I am more qualified to discuss architects' more ambitious social responsibilities.
Han Shuangyu: Is there such a thing as a "new generation" in architecture?
Zigeng Wang / Pills Architects: Divided by age, there is unquestionably a new generation. However, I believe that the architecture world lacks the obvious self-consciousness and a sense of boundaries that the art world possesses. This is dictated by the industry's characteristics, while the generational divide of architecture is more directly influenced by social, technological, and communication aspects. In the art world, I truly "exist" only when I kill you. In the Western world, there is a strong emphasis on what distinguishes this generation from the previous one, on what makes you unique. What contribution do you create? Your value is determined by how you differ from the preceding generation. Domestic architecture is rather a grouping, and there is no particularly strong sense of discipline. This is due to a mismatch between the evaluation mechanism and the pricing power and project sources. Furthermore, architecture and art have distinct production mechanisms and are inextricably linked with culture. Of course, the old and the new are not in themselves positive or negative.
Han Shuangyu: How do you see your new identity, new work, new direction, new life?
Zigeng Wang: When Cancan Cui selected participants, I guess he believed my work would open people's minds to new possibilities in the industry or that our work in architecture would bring something fresh and interesting to the art world. And we did experiment with our own ideas, from the structure of our work to the types of projects we took on to the use of media that differed from that of typical architecture firms. However, these are natural developments that occur in response to real-world challenges, and I believe that I can only grow my interests and practice orientation in the manner that I wish. I don't believe I am capable of representing a mainstream direction, nor do I possess such a mind; instead, I strive to accomplish things properly. As a result, I don't feel as if I've acquired a new identity, a new work, a new direction, or a new life. That's how I've always been.
Han Shuangyu: To my mind, as long as you are studying architecture, regardless of how you express things, architectural education thinking and archetypes are present in your thought process. In your installation, which expresses emotions in a very architectural manner. How do you understand the relationship between spatial presentation and emotional expression?
Zigeng Wang: I am not sure that everything originates in architecture, including visual impressions, mechanical movements, and the application of other disciplines and aesthetic expressions. I'm not really keen in limiting myself to a single subject of study; rather, I prefer to experiment in a variety of fields and methodologies, each time satisfying a new curiosity and accumulating new information. If I had to choose an architectural method, it would be system and logic, but it's interesting because they are the opponents of emotional expression, and it's remarkable that the most fundamental aspect of art and architecture are incompatible. 1994 is essentially a visual machine, a two-person theater, and whatever techniques we employ, they are all devoted to advancing a central narrative theme. Thus, it is less an architecture than it is a machine, a daring experiment. A total of 13 organizations collaborates on this piece, including mechanical, architectural, electrical control, multimedia, and cinematic scenography. The outcome that you see is the result of continuous experimentation, correction, and re-experimentation following failure.
Han Shuangyu: What is the process for developing a concept prototype into an entity? The initial theme was father-son relationships; how can you concretize an emotion? How was it overlaid?
Zigeng Wang: It began with a simple memory of an event that happened in the small courtyard where my father and I lived. He separated my bed from his office with a shelf, and each day as I awoke and gazed out through the shelf, this memory created the prototype for this space. The two spaces separated by the shelf form the installation's center, representing the relationship between the two personas' views. Once you've established the relationship, you must deal with the light, which is also a part of memory; it dictates how the audience interacts with the scene and the visual qualities of the scene, as well as how the primary light source is determined. Additionally, to draw the audience into the space, you must use a mirror space as the audience area, which must be black with the light source at the top. We want the father and son in this version of Beijing to be able to establish a connection, a dialogue between two hypothetical representations, which is why the optical imaging requirements further define the size, distance, angle, and position of numerous objects. These are the logical sequences of fundamental issues, and once established, the basic forms are likewise established. Determining these items is a relatively quick process that never changes.
Han Shuangyu: Exhibition and display design generates fresh work content; what direction do you think the future will try taking?
Zigeng Wang: The exhibitions and installations business is not something we pursue deliberately; rather, it is something we do as more and more people come to us for similar programs. Exhibitions and installations serve as both an externalization and a statement of architectural topics, and we connect information generation and design presentation through a series of exhibitions. Each exhibition presents new technical and design issues, which we view as chances to expand our knowledge of new materials and media and to manage the supply chain. In comparison to an architecture-only firm, we need manage more complicated processes and coordinate a broader range of resources. However, this provides up extra creative possibilities and opportunities for collaboration. We do not have a clear path set out, but I believe that the process of doing things will bring you to a path that is unique and cannot be copied or praised, and that demands the courage to go alone.
This article is part of the ArchDaily Topics: Architecture Without Buildings. Every month we explore a topic in-depth through articles, interviews, news, and projects. Learn more about our ArchDaily topics. As always, at ArchDaily we welcome the contributions of our readers; if you want to submit an article or project, contact us.