Wang Shu (born November 4, 1963) is a Hangzhou-based architect and dean at the China Academy of Art, known for his thoughtful resistance to what he considers “professionalized, soulless architecture.” His honoring of local tradition, environment, and craftsmanship saw him become the first Chinese citizen, and one of the youngest people overall, to receive the Pritzker Prize in 2012 for "an architecture that is timeless, deeply rooted in its context and yet universal.”
[Architecture can] change the life of people and give them a new one right away. This is not a job for normal people to do. This should be the work of God.
Until April 30th, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark is exhibiting the work of Wang Shu. The first in a new series of monographic exhibitions collectively titled "The Architect's Studio," this show of the work of the 2012 Pritzker Prize winner features an exhibition catalog that includes essays from Kenneth Frampton, Ole Bouman, Yiping Dong and Aric Chen. The following excerpt from the exhibition catalog, written by Kenneth Frampton, is republished here with the permission of the author and publisher.
The work of the Amateur Architecture Studio has come into being in categorical opposition to the recent, rapacious development that has engulfed large tracts of the Chinese continent, and which was first set in motion by Deng Xiaoping’s 1983 decision to open up the People’s Republic of China to foreign trade, first with special economic zones and later with regard to the entire country. Based in Hangzhou, Wang Shu and Lu Wenyu have witnessed firsthand the juggernaut of maximizing Chinese modernization from its impact on their own city. Three decades ago, Hangzhou had been expressly chosen by them as a desirable place in which to live and work, largely because of its venerable artistic traditions and its harmonious report with nature, symbolized for them by the virtually sacred West Lake, set in the very heart of the city and traversed, then as now, by the flat-bottomed boats plying across its surface. Wang Shu’s unique sensibility takes as its point of departure the equally panoramic tranquility of traditional Chinese painting. As Wang Shu has written:
“I am always amazed by these paintings when I see that the trees, the buildings and mountains are not just placed haphazardly... every building is laid out in a certain way in relation to the landscape and the trees, the direction it faces depending on the light and the features of the location, which make it suitable for human habitation.”
Wang Shu and Lu Wenyu of Amateur Architecture Studio are known for their distinctly contextual attitudes towards design which prize tradition and timelessness above anything else. In many cases, their use of materials is governed by local availability of salvaged building elements. Tiles, in particular, represent a material used repeatedly by Amateur Architecture studio and for Wang Shu, who won the 2012 Pritzker Prize, they offer a political as well as an architectural message.
“Every couple of years a new manifesto appears, but how long can it last? We need more people doing instead of talking. [At Amateur Architecture Studio] we spend an enormous amount of time experimenting, trying to resurrect the craftsmanship that is almost lost. We use a method that is passed on, hand-to-hand, to re-establish tradition instead of talking about abstract but empty concepts.”
- Lu Wenyu, Hangzhou, 2013
Pier Alessio Rizzardi: “A house instead of a building” is a really famous phrase of Amateur Architecture Studio. What is the meaning behind this concept?
Lu Wenyu: Once, Wang Shu said: “we only make houses, we don’t make architecture.” The house and architecture here have their own meanings. Making a house means making it for the people, making it more tranquil, or closer to nature, more humanized. Instead, architecture is an abstract concept, so many designs nowadays are actually architecture. So this sentence, from almost 20 years ago, “making houses, not architecture”, is about not making that abstract concept, but to make something really concrete and tangible, something that you can touch or that is made with your own hands… so when you see this house, you feel differently.
The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has announced 13 Honorary Fellowships and 11 International Fellowships which it will award at an event on February 3rd, along with the recently announced RIBA Royal Gold Medal.
Among others, the Honorary Fellowships include Director of Architecture at the British Design Council Vicky Richardson and academic Dalibor Vesely; the International Fellowships include Pritzker Prize Winners Thom Mayne and Wang Shu and his Partner Lu Wenyu. The Honorary and International Fellowships entitle winners to use the initials 'Hon FRIBA' and 'Int FRIBA,' respectively after their names.
Read on after the break for the full Fellowship lists
In an interview with Spanish newspaper El País, Lu Wenyu defends her husband Wang Shu for solely receiving the Pritzker Prize in 2012. Despite the fact that the couple co-founded Amateur Architecture Studio and have worked side by side ever since, Wengyu maintains that her husband would have shared the Prize with her - she just didn't want it.