Vladimir Belogolovsky speaks with Chinese architect LI Xinggang of Beijing-based office Atelier Li Xinggang about the particularities of working within a design institute, the architect’s philosophy referred to as “poetic scenery and integrated geometry,” and his role in the design of the Bird’s Nest and why he thinks it is the most important piece of contemporary architecture in China.;
“You Open Your Dwelling’s Door and You See the Mountains”: In conversation with Li Xinggang of Atelier Li Xinggang
“Limitations are as Important as Possibilities”: In conversation with Atelier Alter's Yingfan Zhang and Xiaojun Bu
Vladimir Belogolovsky speaks with architects Yingfan Zhang and Xiaojun Bu, co-founders of Atelier Alter, about architecture in motion, their faith in tabula rasa, and the widespread rapid urbanization process in China.
Even though Eric Owen Moss’ buildings are easy to spot it is hard to categorize them. They constitute a clash of forms and surfaces that collide, break, contort, superimpose onto themselves, bend, split, melt, and explode seemingly out of control –all to avoid being subscribed to anything that may even remotely evoke a design methodology of any kind.
John Wardle (b. 1956) founded John Wardle Architects in Melbourne, Australia, in 1986. His early interest in architecture started with encountering objects and precious bits and pieces of demolished buildings at the demolition yard owned by his father’s friend.
“Every Generation Has a Responsibility to Design a Better Life”: In Conversation with Wang Hui of URBANUS
After studying architecture at Tsinghua University in Beijing and Miami University in Oxford, Ohio Beijing-born and based architect Wang Hui (b. 1967) co-founded URBANUS in 1999 in Shenzhen with his partners Liu Xiaodu and Meng Yan. After his graduation in 1997, Wang Hui worked in New York until 2002, while also moonlighting for URBANUS remotely. The architect heads the company’s Beijing office, which he set up in 2003, overseeing projects in the Beijing-Tianjin-Tangshan triangle, the Yangtze River Delta region, and other parts of China.
Tong Ming (b. 1968, Nanjing, China) received his bachelor’s (1990) and master’s (1993) degrees in architecture from Southeast University in Nanjing. In 1995, Tong moved to Shanghai to pursue his PhD in Urban Planning at Tongji University, which he obtained in 1999. He then worked at Suzhou Design Institute until establishing his own independent University-based practice, TM Studio in 2004. He also maintains another studio UNO, Urban Network Office space in West Bund specializing in organizing seminars, workshops, exhibitions, and lectures.
“In Architecture You Can Make a Better Version of the World”: In conversation with Zhang Lei of AZL Architects
Nanjing-based architect Zhang Lei (b. 1964, Jiangsu, China) does not believe in history, only time. He is convinced that history is something that is taking place in our own time, being shaped by particular circumstances, current programmatic demands, latest building techniques, and contemporary sensibilities.
Douglas Cardinal (b. 1934) is a visionary indigenous Canadian architect based in Ottawa, Ontario. He grew up in Red Deer, Alberta. His mother, who was of German origins, loved painting and music, and both became his passions as well during his years at a Catholic boarding school. In 1953, he started studying architecture at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, but was forced to leave two years later due to his outspoken opposition to follow rigid geometry of the Bauhaus and International Style models, championed by his professors. He wanted to create buildings that would respond to nature and the organic rhythm of life, drawing from his childhood experience of being intimate with nature.
Interdisciplinary architecture and urban design firm, Crossboundaries was founded in 2005 in Beijing by Binke Lenhardt (b. 1971, Mannheim, Germany) and Hao Dong (b. 1973, Shanxi province, China). The two met in New York in 1999, while pursuing Master of Architecture degrees at Pratt Institute. Dong had earned his bachelor’s from the Beijing Institute of Civil Engineering and Architecture and Lenhardt had received a Diploma in Architecture from the University of Applied Sciences in Dortmund, Germany. Prior to coming to the US, Lenhardt worked in Holland and Germany where she is a registered architect. After graduating from Pratt in 2000, the two architects worked at various firms in New York before moving to Beijing in 2002, at the time when the city was already preparing for the 2008 Summer Olympics. They started working at the Beijing Institute of Architectural Design (BIAD) after Lenhardt studied Chinese at a local university and became proficient in Mandarin. The architects worked their way up at BIAD.
Ralph Johnson (b. 1948) is a global design director at Chicago-based Perkins and Will. The architect joined the company in 1977 and has been heading its design ideology since 1985. Johnson is the architect behind the firm’s most iconic buildings, including Rush University Transformation Project (2012), O’Hare International Airport (1993), and Boeing International Headquarters (1990) – all in Chicago, the United States Coast Guard Headquarters (2015) in Washington DC, Tinkham Veale University Center at the Case Western Reserve University (2015) in Cleveland, and Shanghai Natural History Museum (2015). The architect’s monographs have been published regularly since mid-1990s under his own name. He has been a visiting critic at the Illinois Institute of Technology and the University of Illinois, his alma mater, from which he received his Bachelor of Architecture in 1971. He acquired his Master of Architecture from Harvard’s GSD in 1973.
Architect Antoine Predock (b.1936 in Lebanon, Missouri) started his pursuit of an engineering degree at the University of New Mexico College of Engineering. A chance encounter with architecture professor Don Schlegel sparked a life-long passion in architecture. After switching to architecture school – first at the University of New Mexico and then, at the advice of Schlegel, transferring to Columbia University, Predock obtained a Bachelor of Architecture in 1962. After traveling throughout Europe on a Columbia University Traveling Fellowship with a focus on work in Spain, he began his internship in San Francisco with Gerald McCue, a future Dean at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. In 1966, Predock went back to New Mexico, the place he considers his spiritual home, to establish what since has become a world-renowned practice. In 1985, he was awarded the Rome Prize with residency and study at the American Academy in Rome.
Jiakun Liu was born in 1956 in Chengdu, China. Architecture was not his first choice to pursue at school, as he originally wanted to be an artist. He heard that architecture had something to do with drawing, so he applied to Chongqing Institute of Architecture and Engineering, not fully understanding what his role as an architect would be. After his graduation in 1982, Liu worked at the Chengdu Architectural Design Academy for two years, the experience he did not enjoy. So, he set out on a self-searching journey that lasted for over a decade, spending time in Tibet and Xinjiang in West China where he practiced meditation, painting, and writing, producing several works of fiction, while officially working at the Literature Academy as a writer.
“We Want to Build Our Own Utopia”: In Conversation with Dimitri Shapakidze of Laboratory of Architecture #3
Founded in 2006, by three partners – Dimitri Shapakidze, Irakli Abashidze, and Otar Nemsadze in Tbilisi, Georgia, Laboratory of Architecture #3 is known for such enigmatic projects as the Grove Design Hotel (2017), Mediatheque (2017), both in Tbilisi, and Visitor Center for Architectural Miniatures Park (2016) in Shekvetili, Georgia. Nemsadze left the partnership in 2011, to pursue his studies in the Netherlands to advance his independent career. In 2018, he co-founded Tbilisi Architecture Biannual and is currently undertaking his PhD at Tbilisi State University. The practice attracted attention from the very beginning. The partners’ first project was a private villa for a local entrepreneur and their hotel on Leselidze Street in Tbilisi was a result of a competition that they won in their inaugural year. After just six years since its inception, Laboratory of Architecture #3 was named the 2012 Best Architect of the year in Georgia. The current two partners, Shapakidze (b. 1983, Tbilisi) and Abashidze (b. 1984, Tbilisi) know each other since their childhood. They were neighbors and then studied at the Georgian Technical University in Tbilisi one year apart. They both worked for local architects while studying at the university and started their office right after graduation. The following interview with Dimitri Shapakidze took place over lunch at the Grove Design Hotel.
Architect Li Hua was born in 1972 in China. He studied architecture at China’s leading school, Tsinghua University, from which he received his bachelor’s (1994) and master’s (1997) degrees. He continued his studies at Yale University, graduating with his second Master of Architecture in 1999. Hua then stayed in the US, practicing in New York at Herbert Beckhard Frank Richlan & Associates. The firm’s founders used to be partners at Marcel Breuer office before starting their own practice in the early 1980s. This experience introduced Hua to dealing with masonry and precast concrete, while working on cultural and educational projects in the New York area. Returning to Beijing in 2003, Hua established Universal Architecture Studio (UAS) with his former classmate at Tsinghua. Parallel to that, he started his teaching career – first at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, CAFA and then at his Alma Mater. In 2009, Hua left the partnership and established his own practice, Trace Architecture Office, TAO. His studio currently numbers about twenty architects. TAO’s most prominent built projects include Huandao Middle School in Hainan province (2018), Xinzhai Coffee Manor in Yunnan (2018), Wuyishan Bamboo Raft Factory in Fujian (2013), and Museum of Handcraft Paper in Yunnan (2010). The architect won many prestigious honors and was shortlisted for the 2013 Aga Kahn Award. The following interview was conducted at the architect’s office in Caochangdi Village, a thriving arts and culture hub on the outskirts of Beijing.
“The Goal is to Harness Qualities That Are Spontaneous and Genuine": In Conversation With Wang Shuo of META-PROJECT
Architect Wang Shuo was born in 1981 in Beijing. He grew up in the family of neuroscientists and was particularly good in math, wining the national math Olympics in high school. But instead of going into computer science, as did many of his classmates, he decided to study architecture. The decision was entirely intuitive. He earned his Bachelor of Architecture from Tsinghua University in Beijing in 2004. The Master’s degree was acquired from Rice University in Houston in 2006. His thesis was called Wild Beijing, in which he focused on the emergence of spontaneous urbanism in Beijing. After completing his training, Wang worked for one year at Peter Gluck’s firm GLUCK+ in New York. The office is known for specializing in hands-on design-built projects and acting as general contractor, which gives the architects a lot of control over quality of construction. Following Wang’s time in America, he relocated to Europe for two years, working at OMA in Rotterdam where he interacted with Rem Koolhaas, working particularly on projectsб in which various layers of social, cultural, and everyday life were overlapped to create active, truly contemporary spaces.
“Architecture is Something That You Will Never Forget“: In Conversation with Gilles Saucier of Saucier+Perrotte Architectes
Gilles Saucier, one of the leading Canadian architects and a design partner at Montreal-based Saucier+Perrotte Architectes that was founded in 1988 invited me to his studio to discuss how he starts his designs and where he finds his inspirations. Simply by looking and even visiting his buildings one may think that the architect is all about performance and efficiency. His edgy, well-crafted edifices may recall Formula One racing cars. But when I stepped into Saucier’s office – dark, mysterious laboratory where he personally experiments with tree roots, branches, wood, glass, rocks, resin, beeswax, and other organic materials – the real intentions of his work started to reveal.
John Ronan (b. 1963, Grand Rapids, Michigan) is known for his sensual atmospheric buildings that tend to unfold layer by layer their spatial complexity, as one moves through them. His focus is on the use of materiality in ways that reinvent architecture. Ronan holds a Master of Architecture degree with distinction from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (1991) and a Bachelor of Science from the University of Michigan (1985). He has been teaching architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology since 1992. John Ronan Architects was established in Chicago in 1999, the year Ronan won the Townhouse Revisited Competition sponsored by the Graham Foundation. In 2006, the firm was featured in the Architectural League of New York’s Emerging Voices and the Young Chicago exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago. In 2007, the architect was selected to build the prestigious Poetry Foundation in Chicago, out of a pool of 50 international contenders. His monograph Explorations: The Architecture of John Ronan was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2010. In 2016, the firm was named one of seven international finalists for the Obama Presidential Library. The following interview is a condensed version of our conversation at the architect’s studio in Chicago.
Interview with Yona Friedman: “Imagine, Having Improvised Volumes ‘Floating’ In Space, Like Balloons”
At 92 years of age, for his entire career Yona Friedman has occupied an unusual spot within the architecture world; his signature concept, the Ville Spatiale which he first proposed in 1956, combines the top-down megastructural thinking visible in later projects such as Archigram's Plug-In City with a total freedom for occupants to design and build their own homes within the structure. In this installment of his “City of Ideas” column, Vladimir Belogolovsky interviews Friedman at his home in Paris to talk about the Ville Spatiale and his theories of mobile and improvised architecture.