gooood Interview NO.32 – Chris van Duijn

Using opposite elements to enhance the connection between architecture and the city, connecting that narrative with experience for the users

Project Specs


gooood团队采访世界各地的有趣创意人,欢迎您的推荐和建议。第32期为您奉上的是 OMA 合伙人 Chris van Duijn 的访谈,更多关于他,请至:OMA on gooood

gooood team interviews creative from all over the world. Your recommendations and suggestions are welcomed! gooood Interview NO.32 introduces Chris van Duijn, Partner of OMA. More: OMA on gooood

出品人:向玲 | Producer: Xiang Ling
编辑团队:陈诺嘉,武晨曦,石安,盖世昕 | Editor: Chen Nuojia, Wu Chenxi, Shi An, Gai Shixin



gooood x Chris van Duijn



▼Chris van Duijn



Development of OMA and Design Methodology 



“Our offices are all on the same level. We run them in such a way that they can provide all the services, and make use of the local knowhow. At the same time, as all partners are working together, we also share knowledge between the offices. It is important to make sure that there’s still one type of OMA thinking in the projects.”


OMA was founded more than 40 years ago and has offices in several countries around the world. Could you please talk about your experience of becoming a partner of OMA and the leader of OMA’s work in Asia? What is the team you lead like? Please describe your role and specific tasks as a partner, and briefly introduce the history and current situation of OMA’s practice in Asia.


I joined OMA in the mid-1990s. At that time, there were about 40 architects working in the office and only in Rotterdam. It was a very compact and academic office and we were not really building a lot of buildings. I started as an intern in those days, working on projects such as Universal Studios in LA for instance. Then the office developed and also my role. Around the beginning of 2000, OMA got a lot of projects built, such as the Seattle Central Library and Netherlands Embassy. So OMA transformed from a more theoretical office to an office that could show that it could actually do real projects and finish them. It was becoming more mature and more professional and the organization of the office changed. Previously, it was an office basically run by Rem in a very loose way. It was important for the office to become better organized in order to work globally and do big projects, because big projects also mean more responsibilities. That was also the moment when we started to grow and had the New York Office first of all, which started in the early 2000s. And soon after that, we started to work on CCTV in Beijing and it was also a reason for us to open an office in China. So we worked originally only from Rotterdam and then we increased the amount of offices. Thus we were able to work with local knowledge and combine it with our international practice.

▼洛杉矶环球影城模型,model of the Universal Studios in LA ©Hans Werlemann



The beginning of 2000 was very important for the office as it was expanding and the organization changed from a one-man office to an organization of a partnership. It began 20 years ago and during the last 10 years we have been very stable in that sense. Now we have a partnership of 8 people, meaning that we share the ownership and the control on the office and everybody has his specialism or geographical focus. In my case, five years ago I decided to pick up the opportunity to run the Hong Kong office and work on all projects in Asia from Hong Kong, while previously I was working all over the world. We were just very excited because the atmosphere of working in Asia is very different. It is much faster and it is more about looking at what is possible, not what is not possible. So it was a much more optimistic drive in general. We have now grown the office originally from 20 to currently about 50 people. We have Chinese people, Hong Kong people, international people and we do projects of all scales and everything. We do early concept competitions in Hong Kong and also the execution. I think that is important because our offices are all on the same level. There’s not a head office and satellites. We run them in such a way that they can provide all the services, and make use of the local knowhow. At the same time, as all partners are working together, we also share knowledge between the offices. It is important to make sure that there’s still one type of OMA thinking in the projects.

In China, most of our people are architects and urban planners, and we have a small group of support people. We have about 15 nationalities in the office. We usually work with rather small teams, where we combine some junior and more senior people with different nationalities. They’re all creative people. They design and work on the technical parts, and are engaged in all stages of a project. In that way we try to ensure that the thinking goes hand in hand with the development and the execution.

CCTV Headquarters in Beijing, from which OMA established its office in China (click HERE to view more)



“We work with model of elimination where we try to think quite broad in terms of ideas. We filter the information and then start the actual design. It is quite an elaborate process before we actually get to do the design work.”


Can you talk about the design methodology of your practice?


We don’t have one specific formal language or style that we are known for. We always start a new project from the perspectives of the user. The user could be the people who work or live in the project but also the inhabitants of the city around it. From all the perspectives we try to design the architecture. So it’s not only about the object, it is much more about how the building is being used. How can this project be meaningful or relevant beyond providing just the square meters that people want? Can it be more interesting for its immediate surroundings or can it be more interesting for that specific company or industry? Thinking what meaningful relevant contribution can be is basically the first step. And that is based on working together closely with the client, but also doing analysis studies on the context or the specific industry, trying to understand what are the trends in the directions the world is heading to. And we like to involve a lot of stakeholders. Ideally, the client is involved very early and we like to see them more as a partner in the design. We also work with model of elimination where we try to think quite broad in terms of ideas and then we test the ideas with the clients. Sometimes we give them 20 ideas and they react. We filter the information and then start the actual design. It is quite an elaborate process before we actually get to do the design work.

▼OMA部分项目,selected projects of OMA



Architecture and the City



“If a project is good and appreciated and used well, it can grow into a landmark over time. ”


Many of OMA’s projects have become landmarks in their cities. How does OMA generally begin a large-scale project in a specific city? How do you treat the relationship between a landmark and its city?



All our projects can always be explained from the context. The relationship between the landmark and the city is one of the most relevant considerations for a project. Our architecture is very urban, and our urban project is very architectural. That’s why our projects often have very strong connection with the local context.

A lot of our buildings are considered landmarks but I think landmark is not an architectural term actually. Landmark is purely a political term and actually in many cases often leads to very irrelevant design, in which the only purpose is to get maximum attention. We usually don’t want to work too much with such terms and we simply look at what the building or the urban design needs, how relevant it can be for that part of the city, or this client, or those users. You can never start designing a building with the ambition that this will become a popular landmark. It has to deserve that. It should not become a superficial type of project that is only about first impression or wow effects. If a project is good and appreciated and used well, both the daily users and those who pass by, I think then it can grow into a landmark over time.

▼OMA的“地标”项目 -Axel Springer园区办公楼(点击这里查看更多
“Landmark” project by OMA – Axel Springer Campus (click HERE to view more)

▼OMA的“地标”项目 – RAI NHOW酒店(点击这里查看更多
“Landmark” project by OMA – RAI NHOW Hotel (click HERE to view more)



“Many of our projects tell a story. They have a narrative and we try to connect that narrative with experience for the users. Using two opposite elements complementing each other is a very good tool in this sense.”


在德国Axel Springer园区办公楼和和韩国Galleria百货公司大楼项目中,OMA都在规整的建筑体块中植入了不规则的晶体状结构;台北表演艺术中心则创造了一个巨大的球形体量。这种异质化设计的依据是什么?它们对于所处的环境和人们的生活会产生怎样的影响?
In the projects of Axel Springer and Galleria Gwanggyo, OMA inserted irregular, crystal-like structures into the solid building structures; while for the project of Taipei Performing Arts Center, a huge, spherical volume was created. What is the basis for such “heterogenous” designs? How do they impact the environment and the life of people from the surrounding communities?


Many of our projects tell a story. They have a narrative and we try to connect that narrative with experience for the users. It is also about a relation between different users, like people inside the building and people on the street, and also between different scales of the urban and the architecture, and the program. In order to make that story readable, you have to make use of certain hierarchy so that people could clearly understand that there are two opposites that complement each other and relate to each other. Having the regular and irregular shape is one of those tools that you can use to make such a hierarchy. In terms of the Galleria project, there is a very simple cube as main massing which has a very urban function as well as economic function. The client wanted to have the most efficient department store, which is a square footprint. Also the cube works very well in the urban context, where it really became this clear epicenter of its surroundings. At the same time, we have this contradicting element with this crystal shaped roofs. It gives the project this kind of special retail experience that the typical department store doesn’t have. It creates an innovative experience and at the same time there is very strong relation between people in the building and people on the street. Basically, with two opposite elements – one very solid and heavy and opaque, and one extremely visible and exposed and transparent – you quickly understand the relation between the building and the surroundings. The two opposite elements complementing each other is a very good tool in this sense.

Galleria Gwanggyo with opposite elements of a cube and crystal-shaped roofs (click HERE to view more)

▼通透的晶体结构使建筑内外形成关联,transparent crystal-shaped structure creating connection between inside the building and the city context


In Taipei it is very different. We don’t have this very extraordinary shape. They are all very pure. There is the cube and there is the ball. There is this kind of box that is hanging outside. We use these very formal, ceremonial volumes and its composition in such a way that we change the traditional theater and turn it inside out. This very symbolic element hanging outside and lifted over the roads – the ceremonial space where people enjoy the play – is part of the public realm with streets passing underneath. You can almost see people sitting in the theatre and enjoy the show. It is again establishing a much stronger relationship between the urban space and the public ceremonial spaces inside the building. We still use very simple volumes, but one is the opaque, very enclosed metal ball, versus the cube, which has all these transparencies and layers hosting all the circulation and back of house program. It is also the contrast between what is transparent and visible in terms of activities, verses this solid shape, that presents the concept of this building as a new typology.

▼台北艺术中心,不透明的球体与通透的方形体块形成对比,Taipei Performance Art Center, opaque ball contrasting with the transparent cube



“In order to stimulate synergy between different companies, it’s important to have a wide range of variety of different conditions. It is more about creating an entire environment than just offices in a green park.”


With the development of science and technology, numerous industrial parks have emerged in China, among which OMA has designed projects like Xinhu Hangzhou Prism and the Unicorn Island in Chengdu. What kind of quality do you think the architecture in the mentioned parks should have? In comparison to foreign countries, what do you think can be the characteristic of a technology park in China? How does OMA impact the industrial development positively through its architectural design? Conversely, how do high-tech enterprises and digital industries influence architectural design?


I think this is a very important subject for us, especially in China at this moment, because there are a lot of opportunities. There’s a very big contrast when you talk about innovation parks if you look at the traditional innovation parks like Silicon Valley, which were not planned on any central level.  But because they were not planned, now they basically suffocate. It becomes very problematic for companies to grow in these conditions. There is now the opportunity to learn from this and to actually undo the problems but also make use of the good qualities that it offers. In that sense, China has a tradition of planning centrally very well, combining all these different industries from governmental to the innovation industry and so on. However, if you look at many of the projects that are being planned in China, they are still very much based on transportation, so in the end many of those innovation areas look like traditional business parks. It’s not making use of those good qualities that you can find in Silicon Valley. In our projects, we find it very important to make sure that between different companies, there is a possibility of synergy. We would like to create spaces where different companies join, where they can meet formally and informally at its bases, which are often not the case in traditional business parks because of all those roads and plot lines that separate them rather than make them work together. Synergy is very important, and in this innovation industry there is still a very strong need for physical meetings and physical making of products although they are working in a digital realm. It’s a bit of paradox that there are still needs for physical proximity. In order to stimulate that I think it’s important to have a wide range of variety of different conditions from the very informal green outside to very efficient meeting centers, office spaces, and also all these little steps in between. It is more about creating an entire environment than just offices in a green park. In our projects in innovation industry worldwide in all scales, whether it’s a single building a huge master plan, it’s what we try to provide.

▼创造整体的创意办公环境 – 杭州光棱(点击这里查看更多
Create integrated environment for innovative work – Xinhu Hangzhou Prism (click HERE to view more)

▼创造整体的创意办公环境 – 成都独角兽(点击这里查看更多
Create integrated environment for innovative work – Unicorn Island in Chengdu (click HERE to view more)

以德国的Axel Springer项目为例,我们创造了一个中央空间,供所有人分享他们的数码工作。新媒体公司的主要工作是交流。人们在线上交流,每个人都坐在自己的家里、咖啡厅里或工位上,盯着自己的屏幕,人与人之间的互动越来越少。在这个项目里,我们设计了一个公共中庭作为办公空间,为公司内部和不同公司之间的人们提供交流的可能,这对于传统公司来说是不能允许的。一家公司可以同时拥有典型的办公室和此类极度休闲的空间,员工可以自行决定是在传统的办公隔间,还是开放露台办公。一开始的时候,公司们还会犹豫是否应在巨大的办公中庭里工作。现在,它们都把办公地点转移到了这里,因为人们喜欢这种数字合作环境。从这个意义上来说,建筑确实可以激发创意。

Axel Springer for instance. We created this central space where all the people can actually share their digital work together. Most of the work the new media building and the company does is communicating. They communicate online and digitally but it becomes less and less interactive because everybody is sitting behind his own little desk at home, in a café or in an office, staring at the screen. In this building, we have this common atrium space which is actually a work space. There is possibility for interaction for people between different companies and within companies that a traditional office would not allow for. They can have their classical office and this kind of extremely informal places both in one company. They can decide during the day whether they want to be using the typical cell office, or working on those terraces. Companies which were originally a bit hesitant about working in that large work atrium place are now all moving to that area because they really appreciate the environment of this kind of digital collaboration space. I think in that sense, architecture can actually stimulate innovation a lot.

▼Axel Springer园区办公楼,创造办公中庭(点击这里查看更多
Axel Springer Campus, creating a working atrium (click HERE to view more)

▼中庭内的活动示意,activities in the atrium



“What we are often trying to do with skyscrapers is to make a project that relates to all scales. Not only from far away, but also make buildings related to the immediate surroundings.”


In the past few years, OMA has designed a series of major projects whose sites are located along the coast of China. Taking some relevant projects as examples, please talk about how to deal with the relationship between high-rises and urban scale, and how to make large-scale projects a public living room that can promote people’s interaction and communication.


I think skyscrapers in general, especially in Shenzhen which is a city of skyscraper, is almost an entire urban typology. It’s very visible from far away and it’s part of the skyline. But the closer you get to it, the more it only becomes an obstacle that occupies space. It doesn’t really contribute to local or a specific urban identity. The problem is that most of the buildings in this type of development are all based on podium and tower typology, and a little bit of green space and streets around it. What we are often trying to do with skyscrapers is to make a project that relates to all scales. Not only from far away, or the work space inside the building, but also make buildings related to the immediate surroundings. For instance, in the Qianhai Global Trade Center project, we try to make a skyscraper that has very different relations to all four sides that have relation to the large scale, to the highway passing by, but also to the park strip around it, to the underground volumes allowing public to enter the building all the way up to the top levels. It is not just a building standing in the city, but also something that introduces urbanity that people can enjoy so that there’s also intensity when going in. And I think that is the challenge for designing urban, or tall building or skyscrapers in cities.

▼前海环球贸易中心,建筑与城市的关系分析,analysis drawing of Qianhai International Trade Center, relationship between the building and the urban context

▼前海环球贸易中心,不同立面回应不同的城市环境,Qianhai International Trade Center, different facades responding to different urban environment


IFEC is another example. It is not a skyscraper. It is between a major park in Qianhai and a central transportation hub. It’s a conference center and typically a conference center is a public program. But in urban terms it often becomes an urban obstacle because in most part of the year, the building is not in use. In IFEC, we try to make it into a very urban, very public building, by actually having this relationship between the station hall where hundreds of thousands of people arriving every day and the park with that very generous outdoor connection passing right to the heart of the building. By that it really makes the building a part of the public realm. Again here, the boundary between the architecture and urban space completely dissolved.

▼前海国际金融中心,以不同的形式回应公园和城市界面,IFEC Conference Center, responding to the park and the city in different ways



“Our architecture is not purely architecture, meaning we think in urban, in products design, and also in scenography and programming.”


In addition to large projects, you also cope with small-scale projects including interiors and installations. How do you decide the strategies for projects of different scales? How do these strategies reflect OMA’s identity?


For us, we work on all scales from indeed the small interior project to the urban scale. As architects we are trained to work on all those scale. What is important is that architecture is very slow. We have projects that take eight, ten, sometimes fifteen years from the concept until its completion. For instance, doing an exhibition design for a few weeks or a fashion show design like we do for Prada, is very nice because it’s stimulating to design a project for one week and finish it three weeks later. These fast and small scaled projects can also be used as a design laboratory. You can make an instinct concept and check how it works spatially.  It is very interesting to combine small-scaled projects with the kind of traditional architecture and urban scales that we also work on. We like to work cross disciplines, so our architecture is not purely architecture, meaning we think in urban, in products design, and also in scenography and programming.

▼Prada时装秀,在小尺度项目中试验设计想法,Fashion Show for Prada, testing design ideas in small-scaled project



Renovation and Sustainable Deisgn



“What we are interested in is the different possibilities in between all these different shades of gray, other than black and white.”


西澳大利亚博物馆BOOLA BARDIP以及北京尤伦斯当代艺术馆都是在旧建筑的基础上改造和扩建的项目,上海上生新所项目则是对一片城市区域进行改造。OMA如何看待新与旧的关系?如何在为历史建筑和地区注入新活力的同时,保留其原本的特色?
WA Museum Boola Bardip and UCCA are both projects that are renovated or expanded from an existing building; while the Shanghai Columbia Circle project is renovated from a comprehensive urban area. How does OMA look on the connection between the old and the new? How can we breathe new life into historic buildings and neighborhoods while retaining their original characteristics?


I think working with existing buildings is quite a large part of our work. If you look at the history of preservation areas worldwide, you’ll see that the amount of area that is of cities and being preserved grows exponentially. There are more and more needs to develop strategies: how to work with existing neighborhoods, buildings or smaller features? We’ve already been working on that in Europe for a little bit longer, but more and more, this becomes a very important subject in Asia and in China specifically. What is also interesting is that the decision of what to preserve, or what not to preserve is changing very much over time. It’s a very subjective element. The speed of urbanization is so high in China, and I think that’s also one of the important items when we worked on Columbia Circle. The buildings may not have an architectural value today, but the entire compound is quite unique. In that sense, we should try to be more creative with all of the buildings, the beautiful monuments from the 30s, as well as the buildings from the 90s. If you really look at preservation projects worldwide, the preservationists preserve, keeping things authentic; while the architects build things forward, as they say, the new life. The moment they start mixing, suddenly there are these two opposites, where one is trying to preserve maximum, the other is trying to build new maximum. What we are interested in is the different possibilities in between all these different shades of gray, other than black and white.

▼新与旧的混合 – 西澳大利亚博物馆Boola Bardip(点击这里查看更多
Mixing of new and old – WA Museum Boola Bardip (click HERE to view more)


For instance, the project of Fondazione Prada in Milan. It’s a project where we have 100% preserved buildings and 100% new buildings. We also have a lot of in between, where all things are newly constructed that look old, and we have old things that actually look new. These inside and outside, old and new are creating one new project as a whole. I think that is what we’re interested in, trying to create a more open, more broad repertoire of solutions. It includes existing buildings and existing contexts, but we try to be more creative in giving it a new life and new identity. That is one of our challenges that we see in working with preservation projects.

▼新与旧的混合 – 米兰Prada基金会(点击查看:Prada基金会总部1Prada基金会总部2
Mixing of new and old – Fondazione Prada in Milan (click to view more: Fondazione Prada in Milan 1, Fondazione Prada in Milan 2)

▼新与旧在建筑中难以区分,you cannot tell the new from the old in the building



“Sustainability is not about making buildings look green, but it’s more about in the early stage of the design thinking about both low-tech and high-tech solutions.”


In the BLOX complex in Copenhagen, a broad sustainability vision has been developed to meet Denmark’s advanced low-energy requirements. What experience does OMA have in improving building energy efficiency of massive and complex projects? How to balance such gigantic volumes with the need of energy saving?


The BLOX project was important because it was in 2009 with the COP 15, which was the big Climate Summit in Copenhagen, and the client really wanted to push the boundaries. The design was already existing, but we were investigating what we could do more than the usual. I think from that moment, sustainability has been, basically in all our projects, an integrated part of the design. Last week we just received the Diamond Status for the Springer project, which is the highest status you can get for an office building in Berlin. In Europe designing for sustainability started a bit earlier, and in Asia it’s still in development. It starts usually with very simple things about orientation and massing compactness. The interesting thing is that it is both high-tech and low-tech. We usually build a team with traditional and special consultants, and start from day one we think about what are the most significant way to reduce the impact on the environment.

▼BLOX综合体外观(点击这里查看更多),external view of BLOX (click HERE to view more)


In the case of BLOX, for instance, we have developed a trickle ventilation system, which means that throughout the entire year, we can use very little energy. But also it means people who work in the office can control for themselves if they like to have more or less ventilation. It’s an improvement to the traditional office. I think it is perhaps a bit ironic thing that a lot of the projects that you see today are all photoshopped with green. However, the effort you need to have green high up on these vertical towers, the carbon dioxide that it takes to put all the trees there and keep them alive are more than the carbon dioxide that those trees will ever turn into oxygen. It’s not about making it look green, but it’s more about in the early stage of the design thinking about both low-tech and high-tech solutions.

▼立面和细部,采用新的通风系统,facade and details, using new ventilation system



Structure and Construction



“We like to bring in some of the technologies and findings in other industries into the architectural project and try to defy gravity.”


The uniqueness of OMA’s design is often accompanied by sophisticated structural challenges as in the case of the CCTV building in Beijing. How does structure intervene and influence OMA’s work of design? Please share some experience.


We like to work with structure and with gravity a lot. On the one hand, we would like to give buildings a narrative and make them explain something, and sometimes it’s important in a composition to do that. At the same time, I also think that our profession in architecture is not known for being very innovative. We keep on building the same steel structures, concrete structures and stone buildings since centuries. While you see that in other industries, they are much more creative and innovative in applying new technologies. If you look at the maritime industry, they have these large cantilevering, operable elements and cranes. And also in the aviation industry, they do things with very light weight and intelligent solutions. We also like to bring in some of those technologies, some of those findings into the architectural project and then try to defy gravity, which I think is one of all these challenges in architecture.

Torre -Fondazione Prada, a diagonal structure emerging from the rear of the building (click HERE to view more)



For instance, in the project of Fondazione Prada, we have aluminum foam, which is a product that was used in the aviation industry in rockets, and also in defense and military because it has a very big impact. And if you make sandwich panels of that, you can make very light weight sandwich panels and have an enormous rigidity. We developed with a science institute in Germany a way to calculate the structural performance of these sandwich panels, showing that it’s actually stronger than the traditional steel structure with the same weight. However, you always come to the point that you need to get certificates before construction. That is often where things become complicated because certifying new solutions is usually a process that can take many years. Sometimes it’s only very small step that you can take, not the large ones. This is one of those examples where we worked with laboratories on testing these products. It has not been applied to an architecture before with a structural contribution.

Usually, when we work in a competition, we work with the structural engineer from day one. They immediately response to a small idea and then decide whether we can do this or do that. It’s in a very early process that we work with structural engineers on interesting solutions.

▼Prada基金会总部,结构采用泡沫铝板,Fondazione Prada in Milan, using aluminum foam for structure



“There is a strong drive to improve in China. Companies want to learn, to grow, and become better and innovate.”


What efforts has OMA made in China’s projects to achieve high-quality design and construction simultaneously? Please share some experience.


UCCA美术馆改造项目中,我们与一家名为White Glass的公司合作建造了项目的立面。当时我们做的事情恐怕只有在当下的中国才能完成。我们开发了一种流动的玻璃,几乎不用模具就可以制作,每块玻璃都拥有各自不同的三维起伏,无需框架支撑。从设计到开始施工,我们只有三个月时间。这家公司开发了各种方式,思考如何将设计概念转化为技术和产品。他们带来的提案和样品一开始也许会有错误和问题,但是会立刻更正,最终在有限时间内出色地完成了这项工作。这种对于开发独特定制产品的巨大热情令我感触颇深。据我所知,没有一个项目能在如此短的时间内完成此种规模的建造。

I think that the quality of construction in China has changed a lot since when I was involved in the beginning of CCTV which was in 2003. It was the first time I visited China. The quality of construction was not so good as it is today. Buildings that were 10 years old looked as if they were 50 years old. Things have changed very fast. A lot of those facade companies, for instance, now have the same standards as you would find in Germany. Basically, it’s all high tech, super organized and clean. Their quality standard is very high. At the same time, there was still a very big contrast between those companies and the typical quality level you’ll find elsewhere. You have to find the right partners. I think in this development there is a strong drive to improve in China. Companies want to learn, to grow, and become better and innovate.

For instance, we worked with a company called White Glass for the UCCA project for the facades. There we did something that I think is only possible in China today. We developed this idea of fluid glass almost without making molds, making every panel unique and having this three dimensionally corrugated glass without any mullions. We only had three months from the design to the start of the execution of the construction. There the company did really great work by developing all kinds of ideas, thinking about how that concept could be translated into technology and products. We managed to do that in this very short period of time. We worked with them. They came with proposals and made samples. Maybe in the first run, there were some problems and errors. But then they were fixed immediately after. It was great to see that there was so much interest in developing bespoke, unique products. As far as I know, it has not been applied in architecture on that scale with a very limited time available.

UCCA Regeneration, using bespoke fluid glass (click HERE to view more)



Urbanization and Rural Development in China



“What it needs is much more variety in typology, but also in density, that we have different types of urban designs next to the current model that is already working very efficiently.”


As China is still in the process of rapid urbanization, what kind of influence and change does OMA hope to bring to China’s urban environment through design?


I think the urbanization in China is due to the Chinese model of urban planning, which is based on the infrastructure, and controlling a lot of the parameters and quantities. It has enabled a very controlled way of development of large areas, which I think is great. But the question now is how will these areas turn out over time? And how sustainable are these urban developments over time? If I look at Europe, where there were also large developments made in the 50s and the 60s, we see that they have turned out to function for the first 20 or 30 years. But after that, there was some decline, and actually, at the moment, most of them are being torn down. So I think it’s important to understand how can these projects grow old in a good way and how can this kind of quantity-based development create quality. I think that’s a challenge for both the existing, and the recently developed areas, but moreover, the future urban project. At this moment there is also a transition happening in China in thinking from quantity driven to quality driven, and thinking about different ways of urbanity, beyond the model I just explained, which is dominated by the road network and the podium tower typology. What it needs is much more variety in typology, but also in density, that we have different types of urban designs next to the current model that is already working very efficiently. We need more creativity there.

▼米兰Scalo Farini规划设计(点击这里查看更多),Scalo Farini in Milan (click HERE to view more)

▼弹性的经济发展策略,elastic economic developing strategy



In many cities in the world, you go there because you expect a certain type of street life, for example the streets in Barcelona, Paris or New York. In China the street experience is completely different, because they have all been developed on very local parameters. At the same time, these cities have grown over decades, and you have to give it time to grow its own culture. Considering that the pressure of urbanization is so high, there is not much time. It’s very important that it has already been done in the early stage. I think that’s where we can do much better still.

In some of the projects we’re doing, for instance, in downtown Shanghai, you have the Shikumen housing blocks, etc. Making use of those local qualities is really a challenge because on the other hand, there is the pressure of developing new towers and new commercial blocks, etc. I think at the moment, what I see is this is becoming a priority on the agenda of the government to find more intelligent solutions than only preserving the facades and building large scale retail behind it. At the same time, we need to develop more strategies than purely preserving and then building new next to each other. We should find ways where we have more open attitudes to work into existing buildings, and to new buildings. So that is not either or, but we can create topologies that blur the boundaries much more. I think that step could be taken in China because there is the opportunity and the needs to do so.

▼上海上生新所,创造更加丰富的空间策略,Columbia Circle in Shanghai, developing various space strategy

▼城市发展机遇分析,opportunity analysis in this urban area



“There is possibility for development of different typologies for the countryside, depending on their potential.”


In addition to urban practices, OMA has also cooperated with Chinese colleges and universities in researches on China’s rural areas. What do you think are the characteristics of rural development in China? Will it be an opportunity for OMA’s further practice in China? Why?


This question relates to the countryside projects or exhibition and publication that we did. From all the examples that we have found, we can see that China is one of the very few countries where there is a real strategy to develop the rural areas more, understanding that actually there’s the potential, and also the need to invest and plan it well. In many parts of the world, the focus has been to urbanization only, and the countryside was completely ignored. I think there is possibility for development of different typologies for the countryside, different types of villages, depending on their potential. We have been working with CAFA amongst others on those studies. We have the intention to follow up on this research in China, and perhaps also developing more design projects in the future.

▼OMA在古根海姆美术馆举办的乡村研究展览,OMA established an exhibition on countryside study in the Guggenheim Museum



Future expectation of OMA


What are OMA’s future plans for developing in China and other parts of Asia?


Despite all the pandemic problems that everybody is facing, we still see a lot of opportunities in Asia and in China, specifically for us, to work on the subjects that we can be relevant for, which include public projects, urban developments as well as preservation and countryside. We are working from the small interior scale to the large master planning scale of 5 million square meters or more, the tall towers and the cultural projects. In Qianhai, we have the opening of an exhibition on Dec. 18th. We’re working on a 300-meter-tall tower in Qianhai. And also on IFEC which is a conference center and hotel. In Hangzhou, we have a mixed-use building in the middle of the future Tech City. We are working on a headquarter in Xiamen. We do various master planning projects for innovation industry, such as one in Chengdu. We are working on small scale interior projects, for instance, in Macao. We’d like to find more opportunities to do some interesting development works in China and in other parts of Asia.

▼OMA部分中国项目 – 招商蛇口太子广场(点击这里查看更多
Part of OMA’s projects in China – Prince Plaza (click HERE to view more)

▼OMA部分中国项目 – 上海陆家嘴金融城展览中心(点击这里查看更多
Part of OMA’s projects in China – Shanghai Lujiazui Harbor City Exhibition Center (click HERE to view more)

▼OMA部分中国项目 – 深圳证劵交易所新总部大楼(点击这里查看更多
Part of OMA’s projects in China – Shenzhen Stock Exchange (click HERE to view more)

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