gooood team interviews creative from all over the world. Your recommendations and suggestions are welcomed! gooood Interview NO.30 introduces Wei Chunyu, Founder and Chief Architect of Regional Studio（Contact：firstname.lastname@example.org）. More: Regional Studio on gooood
出品人：向玲 | Producer: Xiang Ling
编辑团队：陈诺嘉，武晨曦 | Editor: Chen Nuojia, Wu Chenxi
gooood x 魏春雨
“Regional” and Regional Typology
“Even very ordinary folk houses have a very clear spatial logic, and we need to use modern consciousness to discover the modern elements from tradition.”
What does the word “regional” mean to you? What do you mean by “Regional Typology”?
I have condensed the studio’s philosophy over these years on the word “regional” (地方), which literally refers to a region, and can easily correspond to the word “local”. In fact, it is a combination of two characters: “地”(Di) refers to locality, which means the natural dimension of architecture; while “方” (Fang) refers to the inner logic of architecture itself. Regional Studio’s projects can not be simply classified as a certain style, since I personally want it to always have an inherent autonomy, and ultimately transcend the region in which it is located through the continuous research and practice of regional typology.
▼地方工作室，Office of Regional Studio
Typology is unavoidable in studying architecture . We all make use of it as a mode or a tool of operation, whether consciously or not. The reason why I study Regional Typology is closely related to Hunan, where I live and work. From the perspective of latitude, Hunan is even further in the south than Jiangnan (south of the Yangtze River) regions, and closer to the tropics and subtropics. There are a large number of ethnic groups living In Hunan, including Han, Tujia, Miao, Dong, etc. Hunan also has rich texture of landscape, varying in topography like inland plains, mountains, hills and wetlands. Hunan belongs to the Chu (楚) culture circle with a deep lineage of Wu (巫, witchery) culture, with a belief in the integration of Yin and Yang, and dares to use dense and strong colors. Having been influenced by such kind of culture, Hunan’s buildings are not like that in north China with a strict order, nor are they like those in Jiangnan or Lingnan, that has refined and mellow details. It has a kind of anti-traditional spirit. Due to the differences in ethnicity, culture, topography and even climate changes, Hunan has become home to numerous distinctive regional buildings such as side-courtyards and elevated “Yinzi” dwellings (窨子屋), which are all results of actively adapting to the local climate and environment. When we were doing a residential survey in Hunan, we found that these types of architecture have become quite mature and stable in the domestic context.
▼湖南传统民居与转译的建筑类型，Typical Residence in Hunan Province and the architectural type interpreted from it
（左）湘西“吞口屋”，(left) Typical Residence West Hunan “Tun Kou Wu”
（右）“ 吞口屋 ”盒子，(right) “ Tun Kou Wu ”BOX
Over the years, people have become accustomed to the idea that tradition and modernity are opposite. This leads to a situation that when we talk about learning from tradition, we are often just copying some traditional symbols , which eventually becomes a pathetic imitation. In my opinion, the so-called “traditional architecture” is a false proposition. China has vast territory and rich culture, and therefore it is hard to describe tradition. Tradition is too easy to become formalized, so I suggest to replace the simple definition of traditional architecture with regional typology in the architectural sense. We studied various architectural forms in Hunan like Stilted House Buildings and Wind and Rain Bridges, and found that even very common folk houses have a very clear spatial logic, and their spatial prototypes have more modernity than 80% of the so-called modern buildings that we can find in the cities today. What we need to do is using modern consciousness to discover the modern elements from tradition. Many of my current projects are based on Hunan’s regional types.
▼从传统民居转译而来的天井空间，Patio space interpreted from traditional residence
How can “regional” be expressed? Please talk about your research and practice in Regional Typology in detail.
When the study of regional types reaches a certain point, prototype issues will be encountered. Aldo Rossi believes that the spatial prototypes of architecture are sufficient for urban design, the only problem is how to combine them. This is a rather radical statement, but to some extent I think it can serve as a warning for China’s current situation. Over the years we have put too much emphasis on the connection between architecture and society, as well as the influence on architecture from politics, economy and culture, while at the operational level, it has been reduced to a new from of stereotype, dissolving the very nature of architecture. The prototype of architecture should be discovered by abandoning the superficial symbols and fragments. While functional and formal types can be separated, architecture should return to architecture itself.
“Focus on the dynamic adaptation of regional typologies of architecture, trying to create the studio’s own identifying language through our study.”
First of all, it is necessary to interpret the spatial prototypes of traditional regional typologies in a modern way, returning to the essence of architecture. Secondly, Hunan has a rich topography, thus our practice emphasizes on ground-gripping， which means to firmly anchor to the land where it is located, not floating. Thirdly, creating the linear space. The spatial logic of many traditional buildings in China is linear and simple, but it contains rich connotations of ritual and ethics, comparing to which may so-called stylish spaces will be overshadowed. Fourthly, recessed spaces can be frequently found in my project, corresponding to different spatial prototypes, expressing the character of buildings that are neither closed, nor expanded, but have their own quality and spirit. Of course, since there are limited opportunities to use cutting-edge materials, I tend to use simple and rustic materials like brushed stone, concrete and black/red bricks.
Our research expands to regional typologies from interface spaces, and then refines the spatial prototypes; after the building designed according to the spatial prototypes is constructed, we will analysis the landscape to explore how it adapts to the topography and landform characteristics of Hunan. Recently, we have paid attention to the semantics of place, that is, the expression of spiritual attributes of architecture in space. Our work is not a one-step process, but moving onwards steadily, learning from the experience to finally come up with the truth. On the other hand, we are focusing on the dynamic adaptation of regional typologies of architecture, trying to create the studio’s own identifying language through our study.
▼部分地方工作室项目，Selected projects of Regional Studio
“Architecture could not be directed by political, economic, social and technological factors, but have an inherently self-system like our personalities, thus resisting the impetuous era.”
“We may need to suppress some common functions and understand architecture from the angle of perception, intentionally creating space with particular sense of ceremony.”
In the project of Tianma new Campus of Hunan University, you created a Chirico “metaphysical” work of the atmosphere. Could you please talk more specifically about your understanding of ““metaphysical” and its influence on your design language?
I had a huge interest in Chirico’s paintings when I was a graduate student. He is a representative of the Scuola Metafisica, and the buildings in his work present a sense of tranquility and melancholy, giving a very impressive and touching feeling. With the use of spatial prototypes, his language is extremely pure, reminiscent of the whole through parts and fragments, indicating a certain prototypical feature. In his paintings, the shadows cast towards the viewer, and this state of being in the shadow makes us feel as if we are part of the picture. Ordinary paintings are created to be observed and appreciated, while metaphysical paintings express eternity with moments, the whole with parts, and spaces with light and shadow. Metaphysics can not be classified as modernism, it emphasizes diachronism, from which you can always find the shades of tradition. From the aspect of architectural language, it can be reflected in the sediment of environmental semantics. Designing in any environment requires to find the semantics behind it.
Work of Chirico: Turin in Spring
The campus of Hunan University is very open without enclosing walls. Tianma New Campus is located on South Lushan Road, which is bustling with commercial streets on both sides. I felt that commercial streets didn’t fit the teaching area and the campus should be intentionally separated from them. The main trend in campus design in China is to focus on the fuctional axis. Function is the basic need of the space. As long as it works and fits the contemporary aesthetics, it doesn’t pursue the spirit of universities. I removed as many as the functional types in the campus buildings and organized them in a unified linguistic logic. The core idea was to create a scenery in Chirico’s style. When students step in this campus, they will feel an inexplicable constraint, urging them to lower their voice and behave themselves, returning to the atmosphere of study. Under this condition, study is transformed into a ceremony, which reflects my resistance to the overemphasizeing on function in architectural design. I believe that function is based on people’s understanding of current environment and it is highly possible to be temporary, even unreasonable. We may need to suppress some common functions and understand architecture from the angle of perception, intentionally creating space with particular sense of ceremony, which makes people to feel the strong place spirit and experience it in awe. It is also in consistence with the self-consistency I have been pursuing, which emphasizes the existence of a building instead of weakening it.
▼天马校区建筑群，Buildings in the Tianma New Campus
▼研究生院庭院，Courtyard in the graduate school
▼研究生院天台小剧场，Amphitheater in the graduate school
▼具有仪式感的学习空间，space for study with a sense of ritualism
“Ritualism is just hidden in the dailiness and the two are correlated with each other.”
“Dailiness” and “Ritualism” are totally different. How did you embody them in the project of Tian Han Cultural Park and how did you deal with the relationship between them?
Tian Han Cultural Park is located beside the former residence of Tian Han in Tianhan Village. It is surrounded by farmlands with farmers’ houses scattering around. We had to build closely to the ground in order to follow the environmental context. However, how could we express the strength of Tian Han as the lyricist of the national anthem of China and one of the pioneers of modern Chinese culture? How to balance the dailiness and ritualism of the building? In fact, we can find ritualism in our daily life everywhere. Especially in the countryside and small towns in China, the ritualism in the daily life has been well remained. Take going to the market in the remote regions as an instance. Although it is a common event, people would put on their new clothes and watch a play on the market day. It has become an important social event in their life and highly ceremonial. An ordinaly house for daily living, however small it is, must have a screen wall at the entrance. Going further into the space, you can find rooms on either side with memorial tablets to worship, naturally creating a sense of ceremony. Ritualism is just hidden in the dailiness and the two are correlated with each other.
▼田汉文化园外观，贴地面而建，External view of Tian Han Culture Park, nestling up to the ground
▼艺术学院主入口，Main entrance of the art college
Ordinary cultural buildings are axial symmetric. However, in Tian Han Cultural Park, in order not to destroy the irrigation canals and underground oil pipes, we had to put the architecture in an irregular arrangement. There were three methods we used in this project. Firstly, the building was completely horizontal and nestled up to the ground. Secondly, we applied prototypical spaces and forms in the building, including patios. Thirdly, we chose plain materials in the project. When we were laying the bricks, we intentionally combined different colors together, creating some light shadow effects. In addition, we built some brick walls to form a feel of crawling. When these three common design methods integrated, a space with ritualism was generated. On the other hand, the ritual prototypes are also originated from the daily life. It is how the ritualism and dailiness thransform themselves into each other.
Entrance and sections of the art college, space interpreted from the patios in traditional dwellings
▼艺术陈列馆剖面图，Sections of the art gallery
▼艺术陈列馆，富有仪式感，Interior space of the art gallery with a sense of ceremony
How did you come up with the idea when you were dealing with the light and shadow in Xie Zilong Photography Museum and Li Zijian Art Museum?
Considering the design for a phtography museum, we wanted to create a vessel for time. Photography is the art of using light. As the entrance need to provide a shelter for the visiters, we easily came up the idea of cutting out a cone in the cube and shining a light down from above. I had used this method in an unrealized church project. The difference was that the form of the latter was reversed. The light and shadow moved in the space according to the position of the sun. Light became the architect to create a unique scenery.
▼艺术馆室内外参观路径，Visiting path in and out of the building
▼谢子龙影像艺术馆外观，external view of Xie Zilong Photography Museum
▼入口，从立方体上挖去一个圆锥，Entrance, cutting off a cone from the cube
▼建筑倒映在水面上，Building reflected on the water
▼室内外参观路径，光塑造场所感，Visiting paths in and out of the building, light creating unique scenery
Li Zijian Art Museum was designed and completed earlier than Xie Zilong Photography Museum. The greatest value of this project was that we replaced the traditional museum lobby by a large outdoor platform. We built a circular ring like a sundial above the platform, through which sunlight shines on the ground and moves in time cycles. When people stand on the platform, they would find Xiang River unfolding before their eyes and Yanghu Wetland Park on the back, extending infinitely in the horizontal direction. With light shining through the sundial, the horizontal and vertical dimensions intersect and finally create a unique image that cannot be seen in functional lobbies.
▼美术馆外观，external view of the art museum
▼李自健美术馆设计构思，开放的平台取代大厅，Design sketch of Li Zijian Art Museum, replacing the lobby by an open terrace
“The use of modern materials to express tradition should be reflected on the architectural texture, the change in light and shadows, as well as the integration of the building and its environment from different spatial distances.”
China Academy Museum takes “Zhai”as its prototype, while using modern elements in materials and details, including ceramic rods as roofs and walnut wood as tiles. What is your perspective on this kind of expression between tradition and modern times?
China Academy Museum was designed more than ten years ago and it gave me a lot of pressure. First of all, it was located in Yuelu Mountain, just under the National Scenic Area. It was also in the site of Yuelu Academy. A tiny mistake would cause destruction on both the environment and the historic building. It would have tended to go into two extremes when designing a new museum in Yuelu Academy. One was to create a completely pseudo-classic building and fill it with some functions, which would violate the requirement of finding out the prototype of the space. The other was to build a pure modern building, which would be isolated from the context. There were two points in our design: play a supporting role and avoid making a fake antique. If we built a pseudo-classic building in Yuelu Academy, people would assume the whole academy was fake. Thus the new building had to keep a distance from the historic buildings, on both time and space. We studied the different types of spaces in Yuelu Academy and discovered a narrow linear patio space, which we named “Zhai”. It was in very small scale and was authentic with no decoration, creating strong literati atmosphere. We transplanted this kind of space into the Academy Museum and developed it into its own system. After completing this self-consistent system, even though we casually replaced the traditional materilas by the modern ones, it could still create a sense of history.
▼中国书院博物馆，书院八景，China Academy Museum, eight sights of the academy ©麓野工作室
▼从岳麓山俯瞰书院博物馆，与环境相融合，Aerial view of the museum from Yuelu Mountain, being harmony with the environment
We replaced the tiles and horizontal structures by ceramic rods, walnut wood and aluminum alloy, while keeping them consistent with the wooden structure in the historic academy. Sunlight ran through the trees and shone on the roof made of separated ceramic rods, creating rich light and shadows which looked the same as the Chinese-style tiles in the distance. More than ten years have passed, China Academy Museum is still one of the most important projects in my design career. Firstly, it was my responsibility to make contribution to Yuelu Academy as a member of Hunan University. I considered a lot about the relationship between tradition and contemporary in the design. In the spatial genes, I tried to find the prototype. While in the material details, I emphasized construction. Sometimes this method would not work because of inaccuricy in scale and constructional details. The use of modern materials to express tradition should be reflected on the architectural texture, the change in light and shadows, as well as the integration of the building and its environment from different spatial distances.
▼以现代材料代替传统材料，与传统建筑在时空上脱开一定距离，replace the traditional materials by modern ones, taking a distance from the historic building on both time and space
What is the size and working mode of Regional Studio? How can you control and achieve high qualities in your projects?
Regional Studio is mainly a gourp of teachers, doctoral students and graduate students. On the one hand, this composition ensures a constant influx of new members. On the other hand, it is difficulte to sysmetically control the projects in a steady way. Generally, when we start a project, I will come up with a concept and let the doctoral students deliberate it again and again. After the concept is decided, my assistant will keep on developing it with the fellow students and I will control the materials and details at the end of the design. We have long-term collaboration with teams in interior design, landscape design, steel structure, curtain walls, etc. We are familiar with each other, ensuring the projects to reach a certain quality.
▼地方图示作品展 · 北京
Exhibition of Regional Studio · Beijing
Exhibition in Xie Zilong Photography Museum · Changsha
Architectural Practice and Education in China