Overseas NO.69: Nandi Lu

Name: Nandi Lu / From: Changsha / School: RISD

Project Specs


A bosom friend afar brings distant land near. The Oversea album shares the lives of Chinese living abroad with all. The No.69 episode is about Nandi Lu, who graduated from RISD and is now working for BIG



Why going abroad?


I had a vision about how romantic my life would be in the foreign land, doing sketches in nature every weekend.


What impressed you the most when you are abroad?


I met an Italian girl who I thought is German; I met a Japanese boy who I thought is Korean. So all these feelings made me wish people understand that I am Chinese without any confusion. I think the most impressive and interesting thing about New York City is that you have so many cultures mixed, it is almost unreal.


What do you miss the most about China?


I miss lots of old and vibrant villages or countryside far away from urban areas. Including Hongcun, Enshi, somewhere in Chongqing. Those places are not where I grew up or lived for a long time. But for people my age it is normal to have several spiritual hometowns.


Will you come back China? Why?


Of course, I wish to permanently move back to China around 35. And I would like to settle down in Wuhan or Changsha. On one side, I could be close to my family, on the other side I would like to slow down my pace in these cities and focus on vernacular architecture practice.


Ideal Lifestyle in the future?


I want to have a job in the city. During weekends or holidays I hope to discover old unknown villages in China, recording unknown stories about them and how they are gradually disappearing.


Is it more distinct to view China in a different environment after going abroad? Any thought?


I feel I can’t say my perspective is more distinct but it is definitely more objective because of the distance, which makes your focus different. I love to hear all passionate voices from China and I would like to share what I saw in the U.S. All in all, I want to be modest for holding any strong attitudes while I am not living in China.


What makes the curriculum of your school different from other architecture schools?


Actually, I feel it was like a dream for two years in RISD. The most special part of it is about questioning yourself again and again while seeking the answers.


Overall, RISD is laid-back, in life, and in education. I guess it is because the school always encourages you to express what you think with totally freestyle. But it holds a high requirement for what is your argument behind. Teachers spent lots of time on pushing you to explore the reason for your personal intuitions. And it is not only about why you wish to build a house here or there or why circle is better than square in this case. It is even more about to be or not to be. Thus, it is normal that, as architecture or landscape students in RISD, we started from a project-oriented studio and then we end up with something looks unfinished before final. But these unsolved questions kept us going back to the project or the site (e.g. RISD farm) all the time.


I didn’t get it at the beginning of my RISD life, about why we have more questions than answers. Since we are major in apply-arts like architecture or landscape design. We, as designer, usually have clients, also a stable value-system to objectively refer. But fine-art discipline is different. Which is the part that really made RISD RISD. For artists, they are so free in their judgment system and medias they are using. This freedom made they actually harder to live a easy life compare to professional designers. Because they have to subjectively invent their own logic system to bring their projects into reality, and be impersonal. So staying critical and to keep questioning becomes an essential part of making art. I appreciate that I met lots of disciplined artists in RISD and was inspired from them.


Obviously, you could feel RISD is a process-based School. Or you might also understand that everything in progress is valuable and could be a result.


What are the characteristics and interesting points of your firm?


BIG is quite open-minded.

我在BIG干了一年了,因为毕业于景观项目。所以主力在BIG U的一期工程。恰逢BIG的景观部门初具规模。算是有幸目睹了一个新部门在这个企业中是如何慢慢成长的。我深刻体会到公司对所有新鲜idea的open程度是惊人的。而且公司内部的等级制度不会对信息的传递造成过大影响。所以传说BIG只有年轻人是不对的,只因为年轻人的声音永远不会被忽视,所以血液一直是新鲜。我记得我入职第一天就建议增设景观部的图书目录,虽然中间停滞了半年,但如今已经进入了第二轮图书购买投票。然后不管怎么换座位,总能遇到好同桌与我乐此不彼地分享各种好玩的展览和活动信息,当然也包括sample sale啦。因为大家永远充满好奇心在工作内外都很活跃地学习着。所以我们做渲染中用到的素材也都很当代,包括 Dustin Yellin 的 Psychogeography 或者 Cerith Wyn Evans的发光字体等等。

I have been in BIG for one year, working on landscape projects like BIG U (a 6 miles resilience infrastructure to protect lower Manhattan from the next Sandy Hurricane). It was lucky that I witnessed how we build up our landscape department in New York office. And the hierarchy in the office is never a barrier in communication of ideas. All people I met in BIG are ready to learn from each other. Someone told me that the average age in the office is too young. That is not really true. I feel it is because most people stay young when they are happy to engage with younger people. I remember I suggested ordering more landscape books for the use of landscape projects. After one year, we had been ordering books after the office voted and a decent landscape library was formed. Same as sharing our favorite reading list; we share lots more fun in life within the office. Especially, chill events, exhibitions, and sample sales. Since we are always curious for new and fun elements, we always incorporate what we saw into design. So don’t be too surprise if you see super avant-garde or high fashion animations in our renderings.


Who is your favorite artist (in wider range such as art, music, movie)? What is the influence?

如果做梦算一种创作,卡尔维诺影响我不少。2010年读《看不见的城市》觉得那只是一个个梦境,荒诞,美丽。2012年在无人的欧洲古城充满雾气的寒冷冬夜中觉得自己仿佛走进了小说中的那座双子城的地下城。今年在纽约的一个雨夜,我梦到了被阿姆斯特丹狭窄立面占领的威尼斯河道,梦到运河水面吞噬两岸的石板路,梦到水面上窜过一群疯狂的yellow cab. 水花四溅却带走了雨季,日出,云散,远处惊见圣母院钟塔的影子。所以相比图像和音乐,文字貌似更吸引我,当我只言片语地记住卡尔维诺的城后,他们多少年来都在导演我梦里无数有趣又费解的空间,以及发生在里面不可能的剧情。

If dream is also a place you creating art, I think Calvino is my favorite. I first read his book Invisible Cities in 2010, and I thought each city was an unreachable dream. Then I found myself stepped into his dreams while I was walking through a foggy night in an Italian old town in 2012. Not long ago, I had a dream in a rainy night in New York. I saw all the facades in Amsterdam standing along the edge of Venice canal, and it rains heavily, the water table is growing, paths are disappearing. Suddenly, lines of yellow cabs are running through the water surface. After all the splashes, the sun emerges, clouds fading out, I saw the towers of Notre Dame cathedral far away. I think words are more influential to me than images and music. I love to collage my memories of Calvino’s book. And having countless unbelievable stories of strange spaces in my dreams.


What fascinates viewers the most in your portfolio in your opinion?


I am not sure it is fascinate but it is feminine, for sure. It is quite emotional. The scale of my projects is usually small as well as the risk I have taken in them. Lots of my friends and teachers like my representations. Yes I agree, I put more energy on drawings, and wish there will be one or two drawings that could touch you without explaining too much context. I always think the vibe is the key.


When did you start to follow gooood? Any suggestions?

12年左右开始浏览谷德的。我最近很喜欢Under 35专辑中墨白的那一篇,迫切地想看到更多青年女性的经历,而且希望是生活化的视角!

I began paying attention to Gooood since 2012. I love recent album: under 35. Especially the article about Mobai. I wish to see more stories about interesting lives of young women. And a perspective of daily life is always attractive!








Squeezing Adventures

峡缝探险,东普罗维登斯皮艇公园改造 / Constructing Ground for Coastal Kayak Park Design
Instructor:Adam Anderson


The Project is located at a Kayak Launching spot in East Providence. Even it is facing a nice city skyline but there is not much transitions on the site. So what you see from you entering the site to touching the water is monotonous. So I wish to break this experience by carefully denying views of entire skyline using landforms like valleys and slopes, delaying the enjoyable moments and prolonging these moments as well. Like Raising up climax after some depressed plots. All these have been inspired by the loud sound created by the waves hitting the site’s edge. Since I noticed how powerful the energy is when the water was squeezed into the gap between rocks, same as people’s emotion.


Materiality: Besides the inspiration of the squeezing landform, the reasonable materiality also helps the project. The site is not only facing downtown providence but also looking at famous I-195 Jewelry District, which is a sign of Providence past industrial history (Providence was a traditional industry city before 80s when big box economy has been introduced into it) with identical three chimneys view. So I wish to enhance site time narrative and location specific. Then the sand road and cortex steel had been chosen in the project to recall the providence’s memory of industry city and end of Narragansett bay.


Playful design methods: The time span of this studio is less than two months, so clay is an efficient and straightforward way to texting the landform. Its manageable quality gave me possibility to test out how to use squeezing operation on the land, how to convert a vertical plane to horizontal one, and how these space can be occupied and used by people. I remember it was physically tired to play with the clay, but it turns out to be the key of the birth of such a pleasant landform.


After I have done with the clay model, I 3D scanned it, brought it into contour model study. In order to save time and glue, I just stack all the layers together like toy bricks. To my surprise, I found lots of interesting ways to improve the design by removing or shifting those flexible pieces. And I integrated these ideas into my final model.

所以整个公园的体验是一个动与静,快与慢,放与收的弹性结局。为了表达我一开始听到涛声的情绪,我最终选择了用电脑和手绘结合的方式渲染了公园平面以及场地上两个具有代表性的瞬间。这套图纸被邀请参加了学校博物馆2015年的 Image Landscape 展览。

So the whole park finally turns out into a happy ending with a balance in static and dynamic, enclosed and open, squeezing and expanding. In order to express my first perception of the site which was the fussy sound of the ocean. I choose hybrid drawing as a way to rendering the final representations of the project. And they had been exhibited in Image Landscape exhibition on RISD museum in 2015 winter.




Moving Through Thresholds

步移景异,沉浮中的韵律 – 海滨牧场研究与设计 / Experimental Design above and below Changing Datum
Instructor:Colgate Searle


This project came from RISD’s most classical Design Principle studio. It covered a large range issues: Starting from the initial soil experiments, we analyzed the farm to understand principles of ground, phenomena, space, scale and form. Through the whole process we kept using hand drawing and modeling as the direct method to enhance our understanding of how we design by which we take into the story. I finally told a story about hydrology and luminosity, using one flowing trail hidden inside or exposed above the marshland covered by phragmites.

负距离接触场地后,土壤会讲故事 | Listening the story of the soil by exploring underground


The soil study phase is crucial to me as an architecture background student. The site has rich transitions all the way from ocean to beach to marshland to the forest and grassland. I didn’t know that lawn, sandy soil and clay or silt will exist together at the same spot underground in so many ways, until we dig holes in different spots on the site and gathering soil samples. And we were immediately required to make a physical model to present our understanding of the samples in hand. Then I choose to use foam blocks, expanding glue and iron wire to explain my discovery of upland soil structure. It is really a efficient way to allow myself understand the relationship between different particles and water underground.

输出同样为输入:通过水彩感受景观的情绪 | Output as input, using watercolor as a media to study phenomena


After the soil study, we went back above the ground, studied different phenomena on the site. It could be wind could be shadow could be the sound you made from your steps. Then I chose the light. Because I have run into the site during a sunset time, it moved me so much by the gold growing surface of the marshland. So I decide to use watercolor to register all these, about how the light could be captured by the landscape. Including the liner highlights on the tree trunks and the lighting facade of the canopy. Then, based on the data I get through the watercolor sketches, I combined the light phenomena into a site diagram and decided to begin a journey deep into the marshland.

一个通往芦苇丛深处的旅程 | A journey through marshland and woods


The design went quite smoothly when you found a trigger. Based on the constraints from the sunshine, soil and vegetation. A trail flowing under the canopy, among the tree trunks and above the phragmites was quickly formed. And it was easily blended into the main circulation on the site. Through the process, I used large-scale diagram and physical model to study the light both in plan and space. I also integrated an outdoor classroom in the middle of this non-directional trail to allow more people stop and experience the different humidity of the marshland. Since the tidal change of the site made the texture of the marsh not only about the luminosity but also about the hydrology.




Glowing Fields
仲夏微光,华盛顿宪法公园萤火虫都市栖息地设计 / Urban Cohesive Habitat for Human and Firefly
Instructor:Suzanne Mathew;Fultineer Scheri


I started this project because a friend of mine used to tell me how excited she was when she saw a firefly on the lawn of the White House. Before that, I thought firefly was an aesthetic within certain Asian cultures, but it seems that fireflies evoke memories and experiences that are universal- childhood romances, the feeling of being young, the beauty of passing time, and the smell of humid dusk of the pastoral landscape. I wish all these could happen within the fabric of an urban space as well. Landscape design is not only about solving global crisis but it is also about taking advantages of the site to make it better. I wish to create glowing fields– therefore, this project is a study on place engagement by exploring how cohesive habitats between humans and fireflies can be created in Constitution Gardens, Washington D.C.

萤火虫的分布逻辑 | Biological Study of the Firefly


At the beginning of the study, I wish to proof that firefly is one of the most widely experienced phenomena and could be the emotional link for many people from different countries. As expected, there are over 2000 species live in tropical and thermal areas across the world. And people not only depicted fireflies though Ukiyo-e in Japan but also celebrate this summer miracle through festivals in Denmark. Meanwhile, Washington area is no doubt a suitable site for firefly study since it is located in between Chesapeake Bay, Atlantic Coastal Plain, and Piedmont Area. The bio-diversity makes it a nice habitat for 5 firefly species in nature.

找准切入点:光的分布研究 | Finding the breakthrough– all about light

因为都市栖息地是人与萤火虫两者的对手戏,缺一个都不精彩。所以如何精确锁定基地范围同时找准合适的机会撮合人们偶遇萤火虫是另外一个漫长的研究。综合GIS中华盛顿夜晚的光照强度与Geotagger中人类活动流线以及国会广场附近公共空间的开放时间以及用地规划等,发现位于林肯纪念堂与华盛顿纪念碑之间的宪法公园是栖息地的不二之选。同时五种萤火虫中,东部萤火虫(Photinus Pyralis)作为活动时间与人类最吻合以及对光照接受度最高的一类也脱颖而出。所以我带着适合Photinus活动的光照数据与测光仪跑去华盛顿进行了一次对宪法公园的扫盲式测绘。

Because it is a co-habitat, the method to find the nice engagements between humans and fireflies is crucial and meant to be a long research. I overlapped the GIS dates about lighting levels of Washington, human circulation data from Geotagger, opening time of all the public institutions around National Mall and urban land use. It turns out that Constitution Garden is in a comparatively low light area at night in the middle of the city but with more people passing by it at night. Then, using Photinus Pyralis’ requirement for the ambient light as datum, I went to the site for a full measurement of the site’s lighting condition.

四个基地改善方向: 光,土壤,植被,水系| Site strategies: light, soil, vegetation, and water

测绘结果让我发现适合Photinus Pyralis活动的0.03fc光照条件在基地上确实存在。由基地光的图解可知,这些空间多半存在于没有行路灯干扰的湖面中央,茂密的树林中,背对纪念碑等地标建筑的草坡上以及类似像越战纪念碑这样的陡坎的阴影中. 于是以光的信息为基础,我对场地植被状况,水文状况,土壤状况均进行了深入学习。根据萤火虫和人类活动对时间和空间的多种资源共享可能性,我对四个方向均提出了改善的方案。


1 光:改变公园北部的坡度和高度,创造一条适合萤火虫活动的背光带。

2 土壤:增加部分地区土壤的有机物覆盖层提供少许萤火虫产卵的机会,加厚表层土,改善土壤的渗水性以改善植被覆盖率。

3 植被:挪走病树,移栽可以为人们带来秋色并为萤火虫幼虫提供冬眠庇护的落叶树种。

4 水系:以及创造局部水草茂盛的水岸线,同时小面积增加陆地上的长草地,为萤火虫提供藏身以及飞行间隙的休息站(很多物种飞不到树梢那么高的)。

Luckily, the situations with 0.03fc low light level for Photinus Pyralis really exist in the site. As the light section diagram shows, those situations are usually hidden inside the woods or in the center of the lake where it is faraway from the streetlights or the slope that is not facing to the lightened up landmarks. Since the lighting condition for fireflies has been confirmed. I studied other landscape elements on the site in order to find out different ways people could share the space with fireflies with more engagements between one another. So, I came up with site strategies with four aspects:

1,For the light, I raised up the grading for some area north of the lake, creating a light shelter for fireflies and sound shelter for humans.

2,For the soil, I added organic layers to create a better chance for fireflies to spawn, and I thickened the topsoil and reconstructed the drainage of certain areas to provide better plant-growing condition.

3,For the trees, I removed lots of trees with disease and replaced some large deciduous trees to provide people with fall colors and to allow firefly larvae to hibernate under the foliage.

4,For the water, I changed part of constructed concrete lake bed into natural conditions and introduced soft edges with ornamental wetland grasses along it, and also added meadow in limited areas, which would allow some fireflies to rest on the top of the long grasses(many species can not fly high enough to touch the canopy)

资源共享的两种模式 | Two types of sharing in co-habitat


After balancing more details, I had my glowing fields in plan. After studying people’s walking, biking, sitting, picnicking habits and fireflies’ flying, spawning, hibernating, hiding conditions. I categorized 8 types of engagements for this co-habitat, including biking path that pass through the lake with ornamental long grasses on the side and glowing tunnels inside the woods with lighting system touching the ground. Of all these site specific conclusions, the most interesting points are two types of sharing that happen in this habitat: a subjective sharing– an engagement happened within same space at the same moment; a passive sharing– a sustainable sharing for the space by occupying it separately in different seasons without interactions. Overall, I feel this project had provided me an interesting base to study other co-habitats with more species involved.




Memory Filter

蓦然回首,引导性景观装置艺术快题 / Urban Cohesive Habitat for Human and Firefly
Instructor:Colgate Searle;Adam Anderson
Group Member: Ziqing Chen;Brianna Cato


This was a tight project in terms of time and scale. We had less than one week to insert an installation into our site. So, we wanted to do something simple that was related to reflections. Since we wish to remind people of the beautiful landscape behind them.


Why do we want to remind people? There is a noticeable path on the site that has always drawn people’s attention to the ocean, but when people directly approach the coastal line without hesitation, they actually missed the sublime palette of fall colors that is being fully rendered behind them.


At beginning, I thought about using mirrors all the time. After sketching and modeling, however, we felt that it was better to do something subtle that could lead people’s subjective movements to something beyond the vision. Also, it was pleasant to work with materials with more natural textures. Therefore, we came up with ideas about frames made by wood sticks and semi transparent mesh, and we oriented a set of 6 frames on the beach. It would catch people’s attention faraway immediately because of the white mesh, and they were parallel to the direction that people entered the beach. However, each frame rotated at a certain angle– you would feel a parallax of perspectives that pointed behind you while you stepped into the middle of the installation. Then the physical turning around moment will happen at this moment,and we thought it was a sublime moment.


It was hard to insert all the wood sticks into soft sands and keep them vertical and stable, but I was grateful to meet two lovely group members and have supports from Xiao.




Pastime Activities 


旅行手绘 | Journey Notes


I love to record where I have been with sketches. Photos are also a nice option, of course, but sketches can actually save you more time when you look back since it is particular about the details you want to capture. Also, I enjoy that I could render out the objects in whatever color I like.


友人肖像 | Friends’ Portraits


It is such a pleasure to draw your friends. I usually do this for their birthdays. Even though I have been doing this less and less recently, I will not stop.

植物速写 | Plant Drawings


I transferred from architecture backgrounds to a landscape major, so drawing each plant could save my ignorance for the nature.

在海外地点:普罗维登斯, 洛杉矶, 纽约
学校or工作单位:华中科技大学;罗德岛设计学院;WET Design;BIG

When: 2014 to present
Where: Providence, L.A., New York
Who: Nandi Lu
From: Changsha, Hunan
School/Firm: HUST; Rhode Island School of Design; WET Design;BIG
Contact: lunarnandi@gmail.com

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