Overseas NO.101: Chen Yichao

The No.101 episode is about Chen Yichao who graduated from University of Southern California

Project Specs


A bosom friend afar brings distant land near. The Oversea album shares the lives of Chinese living abroad with all. The No.101 episode is about Chen Yichao who graduated from the University of Southern California.



Why going abroad?


Give myself more possibilities when I am still young, since I possibly will not have as much high-density exposure to different cultures in the future.


What impressed you the most when you are abroad?


Daily life depends heavily on private traffic. The reason behind this is that public transport is underdeveloped, behind which lies the reason that the program areas from urban planning are largely spread out, so that the number of people served by each public transport line or each traffic line stop point is small, which leads to the low economic benefit of public transport.


What do you miss the most about China?


Food, the friendly language environment, the familiar surroundings, the historical culture.


Will you come back China? Why?


Yes. I want to build something rooted in this land.


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


When living in a domestic city, I can hardly understand the causes of the undesirable streets described in The Death and Life of Great American Cities, nor do I often encounter such urban spaces. However, after going abroad to have personal experience and comparing urban spaces at home and abroad, I deeply felt the appearance of the street state described in the book and the insecurity it brought me. Disturbingly, such spaces are now proliferating at home, particularly in so-called new urban areas.


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

Comprehensive Studio扎实, Thesis Studio思辨,Selective Course多元。由于Comprehensive Studio是和本科非建筑专业的同学一起上的,所以教学内容较侧重基础和可行性。而Thesis Studio通过给予学生多个不寻常的主题作为选项,鼓励我们更多地去思考一些不专属于建筑学领域的问题,但用建筑设计的成果作为回应。Selective Course有很多方面的课程可供学生选择,不论是技术、理论、表达还是建造,基本上自己感兴趣的主题大类都能找到。

Comprehensive studios are solid, thesis studios are thought-provoking, selective courses are diverse. Since Comprehensive Studio is conducted with non-architecture students in undergraduate, the teaching content focuses more on the foundation and feasibility. However, by giving students several unusual topics as options, Thesis Studio encourages us to think more about some problems that are not specific to the field of architecture, but to use the results of architectural design as students’ responses. Selective course offers a variety of courses for students to choose from, from technology, theory, expression, to construction. You can find almost any subject you are interested in.


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


Let me mention an art category: Cyberpunk, and the works that mostly influenced me are Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell. Cyberpunk mainly contains two concepts, one is the core of the work, which is what defines people, and the other is the visual expression of the work, that is, the dingy and dirty city and the ubiquitous electronic screen that can usually be seen in cyberpunk films and television works. The former one made me realize how important memory, or familiar experiences, are to a person, while the later one cautioned me of how bad the living space of most people would be if cities divided people into different classes through districts.


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



If not properly said, one is possible unmannered. My starting point is relatively simple and direct, although there will be repeated deliberation and consideration in the process. In terms of results, I try to make the design as a whole reflect a clear posture

The other is to consider the use experience of the building more from the perspective of the non-professional public. In my opinion, the profound discussion within the academic circle is beyond reproach. However, when buildings are in contact with users directly, the theoretical or empirical results of academic discussions will not have a direct effect on the user’s experience but building itself does instead. Therefore, I often deliberate and design from the perspective of self-introduction into the architecture, and renderings that can express material and atmosphere intuitively outnumber outline sketches when expressing design.


When did you start to follow gooood? Any suggestions?


Started in 2015. Hopefully “Material and Detail” will continue to publish articles, since gooood is project-oriented and there are many interesting material constructions and tectonics in the built projects, which I believe will enlighten readers a lot.










View and VisionArchitectural translation of a Chinese traditional landscape painting
Thesis Instructor: Wang Yaohua

Studio的主题是Architecture of multiple,当时看到老师的介绍之后,觉得很兴奋,就选了这个题目。原因是,我向来有往一个设计中融合不止一个想法的倾向,但没有得到很满意的结果。我明白用单一概念指导一个设计所带来的好处,主题明确,逻辑清晰,但往往意为着很多次要的方面被忽略,或为了这唯一的概念服务而失去其可有的地位。确实,多个想法融合在一个项目中,并且能统一起来并非易事,因此我希望在这个thesis studio中再作尝试。

The theme of Studio is Architecture of Multiple. After the introduction of the instructor, I felt excited and chose this topic. The reason is that I have a tendency to incorporate more than one idea into a design, but I did not get very satisfactory results. I understand the benefits of directing a design with one single concept. The theme and the logic is clear, but it often means that many secondary aspects are ignored or lose their rightful place in the service of this single concept. Indeed, it is not easy for multiple ideas to be integrated into a project and unified, so I hope to make another attempt in this Thesis Studio.

▼项目概览,overall view of the project


I used to learn traditional Chinese landscape painting, and I am interested it, including its undulating lines and composition which is different from the real world, as well as the landscape artistic conception brought by this artificial arrangement of nature. Because ancient people read a landscape painting in fragments, the painting could be divided into countless segments with overlapping parts. However, at the same time, each segment is still a part of the whole, and the frame is not their boundary, neither the frame of the original painting. These characteristics have inspired the subsequent architectural design.

▼设计概念,design concept


The site was chosen in Hangzhou, China, with the West Lake and hills as half and the city as the other half. For Hangzhou residents, landscape and traditional architecture remain in their memory, which are extract two major themes of traditional Chinese landscape painting. I hope this design can be judged by the local residents, so the site is kept a certain distance from the West Lake and the main urban area, so that the judging process will not directly be affected by the existing elements.



The building is intended to be a “self-contained” world, typologically known as a complex. Business, entertainment, community activity center, culture, office, residence are included. On the one hand, the hope is to create a welcoming environment and experience on the site, but also to be a viable template for future construction in more places.

▼总平面图,site plan


The building basically consists of a horizontal bottom, a vertical top and vertical walls connecting the two. It can be seen that there are different vertical interfaces on all sides of the building, which are obtained by setting “segments”, then resetting “frames” after developing “segments”, and then cutting. In this case, the facade of the building has the characteristics of section and indicates the possibility of further developing the building in different directions.


▼建筑中的片段,frames in the building




Dialogue between Old and New:Architectural school beside aqueduct
Studio Instructor: James Robertson


The site is in Montpellier the southern part of France, is next to the only aqueduct in the city when once occupied by the Romans, leaving behind a huge one. One end of the aqueduct sits on a platform, which is the place of Montpelier’s most popular square, and the site is on a lower level, right in front of the platform. Therefore, how to deal with the view of people on the platform looking towards the aqueduct, as well as the relationship between the aqueduct and the new building, became a key part of the design.

▼项目外观,external view of the project


蒙彼利埃是法国著名的学术中心,这里有不少的高校,大量的学生和研究人员在此处生活。而蒙彼利埃会向学术产业方向发展,离不开教育学家Patrick Geddes。Geddes曾提出学科交叉以及将教育普及化的观点,后者包括鼓励市民参与到城市设计的过程中,Geddes认为城市的使用者对城市如何发展拥有最大的发言权,而当他1924年在蒙彼利埃做教授时,得到了践行自己的理论的机会。除此之外,法国人自身具有参与到公共事务,以及热爱表达与交流的特点。项目的功能类别是建筑学院,因此,如何在这座建筑中增进人们和建筑学教育的交流,进而为城市的发展同时传达学术和生活化的意见,是项目的另一个挑战。

Montpellier is a famous academic center in France. There are many universities here, and a large number of students and researchers live here. Montpelier, however, could not have developed into an academic industry without the educationalist Patrick Geddes. Geddes once put forward the idea of interdisciplinary and universal education, which included encouraging citizens to participate in the process of urban design. Geddes believed that the users of the city had the greatest voice in how the city should be developed, and when he was a professor in Montpelier in 1924, he was given the opportunity to practice his theories. In addition, the French themselves are engaged in public affairs and love expression and communication. The category of the project is a school of architecture. Therefore, how to promote the communication between people and architectural education in this building, further conveying both academic and life-oriented opinions for the development of the city, is another challenge of the project.



The project’s strategy is to communicate flow line and sight among multiple lines parallel to the channel through transparency and entities as well as through connection and separation, and according to the gradual change from the aqueduct to the driveway from static to dynamic. Several indoor and outdoor parallel lines on the ground floor are accessible to the public, making it a semi-public area combining education and the public.

▼街道与庭院,street and courtyard

当去到场地亲身感受场地时,我十分喜欢周边的一切带给我的氛围。卒姆托说过一句话,”So what moved me? Everything. The things themselves, the people, the air, noises, sound, colors, material presences, textures, and forms too – forms l can appreciate. Forms l can try to decipher. Forms l find beautiful. What else moved me? My mood, my feelings, the sense of expectation that filled me while I was sitting there.” 在设计过程中,我特别注意了靠近引水渠一侧包括建筑内外的体验。一个画面被想象出来,微风吹拂,阳光穿过引水渠的空隙投在其与新建筑之间的小路上,人们踩在石子上发出窸窣声,树影婆娑,学生坐在树荫下交谈设计,时不时有市民经过,参与到讨论中来。

When I went to the site to personally to feel the atmosphere, I really enjoyed the atmosphere brought by everything around me. Zumthor said, “So what moved me? Everything. The things themselves, the people, the air, noises, sound, colors, material presences, textures, and forms too – forms l can appreciate. Forms l can try to decipher. Forms l find beautiful. What else moved me? My mood, my feelings, the sense of expectation that filled me while I was sitting there.” During the design process, I paid particular attention to the experience of being on the side of the aqueduct, both inside and outside of the building. A picture is imagined, breeze blowing, sunlight falling through the opening of the aqueduct on the path between it and the new building, people rustling on the stones, the shadows of the trees whirling, students sitting in the shade talking about design, and from time to time citizens coming by and joining in the discussion.

▼新与旧的对话,dialogue between new and old







Return to the Original Nature:Village revitalization
Studio Instructor: Shu Yang
Collaborator: Wu Lingyu


With the advancement of urbanization, life in cities becomes more convenient, leading to the migration of rural residents, and eventually the decline of the village. Spontaneously, in order to prevent the decline, many rural areas have learned from urban planning and urban design , with the intention of transforming villages into miniature cities to pursue urban life. Take my hometown zhejiang province as an example, it is common to see a variety of small houses clustered neatly, just like an urban enclave located in the countryside. It can be noted that the spontaneous reconstruction of the countryside often separates the architecture from the traditional culture and nature. The question is, can efforts be made to maintain the visual integrity of the village and the dialogue with the surrounding environment by linking the two?

▼项目概览,overall view of the project


The site I chose is Shanke Village, Jinxi County, Jiangxi Province. This village is built around a pond with newly built houses on one side and original ancient village buildings on the other side. To prevent the loss of human resources while preserving the character of the village, revitalized industries need to be introduced. Through investigation it is found that Jinxi County is the largest spice industry base in China. The development of spice industry here has many advantages, such as government support, mature production and processing technology, and the suitable growth climate for spice plants. On the other hand, the raw materials of spices, plants as a part of nature, will communicate with architecture on the basis of nature talking to building.

▼基地分析,site analysis


Sanke will basically be able to complete the whole process of spices from planting to finished products. New resources and industries, such as tourism, commerce, artistic creation and cultural exhibitions, will be introduced to support rural revitalization at the economic level in order to solve the employment of local people.

▼功能分析,function analysis


In terms of village layout, the old and new villages are centered around the lake. On the side far from the lake, the new village is composed of streets and courtyards and people in the new village can connect to the old village and lake at many locations with eyesight.


▼公共空间分析,open public space analysis


When it comes to every single building, in order to make people feel the rural memory brought by the environment, from the phenomenological point of view, it not only depends on the relationship between buildings and nature, but also is affected by more intuitive visual elements for people, such as typology, form, material and details of the construction. Three types of architectural prototypes were extracted from the preserved ancient villages. Combined with the process of spice industry, architectural functions and their relationship with the environment, each prototype developed itself and combined with each other to finally generate seven new architectural types. In this process, the selection of form and materials was controlled within the scope where non-professional public can intuitively connect the building to the ancient village.

▼类型分析,typology analysis




Equality and Chaos:Human reinventing
Collaborator: Li Anhong, Guo Changda, Li Zhihui


Today, with the rapid development of science and technology, especially AI technology, human life has become increasingly cyberized, and mobile phone is the next organ out of the flesh and blood. While we don’t have to think about the dangers of a cyberized life yet, there’s another issue quietly challenging the foundations of human society, and that’s what defines people. What is the difference between a man and an android, when so much of the heavy repetitive work of man can be replaced by an android?

▼项目外观,external view of the project


So how was human being defined in the past? Although many philosophers throughout history have given different explanations, as time goes on, freedom plays a more and more important role, perhaps even the most important, in defining human. The reason why the foundations of human society have been challenged is that people are losing their true sense of free will as social classes solidification and the omnipotent networks took an invisible hold on their minds. We hope that in this project, a love hotel can bring a little splash to people’s tranquil life and help them find themselves through a night.

▼重要哲学家的观点分析,views of important philosophers


Our strategy is to break down everyday social patterns by injecting fairness and chaos into societies that are too hierarchical and too entrenched. “Fairness” and “Chaos” are applied at both aspects of the project.

▼公平与混乱分析,analysis of equality and chaos


First, we created a “fair” form of architecture, a sphere, which is symmetrical in the center in a three-dimensional space. The huge sphere is attached by the small spheres inside, and the small spheres are symmetrical with each other at the center of the big sphere. Second, the orbital system that allows the balls to spin and the changes in internal space introduce “chaos,” with users inside unable to always know where they are or predict where they are going or how the inner surface will feel. In the process, users, whatever their role in an orderly society, can experience the expansive views enjoyed by the upper classes in the sky, as well as the view of the lower classes near the dirty streets.

▼建筑生成,architecture generation

▼单元空间分析,unit analysis


And then the question is, how do the small balls rotate, how does the inside change? Here we introduce a higher-dimensional notation system. The system is a disk composed of several concentric rings, different rings corresponding to different properties of the small balls. The rings rotate irregularly and combine with each other, and the result is fed into a mechanical system that controls the ball to determine its spatial position and internal tactile sensation.

▼标识系统,notation system




Space Shuttle “Restaurant”:Socializing gallery for space shuttle Endeavour
Studio Instructor: Steven Enrlich


Imagine a process, when we go to a restaurant with friends, which part is indispensable. It seems like we can still eat without “friends,” but if we don’t go to a restaurant, we probably can’t have a good meal with our friends. In fact, however, doing something with a friend is the core of the process, and the seemingly necessary dining out is a replaceable activity. This project is an attempt to create an indoor public socializing space by changing the purpose of people’s exhibition participation behavior.

▼项目概览,overall view


The space shuttle Endeavour is housed in California Science Museum at the Los Angeles Expo Park. Endeavour will have its own gallery in a new building on the adjacent site. A common problem with galleries is that if they do not keep their exhibits up to date, visitors who have already visited will be less likely to visit again. The exhibit about Endeavour, a retired space shuttle, will remain almost unchanged, so how do you get people to come back for a second visit? In this project, the pavilion is conceived as a city-based indoor public meeting place. Concerts, independent exhibitions, skating, academic lectures and other activities can be held inside the building while next to the space shuttle. When people invite their friends to an event, they might say, hey, go and take a look at Endeavour. It’s like going to a restaurant for dinner, but the real purpose is to invite people to an event that’s happening here, which is like connecting people over dinner. As the event progresses, the shuttle will lose its place as the center of the conversation, but what makes people engaged is the excitement of the event, just like the meal at a dinner is not really important, but what’s important is a pleasant conversation with friends.

▼项目区位和背景,location and context


For activities, the main body of the building here has simply become a structure providing interior space. As the space needed for various activities is flexible, the fewer columns supporting the structure are the better. Also, thanks to Endeavour as the pretext, the shuttle had to be placed in the center of the space, the most important, the most visible location, so the structure was raised toward the center. Finally, the tensile cable membrane structure was applied to the building, not only to provide interior space with few columns, but also to allow daylight to glow into the lower space by penetrating through the translucent ETFE membrane without damaging the shuttle.

▼设计图纸和结构系统分析,design drawings and structural system analysis




Traditional Bridge:Xiaguang bridge restore work
Company work at Zhejiang Historical Architecture Design & Research Institute


When I was an intern at Zhejiang Historical Architecture Design & Research Institute, I participated in the restoration work of Xiaguang Bridge in Taishun, Zhejiang province. This is the recording model of Xiaguang Bridge. At the first sight of the model, I felt familiar with it. After reviewing and comparing with materials, I realized to have seen similar structures from the roof of Washan Guest House by Wang Shu. I felt quite surprised at that time. After all, in terms of the types, one is the base of the bridge, while the other is the roof of the house, although when used, the spatial orientation of the structure for people is exactly at both ends, they are alike subjected to forces from the upper end of the structure. Such “appropriation” has opened up new ideas for me to see structures of various constructions, and to make analogy induction and innovation between them and architecture.


学校: University of Southern California

When: 2017-2020
Where: Dundee, UK; Los Angeles, US
Name: Chen Yichao
From: Jinhua, Zhejiang
School: University of Southern California
Firm: Atelier Zhang Lei Architects, Zhejiang Historical Architecture Design & Research Institute
Contact: yichaoc@usc.edu



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