A bosom friend afar brings distant land near. The Oversea album shares the lives of Chinese living abroad with all. The No.83 episode is about Wang Shuaizhong who graduated from Aalto University, now working for B&M Architects, and Ziggy Chen who graduated from University of Virginia, now working for SOM Washington DC office.
Why going abroad?
Wang Shuaizhong: In the later stage of my undergraduate study, I had a trip to Europe, and began to have a strong interest in the ontological thinking of European architects, which have the sense of poetry, while also paying attention to materiality and the method of construction. I wanted to experience the context behind these thoughts.
Ziggy Chen: I had several short-term oversea study experiences before, during which I felt that the design methodology can be very different due to the different cultural or social background. And also, one may become ossified if staying in the same context for too long. So I decided to study abroad.
What impressed you the most when you are abroad?
Wang Shuaizhong: The wild life of Finns infected me deeply. They like to have sauna in the ice and snow, then jumping into the ice lake, when their hair was frozen they will get back to sauna again, these usually repeats for three or four times. They love nature, and the way they get close to nature is keeping a wild living state. It is this contrasting attitude towards nature and civilization that gives birth to a lot of primitive and delicate architectural thinking.
Ziggy Chen: Freedom. People don’t easily judge the design, they provide advice to improve instead of criticism. But this kind of freedom can be harmful on the other hand.
What do you miss the most about China?
Wang Shuaizhong: The sense of belonging and the chaotic complexity.
Ziggy Chen: Food and friends.
Will you come back China? Why?
Wang Shuaizhong: Yes, I belong to there.
Ziggy Chen: Yes. The reason that I chose to study abroad was to enrich my experience. To really achieve something, I’d choose to do it in my own cultural background.
Is it more distinct to view China in a different environment after going abroad? Any thought?
Wang Shuaizhong: Not necessarily clearer, but the perspective will be different. Before I came to Nordic Europe, I did not clearly realize that the complexity of the civil life was actually another kind of chaotic beauty, nor did I know that the minimalist tendencies in Nordic Europe were very different or even non-existent in the context of China.
Ziggy Chen: More obscure actually. The confusion that China is facing is unprecedented. Being in another country makes me realize that confusion even more, and also the feeling of unsecure. The challenge that our generation is facing is also unprecedented, meaning that we need more effort than ever to stand a chance in this situation.
What makes the curriculum of your school different from other architecture schools?
Wang Shuaizhong: Aalto University was built on the basis of interdisciplinary disciplines, and now the Design Department of Aalto University is still practicing this model. Here you are free to choose any design, engineering, business courses as long as you are interested, you will have the opportunity to apply for a minor degree when you get up to 30 credits in the relevant fields. Nordic architecture teaching pays attention to practice, structure and details, its teaching content is very down-to-the-earth, so learning and working in parallel is very normal for Finnish architecture students. Most students have participated in many practical projects in several firms before graduation.
Ziggy Chen: School of Architecture in University of Virginia is more on the traditional side, it doesn’t have an overall academic direction. It means that you can fully develop any kind of design concept in a rigorous academic environment. There is a strong faculty specialized in wide range of topics from parametric design to tectonics.
What are the characteristics and interesting points of your firm?
Wang Shuaizhong: Equality, respect and openness. Even as a part-time architect, as long as you have a strong idea, you can change the direction of the whole design.
Ziggy Chen: SOM is one of the best practitioners of modern architecture. They’ve developed a very unique and mature design language through long time of evolution. Personally, the most interesting aspect of my work experience in SOM is that the projects are processed in a very fast pace, which can quickly improve one’s ability to extract and develop the project.
Who is your favorite artist (in wider range such as art, music, movie)? What is the influence?
Wang Shuaizhong: Japanese painter Kaii Higashiyama is one of my favorites. Deeply influenced by the Scandinavian landscape, his painting is not only clean or abstract, but also his subjective perception of nature. His paintings clearly show the essential difference of minimalism between Asia and Nordic Europe.
Ziggy Chen: Kon Satoshi and Ridley Scott. I like Sci-Fi movies a lot. They both are expert in materializing a rather romantic or majestic fantasy with articulated detail. Architecture and filmmaking have some similarities in this aspect. They all require rigorous methodology and a heroic ideology.
What fascinates viewers the most in your portfolio in your opinion?
Wang Shuaizhong: My design explores the implementation from theory to practice by using the relation of tectonic design as clue, and uses perceivable structural relation as new ornament to achieve a delicate balance between abstraction and concreteness.
Ziggy Chen: Though most of them are academic projects, I still look for the sense of realism in my design. The process of embodying the ideas from very unpractical concept is a very enjoyable mind game. This embodied absurdity may be the feature of my design.
When did you start to follow gooood? Any suggestions?
Wang Shuaizhong: I have found that goooood has a lot of new information and opinions in around 2015. It is a good platform for learning and discussing.
Ziggy Chen: From about my junior year. It’s an awesome website, hope you guys keep the momentum.
W O R K
Post-Nature: Concepción Nature Pavilion
阿尔托大学|Aalto University, A”DS Group
王帅中个人作品|Wang Shuaizhong Individual work
指导老师|Instructor：Toni Kotnik, Pia Fricker, Luka Piškorec
With the belief that architecture is a structure-generated space, the structure must be able to produce or shape every kind of space –including abstract spaces – the design was generated by rethinking structural solutions to reshaping and perceiving abstract nature.
What is the nature of nature? Inspired by Kenneth L. Patton and the drawing from Gerhard Richter, the perception of nature is ultimately human’s self-projection, it is we who project our own needs and emotions onto nature and then read those needs and emotions back again. The human reinvention of nature is fundamentally the reconstruction of human’s emotion and perception.
The site is in Concepción, Chile. A very unstable place which is both beautiful and dangerous. When building a space on the site, the sense of security that human always seeking for will surely lead to a confrontation and isolation from nature. The extraction and reproduction of the context pattern could become the medium to concatenate antagonistic relations. The structure as a human interpretation thus becomes the bone of bridge to balance the contradiction and the true-expression of the site. Thus the dialogue between human and nature, steady and dynamic, separated and tangled appear through the field of tectonic composition, while its’ combining logic come from the extracted site pattern, as criticality.
Consider the site condition, a seesaw-like structure was designed to be an interaction pavilion. Besides its’ subtle and critical structure, it could response four possible variations to nature. Each variation mode changes the touching point to the land thus the sediments will be generated differently. Through years of interaction, this pavilion will merge into nature and becomes a neutral element which you will perceive it is neither artificial nor natural.
东京工业大学|Tokyo Institute of Technology
小组成员|Group member: Wang Shuaizhong, Shen Kewei, Zhang Ruijia
指导老师|Instructor：Taishin Shiozaki, Okuyama Shin-ichi
This project aims to acquire a possibility of architecture in nature through the distinctive and chronological theory of Shinohara Kazuo, the idea is to purpose a “Style” developed by his consecutive four styles fits the contemporary plateau.
A form of spiral curve was purposed during the discussion, by which the new fifth style would incorporate both the anti-meaning, non-referential forth style and the interrelationship between abstraction and concreteness of third style. Through such sublimation nature and architectural elements intertwine with each other almost without the intervention of Architects. By wielding the universal tool of what Shinohara called elementary geometry. The formation of Architecture including space, structure all controlled and verified by the elementary geometry.
The building located on a sharp slope in Tateshina, where the building is half supported by the slope and half cantilevered. Besides extending the slope into the interior, two different forceful trusses were also created to dialogue between the site and building.
陈子奇个人作品|Chen Ziqi Individual work
指导老师|Instructor: Seth McDowell
This project is a hypothesis of the Manhattan urban space configuration. The project is an urban complex that reflects the emerging shared economy. The site is next to Hudson Yards, the biggest new real estate development of NYC. The concept is using a more horizontal spatial relation instead of the vertical configuration of skyscrapers. This kind of space relation resembles how the city is structured, which allows multiple kinds of interaction between function clusters.
The enormous volume and the complexity of the project caused some peculiar difficulties. For instance, how to respond to the very limited available land, how to organize the circulation and supply between programs, how to decide the structure. The strategies that address those problems embody the project.
Design for Diplomacy
陈子奇个人作品|Chen Ziqi Individual work
指导老师|Instructor: Phoebe Crisman
This is a more practical project that discusses a comparatively uncommon topic, the embassy building. This category of project demands very strict design disciplines due to the security reasons. As a result, most of the embassy buildings in last century adopted a rigid model that appeared to keep people away. The project is in Milan, Italy. There is an existing historic villa on the east of the site. In order to create a spatial sequence that resembles the traditional Italian garden, the project reconstructed it from the aspects of axis, massing and circulation.
There were experts from the embassy participated the pin-ups. They have very different point of views from the architects, which made the discussion close to the real projects. Thus, balancing the comments from different perspectives is crucial.
小组成员|Group member: Chen Ziqi, Wang Shuaizhong, Zhou Yilan, Han Fei
Long time ago, human and animals live in nature together, with peace and harmony. When forests are replaced by steel and concrete, those animals gradually lost their habitats and are forced to migrate. How to bring animals back and help them adapt to the current urban living environment became the starting point of the design.
The site located in the center of lujiazui, Shanghai. The design combines the clear and complex spatial prototype of ant nest, a functional hierarchy and circulation, with the urban symbol of Shanghai skyscrapers. It not only provides the demand of animals for complex living environment, but also makes the building perfectly consistent with the surrounding urban context.
The light structure and facades allow the huge volume of the building disappeared into the city like a floating cloud. The porous and complex circulation become an ideal animal utopia and a new urban landscape.
International VELUX Awards regional winner
小组成员|Group member: Chen Ziqi, Wang Shuaizhong, Liu Zeyu
指导老师|Instructor: Earl Mark
The project is a small device that brings the daylight into the underground space and collects water at the desert. The site is located at a town called Coober Pedy in the outback Australia. This is the biggest opal mining and trading place in the world, but most of the residents live in the underground dwellings developed from the mining tunnels due to the harsh weather. The project applied a component inspired by the microscopic structure of the opal. It can bring the daylight to the underground in a romantic way as well as collect the water.
When: 2016 August till now
Where: Charlottesville, Washington DC
Who: Ziggy Chen
From: Jiaxing, Zhejiang
School: University of Virginia
Firm: SOM Washington DC office