Rumble, to take a glance at the world by wandering. Ramble is an album including many sub-albums, and this sub-album is about China’s architectural education. Here is the third episode where we have a conversation with Kong Yuhang, dean of Tianjin University Architecture School.
▼视频 Video （全文深度采访见下方文字。视频为5分钟精华版，建议选择蓝光1080p观看。）
gooood x 孔宇航
Please briefly introduce the School of Architecture at Tianjin University and its characteristics.
The School of Architecture at Tianjin University was founded in 1937. It consists of four departments, namely, architecture, urban planning, landscape and environment design, and two research institutes of technology and history. Currently there are more than 2000 students, 140 teachers, and 20 administrative staff at the school. We are expanding the space and building a scientific research base in order to hold events influential in architecture as well as foster master and doctoral students. The school has always been giving priority to design in its curriculum system, aiming to cultivate highly talented design professionals. In the past ten years, we have made great achievements in scientific research and have intensified international cooperation. Thus, fostering design ability, scientific research and international cooperation can be regarded as the characteristics of our school.
▼天大建筑学院校园，campus of the Architecture School of Tianjin University
▼建筑学院系楼及中庭，main building of the Architecture School and its atrium（左：侯鑫 摄）
▼建筑学院阅读仓，reading pavilion of the architecture school（侯鑫 摄）
How does the School of Architecture integrate contemporary architectural education system with traditional building intelligence in the arrangement of curriculum?
The Research Institute of Architectural History and Theory of TJU School of Architecture has strong influence in its field. Dr. WANG Qiheng has been studying ancient architectural history for over 30 years, which filled the void in Chinese architectural theory. The Department of Architecture and the Research Institute of Architectural History and Theory are jointly attempting to combine traditional Chinese architectural culture with contemporary design system, contributing to the research of contemporary Chinese architectural culture. We hope that teachers from the research institute and the department can participate in the design curriculum as a team to set teaching plans and apply Chinese traditional research system and methods to the contemporary design curriculum, cultivating students’ ability of understanding traditional architectural culture and building technique. During the undergraduate education, history teachers also get involved in design teaching. We have special topic on historical heritage conservation in Grade Four and students are free to choose projects jointly conducted by history and design teachers for their graduation design. For graduate education, we invite outstanding practicing architects from China and abroad to join in the class, discussing with the students the influence traditional Chinese culture has on contemporary architectural design.
▼嘉峪关测绘，了解传统建筑文化，mapping in Jiayuguan, helping the students to understand traditional architectural culture
What distinguishes TJU School of Architecture from other top architectural institutes in basic education?
The TJU School of Architecture has valued basic education since it was founded. Dr. PENG Yigang and Dr. NIE Lan laid the foundation for modern architectural education in the 1950s, which is still functioning today. We emphasize basic education for Grade One so that students can strengthen their basic design skills. Many of our teachers earned a master’s or doctorate degree abroad after graduating from Tianjin University, thus they are able to teach design courses of Grade One and foster students’ innovation capability with their historical and international visions. For example, Dr. DING Yao from the Research Institute of Architectural History and Theory often specially selects historical sites for students to carry out their design on site, which enables them to better understand the atmosphere and spirit of historical buildings. We also organize teaching with Chinese famous architects, such as LI Xinggang (click HERE to view more). Last year, we selected the design site in Jixian and achieved satisfying teaching results.
Gate design for Dule Temple, combine design education with history, instructed by Ding Yao
▼千年场地的当代课题 – 独乐寺游客中心，由李兴钢和丁垚老师共同指导，与历史结合的建筑设计课程
Dule Temple tourist center, architecture design class combined with history, instructed by Li Xinggang and Ding Yao
What are the differences between Chinese and western architectural education? What can we learn from foreign universities in architectural education?
▼建造节成果，works in construction festival
▼建造节，加强建造能力，construction festival to enhance students’ building ability
Though Chinese architectural education was quite different from that in western countries forty years ago, the gap has been gradually filled recently. Architectural education system in China was introduced from western countries in the 1920s. Although the teaching method has evolved in different architectural institutes, it is rooted in the west. Chinese architectural education is currently at a significant transitional phase. The world has witnessed the development of Chinese architecture in the past forty years. To build up our own education system and teaching model is one of the issues that TJU School of Architecture is concerned with. Western architectural culture is based on the western history. However, the research on architectural culture in China was interrupted by wars in the 20th century. As China has become stronger due to rapid development of economy, Chinese architectural education is rising to a more systematic level. From a global perspective, we notice that the development of science and technology, such as digital design and construction and artificial intelligence, has far-reaching influences on every discipline, resulting in changes all over the world. Chinese architectural education should not only combine with science and technology, but also learn from the thousands of years of Chinese civilization to rebuild a new architectural cultural system for today. It is the current trend that historical culture and scientific technology join together for the further development of architectural education.
In China, students’ design ability is highlighted, but there is a series of problems in teaching building technique. Real architecture should be built. Compared with that in western countries and Japan, our curriculum system of construction is fragmented. To make the teaching more systematic, we launched events like building festivals and summer camps where we constructed buildings with famous universities in the world, narrowing the gap between our school and international institutes in terms of building technique.
▼夏木塘乡村振兴与建造实践，rural construction practice in Xiamutang
How is architectural education in TJU supposed to respond to constantly updating information and technology? How is it supposed to foster architects with critical thinking?
▼数字化建造课程作业，将新技术运用在设计中，digital design assignment, new technology used in architectural design
In classes, teachers present information concluded from their research and thinking to foster distinguished architects. The Bachelor of Architecture lasts for five years. The first three years is for basic education, when students would be taught with tradition as well as absorbing contemporary architectural thoughts. The last two years is for education on special topics in different research direction so that teachers are encouraged to combine their research with teaching, making sure that students can acquire the latest knowledge.
Emerging engineering education in TJU encourages interdisciplinary research, creating innovation by communication between different disciplines. In order to implement interdisciplinary research, the school of Architecture has to further discover the boundary and break down the barriers between disciplines; teachers should study multi-disciplines in the university’s study programs and then make students of the school aware of the development in other disciplines.
To be critical means to reflect on the current situation of architecture. Almost all scholars, no matter in architectural practice or education, tend to think what have been done before are right. However, looking back to Chinese traditional civilization, can we say the things we are doing now are right? We should call for critical thinking to judge whether what we are doing now will benefit in the future. It is our work to not only teach students knowledge, but also help them to gain abilities in self learning. In traditional teaching model, the only job of the teacher is to teach what he knows to his students while currently we encourage teachers to teach their students how to acquire the latest thoughts as knowledge is constantly updated every day.
▼胡同·生活，由鲍威和Rob S. Livesey指导，传统与当代相结合
Hongtong and life, combining contemporary design with traditional culture, instructed by Bao Wei and Rob S. Livesey
There are many studios and research institutes at TJU School of Architecture, what is the relationship between them and the school? What is their influence to architectural education of TJU?
The studios and research institutes at the school are founded by experienced teachers according to their own interests, together with their younger colleagues, master or doctoral students. There are two kinds of studios and research institutes: one is for design and the other one is for research. They are the indispensable part of the school which is as important as teaching. Apart from the studios and research institutes, there are also some famous design institutes. We often invite some celebrated architects, such as CUI Kai who is a master architect, to join in our academic discussion or give a speech to our students. As practicing architects could bring latest information, we hope that we can set up some laboratories with them, integrating teaching, research and social practice more efficiently. Thus the students could learn the trend of architectural practice and expand their horizons, which helps integrate learning and practice to create a 3D teaching system.
As for undergraduate curriculum, we organize joint workshop with architectural institutes from the USA, Japan, UK, etc. so that the students can develop an international perspective in Grade One. All the master and doctoral students can benefit when their tutors cooperate with foreign experts. We send outstanding Grade Two master and doctoral students abroad for short-term exchange programs ranging from three-month to one-year exchanges. Some doctoral students have the chance to participate in joint programs which last two years. In that way, students can experience international architectural education and practice during their studies, developing a broad international vision.
Currently our research is divided into architectural theory and design study, centering on sustainable built environment, modern architecture and historical heritage conservation. We are at the stage of refining and integrating our researches, because they were conducted respectively by teachers according to their interests in the past. We hope that after this stage, research, historical culture study and contemporary design could be integrated as a unity, realizing our goal of fostering distinguished and talented professionals in architecture, urban planning and landscape.
communication with universities from foreign countries
As the Dean of TJU School of Architecture which takes the lead in architectural institutes in China, could you please give some suggestions to students majoring in architecture?
As society is developing, there will be less new projects and more renovation projects in the city, so how to improve the city environment will become the issue. Architecture is a culture which involves literary, engineering and art. Studying architecture will be an impressive experience for students. After graduation, students can choose to work in design institutes or private practice. They can also work for the government, enter the real estate industry or become a teacher. The key is that they should build up a strong and systematic knowledge framework during their study and practice.
As the Dean of TJU School of Architecture and the chief of Atelier 11, how do you balance your design and teaching work?
Atelier 11 is one of the studios in the School of Architecture, mainly engaging in design research. It is composed of young teachers, master and doctoral students. Master students participate in practical projects under the instruction of young teachers, enhancing their design ability; doctoral students focus on theory study. Our studio takes the school’s special topics as our research direction, such as how to combine architectural design with traditional culture. We hope that we could integrate research, design and teaching as a unity and apply research results to teaching practice. We also work with teachers from the Research Institute of Architectural History and Theory to create some theoretical architecture models underlining Chinese traditional culture, which might promote the development of teaching system. In the studio, students and teachers can improve their design ability in a harmonious academic atmosphere.
I teach design classes in Grade Three and graduation projects fin Grade Five. In the meantime, I am teaching a required course to the master students about architectural design method and interpreting classical cases through form analysis. Besides fostering the students’ design ability, the school also pays attention to inspiring innovative thinking in students and encourages them to learn the extensive theoretical knowledge behind design.
▼孔宇航老师授课和评图，Kong Yuhang teaching in the class
Please introduce your research on Non-linear architecture and your design idea.
Non-linear architecture was a topic I focused on more than ten years ago, including how to apply non-linear theory, such as chaos theory and fractal geometry, to the field of architecture. Frank Lloyd Wright was one of the originators of organic architecture. He emphasized the combination between architecture and the nature, which was in accordance with the oriental perspective on environment. We combined organic architecture with non-linear theory to create a new project called non-linear architecture, paying more attention to the environment, which corresponded to sustainable design theory. Now I focus on fostering a way of non-linear architecture thinking, integrating architectural design with sustainability, environment, human behavior and uncertainty of the future. The history of China is closely interwoven with the nature and we are trying to figure out how to apply traditional design intelligence to current design. We are responsible for schematic design and the work of construction drawing is completed by design institutes. We have completed some projects in Northeastern China, Tianjin, Yunnan and Fujian, which were highly recognized by the society. In fact, we give priority to teaching practice. We have published several important papers about the results of cultivating master and doctoral students on theory research and practice. Our current focus is the study of the classical models of Chinese traditional buildings, garden and residence in Southern China for instance. We are attempting to find out new factors in the contemporary transformation of traditional prototypes and produce some academic results which could be used for teaching practice.
▼非线性建筑研究成果，research results of non-linear architecture
What do you think is the value of current architecture magazines? What does the editor work mean to you?
I think the traditional media could not be replaced. Information carried by the new media is relatively fragmented, so people engaging in research would prefer to read print media. We translate the famous German magazine DETAIL into Chinese. People who are interested in architectural practice can use it as reference. Information can spread fast on new media, but they are not able to build up a systematic reference. The two kinds of media are both important so that they exist side by side and can not be replaced by each other.
Being an editor enables me to acquire more information, including contemporary architectural practice, academic thoughts and latest research results. Scholars and university professors should always assimilate new things, or their knowledge will be out of date.
▼孔宇航老师负责编辑的杂志，magazines edited by Kong Yuhang
What are the main events during the architecture week hosted by TJU School of Architecture?
▼天津大学建筑学院学术周中的年轻建筑师展览，exhibition of young architects in the academic week hosted by Tianjin University Architecture School
▼天津大学建筑学院学术周中的论坛活动，forum in the academic week hosted by Tianjin University Architecture School
The problem of Chinese architectural education mode is that our core knowledge system comes from western countries rather than being rooted in our own land in spite of the vast territory and long history in China. The architecture week was aimed to encourage the field of architectural education in China to think deeply of the following questions: How can we create a new teaching system representing Chinese culture within contemporary context? Education and practice are like the two sides of a coin which can not be separated. We invited celebrated practicing architects to discuss this issue and curated an exhibition for the young architects in their 30~40s, who would become the leading power for Chinese architectural practice in the future. We hoped that the events could stimulate students’ enthusiasm for design practice. We also held Rural Intelligence Forum, focusing on contemporary Chinese rural projects. Education, practice and young architects with rural projects are exactly hot topics in current Chinese architecture. The discussion during the forum covered basic research and practice, future of young architects, rural construction intelligence, etc. The architecture week with systematic topics was expected to be influential in the fields of Chinese architecture and architectural education, encouraging students to pay more attention to the origin of architecture and its future development.