Ramble – Foreign Designers in China: Japanese Architect Shuhei Aoyama

Focus on new life style to provide common people their own living space in the city.

Project Specs


信步辑,闲庭信步看世界。gooood的信步辑拥有许多子分类。这里是“老外设计师在中国”子分类。我们将访问来自全球六位不同的老外建筑师,看看他们是如何看待中国,并展现他们的生活与创作图景。第六期为您带来 B.L.U.E. 创始人青山周平 。更多关于他:B.L.U.E. on gooood

Rumble, to take a glance at the world by wandering. Ramble is an album including many sub-albums, and this sub-album is about foreign architects who work in China. We would introduce you six foreign architects come from Asia, Europe or America with their opinions regarding China, as well as their working and daily life here.This sub-album of Rumble, “foreign designers in China”, includes 6 episodes, and here’s the sixth episode: Shuhei Aoyama (B.L.U.E. on gooood).


视频 Video (全文深度采访见下方文字。视频为3分钟精华版,建议选择蓝光1080p观看。)



gooood  × Shuhei Aoyama 青山周平



What aspects of China are you interested in?


All aspects. Architecture is not only about design, but also about life, modern technology, science and social changes, etc. Definitely, I am more interested in art and culture.

▼青山周平部分设计作品,projects designed by Shuhei Aoyama



What is the most interesting part of China?


I have been living in Beijing for 12 years, and my impression of China keeps changing. When I firsly came to China in 2005, reports of mega projects for the Beijing Olympics were everywhere on the major media. I was then had so much interests in modern architecture and the changing of cities in China, thus, I decided to come to do design works in Beijing. Nowadays, the speed of vast construction has slowed down, and what I concerned more is the possibility of innovation in China. China has overridden many other countries in new technological fields, such as WeChat, shared bicycle and mobile payment. Plenty of ideas, services and people of interesting brought to the urban construction. Cities in China, as I think, are more fit for creative ideas, new spaces and architectures.

▼B.L.U.E.工作室,一堵砖墙分隔办公和会议空间(点击这里查看更多)B.L.U.E. office where the work place and conference room are separated by a brick wall (click HERE to view more)


▼工作室中富有趣味的摆件,interesting ornaments in the office





What is the biggest risk for China?


The rapid changing could also be a risk for China, because situations changed may even before they settled. Refer to architecture, the effects may occur in the field of architectural criticism. Architecture reviews have been spread throughout the mobile phones and the Internet without a mature architecture media. When Japan was in its best time in economy and politics, New Architecture grew to be a stable platform for people to discuss and express their ideas about architecture. However, China has already stepped into the age of internet and I am not sure if website could be qualified as a good platform for deep and critical architectural criticism. However, it is necessary and thus we need it.



What changes has China brought to you?


I am becoming freer. Recently, I have completed the transformation of a historic garden in Suzhou. For Chinese architects, there might be a lot of cultural restrictions while they are doing the project. There are good places while sometimes might restrict the ideas of architects and make them get rid of the modern way of solutions. As a foreign architect, I might concern the most of the nature of it. Sometimes, the most valuable creations are coming from the outside, since the foreign architects do not have the restrictions, and they could create new traditions, thus we call it the freedom in culture.

▼有熊公寓 – 苏州老宅改造项目,现代与传统结合的水景庭院,You Xiong Project – renovation of a historic house in Suzhou, modern waterscape courtyard combine with the traditional architectural style

▼庭院和室内空间之间的开放关系,open relationship between the courtyard and the interior

▼简洁而富有情调的空间,simple while emotional space

▼公共空间,将现代设计大胆植入传统住宅之中,public space boldly integrating modern design into the historic building


▼与庭院结合的开放浴室,open bathroom combine with the courtyard



What is the restriction in the developing China you think have the greatest influences?


Our main job is to do great architectures and the restriction for us is in construction procedures. The development of the construction and the materials are not progressing as fast as the good architects. Many of the problems have no better solutions. What we can do is to in charge of the whole construction process and keep communicating with the constructors and managing in a traditional way.



Would you like to share the latest projects in Shanghai with us?


There are many modern galleries and architecture studios in the technical area of the west bank of the bund in Shanghai. We demolished one of the old industrial buildings and rebuilt a Japanese gallery of modern art, the Yayoi Kusama gallery.

▼上海大田秀则画廊,外观纯净现代,Ota Fine Arts Gallery in Shanghai with a pure and modern appearance

▼展览,生活,工作与取景窗相结合,将自然引入简洁的室内空间,large windows in the exhibition, living and working rooms bringing nature into the simple interior space




Hutong and Siheyuan are very typical living of Beijing, why you choose to live in such a space?


We do have historical parts in Tokyo, though the architectures there look very different from the ones in Beijing, yet they have much in common. In Tokyo, we saw living stuffs are placed outside the buildings, and streets become a part of the daily life, which is similar to that in Hutong. Hutong is a transportation space while at the same time it becomes our living space. This subtle relationship exists everywhere in the world. They may looks different but are similar in the relationship of architecture and the city, as well as the life-style inside. Thus I like the place like this, in which I discover different views of life and gain also inspirations.



Would you like to describe your life inside Hutong?


I spend most of my time in studio work, and the living styles around keep bring me the inspirations. For example, my neighbor has a tiny space, which without even natural light. He does tooth brushing, having meals, reading, and making calls all in the courtyard. The other neighbor cleans my yard everyday, even though this is not her yard actually. In the residential area, there are public corridors and elevator halls, but we seldom see people cleaning that place. In our mind, those spaces are not our duty. While in Hutong, we saw the subtle relationship of the public and private space.

▼胡同居民把家具搬到道路上,城市空间成为家的延伸,residents in Hutong put furniture on the street that blurs the boundary between city and home




What do you think should be promoted and transformed in Hutong?


People are saying that they like Hutong but as a result they prefer to live beyond the 3rd or the 4th ring road. We would like to transform the space of Hutong into the spaces that the young would like to live. For me, the value of the city is that people of young, old, rich, and poor, local, strange and of different backgrounds and multi types could find their own way of living a life here. This is the true value to me. And I hope more young and ordinary people could come and find their own life here.

▼南锣鼓巷大杂院改造项目,在胡同中营造适合人生活的空间(点击这里查看更多)Hutong renovation, creating a comfortable space for people to live in (click HERE to view more)



Many Japanese devoted to the concept of a family, in your point view as an architect, what is the difference between the family concept in China and in Japan? Personally, what kind of relationship you are trying to build?



To most of the Japanese, home is a single-family house. During the 1960-1970s, most of the young moved from the rural places to Tokyo. They married and had babies and owned their own house. Father goes to work by train everyday, children go to school and mother takes care of the house, this forms the typical Japanese family. While in China, home become apartment, only a part of the residential. The second difference is most of the Japanese architecture are designed both the interior and exterior spaces, while in China, there are many rough houses which you need to decorate yourselves. So there is a huge market of interior design, and interior designers, interior media, etc. 

In my point of view, home and house are very different concepts. The house we designed are mostly see these two as one thing. This possibly because of the structure of the family, that is parents and one or two kids. This is a completed structure, and could operated in a closed space. However, this kind of family is decreasing, such like in Tokyo there are many single-person households, and most of the family members are young people or the old. In big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, the single-person family or the couples are increasing, and the apartments are becoming much smaller. We used to buy hundred square meters’ apartment while now we only need 30 square meters’ apartment. And our home might need to extend to other spaces in the city instead of crushing into a 30 square meters’ space. Thus, the city is becoming a part of our life. For example, there is a fitness club inside a box near out studio, where we could make an appointment for an hour on we-chat. The hour I ordered is the private space only for myself. Most of the bookstores and cinemas are becoming extensions of our homes, since we cannot only crush all of our life inside a tiny space.

▼盒子健身房,城市空间变成家的一部分,gym box, city space becomes part of our home

▼南锣鼓巷大杂院改造,私密空间与公共空间界限模糊,Hutong 2, blurred boundary between public and private spaces

▼灯市口胡同住宅,胡同成为家庭空间的延伸(点击这里查看更多)Dengshikou Hutong residence, living space continues by the hutong street (click HERE to view more)



What is your thought of future life-style in the city?


I sometimes comparing Beijing with Paris, and I think they do have something in common. There is an old town surrounded by walls inside the second ring road, which is almost equal to the size of Paris, and the urban structure is also similar with a historical center within a modern living space. When the walls are demolished, the former place is replaced by expressway, just the same as in Paris. The difference is the density of the old town. The old architectures in Paris are mostly six or seven floors’ buildings in which they preserved the old architecture styles and at the same time meet to the needs of contemporary living. However, in Beijing, the historical buildings have only one story, which means that if they keep these buildings, only one-seventh of the population could live inside. There is a big gap. So, while we are walking around Hutong, we recognized the underground development are getting much more advanced. The aboveground looks normal while the underground part reaches to the 4th or 5th floor. However, in Beijing, this is a very natural and unique circumstance. So can architects make these natural changes into better conditions? This is one of my concerns. Another concern of mine is to reuse the tiny spaces. Though there are a few, we still have some tiny spaces that haven’t been taking advantage of. By doing design works, we could transform these undeveloped and abandoned spaces into living spaces.

▼灯市口胡同住宅,巧妙利用狭小空间满足丰富的生活需求(点击这里查看更多)Dengshikou Hutong residence, making full use of the narrow space to meet different living requirements (click HERE to view more)



What is the hardest part in doing design?


We would like each of our projects would have a new thought or value during the design process. However, there are plenty of architects implementing different kinds of projects, it is very hard to work out with new things. So the hardest part is whether I could work out with something new in each of my projects.

▼Editor 上海兴业太古汇店,采用新的设计想法(点击这里查看更多)Editor Store in Shanghai using creative design idea (click HERE to view more)



How do you balance the shared space and the private space?


The boundary of these two kinds of spaces is the crucial point in our design work. We are now implementing a project of shared communities in Quanzhou, Fujian province, of which each of them are boxes. House is immovable object, however, we adding wheels at the bottom of boxes and reducing the private interior spaces and at the same time enlarge the public exterior spaces. This would certainly cause many problems like what if the owner goes to his neighbor and how he would manage the light, what if you want to move the box to a new space while there is another box aside, and what will we do with our private stuff? Challenges turn up while we are implementing our new ideas and what we are doing is to overcome them. For instance, we make the electricity by using the charger, and we would make an APP to control the lights in which when the sleeping mode is mostly using around the boxes, the lighting in this space will get darker. We design while we are solving all the problems. However, this kind of design seldom emerged in Japan. In Japan, we have less space and high living price, and most of the Japanese are not able to accept the failure. While in China, things are different. There are six to seven million people in Quanzhou, which is almost equal to the population in London. The big cities like Quanzhou lives many young people, if one of a hundred could accept this idea, it could work. Plus the living price in Quanzhou is not that high, we could do such innovative and experimental project.

▼泉州共享社区,居住空间在可移动的盒子中,Quanzhou Shared Community, in which the residential space is compacted in movable boxes

▼可移动居住盒子模型,model of the movable living boxes

▼居住盒子自由分布在空间之中,之间形成不同功能的公共空间,living boxes scattered in the space, between which forms different public spaces



What do you think if the clients do not use the space in the way architects designed? Will it make you to rethink your design?


We don’t mind if the clients changed a lot on our design, the question is in which way they changed it? We would be very glad if they transformed the space into a better condition and make better use of it or discover new functions and values, because the place has been part of their life. Such like the transformation we did last time; we designed a new study room for the daughter of the clients. However, she is not using that place as a study room, instead, she made it her favorite private space. And I am quite satisfied with these kinds of transformation.

▼南锣鼓巷大杂院改造第一家,巧妙利用有限空间(点击这里查看更多)Hutong 1, make full use of limited space (click HERE to view more)

▼灵活多变的客厅,可以根据需求转变功能,flexible living space which could be transformed accordingly



▼灵活多变的厨房,扩大料理空间,flexible kitchen with maximum working space


▼南锣鼓巷大杂院改造第二家,加建的厨房兼餐厅满足不同的使用需求,Hutong 2, the additional kitchen and dining space could meet various needs



▼可变的起居空间,flexible living space





What is the focal point in your projects now?


I did some transformation projects of Hutong, which are concerned the most by the media and are my interests, after I started my own studio. I also do transformations of Hutong around White Pagoda Temple and the old houses in Suzhou. The other aspect I am into is the new style of living. We are going to design new apartment, in which would connects to the research we did in life-style of Hutong and constitute a new way of living. Still, as an architect, I pay my attention on architecture design and willing to do good architecture projects.

▼改造项目 – 北京国子监失物招领家具店(点击这里查看更多)Renovation project – “Lost and Found” Furniture Store (click HERE to view more)

▼生活方式项目 – 精英英语培训中心(点击这里查看更多)New lifestyle project – Elite English Training School (click HERE to view more)

▼生活方式项目 – 北京好时光空间(点击这里查看更多)New lifestyle project – Good Time Community Centre (click HERE to view more)

▼和同事一起工作中的青山周平,Shuhei Aoyama working with colleague

More: B.L.U.E., B.L.U.E. on gooood

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