Ramble is album with several sub albums. Here is one: Office in Hutong. Beijing, as the capital of China, has a long history, and currently is going through fast economical development. Hutong, as the traditional urban typology of Beijing city, is slowly disappearing. We try to find the offices in those Hutong, discover their ideas and life.
This time, gooood’s searching steps stop at Parallel World–No. 9, Dou Jiao Hutong, Dongcheng district, Beijing.
Doujiao Hutong is located to the east side of Andingwen Inside Street, 5 miters wide and 257 miters long, which begins from Zhuangchang Hutong to the northeast and ends at Maoer Hutong to the southwest.
Doujiao Hutong is close to Nanluoguxiang，but much more quiet.
The Parallel World office,No. 9 of Dou Jiao Hutong, is just at the corner.
Behind the red gate is the entrance hall facing the screen wall with a suspending light of Tibetan style hanging down from the ceiling.
Going around the screen wall, there is a courtyard with two trees.
Parallel World APP is initiated by XingNing who was an architect. She believes both Parallel World and architecture are designing and creating containers for human.
A Brief Introduction to Parallel World
The first APP positioned at “deep and slow social intercourse”.
The first unique APP targeting “beautiful and more beautiful”, which once ranked first in the recommendation list of “The most beautiful APP”.
Everyone’s life is an encyclopaedia,
a list of utensils,
and, a series of forms.
Open the door of Parallel World; invite time and talent to escort your solitude, and record your life. Your cards will accumulate day after day, and eventually converge to thick story books with different themes. No “like”, no “comment column”, only “secret message” and “private letter”. Wait to come upon that special soul to keep each other company.
Why do you change to the internet from an architecture and start to create Parallel World?
Because I decided to be an architect as early as when I was Grade five in primary school. (laugh…) So the predictable smooth future became unattractive to me. I studied architecture in university, and continued to work on projects after graduation. I’m lucky that my leader helped me a lot, and I felt that nothing is impossible. Though my favorite project is not realized, I do not feel regretful, or not so much, because it is a national project, out of my control. Deep in my heart, it seems that being a brilliant architect is some sort of life experience, and I think I will be an architect for a lifetime. If I meet upon something I like better, maybe I will have a try.
I do not begin to create Parallel World as a career, but for my personal use. I had never thought of starting a business. I did not go out to meet people or participated in activities, but I had designed some websites and APPs for my IT friends several years ago before working on this APP. I love design of all fields…haha…At that time, I found that I have some different understanding and ideas about this world, which are not possible to be realized by architecture, but they may be realized by designing websites for friends or creating an APP for myself. That is to say, to comprehend this world and practice some ideas from a wider range. Then, after I worked it out, I found that not only myself, but also other people need it.
▲工作中的星凝，XingNing in the office
I seldom see internet company located in Hutong, why do you choose Hutong as your office? What’s the influence on your work? And could you please share something interesting here?
I chose this small quadrangle courtyard in the Hutong at the center of Beijing for two personal principles: 1. We come to this world for experiencing and exploring. 2. The significance of life lies in daily life. So I hope to provide a period of interesting life experience for my friends. This is not just a work, but a special life experience. The majority may not be able to afford a quadrangle courtyard in the First Ring of Beijing, but at least you once worked here, stayed the night here and played here. The life you enjoy here is nothing different from the owner. Actually, this will help you to put down your insistence, and you will find that happiness has nothing to do with what you have. I love nature, love trees towering the houses. Only in Second Ring can you see the remained city features of Beijing. Everyone can feel the aura of this courtyard, where there is trees, birds and flowers. We even pick jujube and pomegranate in autumn. I think life is a constant process of experiencing, and I cannot help sharing my life perceptions with my friends. We can also find many other interesting and unexpected surprises and beauties in Hutongs around.
▲ 办公室的同事们一起打枣子，picking fruit from the tree
▲ 有树有鸟语花香，birds singing on the tree
How do you define Parallel World ？ What do you think is the biggest challenge to it?
Parallel World is the inner world of everyone, also the world we create for ourselves. The user of Parallel World record and create his own life here. He stores partial life in this world. Time and talent will escort his solitude. I am willing to believe that the users in Parallel World are those who would like to spend time living with themselves. Though the user may write the cards and record the thoughts only for him, it’s possible that someone special will pick them up by fate.
Here, every user owns his private world. His inner voice may be heard or not heard by people in other words. This subtle feeling is so interesting. Not only the introverts like it, I think anybody having an overburdened social life also needs such a habitat to live a tranquil life. The challenge is that I have no idea about the number of this group in the world, (laugh), whether it is a large population. But I believe that there must be a large number, because everyone needs a free and comfortable place to take to himself.
4 What’s your management concept? Are you like Guo Jingming, who checks every cover, every page and even every detail of his magazine?
My concept is recruiting the best ones. I would rather have a smaller group involve less management. All of us are at the same level. I prefer arranging everyone to take charge of some independent projects, so that everyone has the largest space to develop his project. Then, the priority in recruitment is that he must be a user of Parallel World. Only if he is the habitant in Parallel World can he truly know about the needs of our users and their living environment, so that he will acquire a deeper understanding about how to service the users better when developing his project.
Different from Guo, I am strict at recruitment and need to communicate with the new comer at the first few times to judge their performance. Once I decide that he is capable enough to take the project independently, generally, I won’t interfere any more. But I am very strict at the beginning to pick up the capable one. Basically, we have a meeting every week or even two weeks, not very much. My co-workers judge that I am a good guider, (laugh)…because I like talking to them about thinking pattern and dimensions of thoughts. I will get crazy if I have to pick out every defect in their work.
Now, most of my co-workers are accumulated in my past working experiences. I worked or indirectly worked with almost every one of them when I serviced in a youth organization for a long period. The new comers are all our users who love this APP. So everyone has a relationship with this project in some way. We also recruited to the public, and received many resumes, but I am not satisfied.
▲ 办公室内部, 中式为主的混搭风格，office environment
What do you want to change by Parallel World?
No, I do not intend to change anything, just to realize some thoughts by this APP + to create an APP for my own use. 1 Some thoughts: I do not think the world needs any tags. So in Parallel World, when you come upon someone else, you can only see the words he writes, the pictures he chooses. There is no comments, or tags attached by other people. You cannot see how many people follow him or how many people he follows. What present before you is just a naked soul, no tags, no others’ judgment. At that time, you are free to choose to talk or not to talk to him. Nobody will push you to make a choice. It’s a respect of individual world. 2. For my own use: Because I am very shy, so the design principle of Parallel World can protect the privacy I want. At the same, the social pressure is less since you can send private message to anybody you like. In other words, I hope to create a world, which is safe, comfortable and homelike, a unique APP which is quiet and slow. Because of these special rules, the user may find it so quiet when he first enters in this world, a different world from other noisy APPs, but I believe that many people need such a world.
In this world, you will not see many people following around some popular ones. It doesn’t service for the minority who are good at talking, writing or marketing them on the internet, instead, it services for everyone. That is to say, everyone will have equal exposure here, and you will meet more than twenty unique people with entirely different characteristics, by whom you can find others. You can meet different people here every day, but if you miss them, you will never meet them again, just like the passengers you come upon when taking the subway in real world. In other words, in Parallel World, everyone meets many different people, and you can talk to those you are destined to meet.
In other APPs, you may be guided to follow some popular users. It’s not possible or not likely that you will be friends with them. But in Parallel World, you can meet those special persons every day, you may become intimate friends. They are as interesting and talented as you. They are common people who have annoyances, happiness and secrets. Everyone is lovely. It’s very possible that you will gradually build deep connection with some of them.
▲ 星凝与她的小伙伴群像图，红衣打鼓者是星凝， the introduction of Parallel World on the left，XingNing wearing a red dress on the right
Parallel World has obtained the investment of more than ten thousand Yuan. What do you think is the biggest difference and commonness of managing internet project and architecture project ?
I think the biggest commonness is that: both are constructing a vessel for living.
In my understanding, architecture, APP, website, or the cups for drinking, all are vessels. This is the commonness. Different architectures and different APPs construct the one space field. These various vessels are designed and created, and then they join different rules. No matter the body or thoughts, spirits…people always place a part of themselves in these vessels. I think design of different fields is interlinked. For complicated field, design is constructing a world. Different rules and designing ideas will create different fields. I hope that I can create a warm one. And I also consider how to construct such an atmosphere. I think an architect can realize a part of it, but APP can extend to a wider scope or realize another part of it. I want to experience more, so I tried more crossover designs.
For instance, APP can realize interaction among people to a larger extent. However, in architecture, you can only set some possible link by corridor or other public space. It does not possess a very strong guiding power. But an internet product can add more sensitive elements, so it can test the relation between man and man in a better way.
I think the largest difference is that: architecture has limited influence on people’s behaviors. A designer may strengthen communication of two persons by controlling the building lines, or designing some private space. But the internet project can better influence the way one meets another, the way they develop their relationship, and even help them build a deeper relation.
Another difference is that, as an architect, you present the general design plan, but you also know about the following procedures and the whole flow. But you’re not possible to participate in every procedure of an internet project. You are not possible to do other’s job. One architect can set up a small studio, but an internet project generally needs three cooperators from different fields, and each one plays an important role. An architect can decide everything by himself, and others just work under him. They are not at the same level.
You mentioned that you will continue to set foot in design field. For example, develop Parallel World to a design brand and produce the peripheral physical products. Could you please share more about this plan or its progress ?
One of the features of our APP is beautiful, (laugh), so we have launched two series of physical products. One is the energy particles of Parallel World; another is the guard animals. These products are derived from the energy eggs and energy cards users can get at daily login. The habitants in Parallel World can draw some interesting amulets such as Peach Blossom Card every day. In the future, every physical product will also be closely linked with the concept of Parallel World. It is an APP, but also a design brand. Both the APP and cards service for guarding our users.
I have been using Parallel World recently. Personally, I think its interface is beautiful and convenient for keeping thoughts. And it has less interference. But when I intentionally search other’s views on some issue, I surprisingly find that it has no search function. What you can do is to wait the system randomly recommend others’ thoughts. Why do you have such design? Will you change it in the future?
Indeed, the lack of search function is intentional. From one hand, it is for protecting privacy, because many users do not want to be searched by those who know him in real life. From another hand, if someone wants to search a topic, he can participate in the regularly-released topic card packages to find others who are interested in the common topic.
The top search may be realized someday. Before the end of this year, you will see a passage leading to history topics in the exploration section. This is why we always encourage people to meet on the platform of content.
Could you please show how you use Parallel World?
Usually, Private Blog + Cards. Private Blog means that I have created many notebooks of different subjects. The most commonly used is reading notebook, where I note down some books I like and share the recommendation list every month. Sometimes, other users communicate with me. The second one is for keeping work thinking, where I record some thoughts during creation of Parallel World and in work, and sometimes have a profound talk with the agreeable users. The third is gift card package. Some of them are made by myself, some are the official cards I pick up in APP, and some are those I draw from the interesting cards made by other users. I use this card package to collect cards, and give my friends as gift on birthday or holiday. I even use it as temporary business card and invitation card. The fourth is also a card package, but a relatively private one, where I note down some casual thoughts in daily life, such as complaints or jokes like I want to be a busker, or something like that. I also have a very private card package. I collect the users I am interested in, or compliments to Parallel World. But others cannot see it, because I do not want them know whom I like, (laugh). If you want to talk to me, send email to email@example.com