gooood team interviews creative individuals under 35 years old from all over the world, some are pioneering founders, some are clients, some are ordinary practitioners. gooood is trying to record the authentic living and working states of this era. Your recommendations and suggestions are appreciated!
gooood Under 35 NO.40 introduces Fan Jiujiang and Zhai Wenting, co-founder of Continuation Studio. More: Continuation Studio on gooood
出品人：向玲 / Producer: Xiang Ling
编辑团队：武晨曦 / Editor: Wu Chenxi
The two founders
Fan Jiujiang (left) and Zhai Wenting (right) ©久舍营造
“Not only work partners, but also life partners.”
Jiujiang Fan: When I was young, I was particularly interested in building blocks and painting. I could enjoy myself very much just with building blocks or some paints and painting brushes when I was just two or three years old. I guess that is when my sense of space started to develop. Plus, my father used to work in the Construction Bureau (called the Construction Committee at that time), and the City Building Materials Market as manager. He also served as the principal of the City Construction Secondary School. I always consider myself quite lucky, as growing up with my father, his experience provided me an initial understanding of the whole design & built process, which left me an impression at a very young age that architects are the people who I admired the most. Therefore, I have dreamed about becoming an architect since middle school. Fortunately, I made my dream come true.
Wenting Zhai: I was born in Jishan County, Yuncheng, Shanxi. Jishan belongs to the Linfen Basin, and is the place where the legendary “Houji taught people to harvest crops”. With such a long history and relatively slow urban development, there are still many old houses with hundreds of years of history (including precious cultural relics at national and provincial protection level), which I was fortunate to spend my childhood around. This kind of pre-modern spatial atmosphere and the harmonious relationship among architecture, nature and people shaped my initial spatial perspectives. When I was a kid, there were always all kinds of hand-drawn blueprints stacking on the table at home, as my dad was the leader of construction team. I remember that I was fascinated by those drawings, especially the smell of the ink, and that is when I started to realize how much I love architecture.
Jiujiang Fan and I met by chance. When I was on a business trip to Hangzhou, my friend took me to his place and that is how we got the chance to know each other. We both had the idea of working together after knowing each other better. Then I resigned from Guangzhou and came to Hangzhou to establish Continuation Studio with Jiujiang Fan together. In our Studio, he is mainly responsible for the design work and I am in charge of office management such as day-to-day business operations. Of course, I also participate in design discussion and put forward my suggestions and opinions. Not only we are work partners, but also life partners. This special relationship allows us to communicate with each other unreservedly with trust and great understandings.
Wenting Zhai and Fan Jiujiang working together
“In practice, what we have paid the most attention is how to build intellectually and poetically.”
In the age of visualization, people are more likely to be attracted by some certain architectural image and have a simple impression on the building which is either good or bad. This is understandable. However, instead of exploring spatial spirits and thinking critically, which is the difficult part of design process, architects tend to initialize design process by producing striking images of unique scenarios and shapes. Architecture is flattened during this image-producing process.
We believe that architecture can never be fully judged through two-dimensional images such as pictures. It is more convincing after placing architecture in the real world as that is when the perception of phenomena can happen. Because architectural art, compared with other kinds of art, expresses the complex relationship among man and the external world and the time span more comprehensively and completely. And this complex and multidimensional relationship needs to be conceived and constructed with the concept of identity through the construction of various materials and the integration of forms, so as to resist the gravity from the earth. Thus, it can be considered that when we are discussing architecture, we are actually discussing the question of how people can obtain existence and protect one’s being on earth. This question obviously includes intelligence and poetry these two aspects. It is an extremely difficult task to answer, which is also something we will continue to focus on.
▼久舍营造部分项目图片，part of Continuation Studio’s projects ©久舍营造
“The designer is not only the spokesman of the user, but also the spokesman of the place and the site.”
Architecture is almost accompanied by the history of human civilization. It is an intermediary between man and pure nature. It not only protects and praises people, but also defends and worships nature. People seek the balance of self placement through construction activities, while designers need to understand the users, the site and the place, and resonate with the understanding of both two aspects by means of material construction. In this process, the designer is not only the spokesman of the user, but also the spokesman of the place and the site. To some extent, the designer is closer to the role of shaman in some pre-modern civilizations. This is related to our thinking and positioning of our own role. We do not want to regard the designer as a role purely serving the user, but believe that both sides should sincerely and politely reach a consensus on building in a more appropriate way to the neighborhood, land and nature. This is also an important reason why we use “build” instead of “architecture” or “design” as the name of our studio.
▼久舍营造工作室环境照片，the working space of Continuation Studio ©久舍营造
“we have gone through a very painful and long process of self-doubt, scrutiny and reflection.”
It has been five years since the establishment of Continuation Studio. At the beginning, the difficulties were both internal and external. We have gone through a very painful and long process of self-doubt, scrutiny and reflection. First of all, we have to get used to doubting and examining our own “intuition”, to see if the so-called intuition is mixed with routine introductions, and to sort out our own intuition, that is, to gradually turn intuition into conscious self-cultivation. Secondly, we have to reflect on each step of the operation instantly, find out and correct the points that may deviate from the design intent and design attitude, find out the redundant words to refine and delete, and sometimes even return back to the previous step to rethink. This part of the work occupies nearly half of the project promoting time, but it is extremely important to us.
This painful process may be the only way we could approach the true expression, so perhaps it will always be with our practice. Meanwhile, the mentality of our life will become more and more stable.
▼事务所团队工作场景，working scene of Continuation Studio’s team ©久舍营造
“How to mobilize the element of structure must be a key for the discussion in each of our projects.”
Yule Mountain Boutique Hotel
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Structure is an indispensable material element of architecture, so as long as it is built on the earth, whether you care or not, it is always there waiting for you to talk to it. Then any dialogue with structure can not be nonsense, and will participate in the final space expression of architecture, in an extremely positive and accurate way. It is probably one of the most refined architectural languages utilizing structural elements to express the atmosphere of space.
Therefore, how to mobilize the element of structure to participate in the creation of space and place atmosphere must be a key for the discussion in each of our projects.
In the renovation project, the structure is pre-existing, and sometimes it is limited to achieve certain design ideas due to the original structure. For instance, in the renovation of Yule Mountain Boutique Hotel, the top floor of the original structure was set at a low landscape level due to the sloping roof and gutter structure, which seriously restricted the window opening height and hindered the view of the mountains from the room. Therefore, we have made the concept of raising the top side beam from the beginning of the design. The subsequent horizontal layering operations of the opposite facades are also solving the problem of how to coordinate between the height of the four-story building and the surrounding landscape due to the raised huge facade.
▼鱼乐山房项目，Yule Mountain Boutique Hotel ©久舍营造
▼对原框架结构的操作，the renovation of the original concrete structure ©久舍营造
▼场地剖面与视线控制，section and sightline control ©久舍营造
▼由西侧敞廊看静院，可以看见茶亭，而主体建筑只能看见底层局部，looking at the inner courtyard from the west corridor, only the tea pavilion and the bottom of the main building could be seen ©久舍营造
▼台地高处看静院敞廊与茶亭，corridor of inner courtyard and tea pavilion viewing from the high terrace ©久舍营造
▼茶亭和阳台构造分解图，tea pavilion and balcony structure explosion diagram ©久舍营造
▼从廊道转折处一窥内院，peeping from the turning point of corridor ©久舍营造
Dinghai Terrace House
However, in a new project, the structure is considered synchronously from the beginning of design.
As an illustration, in the design of Dinghai Terrace House, we used three structural systems: concrete base, steel structure frame and assembled wooden roof. The concrete base has a unified external volume and surface texture, in response to combine the exterior of the building and the form of the mountains, as well as the indoor ground for shaping the continuous terrace. With the advantage of smaller structure size, the steel structure has obtained the super size landscape opening and more flexibility in the beam column connection. The beams that span the direction of the room opening are combined with suitable dimensions and distances from people. It becomes a three-dimensional space grid under the wooden roof, which solves the problem of twice space lifting and equipment placement in the lightest action, forming an internal horizontal picture with strong space and weak structure.
▼定海台房，外观和结构细部，Dinghai Terrace House. Exterior and structural detail ©久舍营造
In addition, we elongated the room in the middle span, so that the middle steel beam was slightly close to the limit of the span, and then inserted a thin steel column in the middle under the beam delicately. The column body was staggered with the axis of the square frame on the facade, so that people can lean on the column while viewing. This action calls the structure back to the perception of body and hand in the way of texture and touch, enriching the experience of architectural atmosphere. And the top assembled wooden roof, with its abstract rafter structure and obviously redundant structural height, obtains the structural strength of the building top, as well as the visual movement and rhythm. Meanwhile, it also accommodates the structure of the ventilation windows. In this way, the weight of various structural types, cold and warm, explicit and implicit, as well as the form of force transmission between them, are actively involved in shaping the environmental atmosphere, affecting the overall perception of the experiencer.
▼室内钢柱，steel column inside the house ©久舍营造
▼爆炸图，exploded axon ©久舍营造
▼室内空间，interior view ©久舍营造
Building a“Mountain”in a Tiny Area
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▼范久江和翟文婷的自宅室内设计，the architects’ own house interior design ©久舍营造
The project of Building a“Mountain”in a Tiny Area is our own house interior design. Before the design began, started from the project’s unconventional 40-square-meter area and 3.7-meter floor height, we investigated the normal floor heights and common user types used in conventional development residences or apartments. We found that these floor height and apartment types were more based on the average demand of consumers in the general sense, and taking the plot ratio, height limit, design and construction cost of the development project as constrains. After that, a series of economic and most widely accepted products have been launched through calculation and inversion, which in turn has disciplined people’s living habits, and finally established a general consensus on “good” house type and floor height that seeming to be deeply rooted.
▼置入一座山，put in a mountain ©久舍营造
▼木质大家具的置入为房间带来额外的储藏空间，the huge furniture creates extra storage space inside the room ©久舍营造
▼动线图，circulation diagram ©久舍营造
▼功能分区，space division ©久舍营造
After imagining our possible activities in this space in detail, we found that in addition to cooking and showering, which require standing and stretching arms to complete, other types of activity such as rest and entertainment actually require nothing for the height of the floor and the room. Therefore, we hope to respond through a terrain that is continuous in both plane and section, make full use of the space at different heights of ground: below to accommodate the kitchen, bathroom and different types of storage space, above to get the height meets the needs for sleep and a variety of leisure and entertainment. Coupled with the Hangzhou North Peak facing directly outside the window, the certain form of a “Mountain” is ready to emerge. The inside and outside of the mountain, the high and low, the virtual and solid, and the holes, all have greatly enriched the internal experience of the entire space on the basis of effectively solving the functional problems.
The plane’s streamline, turning similar to the Jiangnan classical garden, not only effectively blocks the outside sight when the entrance door is opened, but the increased traffic area is also combined with the kitchen and bathroom, effectively increasing the space utilization rate and enlarging the physical experience of space.
Landscape and garden, definitely are the aesthetic objects that we are familiar with, instead flatten them into a symbol or a more abstract “artistic conception”, we tried to discuss a more universal space value contained in this aesthetic tendency, which can be better perceived and understood by contemporary people (not only the contemporary Eastern), such as the relationship between various views of scenery and visual perception, which is not limited as the typology on the traditional cultural level. In this way, the word “artistic conception” will not stay in the metaphysics of self-talking or the state of transcending and reappearing like a stage setting. As Chinese contemporary architects, we certainly have the mission of weaving our own cultural traditions into modern society. This requires us not to operate the classical tradition as an external object, but to internalize it, turn it into an inseparable part of ourselves, and then export it. This definitely needs us to have a deeper understanding of the tradition both on live reading and feeling.
▼卧室和下方的厨卫空间，the bedroom and the lower space for kitchen and bathroom ©久舍营造
▼从窗洞俯瞰厨房，overlooking the kitchen from the window ©久舍营造
▼生活的诗意，daily poetry ©久舍营造
Recent practices and researches
而在南京迈皋桥廊桥竞赛、苍南渔寮观景台和大理驿站的设计中，我们进一步讨论了风景文化的问题。我们从人类学、地质史层面的考察出发，对一个地方或一个场所的风景观念进行发掘和构想，不再将风景简化理解为一种环境客体，而是把风景文化理解为一种主体与风土之间的“契机”（Augustin Berque语），亦接近某种“神话结构”（Claude Levi-Strauss），在对外部特定风光的凝视中，我们不仅看向外部，也同时可以看向自身。这构成了我们定义风景的基本标准。而观看的方式，则是另一个层面的操作，正是对于风景挑剔的选择（在这几个项目的选址、定位过程中，我们有相当大的自主性），造就了对观者的观看方式及所在空间的特殊要求。
In the first half of the year, we completed the two projects within high-density residential environments, one is Guo’s House in Suzhou, the other one is Zhai’s House. From the two residential design processes, we gradually clarify the architectural design principle of polite – respect for the history and reality of the existing living environment. Starting from the investigation method of urban space anthropology, we obtain a more core definition of site and architectural atmosphere in the diachronic space investigation. It also brings the reality of dislocation development between public life and private life within contemporary community into the layered conception and reorganization of the architectural perimeter and internal space structure, and attempts to summarize a series of space organization prototypes that can coexist harmoniously with local vernacular and suit the living structure of specific residents.
In the design of Nanjing Maigaoqiao Competition, Cangnan Yuliao Viewing Platform and Dali Pavilion, we further discussed the issues of landscape culture. From the perspective of anthropology and geological history, we explore and conceive the landscape concept of a place or a space. We no longer simplify understanding the landscape as an environment, but the landscape culture as an “opportunity” between the subject and the local vernacular (Augustin Berque). It is also close to a certain “mythological structure” (Claude Levi-Strauss). While gazing at the specific external scenery, we do not only look to the outside, but also to inner ourselves. This constitutes our basic criteria for the definition of landscape. At the meantime, the way of viewing is another level of operation. It is the picky choice of the landscape (during the process of siting, we had a considerable degree of autonomy), which creates special requirements for the way of viewing and the space where the viewers are located.
▼苏州郭宅（研究模型），Guo’s House in Suzhou (research model) ©久舍营造
▼稷山翟宅（效果图），Zhai’s House (rendering) ©久舍营造
▼南京迈皋桥廊桥竞赛（效果图），Nanjing Maigaoqiao Competition (rendering) ©久舍营造
▼苍南渔寮观景台，Cangnan Yuliao Viewing Platform ©久舍营造
▼大理驿站（效果图），Dali Pavilion(rendering) ©久舍营造
We don’t have any preferred construction material that we particularly like to use. According to the needs of the project, we usually choose the one that reflects the appeal of the atmosphere best. However, we totally disagree with the use of one type of material, which is to disguise one certain material as another. For instance, the wood-like aluminum alloy doors and windows, or some other composite materials. In order to meet the requirements of certain visual style, this type of material only takes visual perception into consideration, completely breaks down the original material properties like color, texture, brightness, strength, density, hardness, touch, weather resistance, water absorption, etc, only selects the properties related to visual attribution for retaining and strengthening, and replaces others with various composite materials according to the cost or durability requirements. We do not think that composite materials have the original sin, but the starting point that composite materials could pretend to be other materials is worthy of discussion and criticism. This is not only an offense to the complete sensibility of a person as experiencer, but also an encouragement to the human instrumentalization.
From this point of view, materials that can condense the traces of human labor, or even show the traces of time as time goes by, and can still maintain a decent (rather than brand-new) state may be preferred by us. For example, concrete, wood, stone, brick masonry, oxidizable metal and so on.
▼盈尺起山项目中使用的桦木多层板，birch laminates used in the project of Building a“Mountain”in a Tiny Area ©久舍营造
in the project of M.Y.Lab Wood Workshop, common materials were put into use, including metal sheets coated with black fluorocarbon, oak panels and white paint
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▼定海台房的铁质扶手（左）和钢柱（右），iron handrail (left) and iron column (right) in Dinghai Terrace House ©久舍营造
Rethinking of Boutique Hotel projects
“Difficult observation and reflection may be the only way we could achieve the profundity of the work.”
As a small architectural studio practiced in Hangzhou, the developed private economy in the Yangtze River Delta region has indeed brought us many boutique hotel projects in the early stage. In current five or six years, the boutique hotel industry has developed rapidly, upgrading from the original high-end farmhouse to the destination type small resort facilities with high-quality design. However, when an industry develops too fast, although it could rapidly improve the standards of the whole industry, there will also be a lot of blind and short-sighted hot money entering. It seems that as long as one or two eye-catching photos can attract consumers to make money. For this reason, the owners of boutique hotel usually put forward eye-catching requirements for internet celebrities in design, and consumers may also place too much emphasis on taking photos and clocking in, therefore reducing the requirements for the overall space experience. This tendency not only promotes the homogenization of holiday experience, but also allows many weird and screaming superficial forms to emerge in an endless stream. These designs, to some extent, are destroying the original harmonious relationship between man and land, and they are also a potential offense to the rural aborigines, which is the phenomenon we oppose.
As architects who are also faced with similar demands from owners, we certainly understand the importance of these “extraordinary” requirements in commercial operation. However, there are many ways to deal with such requirements. We believe that by deeply reading the place, site and project itself, understanding some of the most profound and lasting particularity, and rewriting the architect’s own design task book, this can ultimately lead to an architectural presentation of “abnormal harmony”, and help architects and owners reach a consensus and achieve the common value. Compared with the simple operation of satisfying the commercial demands with some kinds of “super” form, it is true that this needs more difficult observation and reflection. But we believe that this may be the only way we could achieve the profundity of the work, and it is also an important standard for us to evaluate a good architect.
▼创始人在工地现场，the founders working in the site ©久舍营造
Rethinking of Rural Construction
“The close cooperation and mutual restraint among the owner, the construction party, and the designer (architect) are significant.”
The most profound one should be the Dinghai Terrace House in Zhoushan. Back then, only the construction contract was signed for this project. However, in order to control the overall effect, we took the initiative to undertake the responsibility for interior design, and integrated the architecture and interior comprehensively during the design process. The construction drawings of the two were almost inseparable. After the construction drawings were completed, the owner determined a construction party through comparison. Nevertheless, after the completion of the lower part, the construction party withdrew from the project halfway because it did not read the drawings carefully and calculated lower the cost . The owner sought a way to retain an experienced constructor from the team and let him to do the construction work as an hourly worker.
In order to complete the project under such a construction organization, we had to send an architect to the site and stayed there for more than six months. From supervising the construction according to the drawings, to calculating the quantity of materials and looking for material suppliers; from discovering on-site problems, recording and communicating with the studio in time, looking for solutions and remedial plans, to reminding the owners to prepare the materials and procedures for the next construction in advance. We have almost done all the works of the architects and supervisors. Although once there are some small problems during the construction, we are habitually asked to provide on-site service, but after all, we have carried the project to an unprecedented degree of completion.
▼定海台房项目改造示意，Dinghai Terrace House renovation analysis ©久舍营造
After this project, first of all, we have a more clear understanding of the overall environment of rural construction, which seems to have little to do with the refinement of the design. Actually, refined design could achieve a better completion and economy through factory prefabrication. On the contrary, some manual construction methods that we usually think reflecting sophisticated craftsmanship are often difficult to achieve with a high level of completion. This is closely related to the change of people’s state in the whole society. Craftsmen degenerate into workers, and their creations are downgraded to rotten ones. Few of them will feel ashamed for their bad works. This is a depressing phenomenon.
On the other hand, we have a more detailed observation and understanding of the relationship among the owner, the construction party, and the designer (architect) within rural projects. Rural projects, especially for those with large differences from the conventional rural construction, the owners and construction parties may even include architects are lack of experience. Therefore, the close cooperation and mutual restraint of those three are significant. Before bidding by contract, the construction party must be restricted in the details of the contract to fully understand the construction drawings in advance, and the designer must have the right to speak when the owner pays the construction party in the form of the contract. And the architect shall have sufficient on-site work to cooperate with the timely realization of the designer’s discourse right. Only when the three work together, it is possible to achieve some special practice projects with a relatively high degree of completion.
Fan and Zhai are discussing with their clients ©久舍营造
Perceptions, changes and challenges
“Our actions have become slower and more cautious.”
Five years have passed so fast, and the most profound change is that we have gradually stripped away the inertia and routine thinking that we carry with us, our actions have become slower and more cautious. On the other hand, our ability of perception and observation are enhanced by the continuous thinking training of ourselves. Introspection and reflection are painful and difficult, but they are also extremely necessary, which will be with us throughout our lives.
In the next five years, we have not set any specific goals for ourselves, we will continue to explore, learn and practice along the intellectual and poetic direction. We will try to summarize, classify, and synthesis among the details of our thinking in each specific project, and try to express them in a more contemporary, abstract, and tense form. This is also the challenge we are facing right now.
Fan Jiujiang (left) and Zhai Wenting (right) ©久舍营造