gooood team interviews creative individuals under 35 years old from all over the world, some are pioneering founders, 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.13 introduces Junfeng Wang, co-founder of MeetBest (More: Junfeng Wang, Junfeng Wang on gooood)
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gooood x Junfeng Wang 王俊锋
“Both architecture and photography provide me a way of expressing my viewpoints. In this aspect, they are actually interlinked.”
When I was a kid, I grew up in the countryside. I usually spent my weekdays at school in town and went back to the countryside on weekends. Therefore, my life at that time was switching between urban and rural environments, which might have influenced my habits and the way I think. Even now I always need to take a breath in natural environment after staying in urban context for long. Honestly I didn’t consider too much about my decision to study architecture. I got good grades at school, and was skilled in arts, the combination of rationality and sensibility was the reason why I chose architecture as my major，and also why I took an interest in photography. I’m not a “big camera person”, instead I use cell phone as my tool, which allows me to take photos in a relatively convenient way. Both architecture and photography provide me a way of expressing my viewpoints. In this aspect, they are actually interlinked.
▼王俊锋的家乡，充满自然气息，Hometown of Junfeng Wang, full of nature
▼王俊锋工作之余到自然中消遣，Junfeng Wang traveling in the nature during spare time
Study and work in America
“I was inspired in many aspects. In the aspect of professional cognition, studying abroad was like dispelling the myth…About the cognition on working environment, the constant comparison between China and America made me realize that numerous things in China were worth to be treasured, which strengthened my confidence in coming back.”
“The brand value is reflected not only in design, but also in its contribution to building a society.”
I was inspired in many aspects. In the aspect of professional cognition, I was just a spectator of architecture before I went aboard. For me, studying abroad was like dispelling the myth, which allowed me to truly get in touch with the star architects who previously only exist in magazines and books. You will find that they are all real persons who have their own defects and weakness, they made achievements only because they had worked really hard in some specific aspects. This cognition in turn help me enhance my confidence that I have a chance if devoting enough time and effort. In addition, personally experiencing those great buildings onsite will lead to a new understanding of the masters and their works. For example, the Kimbell Museum was renowned for its structure playing with lights. However, when I entered the museum, what moved me the most was the community like atmosphere of the building. Such experience will push me to rethink architecture, which will in turn influence my own design approach. On the other hand, it is about the cognition on working environment. The constant comparison between China and America made me realize that numerous things in China were worth to be treasured, which strengthened my confidence in coming back. As a Chinese in a foreign company, you are more or less an outsider who has less opportunities to get a big say, since most likely you will be constrained by the language and culture issues, which may hardly happen in your own country.
▼王俊锋镜头下的美国生活，Life in America under Junfeng Wang’s camera
I previously worked for SOM for a few years, a firm established in the 1930s with a well-functioning system and a high degree of professionalism. Every one of the teams was very specialized and cooperated well. Although in China many companies become more and more professional through their development, the biggest difference is that for most of the large foreign firms, they treat themselves not just as firms, but more as brands, emphasizing the multi-dimensional value which is not only about the design and commercial value, but also the social, cultural and even academic value. For instance, SOM is involved in many education programs that give opportunities for young architects and students to better understand the discipline and thus make better career plans. They also cooperate with scientific research institutions in developing new building technologies resulting in innovative structure and facade design. Besides, SOM devotes itself to academic journals by inviting media professionals, architectural critics and front-line architects to discuss on selected topics that will be published in scholarly journals. Large companies are always multi-faceted in industry participation, which may our domestic companies can learn from. The brand value is reflected not only in design, but also in its contribution to building a society.
▼SOM想法系列首刊发布会，press conference of SOM’s first academic journal
“MeetBest is a design company with a systematic capability of developing and operating spaces. We design ‘private public place’…We regard space as a container of created values, we treat architecture as a tool to generate variety of values. ”
“Competitive strength of entrepreneurship comes from two aspects: firstly, you are capable of doing what other people are not able to do, and secondly, you are willing to do what other people do not want to do.”
As the co-founder of MeetBest, what do you think is the core technology that distinguishes MeetBest from traditional architectural offices in China？
I think it’s more appropriate to call it “the mode of operation” than “the core technology”. A traditional design office refers more to a mode based on commissions between client and designer. To give a definition, MeetBest is a design company with a systematic capability of developing and operating spaces. In some ways, we are both client and designer, therefore we take the initiative to seek for suitable places and do what we think is the right design. There is no client，property developer or government between MeetBest space and its users. Our decision making is based on the direct observation and analysis of the market and the behavior of users, which can be regarded as a very active design manner. The whole process includes the decision making of development, the implementation of design concept, and the management of the places. It is achieved through a comprehensive system. Comparing with those traditional offices who will no longer get involved in projects after completion, we extend our work to operating the spaces we built, and to establish an urban network through these scattered space nodes.
▼好处项目，为各种活动提供不同的交流空间，MeetBest Spaces, providing communication space for various activities
▼好处项目搭建起城市网格， establish an urban network through these scattered space nodes
How was MeetBest developed? What are the principles on site selection and management? Please briefly introduce the operation mode of MeetBest.
The creation of MeetBest is closely linked to the change of our way of socializing in this era. In the past, people were grouped together on the basis of fixed relationships such as classmates, colleagues, family and relatives. Nowadays it depends more on our interests, hobbies, common topics and some specific identities. The internet creates numerous opportunities for people who share hobbies to meet online. However, this type of relation is still a “weak” one. People need more offline spaces to transform the weak relation into strong ties. Based on a specific interest or topic, the parameters of a meeting space can be very detailed and specific. We often get stuck on the first question, which is “where should we meet?”. Bars and cafes are bustling and noisy, while the private rooms in restaurants are always depressing due to their monotonic function. High-end clubs imply a high economic threshold, while the serviced apartments are too much standardized. In the context of social needs are rapidly increasing due to the expansion of networks, MeetBest aims to explore a new prototype of space for socializing and meet the needs of people who want to social with others. Generally, this prototype can be defined as an “private public place”.
▼好处项目 – 桃江荟，夹在城市建筑之间，MeetBest Space – Tao Jiang Hui, located in between two buildings
▼好处项目 – 外滩源集装箱展厅，MeetBest Space – Container Exhibition Room in the Bund
▼好处项目 – 愚园（左）MeetBest Space – Yu Yuan (left) / 好处项目 – 水也（右）MeetBest Space – Shui Ye (right)
▼好处项目 – 淮海别墅（左）MeetBest Space – Huai Hai Villa (left) / 好处项目 – 高阁（右）MeetBest Space – Gao Ge (right)
We use architects’ expertise to provide a solution for these needs, but a perfect solution lies on more than designs. It requires effective management and operations at the same time. It’s hard to scale up without an efficient operating system. Therefore technology and management are two significant modules that distinguish MeetBest from traditional design firms. In the aspect of software, our technical department focus on developing the online application that allows our clients to reserve the spaces. For hardware, we do research on intelligent systems such as a doorbell and monitoring system. We have our own operation department providing a standardized process for both online consultation and offline experience, which strongly supports the actual running of MeetBest.
▼咏春拳在好处项目“别处”中举办周年庆，Wing Chun celebrates its anniversary in MeetBest Space – Bie Chu
▼在好处项目“HiLight”中举办画展，art exhibition in MeetBest Space – HiLight
In the meantime, we collaborate with various space owners, based on a win-win partnership instead of employment relations. In early phases, the owners would initiatively find us for collaboration when they realized the value that MeetBest can bring to their properties. With MeetBest’s brand value gradually accumulating, some developers and state-owned enterprises will also come to us. We are able to constantly expand the scope of cooperation because more and more people will recognize the value provided by MeetBest.
▼好处日益增长的企业客户群体，corporate clients of MeetBest in growing
What are the favorable conditions for establishing shared spaces in China? What are the advantages of MeetBest? What are the possible challenges that MeetBest may encounter in its development？
Compared with foreign countries where party culture is adopted by most of people, it is more appropriate to practice the mode of MeetBest in local market since the choice of space may be limited in China. On one hand, in China there are relatively more people who live with their families thus it might be troublesome to hold a private party at home. On the other hand, holding a party sometimes brings an economic issue to the holder because it is less common for Chinese people to go Dutch, while the residential settings can hardly meet the requirements for public activities. Therefore, it is a tendency to rent a venue for events where the participants can share the payment. Another important point is that the understanding of design values has been integrated to people’s everyday life in some foreign countries, which means there are adequate choices of high-quality spaces and will cause less consumer impulses. Domestically, we have just started to be aware of the unique value of good designs while spaces with high qualities are still insufficient, thus good designs at current stage can create considerable added values. In a large city like Shanghai, people are more likely to respect designs and designers and more willing to pay for good designs. Therefore, in such a period, the spaces that MeetBest provides are still scarce products.
▼好处项目 – 海洋球池，提供独特的交流空间，MeetBest Space – Ocean Balls, providing unique communication space
▼好处项目 – 黑白间，提供独特的交流空间，MeetBest Space – Black and White, providing unique communication space
As for challenges, I think it’s related to many aspects. In the beginning, our challenge is to inform people of the value of the things we do. For instance, we need to let the owners know that they will earn much more profit collaborating with us than simply conducting a long-term rental. We do tests with my partner’s own house and convince the owners with real data. MeetBest now possesses an increasing number of spaces, which proves that its value has been recognized by more and more people. In this case, the challenge has shifted more to practical aspects. For example, we have to frequently communicate and coordinate with the residents who live near the Meetbest space to deal with some possible complaints. Furthermore, it becomes difficult to do standardization when the number of spaces gets quite large. These are all our challenges, and also our competitive strength. Once you succeed in something that is very tough to do, you will be difficult to be surpassed. From my perspective, competitive strength of entrepreneurship comes from two aspects: firstly, you are capable of doing what other people are not able to do, and secondly, you are willing to do what other people do not want to do.
▼意气风发的好处团队与嘉宾合影，photo of MeetBest team with their guests
Which is MeetBest’s focus point, marketing or design? Does MeetBest contains your personal opinions about the development of Architecture? Please share with us.
Marketing and design are two lines in parallel that both are indispensable. It makes no sense to emphasize on marketing without any good design, while a good design needs a systematic marketing and branding program to be recognized and accepted by more people when its scale has been extensive enough. Only in this case, it is possible to attract more people to become the users of the products.
▼明道平面拍摄（左）Ming Dow printing media shoot (left) / 松下广告拍摄（右）Panasonic advertisement shoot (right)
▼陈汉典直播（左）Chen Handian live viewing (left) / 星巴克行销部工作坊（右）Starbucks workshop (right)
In some way, MeetBest is indeed creating an architectural discipline. I have heard about a saying from Rem Koolhaas, of which the general meaning is: the training that we architects received at school provides us with many kinds of tools and methods, but most of us are still staring on building a house. What makes MeetBest different is that we regard space as a container of created values, we treat architecture as a tool to generate variety of values. Firstly, there is no doubt that MeetBest is of great commercial value and has got a high-quality user community. Many of our users are from the top 500 enterprises around the world including Google, Starbucks, Coca Cola and Disney etc. Our spaces are often used as pop-up stores for different brands to help promoting their products or even completing the first tries of new business models. We can also invite our users to experience these products, and therefore the brand value can be reflected through an interactive approach.
▼格物时尚快闪店（左）Pop up store (left) / 米九十圣诞市集（右）Christmas market (right)
▼Moet香槟品鉴会（左）Moet Champion tasting (left) / TED分享会（右）TED session (right)
Secondly, like an incubator of behavior, MeetBest devotes to create social value by providing physical places in best quality for public actions and events. For many vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, they are not able to gather in public place because of some public opinions or policy pressures. In this case, MeetBest becomes a very suitable place for them, since it provides a place where people get together like family members. There are also many creative behaviors taking places at MeetBest because good spaces not only carry but also help creating smart ideas. We had a very interesting movie event before: a group of people watched a movie called American Psycho, in which the main character was a murderer dressed in a raincoat. Based on the movie, everybody wore a raincoat, and the whole place was set up in the same way as the movie scene. Moreover, a very famous bartender was invited to make three sets of special cocktails for the film, served respectively before, during and after the screening. Hence watching movie becomes an immersive and rich social experience. It is hard to imagine such activity could happen in the traditional movie theatres or other public spaces. MeetBest works as an urban network for spaces, facilitating and incubating many behaviors and activities, and letting people realize the values of them. This is where the social value of MeetBest embedded.
▼在好处举办鸡尾酒观影会，Cocktail Cinema in MeetBest Space
▼在好处举办演唱会，Live Concert in MeetBest Space
Architectural Practice Talk – APT
“The original intention of APT is to have a small platform, where young architects can share their progress, and opinions of their practice…we plan to integrate the APT community to the city system, to let more people understand the value of architecture and design.”
MeetBest is about sharing space, and Architectural Practice Talk is about sharing ideas. They are similar to each other. What is the difference between APT and the common architecture forum? Can you give us some introduction about APT and what is your expectation out of it?
▼践谈发起于王俊锋的客厅中，APT was initiated in Junfeng Wang’s living room
Architecture forum sounds very official and high-end for me, APT is more like a family discussion, or a small community. The start of APT is somehow dramatic. I invited lots of friends to my birthday party in New York and told them that APT was founded after splitting the cake. The original intention of APT is to have a small platform of our own, where young architects can share their progress, and opinions of their practice. Most of APT members graduated from Ivy leagues and have worked in the best architecture firms or studios, APT hopes to dig out the most positive parts of everyone’s practice. APT’s first gathering happened at my living room, which incubated a small community. The living space became a gateway, everyone who entered the space all tried hard to push it for future development. The living room was gone when I returned to China, and the APT community returns to the city: We’ve collaborated with different institutions and even some architecture firms, constantly moving around the city like nomads and connecting with various resources. When we worked with the New York Public Library, for example, we invited the public to participate in our activities, letting them see what architects are doing and hence opening a window to understand architect and architecture. What we plan to do is to integrate the APT community to the city system, to help young architects and designers from different dimensions to speak out, to let more people understand the value of architecture and design, and also to build a bridge of communication between the domestic and international architectural practice.
▼践谈与事务所和机构合作，APT collaborating with architectural studios and institutes
▼践谈发展到城市中，在纽约公共图书馆举办活动，APT integrated with the city system, holding event in the New York Public Library
“What makes mobile photography important to me is that it gives me a very convenient way to infiltrate into everyday life, using photos to record.”
“Photos can become windows that tied tightly to the change of our time. There is an interdependent relationship between human and space that human reflects the space scale while the space makes human stand out.”
You are not only an architect, but also quite good at mobile photography. Nowadays we are witnessing a rapid technological progress of mobile phone camera, with more and more photo editing apps emerging. Can you tell us how these development influence your photography? What do you think is the key for a good photo? What does photography mean to you, and what do you pursue?
▼用手机捕捉生活中的瞬间 – 深圳，capture the moments in life by mobile – Shen Zhen
I fell in love with mobile photography because it makes taking photos extremely convenient. I first used an iPhone 4 which has 5 megapixels. With it I could already take some photos with good image quality. Mobile phones iterate rapidly these days, and the quality of camera lens keep improving, but these are just like the icing on the cake for me. They definitely give me more options, however, what makes mobile photography important to me is that it gives me a very convenient way to infiltrate into everyday life, using photos to record. Therefore, photography becomes a rather daily activity. I remember once a photographer has described street photography in a very intriguing way. He says, “I think all the stuff on the street is a gift, but you only get it if you go out there every day.” Mobile photography makes it more likely for me to get these “gifts”, as it is accidental and sometimes happens by odds. I am able to find lots of interesting moments in daily routine and quickly capture them. A lot of people asked me how I got these moment precisely, wondering if I use some special method. I think it is not a question of method but a question of sensitiveness. In fact, there are many good moments happening in our everyday life, I’ve just catched a few of them. I think there are two types of good photography. The first one is to shoot what is rare to see, such as shooting in the South Pole, shooting in the battlefield, or shooting for artistic creation. These are very active and purposeful process of creation. The other type is to shoot what others usually turn a blind eye to. There are things happening around us but we cannot see it. Good photographers, however, can capture those moments. I think my works belong to the second type, to shoot what people easily neglect. This requires a constant training of sensibility, as well as the understanding of life which will in turn contribute to the discovery of those moments. For me photography and architecture are both ways of expressing ideas. Just like MeetBest aims to promote or create certain values through architecture, my mobile photography is not just about taking photos, but more about providing a window to help the viewers and myself realize the meaning of life and the time we are in, and eventually to retrospect and question the inner self. For example, regularly I will collect all the photos I’ve taken in the past one or two months and go through them again. By doing that I realize that actually I’ve been paying attention to some specific things, about which I do have my own thoughts hidden in the photos I took. Therefore, photography has become a tool that I use to dig out those hidden values.
▼用手机捕捉生活中的瞬间 – 上海，capture the moments in life by mobile – Shanghai
▼用手机捕捉生活中的瞬间 – 济州岛，capture the moments in life by mobile – Jeju
What attracts you the most about architecture and photography as two ways of artistic expression?
What is interesting about architecture is that architects create buildings that people can live and work within, so architects’ projects have a chance to witness the change of lifestyle and times. Photography, instead, is to frame and freeze a moment, recording a fleeting moment as a form of viewable material. Decades later, it becomes a time machine enabling people to see the past. It’s like when looking at old photos, even though you will not feel like you’ve experienced these moments, you do see the past through these windows, it’s real. I wish my photos can become such windows that tied tightly to the change of our time.
▼镜头下的上海，摄影提供通往过去的窗口，photography of Shanghai, providing view to the past
Both photography and architecture are based on human behaviors, the relationship between human and space is one of the most important topic I pay attention to. In my photos human usually act as a small figure in a large space, human reflects the space scale while the space makes human stand out, thus an interdependent relationship is built up between human and space. This is also the core philosophy of MeetBest, instead of emphasizing on creating good looking space, our design focuses on user experience. We as architects always aim to design spaces that are human-oriented, but it’s difficult to realize within traditional architecture industry since there are always clients, developers, or government between architects and users, thus architects do not have a direct communication with the actual users, which is a huge pity. However, at MeetBest we are able to get direct contact with users, who are able to give us lots of feedback to develop the space. This design approach makes our space more human based, as we understand how they use the space and what are their real needs.
▼人反映空间，空间凸显人 – 上海（左）塞维利亚（右）human reflects the space scale while the space makes human stand out – Shanghai (left) Sevilla (right)
▼人反映空间，空间凸显人 – 上海，human reflects the space scale while the space makes human stand out – Shanghai
“I’m not simply an artist or an entrepreneur and architects have to be both ideal and practical…I need to know myself better to identify a match point, being more focused and do it well.”
Human being’s way of thinking is always lingering between subjectivity and objectivity, as we sometimes walk on the edge of spirituality and independence. They often contradict with each other. With the dual identity of artist and entrepreneur, have you ever been caught up in such dilemma?
I think architects may have this dilemma more often than other professions. They constantly shift between the two extremes, being pulled back and forth all the time. On one hand I would use photography, text or architecture to express my views subjectively. For example, when I was still an architecture student, I would use design as a form of pure expression since the design didn’t aim to be built. As for now, however, I am doing a practical business, reality shoves its way to the top of my priority list. Simply expressing a design idea is not enough at all, every saying, design and method should be able to contribute to an effective result. Startup is very result oriented, I need to find the balance between my subjectivity and objectivity. I’m not simply an artist or an entrepreneur. In order to achieve an effective design, architects have to be both ideal and practical, while they’re thinking metaphysically, they’re also required to face many compromises due to the real constraints.
Apart from being an architect, you are a photographer, an observer, a social community organizer and also an entrepreneur. If you can talk to your future self, what will you say? What are your plans for the near future? Is there any new realms you would like to explore?
I will ask myself, “have you found your battlefield?” The artist Guoqiang Cai once said, “Everyone is looking for his or her own battlefield, but some might find a wrong one.” This is a process of recognizing the values of things one does as well as getting self-awareness. With a deep understanding of these two aspects, one could be able to say if he or she finds the proper battlefield. I quite enjoy what I am doing in my current status since it is something I am deeply interested in. However, I also feel anxious sometimes, for that I wish to be more focused, instead of constantly switching among different things. For me, MeetBest, Photography, and APT are all like a start for me, I am still exploring though I’ve already understood the values of them. I think I need to know myself better to identify a match point, being more focused and do it well.
Speaking of the future plan, the first thing is of course to keep carrying forward MeetBest, and aim to develop it to be a lifestyle, integrating it into people’s everyday life. Another plan is about the mobile photography. I had taken lots of “sneaky shots”, catching people’s status in their most natural moments, maybe lonely, maybe enjoyable. I really need an opportunity to send these photos to them, I don’t know if this is too romantic to achieve, because I have no information of these people at all. But if it possible, I will send these photos back to whom they belong to. Compared to their posed photos, people are supposed to see their true self in my photography, in which they look natural and fascinating. They deserve to have these photos.