Under 35 – Liu Yang

Deliver the ‘sensational architecture’ through a natural way. Find the starting point for the project back from heart.

Project Specs


gooood团队采访世界各地 35岁以下的年轻创意人,他们有的是创业者,有的是业主,有的是普通职员。我们探访众生百相,记录这个时代年轻人的面貌和真实状态,欢迎您的推荐和建议。
第24期我们采访了 大料建筑 DL Atelier on gooood)创始人刘阳

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.24 introduces Liu Yang, founder of  DL atelier  (DL Atelier on gooood)

出品人:向玲 / Producer: Xiang Ling
编辑:武晨曦,刘丹阳,陈诺嘉,历剑 / Editor: Wu Chenxi, Liu Danyang, Chen Nuojia, Li Jian








“For me, the entrepreneurship, actually, is a process of having fun, also, a process in which I can try to change my lifestyle and design conditions, as well as to seek some excitements.”


I grew up in the Hutong. My dad majored in the mechanical design. So, since I was a child, I have seen himdraw his design, making me really familiar with the drawing board. When I was a senior high school student, my dream was to study the automotive design, however, at that time, therewas only the major in the automotive mechanical design in China, while I was more interested in the appearance. And in the foreign universities, the major in the automotive mechanical design was a branch of the School of Architecture or the School of Industrial Design. Therefore, after a short consideration, I decided to study Architecture in Beijing. In my view, the overall atmosphere and circumstance are very important since you can get a lot of newly-updated information and visit numerous exhibitions here.

▼刘阳,Liu Yang


For me, the entrepreneurship is a simple thing. I think the design should be integrated with the life and have never treated it as a job. I like playing and am willing to try something new, so for me, the entrepreneurship is a process of having fun, also, a process in which I can try to change my lifestyle and design conditions, as well as to seek some excitements. My firm has been kept in a small scale of a really slow development pace, or even from the scale aspect, I can’t call it like a development. Originally, I wanted to keep my firm in a scale of the maximum of ten people. Fewer people mean less economic pressure. A lot of firms have developed to a scale with dozens of, even hundreds of people, thus, they have no choice but to do more projects to pay their employees, and in turn, they need more employees to complete the projects. Consequently, they have placed themselves in a dilemma. However, if you only have a small team, you will not suffer from such big pressure.

▼大料建筑办公室,office of DL Atelier


Considering this, every year, we only design 5 to 6 projects so that we can design and control thoroughly by ourselves, which is in accord with my very beginning mind: we are not working, but having fun. It will be perfect if we can build up 2 to 3 projects from our designed 5 to 6 projects. Others look at our built projects, and if they appreciate them, they will come to us to talk about some new projects. In the past, we only got one million for a project, but subsequently, we could get 5 million for a project, guaranteeing a higher quality on a basis of the constant number of the project, and that is my ideal circular development model.

▼工作中的刘阳,Liu Yang during work


“My biggest pressure doesn’t come from the economic aspect. Sometimes I am trapped in a dilemma where I can’t come up with an exciting idea or concept, however, under the pressure of time, I am forced to deliver a scheme.”


I think today’s Beijing is less interesting than that before 2008. Previously, it was more disordered, providing people with a better environment to develop more crazily and truly. After 2008, under the condition of much more rules and regulations, Beijing has become more regular, but at the same time, less interesting. I have never considered about the issue of Beijing drifters. Most of my friends, as well as my colleagues, are not Beijing natives, neither have I ever cared much about the difference between the natives and non-natives. My biggest pressure doesn’t come from the economic aspect, but from the design itself. That is to say, sometimes I am trapped in a dilemma where I can’t come up with an exciting idea or concept, however, under the pressure of time, I am forced to deliver a scheme. For me, it is kind of boring, but fortunately, makes me reflect whether I am numb about the design.



Sensational Architecture


“Our primary concern is the emotion and the memory. We expect to deliver the ‘sensational architecture’ through a natural way. Our ideal architecture is: in the afternoon, several people sit under the tree, chatting, playing, enjoying the sunlight and tranquilness.”——Atelier DL


As a designer, I care more about whether the personal emotion can have a more direct relationship with the design. Every time I design a project, I will intentionally integrate my emotions, both currently and previously, into the scheme. Indeed, some project descriptions have mentioned that we want a tranquil spatial emotion, but that is not required. For example, we just wanted to play a joke with people when we designed children’s racecourse in the project of Beijing Rider Partner International Equestrian Club. We designed a figurative project with a seemingly entry-level design technique, which actually expressed a humorous and relaxing state. We expect to turn something boring into something interesting and arouse children’s excitements of playing to create a lively atmosphere, and this kind of spatial emotion is consistent with the humorous state when designing.

▼大料建筑部分项目一览,selected projects by DL Atelier


Sometimes, it is easier to write than to say. We aim for the sensational building which is relatively ideal. When being independent, every architect has been seeking something distinct that is his own identity, nevertheless, he can potentially develop this distinct identity and achieve something unless he is proficient in it. I think, probably, I am relatively good at making something sensational since I am a Sagittarius guy. However, what does the sensation mean? I think it is something by which you are strongly and deeply influenced, shocked and touched. Just like Brokeback Mountain, a plain and flaccid narrative, which made me tear unconsciously when I saw the blood coat in the cabinet at the epilogue of the story. This is a particularly successful sensation and a set of continuous development which makes you immerse yourself in, as well as light your emotions through a small incident. I didn’t tear for the coat, neither the two protagonists, but my own history, experiences and emotion. Extracting the emotional points that can arouse people’s mood is a relatively distinct way of designing for me.

▼一舍山居设计概念,营造有情感的空间,Conception drawing of Yi She Mountain Inn, aiming to create sensational space for people

▼可以看到山景的开放厨房,open kitchen with view to the mountain



Design Philosophy And Practice


“Techniqueswill be much better as long as you keep practicing, while the design will develop in a much wronger direction if you don’t understand it, thus, the origin is much more important.”


During these years’ practices, there is little change in our design techniques and philosophy. At the current age, I feel more and more important about the persistence. Since I was a junior student at university, I have often gone to Peking University for auditing graduate lectures, and at that time, the words from Pro. Zhang Yonghe strongly impressed me. He said: “at Peking University, we focus on helping students to build up a relatively right understanding towards the architecture, instead of teaching them how to design. Techniques will be much better as long as you keep practicing, while the design will develop in a much wronger direction if you don’t understand it, thus, the origin is much more important.” And for us, basically we have decided on the sensational architecture and have been insisting on it.

▼新港小学效果图,透明化的学校(点击这里查看更多),Xin Gang Primary School with more transparency  (click HERE to view more)



In the project of Xin Gang Primary School, considering that the school is a relatively clean world in China’s society, we thought about building it up as a beautiful urban landscape by opening the view of the scene where children can read, attend the class, play and have fun. Thus, we made the school transparent to establish an attractive relationship between children and people outside. For children in the primary school, they learn from their teachers, but more often, they learn from each other and imitate each other, and that gives us the motivation to open up the school, providing children with the opportunity for interaction.

We designed the primary school in the form of grids. The ground and second floors are public space, containing the playground, the canteen and the library, which can be fully open. Considering the light requirements of classrooms, we organized them on the two upper floors. Then, the openings on the facade like windows created a spatial feeling of stacking, enhancing the attraction of the building. By the time we produced the construction drawings, we had spent two years in total to deal with all of the code and structural problems and meanwhile, retained our initial design concept. Unfortunately, just then we encountered the change of the leaders, who asked us to revise our design. In order to insist on our initial concept, we gave it up in a pet.

▼新港小学模型,下层是公共空间,上层是教室,model of Xin Gang Primary School, which lower floors were public space while classrooms were on the upper floors


At that time, I cared too much about the integrity of the design concept, while now, I care more about whether the project can be built up. If I had the opportunity, I would probably not refuse the demands for revising the design, rather, try my best to find another way to realize our concept. It makes no sense if a design can’t become a physical existence. Now, the primary standard to choose a project commission for us is to consider that whether it can be built up.

▼新港小学效果图,丰富的空间与学生活动,rendering of Xin Gang Primary School with diverse space and activities


“Actually, the form is not a sure thing, rather, sometimes, it is, probably, a habit.”


▼一舍山居富有几何感的外观(点击这里查看更多),Yi She Mountain Inn with geometric appearance  (click HERE to view more)

▼一舍山居内院,由方圆组合而成,courtyard of Yi She Mountain Inn composed of square and circle

▼富有几何感的空间细部,geometric details of the space

For me, it is relatively easier to shape the space by geometries. Just like Chinese people tend to eat with chopsticks, while Western people tend to eat with knife and fork, these are two different dining forms that lead to two different dish forms, which perhaps, should be in turn actually. Thus, the form is not a sure thing, rather, sometimes, it is, probably, a habit. That means you can realize your concept eventually as long as you have achieved a certain level, no matter what design techniques you use, moreover, sometimes if you can go a little further, probably you can extract your own distinct design language. This is a long trip where I am bound to insist and try continuously, although maybe I can’t extract my own language throughout my life. Our geometric forms are different from those in previous years. In the project of Beijing Yi She Mountain Inn, we used the combination of the geometry of the square and the circle, while now, we used the same components in the project of Aranya Children’s Museum, but showing a totally different spatial and formal atmosphere.

▼阿那亚儿童博物馆,另一种形式的方圆组合,Aranya Children’s Museum composed of square and circle in a different way


We can’t decide whether the form is important. Now, I have begun to pay attention to the form, for at least the design should be nice-looking, as well as able to support my concept. The project of the Moon Stage, perhaps the best design that combines the form and the atmosphere, has a really simple form as it seems like just a circle piece beside the river, creating a pure space that leaves people a strong impression. For example, the black-and-white photos are tended to impress people more than the color photographs since they simplify a lot of things in case that people pay much attention to the color. Under a purer light environment, the basic elements will be highlighted, thus, if you are probably attracted by a photo taken in that environment, maybe it is because its basic elements are good enough.

▼月亮舞台,简单的形式创造出富有感染力的空间,Moon Stage, impressive space created by simple components

▼星月向日葵馆,简单的几何形式构成独特的空间氛围(点击这里查看更多),Hall of Starry and Sunflowe, unique space atmosphere created by simple geometries (click HERE to view more)


“There is only a fine line between the diversity and the complication……A space can either be diverse or unitary, but that is only the appearance, and the thing is its internal spatial logic that controls the whole design.”


I grew up accompanied by Wang Shuo’s literatures, comic dialogues and storytellings, therefore, I think that the language can potentially influence people’s thinking habits. We designed Children’s Museum in Aranya, expecting to create a diverse space for children to explore. This space should always be attractive and mysterious, without obvious spatial organization. In order to make this idea come true, we used the rational logic to create the space. The simple walls in the form of teeth act as the structure, as well as the separation and the boundary of the smaller service space; the circles are organized according to the different regulations, forming a seemingly disordered, yet actually, well-organized space. Thus, there is only a fine line between the diversity and the complication. It is the diversity if you can feel a sense of various possibilities, while it is the complication if you are in a thoroughly unknown situation because of too many possibilities. We need to adjust the degree of “possibilities” through a rational way. A space can either be diverse or unitary, but that is only the appearance, and the thing is its internal spatial logic that controls the whole design.

▼三宝蓬艺术中心外观(点击这里查看更多),External view of Sanbaopeng Art Museum (click HERE to view more)

▼丰富的内部空间,rich space inside the project


Previously, I concerned more about the conceptuality of the materials, which is to say that I was more interested in the effect of materials on my design concept. In the project of the Sanbaopeng Art Museum in Jingdezhen City, we expected for a local resourced, but meanwhile, heterogeneous material, creating a familiar, yet strange feeling. Eventually, we decided to use the rammed earth to build up a 150-meter long building. However, at present, I don’t pay much attention to the conceptuality in the materials selection, rather, care more about users’ personal experience and feelings. There are so many architects concerning excessively about the reality of the construction, while I absolutely don’t. I think the fake materials are acceptable if it can achieve a certain visual effect.

▼三宝蓬艺术中心夯土墙细部,closer view of the rammed earth walls of Sanbaopeng Art Museum



Design Process and Feedback


“At first, I will consider about the relationship between the project and my past experience, returning back to my heart to find the starting point for the project.”


In most cases, we don’t have the brief for the project. In the past, I really cared about the brief, regarding it as the key element to develop the project. However, during these two years, instead of giving us briefs, our clients have tended to discuss together with us to see how the project should be developed, including the floor area that is determined during the discussion process. I have three major bases to choose my clients. Firstly, whether we can chat comfortably and leave a good impression on each other; secondly, whether the project can be built up; thirdly, whether the clients have sufficient budgets. The first one is the most important, since only when you have thoroughly negotiated with your clients, can you understand their genuine demands and whether there is any possibility to combine their demands with your own ideas. After understanding clients’ demands, I will integrate my feelings and emotions into the project. If we are birds of a feather, then we tend to share the same emotions and expressions, which means we can carry forward the meaning and the possibilities of the project together.

▼一舍山居设计概念,design concept of Yi She Mountain Inn


From the design aspect, at first, I will consider about the relationship between the project and my past experience. Some people are accustomed to looking outwards when designing the project, which means they will study deeply the history of the surroundings for hundreds of kilometers around. But for me, I prefer to return back to my heart to find the starting point for the project. As long as I can find it, however negligible it is, I will be able to amplify it through designing, expressing it in the form of the architecture. The biggest pressure and suffering I encounter now are that sometimes I think I am too numb to find that starting point. Consequently, I try to find more inspiration from seeing movies, reaching more people, eating different food and having fun myself, etc. All of them are the inspirations for my life, while the design, the indispensable thing in my entire life, is a way to make my life more interesting.

▼星夜向日葵馆设计概念,design concept of Hall of the Starry Night & Sunflowers


“It is a particularly cool process to make an idea come true……Definitely, for architects, the full understanding of the construction process will benefit the design concept.”


I will visit the construction site after the project is completed, as well as during the construction process. In these recent years, we have much more projects in Beijing, including four projects that are under construction now, thus, I spend one fourth, even one third of my time on the construction site every week. Although it is noisy at the site, I enjoy a peaceful and dedicated internal world actually. It is a particularly cool process to make an idea come true, so I am very willing to visit the construction site. After the completion, I will visit my building as well, because I am really concerned about the emotional inspiration that users can get from the building. Actually, I have ever stayed in the project of the Sanbaopeng Art Museum in Jingdezhen City for a whole day, observing people’s activities, peeping at people’s expressions, eavesdropping their conversations, all of which are good feedbacks to my design. Definitely, I expect that my design can share something common between its users and me.

construction site of Sanbaopeng Art Museum


Recently, we have designed a small house named Guozijian Space with the area of less than 100㎡in the Hutong of Guozijian. It took us one year round to finish the design and much longer to finish the construction, moreover, by the end of the last week, we had been working on some repair works. I have negotiated with the clients hundreds of times throughout the whole process concerning the right and wrong, the goodness and the badness, as well as likes and dislikes, all of which are my standards to judge a design. In this project, we organized a big pillar in the center of a relatively small house. That seemed inappropriate for most people, while my clients tried to understand my idea instead of rejecting me at once. Eventually, after 3-day consideration, he agreed with my idea. Once the clients have an every understanding about the design scheme, they will fall in love with it, arrive at the site earlier than workers and even work together with workers to enjoy the whole process. Thanks to its location which is quite close to my studio, my team and I would visit there almost every day, because for architects, the full understanding of the construction process will benefit the design concept.

▼刘阳在施工现场,Liu Yang in the construction site



Recent Practice


“I am not interested in doing the same thing all the time, thus, I expect for something I have never done before when selecting the project.”


Currently, we have been working on several types of projects, including guesthouses, museums and sports centers, since I am not interested in doing the same thing all the time, thus, I expect for something I have never done before when selecting the project. We have a guesthouse project under the construction in Huairou, to which we have applied some innovative attempts in the aspect of the working style. Some of my friends and I have established a company in order to purchase some vacant lands in the countryside to transform them into hotels or guesthouses.

▼清舍民宿,Qing She Guest House


In this process, we are both clients and architects. In the early stage, we will decide a working direction through discussion, then, some of us will be responsible for completing for the land, negotiation and investigation, while some of us will be responsible for the operation and promotion. And for me, I am only responsible for the design – the part that I am best at, as well as most interested in. In these projects, I can take advantage of more freedom to try something that I have never done, such as the bamboo formwork concrete; meanwhile, the construction team that shares a long-term cooperation with me listens to me and follows my every instruction. Actually, there is something that I can’t make sure in these projects,  but I treat them as an inspiration and an adventure in the design field.

▼竹模混凝土,bamboo formwork concrete


Our first equestrian club located in Tongzhou has been launched, and now we are working on the second one. There are thousands of equestrian clubs in China, while most of which seem like factory buildings or farmers houses, meanwhile, although some of them have learned from the equestrian clubs in Europe and America and been built up as a farm village, expressing a bit better state, none of them are modern or aesthetic. In our first equestrian club project, I designed a large racecourse for 200 meters around with a humorous way, breaking the frames that restricted me previously. Actually, after the completion, this project caused a sensation in the group of equestrians in Beijing, attracting hundreds of people to come and visit. As a result, its clients requested me to design the second equestrian club that is being developed for them.

▼北京骑缘马场鸟瞰,aerial view of Beijing Qiyuan Equestrian Club

▼层叠的屋顶及细部,layered roof


I grew up in Hutong, and I spent my primary school life, junior high school life and high school life there, which built a close relationship between me and the Hutong. Thus, when I started to work on the Guozijian Space, I designed an ideal house based on my understanding about Hutong. Today, most of the houses in Hutong are like small residential communities, while few of them are truly private. When I was a little kid, we enjoyed an extremely harmonious neighborhood relationship, feeling as if we would own the entire Hutong space, and just because of this, even though everyone lived in a very small space physically, we could still enjoy a particularly generous space mentally. However, these years, there have been much more vehicles in the Hutong space, decreasing the public living space and weakening the neighborhood relationship. Since 2007 or around, our nation encouraged people to purchase the whole yard on behalf of themselves to take some renovated actions, contributing to more and more private yards in the Hutong space. In these yards, people can live a comfortable and high-quality life, yet in a thoroughly close atmosphere, without any relationship between the Hutong space, leading to much more difference between spaces.

▼可以升降的胡同住宅概念,concept of the Hutong residence which could be elevated from under the ground


However, I don’t admire this way of living and designing, and that drives us to think up a solution to provide residents there with more living areas, as well as a public courtyard to communicate. Thus, we used the mechanical installations of parking structures to design a vertically moveable house. The space of this 3-storey house can be adjusted according to users’ demands, for example, when the house is located at the higher level, it can act as a living space with a good natural light and ventilation; and when the house is located at the lower level, its roof can act as a yard to form a continuous space together with other yard spaces. Users can negotiate with neighbors about it, such as lowering the house down when they are out to make sure the sunlight of the adjacent houses. When such houses scatter throughout the Hutong space, the opportunities for communication between neighbors will be increased. Imagining a scene that today, I lower my house a little bit, and tomorrow, you rise your house a little bit to guarantee the light and the ventilation, even in some days you and your neighbors lower or rise the houses together to create a large yard for children to have fun on the ground or even, in the air. The roof texture of the Hutong space is really beautiful and don’t laugh, maybe you are lucky enough to meet a streaking muscular man there.

▼不同状态下的住宅外观及室内,appearance and interior space of the residence under different conditions


Although unfortunately, we couldn’t make this idea fully come true out of some reasons, we didn’t give up at all. Later, as long as the clients want us to design a Hutong project, I will instill this idea to them, and if I can’t persuade them successfully, I will try my best to design a genuinely beautiful house.

▼建成的胡同住宅外观,external view of the constructed Hutong residence ©孙海霆

▼住宅室内,interior space of the house ©孙海霆



Experience that can influence the design and your expectation for the future


I like movies, since they can bring me into a space-time created by themselves, leading me to experience a different life, and I think that is the most interesting about the movie. I don’t think the movie is a kind of storytelling, rather, a construction of emotions and atmospheres, bringing us some inspirations from different situations and space-times. Recently, I also like the impromptu, such as the opera, the stage drama, and the dance, all of which are more realistic and attractive. Some time ago, one of my friends, a musician, rented a space to give a performance without the presetting of the program. During the performance, the piano, the flute, the singing, and the dance merged subsequently into an integrity. The visual communication, or the deeper communication between performers created a harmonious and attractive atmosphere, exciting every person on the scene. Now I really love this kind of live performance. And probably, these experiences can leave a potential impact on my future design.

▼三宝蓬艺术中心设计概念图,从电影中获得灵感,design concept of Sanbaopeng Art Museum, inspired by movie


As for the change, I think it is probably that we have established a new firm to be our own clients. If there were some essential changes in Atelier DL, it would be out of my personal reasons: I had a new perspective and a new understanding towards the world, so I wanted to add some new things to the studio. But currently, Atelier DL will insist on the original development direction, meanwhile, on this basis, trying to make some breakthrough step by step. The biggest obstruct for us is the moment when we can’t find any breakthrough we can make, but unfortunately, there is no other way, and the only thing we can do is to try something we have never tried and reach somebody we have never reached, seeking some opportunities to change through the inspiration.

▼大料建筑其他项目 – 天水SOHO幼儿园(概念)
Other Projects of DL Atelier – (left) Tianshui SOHO Kindergarten (conception design)

▼大料建筑其他项目 – (左)北京隐舍酒店(施工图),(右)玉溪工业遗存博物馆(施工图)
Other Projects of DL Atelier – (left) Beijing Yinshe Hotel (construction drawing), (right) Yuxi Industrial Heritage Museum (construction drawing)

▼大料建筑其他项目 – 马尔代夫综合体(概念)
Other Projects of DL Atelier – Complex in Maldives (conception design)

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