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.16 introduces Pan Fei and Wang Zhi, founder of Robot 3 studio
gooood x Robot 3
Moving towards design
Pan Fei: “Twenty-something means to keep on dreaming, seeking to light up the spark in mind. Fortunately I was able to start a career with my best friend Wang Zhi since 2016.”
▼两人的大学生活，University life of Pan Fei and Wang Zhi
Pan: I was born in Zhengzhou, Henan. I started drawing since I was a child, and became enthusiastic about it. When I was in high school, I often went to the construction site to see the building that would later be my new home. I found it very interesting to see how those buildings were set up little by little. Therefore, I later chose to study space design in Academy of Arts & Design of Tsinghua University. One of my standard of judging things is that the power presented in a thing is much more important than its process and means, which may be influenced by my life experience.
At the beginning of my college life, I was quite confused about my major. I spent much time in reading. Su Dan, our professor, recommended us to learn about Tadao Ando, and I was totally attracted by his work. Later I got to know Corbusier and Koolhaas, who, together with Ando, are the persons that significantly influenced my way to design. Comparing to the architectural works by the three masters, what inspired me the most was the way they challenged the status quo of the society, and how they rediscovered their egos. My school offered valuable opportunities for me to know these people, and more importantly, I met a lot of friends, including my best friend，Wang Zhi. We talked much about how to achieve the ideas and unrealistic dreams that burning in our minds. There was a period when I felt lost after my graduation because I actually had not acquired enough practical means of survival. At that time, Wang Zhi had begun his journey in Tibet after working as a lecturer in collage, which had a great impact on me. Then I decided to quit my work and went to Hangzhou. We were living in two types of monasticism, metaphysically and physically. In 2009, thanked to Professor Su, I got an opportunity to stay in Europe for three months, and I traveled through a series of countries in Western and Northern part, just like what Ando did. I stayed in Chapelle de Ronchamp for a whole night. This experience redefined my life. Twenty-something means to keep on dreaming, seeking for an point to light up the spark in mind. I was looking for a chance, and fortunately I was able to work together with my best friend, starting from 2016.
▼潘飞的修行之旅：京藏骑行，Pan Fei’s travel: cycling from Beijing to Tibet
Wang: For me, the university is more like a platform. My biggest achievement in school was that I got friendships with people like Pan Fei. At that time I soon lost interest in conventional design studies. I felt much more interested in philosophical stuff. The most important period of my life was the decade after my graduation. I spent ten years staying at home, reading, thinking and watching movies. Until 2016, I thought I was able to figure things out. I found Pan Fei and decided to do do a collaboration with him.
▼王植的修行之旅：夏威夷（左）/ 科罗拉多大峡谷（右），Wang Zhi’s travel: Hawaii (left) / Grand Canyon (right)
▼王植在家修行期间看的部分电影和书籍，some movies and books Wang Zhi read during his stay in home
The founding of Robot3. Two partners with complementary personalities.
Pan Fei: “Attitude makes more sense than concept. Knowledge and behavior should be united as one, while outside appearance should also corresponds to inside.”
Wang Zhi: “What I concern the most is to push a thing to its ultimate.”
▼Robot3部分作品一览，projects of Robot3
Pan: We have a mutual friend called Han Dong. We once chatted together in 2014, thinking about to give a name to our studio. Han had an interest in artificial intelligence, thus he instinctively came up with the name of robot. I said maybe we could call it “Robot 3”, a name that seemed beyond our knowledge and perception, which is precisely the field we were willing to explore. Besides, this name also suggests a strong relationship between the three of us.
In my opinion, attitude makes more sense than concept. Knowledge and behavior should be united as one, while outside appearance should also corresponds to inside. Your state and your attitude are supposed to be coherent. This might be the standard, or so-called philosophy of how we perceive things we are going to do. We hope to express both our state and our attitude.
Wang: Keep moving, and never stop exploring. The most important thing for us is to put our intelligence and energy into what we are engaging with. Form and style can be less important. The concept of both of us is to create something that really makes sense.
▼Robot3成立，“3”也有三个创始人之意，Founding of Robot3, “3” represented for the three founders
from left to right: Wang Zhi, Han Dong, Pan Fei
Pan: There is not a clear division of our responsibilities. We work closely from the beginning to the end. We have got highly complementary personalities. In each stage of work, we are influenced and stimulated by each other. It is hard for people to thoroughly negate themselves. They can only receive valuable feedback from whom they can trust or appreciate and then keep progress. We try our best to explore, in each of our work steps. Our current method is to push the design forward in each of the steps, and to eventually achieve the ultimate goal in our minds. It can’t be simply defined by a drawing, or any so-called concept. I am more convinced of the ascetic approach.
As for the specific method for each project, my sensibility drives me to perceive the entry point that can be associated with people, which is like the first step of an artistic creation. Wangzhi is more sophisticated in the materialization of a design from a spiritual perspective.
Uniqueness comes from the inherent spirit of things
Pan Fei: “We will never consider about style, because it is evaluated by other people. The true power is natural and indescribable, which directly reflects the attitude and status of the creator.”
Wang Zhi: “The design can become unique only when it is unique in itself and the key is that whether you can find and express it.”
▼Robot3风格独特的作品，projects of distinguish styles
Pan: We don’t intentionally seek for styles or concepts. We present our ideas in a most primitive way. What we present is simply the result of what we actually think about. Uniqueness depends on different ideas that are substituted by individuals, which means every subjective thought can be unique. Things are right there and they never lie. The quality of a design, whether good or bad, can never be concealed or denied. This is my view on design works.
The CCTV building is located right across from the old campus of our university. I witnessed its rising, and heard people’s disputation on its appearance. However, whenever I pass this building, I will get shocked by its power. It is what matters.This kind of power, whether good or bad, comes from the architect’s spirit and cognition. It is also a symbol of the city and the era, whether you accept it or not. The CCTV building represents Koolhaas’ understanding of Beijing, or even of the world. When I see something, I say “holy s**t ”, which means I really get touched by that. We will never consider about style, because it is evaluated by other people. Did Le Corbusier consider about style when he built Chapelle de Ronchamp？Primitivism or expressionism? These are all afterthoughts. The true power is natural and indescribable, which directly reflects the attitude and status of the creator.
▼从独特的视角出发，展现项目的能量，stimulate the energy of the project from a unique view point
Wang: We strive to capture the values that are hidden behind. The design can become unique only when it is unique in itself. For each of our projects we will firstly think about the final result and then strive to make it 100% materialized. Therefore, uniqueness is just a result of our hard work. Designs have similar natures. We believe that each design has its shining point, and the key is that whether you can find and express it.
Styles, characteristics and forms are all summarized by later generations. Architects in the front-line hardly ever consider about these factors. They probably have no appetite for style issues because they are just invested in design itself. Too much consideration leads to distraction. For example, many people attempt to replicate the stories of Jobs and Ma Yun but never success. The reason is pretty simple. People sometimes put cart before the horse. You have to distinguish between what is cart and what is horse, and then devote yourself to your work.
▼从独特的视角出发，展现项目的能量，stimulate the energy of the project from a unique view point
Pan: People may think some kinds of materials are too ordinary to use, as the price depends on the value. I think it is totally wrong. Material is like the texts produced by writers, with soul and life.
Wang: Materials are physical things. They become material when used by architects. The relationship between different materials can be static or dynamic, which will finally compose a living body, with soul and life. It is not important what kind of the material is. We are always curious about how to celebrate common materials in uncommon ways. We use a pencil to draw a figure of person or a bird, while Da Vinci draws it as a work of art. Materials are same, yet people are different. What we want to do is to bring out the spirit of the material that had been formed though its thousand years of history.
Pan: All colours response to people’s act. To mobilize the colour is to mobilize yourself. You are organizing a world with your own character.
Wang: We know that colours effect people’s emotion and psychology. They can be a kind of language, a method of expressing. We don’t have a specific interest in which color. We just choose the colour that is the most suitable for our design. In addition, the colours used in domestic designs are usually quite single. We think it’s necessary to use more palettes to express the cities and the country.
Collaborate with clients to do provide best solutions
Pan Fei: “For designers, the restrictions are not entirely from the society, but more from theirselves.”
Wang: We call this project as“Metal Hut”. The outcome of our design can be quite different from what it had been conceived. We start from the project itself, and collaborate closely with our clients. The relationship we build with the clients is different from that of most designers and owners. We aim to achieve something together, just like we are partners. For the Metal Hut project, whose owner is our friend, our starting point was to increase net income and make the restaurant popular. The Metal Hut is located in Huoying of Huilongguan, in which the street is full of barbecue restaurants.It was a risk to put such a small shop in an area with fierce competition, especially with a limited budget. We used the low tables to offer a brand new experience to the restaurant to attractive people. The result was good. It became the best-selling barbecue restaurant in Huilongguan within only one month, and then the best-selling in Changping District within two months. At the end of the year, the owner found us to do the second project.
Pan: We borrow the idea from the movie Arrival but expressed a totally different thing. It was a very personal interpretation. The wormhole may indicate to the concept of a folded city. People’s living conditions can be switched in a flash when they shuttle between different urban areas. So we wonder if we can switch people into a new status by creating spaces. This is what we think is interesting. We just got our views “twisted”.
Wang: For the project of Metal Hut 2.0, we created the dark lattice walls as partitions of the dining area to ensure the privacy of each space. The design was simplified for several times to integrate function with characteristic. In the beginning, this design was not accepted by most of people, due to its uniqueness. However, a week later, the owner told us the restaurant’s sale was spectacular. Therefore, the uniqueness of the design provided an extra value for the business. We consider more about the art of narrative than conventional architectural design, which can be perceived straightly from the photos.
Pan：Our attitude to the clients is “to be honest ”. We will directly inform our clients of what we are thinking. When you truly devote yourself to something, there will be a pathway built between you and other people. For designers, the restrictions are not entirely from the society, but more from theirselves. Never be afraid to go forward. Just as my friend Han Dong said: “What are you afraid of ？”
Wang: We never set against our clients due to we actually are partners who are closely connected. To some extent, we are headstrong because we look for clients who are in the same league as us, having a desire to create valuable things. This is how we make judgements. We have refused a lot of opportunities because we felt the clients were actually not care about the project. Their only objective was to earn money. What we need is to treat a project seriously and turn it to a first-class work standing out from the crowd. When clients have the same enthusiasm as we do, we can together push the project into a new level, which will last long to make influence to people.
Contribute to urban evolution through design
Pan Fei : “Each city has its own character and feature. Respecting the history and human nature will be enough.”
Wang Zhi: “I think the most important thing for a city is its vitality. The real beauty must be different and characteristic.”
Pan: Each city has its own character and feature, while the cities can look the same. People are different. Everyone lives a different life. Regardless of any intentions, people are not in need of being “rescued”. Their way of living should not be compulsorily planned by other ones. People will naturally make their choice. Respecting the history and human nature will be enough.
The urban planning of Beijing is based on a huge domain of authority and an absolute awareness of centrality, which shows an apparent order and rule. The huge pressure stimulates a strong way that people correspond to their life. These two power combine to form a unique landscape in the world. There are many interesting things and creative ideas hidden behind. The pressure is also an origin of power, which pushes us to find a new breakthrough. At least we are able to think. We are supposed to be more relaxed and express our own energy, instead of being stuck in “Chinese styles”,“Japanese styles”,“Western styles”or “Preppy styles”. I like Beijing because there are various types people living here. It is very attractive and you will never find another city in China like that.
▼城市研究作品：爱沙尼亚-塔林艺术作品“巢”（左）/ 上海双年展 “蚁城”（右），urban study projects: Estonia-Tallinn art installation “Nest” (left) / Shanghai Biennial “Ant City” (right)
Wang: I think the most important thing for a city is its vitality. The most interesting cities around the world is also vibrant. The real beauty must be different and characteristic. So I believe more in a bottom-up way， rather than a top-down way of developing a city. I trust in personal characteristics that can light up the spark of creativity. I do not quite believe that an individual can give a plan for the entire world. When the general public show their own characteristics, their cities must become interesting, creative and full of vitality. Design relies on a collective wisdom, which may come from either an old man or a little girl. Designers are more like an assistant for exploring, but not who you have to follow with. The best city is a city whose residents have the freedom to create. It is far better than the theoretical deduction in a person’s mind.
A radical change is a result of the accumulation of subtle changes. As architects, we should contribute to the development of city in our personal ways, although our ability may be insignificant. I am confident of the future of Beijing, and believe that we can make this city better. Tens of millions of people will provide a tremendous energy to push the development in economy. In the next ten to twenty years, Beijing will become the largest innovation centre or design centre of the world. This city brings together the smartest and the most innovative persons in China. The future is undoubtedly bright as for its development in design.
▼用设计给城市增加活力，make the city more vibrant by design
Show your own ideas
Wang Zhi: “Methods and forms are less important and we are willing to leave something useful to the world, rather than to produce mediocre objects.”
Pan: We want to move forward stepwise. The society is hierarchical, and there is no need to worry about too much. The limitation of objective conditions encourages us to be bold and fast. The boundary or the rule does not actually exist. The industry is safe and regulated. It may be even easier for us to make progress in an industry that follows a stereotype routine of development. We don’t care about whether it is innovation. We just show our ideas.
Wang: Our belief relies on the quality and energy within objects. The paining of Mona Lisa is small in size, but can last forever. A building costing tens of billion may be demolished in twenty years. One of our evaluation criteria is based on a temporal dimension. We have to estimate if our design contains sufficient value and energy to last for a long time. Methods and forms are less important than expected. We are willing to leave something useful to the world, rather than to produce mediocre objects. The value and meaning of things are changing in the temporal dimension. This provides an interesting point of view for observing our design works. All we want to do is to express such energy and spirit through various types of forms, not merely through architecture and design. It is hard to say what the ultimate goal is, but we will try our best to make progress. We don’t plan too much. We just concentrate on the work at hand.
▼王植（左）和潘飞（右），Wang Zhi (left) and Pan Fei (right)