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.15 introduces Wang Yaohua, founder of PRELIMINARY RESEARCH OFFICE
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gooood x Wang Yaohua 王耀华
Exploration process in Architecture
What made you choose to study Architecture?
There is nobody studying arts in my family and I had not found my enthusiasm for architecture when I was a child. When I first went to collage, I intended to major in a subject that could be more liberal and for which I do not have to take maths lessons anymore. Although this was the reason why I chose Architecture, I found mathematics really useful after I stepped into architectural projects. Eventually I found I was good at my major and I got more and more interested in it.
Why did you transferred to Southern California Institute of Architecture when you were in collage？What was the difference between Chinese and American architecture that you realized at that time?
I found I could not fully learn what I wanted to learn at that time, maybe due to the limitations caused by the objective conditions in China. The National Museum once held an exhibition on parametric architectural design, showing some of the works by Zaha Hadid’s students, which impressed me a lot and allowed me to realize the limitations in both of my thoughts and capacity to practice. Beijing Jiaotong University provided me with steady and moderate educations but lacking in opportunities to innovate and exploit. I read a lot of books during my first two years in collage but got few chance to discuss and probe into those knowledges. There are not many schools in America that accept transfer students, and SCI-Arc is one of them. At the time when I was abroad, the number of overseas students from China was small. I didn’t plan too much but the experience of studying in China was very helpful for me to continue to receive architectural education in the United States. SCI-Arc has always been concerned with the essential of architecture, which implies a relatively free context, but in some ways assumed to be more radical and extreme.
▼在SCI-Arc的设计作业，design projects in SCI-Arc
What do you think are the respective styles and characteristics of these representative architecture schools in America?
I feel that the intersection between different schools is getting more familiar, and the boundary between west and east coast has been blurred. For example, looking at SCI-Arc 5 years ago, you might find it distinguished in the emphasis of teaching from other schools in America. Nowadays many of the GSD teachers had previously been teaching in SCI-Arc.The communication and exchange of ideas between universities are quite frequent.
▼王耀华在GSD的毕设评图，final review in GSD
▼王耀华在USC授课，teaching in USC
From DIAGRAM to DRAWING
In these years, what are the changes in the focus of architectural fields in America?
The thinking that architecture is cultural practice is now widely accepted in America. In contrast, 5 to 10 years ago, architecture was more regarded as economic or political practice, for which the designers were supposed to draw analytical charts to evaluate factors like density, economy and income, and then to conceive what the architecture should be like. When architecture is treated as a cultural issue, the designers will pay more attention to the metaphor and irony that architecture contains. However, it’s still hard to say whether the cognition of architecture will revert to its original connotation.
The turning point can be reflected on what people are talking about. Comparing with ‘diagram’, architects now focus more on ‘drawing’ , which ultimately refer to the architectural form rather than its conceptual process. In addition, you can obviously feel this kind of change through the issues discussed in biennials, magazines and journals.
▼凸起的墙壁（2015）关注drawing，Bulging Walls (2015) focused on drawing
Then is it appropriate to say that your stylized design approach and its combination with rationalism is a response to the mainstream of design in current time?
In the academic circle of America, people engage less in a stylized design approach but more interested in history – either of architecture or humanistic society. It seems difficult to do design in America without referencing to history and real cases. 5 or 10 years ago, everybody was thinking about doing something new and breaking away from history, which is totally different from now. As for me, I prefer to try things that people have not done, and like to do design in a more personalized way. But through these years my understanding of architecture has been changed, and my practice become quite different from 5 years ago. The style and tendency of architecture is constantly changing that every 3 or 4 years a new style is generated. What is different is that in 1980s and 1990s, the new trends of thought like deconstructionism and postmodernism were all practiced for 10 to 25 years before they were established and accepted. For now, new ideas might have disappeared before they got the opportunities to be practiced, for example, Neo-Pomo, a trend that has been popular for 2 or 3 years, still staying at a theoretical level with few real outcomes. It will possibly disappear in just one or two years. What I want to say is that it is not a good choice to follow suit, because the life span of a new trend becomes shorter and shorter. In the meantime you need to keep participating in those discussions because they do make sense, and it is necessary to think about how to find balance the trend-oriented objects with a long-term vision.
▼风格化设计 – 功能紊乱的家庭场景，stylized design – Dysfunctional Family Scene
Exporation in FORM
Both of your undergraduate and postgraduate projects suggested the wisdom of revolting against the hegemonism in a roundabout way. Will you relate your thinking on form to political and economic aspects now?
Politics and economy are only a part of the ideas in the two graduate projects of mine. They also probed into the form of architecture, and how the form reacts to varied conditions of politics and economy. In my design, I will deal with these questions separately because it’s too tough to figure out everything at the same time.You have to be concentrated on one problem, and go on to the next one when the first one has been solved. And only when you are clear about both issues that you could combine them together.
▼The Salvaged Stadium – 王耀华在GSD的毕设作品，体现对政治的迂回应对（点击这里查看更多）The Salvaged Stadium – graduation project in GSD, revolt against the hegemonism in a roundabout way
What is your opinion about form? In which level can form interest you?
I currently prefer to engaging with the form that is relatively simple. In the first half of 2017, we did some studies related to the projection method, trying to dig some laws and principles of perspective from a series of still life paintings by Giorgio Morandi and then to make a discussion on what form is. For now I pay my attention back to some other aspects. Recently we are preparing for an exhibition that will include 4 to 5 large-scale models. I had not been doing stylized designs for a period of time since I graduated from university, but I have got some new ideas from the rational studies. I could use them to review my previous works to see how they could integrate with stylized approaches.
▼从绘画中寻找透视法则，并用到形式探讨之中，explore principals of perspective in paintings and apply them in form discussions
The projects you did after graduation seemed hardly to have any practical significance. What do you think of becoming idealism after doing practical projects that fit into society?
We need to have a long-term vision on the practical significance of architectural studies. The research we did for a project may not attract the clients in the beginning, but it will contribute to the result in a circle of time. Sometimes the goals should not be too clear, or it will restrict your vision. It is necessary to do something aimlessly, which may lead to unexpected gains. Personally, I’m more enthusiastic about academic subjects that exist only in ideology and theory without any necessary practical significance, for example, to explore the relationship between an circle and a straight line. These subjects can bring various conjectures, and I think this is the most meaningful part for me, rather than to know how practical it can be.
▼Yeouinaru Terminal – 韩国竞赛项目，将投影研究运用在设计中，Yeouinaru Terminal – competition project in South Korea, applying projection study in design
In Object Study, you showed interest in the transformation of geometric prototypes basing on specific rules. Is your design more process-oriented or purpose-oriented? What do you think of motility and time?
As I mentioned, everything makes sense as long as it makes you happy. The process of research provides me with an intellectual pleasure, from which I may find something that I didn’t know before, whether from the point of view on result or process. Result and process are equally important. You are supposed to learn something from both the process and result. Improve yourself and this is what research or design matters.
Motility is significant for our design because we want do explore the relationship between geometric laws and objects. This kind of relationship can not be presented in a static situation but in a dynamic perspective, in which timeliness reveals the link and logic hidden behind the appearance.
▼投影及偏移研究，projection and offset study
Descriptive Geometry is a professional course you teach for graduate students, and you also showed your interest in the projection method in Object Study. With the development of 3D modeling software, the perception of architectural space is more based on digital models, so what are the architectural meanings of studying these two subjects?
▼画法几何在历史上是一种通过二维表达三维物体的设计方法，descriptive geometry was a way to describe a 3d object by 2d media for architects in history
Descriptive geometry was historically used as a method in architectural design, which greatly influenced people’s thinking and understanding of design. Usually we tend to talk about the development of architecture history from the perspective of humanity or sociology, but in fact it is supported by scientific technology. Descriptive Geometry at that time was a kind of “secret technology”, helping architects to describe a complex three-dimensional space through a two-dimensional medium. This technique can lead you to a certain understanding of space. For example, building a church involves not only religious, social and economic aspects, but also the design methods used behind. I study descriptive geometry in order to interpret the history from a new perspective.
When there was no Rhino, no Maya and no three-dimensional modeling software, you must present the three-dimensional objects by two-dimensional medias unless you make a model by hand. The characteristic of an architect’s profession is that your personal idea and the final construction process are out of touch. We are not the ones who build. Therefore, we must use two-dimensional tools to describe and express the three-dimensional objects. In current time we can build 3D models directly on the computer without being confined within a single plane. This will change the meaning of descriptive geometry. Descriptive geometry once was the only design method in the past which now has become a kind of historical heritage. Generally it turns weak in technological aspect but much stronger in a cultural category. You need to use it more as a cultural heritage to understand its historical development and its influence on spatial concept at that time. It will not bring rapid progress in design skills but will contribute to your thinking.
另一方面，它是一种解译，把你的想法或者对于空间的构建解译到另一种媒介里。只要有解译，就会有对于解译的误读。之前画法几何关注于怎样尽可能精确地去解译，现在因为我们已经不需要依赖画法几何做设计了，所以我们会更加关注怎样把转译过程中的谬误当做一种对设计有意义的东西来看待。比如三维打印作为一种科技，它刚出来的时候人们会希望三维打印的结果跟电脑里面的三维模型越吻合，越精确越好。但是后来很多建筑师开始思考三维打印作为一种产出手段其本身的逻辑。三维打印是一层一层打出来的，但电脑里面的模型并不是一层一层建出来的，那么两者在解译的过程当中会有什么样的偏差？这个偏差又会带来什么有意思的结果？这种“lost in translation”的过程中往往会有一些有意思的东西展现出来。在一个韩国的竞标项目里，我在一系列物体之间用两个单点透视从不同方向去对同一物体做投影，投影后两者之间会产生交集，而这种交集的结果是之前单个物体所没有的，它具有自身的几何特点。
Moreover, descriptive geometry is like an interpreter that can interpret your idea of space shaping into another type of media. As long as there are interpretations, there will be misinterpretations at the same time. In the past, descriptive geometry focused on accuracy, but now it is more meaningful and interesting to utilize the mistakes occur in the process of interpreting since we don’t need to rely on descriptive geometry to do design. For example, when three-dimensional printing came out as a technology, people expected to receive an accurate physical model that is perfectly produced as what it looks like on computer. But later many architects began to treat 3D printing as a means of production itself. The 3D printing model is produced layer by layer, while the digital model is created in a different way. What kind of deviation will emerge from the process of interpretation? Will the deviation lead to any interesting results? This kind of “lost in translation” will finally bring valuable findings for your design. In one of my competition projects, which is located in South Korea, I used two single-point perspectives to project the same object in different directions, and then the intersection between these two projections was generated. This kind of intersection has its own geometric characteristics and is different from any other cases that had been done with only one perspective .
▼韩国竞赛，采用投影法生成形体，generate architecture by projections in a competition in South Korea
Start a career in America
What chance or challenge would you face when start a career in America as a Chinese?
As a Chinese, there would be both chance and challenge to start a career in America. The chance is that you have the huge market of China, which makes it possible for you to do things that Americans at the same age could not. In America, there are some fixed rules on what you could do on a certain age. You may only do some small projects like installations on your 30s. When you reach your 40s, you could take small residential works and you could only engage to do large scale projects after you are 50. Of course things would be different if you work in a large company but it is common that most American architects have no chance to do large projects in their 30s. The result is that they have more spare time to think of some “useless” academic problems which I think are very important for the progression of architecture. In my situation, I am trying to jump out of this “age barrier” by participating some large projects in China. However, I still agree that small scale problems, including material and construction, are important to the progress of ideology in architecture. One might fall into an endless loop of building up connections and making more money for the company if his mind is filled up with real projects. I don’t want myself to be a slave of real projects so that I am trying to slow down to think more about where I will go in 5 or 10 years. What seems useless in the current stage may show its value in the long term. It is important to find balance between running a company and doing some experimental projects.
I don’ t want to always be the one to react to problems when they occurred. We should do some research and collect some ideas beforehand. What’s more, the focal points of practical projects and research are different and they would supplement each other. Take grid as example, it has very concrete regulations in different countries like the number of cars that could be placed between the columns is specified in China. On the other hand, grid is a very ontological problem in architecture. You will not think of the practical value of grid if you have no experience in real projects. Though you will pay no attention to the architectural meaning of grid if you only focus on practical works. When you combine the two aspects together, you could see basic architectural problems from a different angle.
▼吴淞城市规划，有机会参与大尺度项目，Wusong Master Plan, have chance to participate in large-scale projects
How do you get your architectural projects? What kind of projects are you engaging with?
We have engaged with some domestic projects but embarrassingly none of them has yet been built. The project in Huzhou should be the closest to completion. We have also participated in various competitions, including some planning competitions like the transformation of the old Baogang Factory, and the proposals for Fashion School of Zhejiang Sci-Tech University, aquarium project in Qingdao and some projects in Souel. In the past we tried to capture every opportunity to practice, but now we start to pick the projects.
We also have several ongoing projects in America, whose scales are relatively small, including a swimming pool project and two houses in northern California. Despite the small scale, these are all interesting projects that can provide some conceptual ideas for design.
How do you spend your day? What are the plans for your future? What are your expectations for the future development of PRO?
I probably get up at 6 or 7 in the morning and go to my office after breakfast. Morning time is very important for me because I need to be at school on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon. I always keep early hours, even during my school life. I’m used to planing things well and never put thing off to the deadline.
At present, I want to take care of my own design works, and then continue to do research that I find interesting. I will also participate in different projects if I have enough opportunity and time. In fact, when I was in New York, I didn’t think about moving to Los Angeles. So it is hard to say what it will be like in the future? For me, Los Angeles has more spaces and lower cost of living. I can have a bigger office here and do a lot of things that I could not do in New York. At the same time, the academic atmosphere in Los Angeles is quite good.
▼王耀华在洛杉矶的办公室，实践和研究并行，Wang Yaohua’s office in Los Angeles, doing practice and research at the same time
When I first moved to Los Angeles, I devoted myself to expanding the scale of my company. I expected to go as fast as possible. However, just one year later I felt I was under too much pressure so that we have deliberately slowed down a lot during the past six months. As the company becoming smaller, the cost of management and time have all been reduced and thus we now have enough time to concern about something that can work in the future.
▼正在接受采访的王耀华，Wang Yaohua during interview