Under 35 – Zhuang Ziyu

Promote a type of content and a way of experience, helping public to know deeper and more profound content.

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26期我们采访了 德国科隆RSAA设计集团RSAA on gooood)合伙人庄子玉

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.26 introduces Zhuang Ziyu, partner of  RSAA  (RSAA on gooood)

出品人:向玲 / Producer: Xiang Ling
编辑:陈诺嘉,武晨曦,刘丹阳,张学,韦紫昭,历剑 / Editor: Chen Nuojia, Wu Chenxi, Liu Danyang, Zhang Xue, Wei Zizhao, Li Jian





The Stairway To Be An Architect 



Please tell us something about your life experience, and why you chose to study architecture.


“Architecture is a relatively comprehensive discipline, focusing more on establishing an entire cognitive model for the whole society. ”


It was accidental, yet, inevitable to choose architecture as my major and career. I liked the product design when I was in high school. However, after careful and thorough research, I found that the whole industrial design field in China was not satisfactory; nevertheless, I would have a bigger imaginary space and more development possibilities in the future if I studied architecture. Thus, I finally chose architecture. Relatively, architecture is a comprehensive discipline, focusing more on establishing an entire cognitive model for the whole society. A long time ago, I had realized the importance of enriching personal experiences, which could be relevant to my projects.



The important moments and experience during the studying and working processes.


I went to the U.K. from China during the second half of my undergraduate study. Ten years ago, the domestic architecture colleges were basically based on the Beaux-Arts teaching system; however, the design concept in the UK was extremely different from that in China. Luckily, I adapted to this context soon. Then, I completed my bachelor degree in London and studied architecture and urban design in New York, which was another challenge. Today, we would like to explore every project, even it is an installation or an interior design, from a larger urban dimension. In addition, the ways of doing things and the modes of thinking I learned from the social work when I was in the university did me a big favor when I came back to China to take part in the project processes including marketing positioning, operating and the negotiating with clients. I think, probably, these experiences have built up a stepping stone for the later improvement of the cognitive model and the determination of the design, exploration goal, and even of the development direction of the company.


“The first company where you worked would determine how your own company would work…Everything we talk about has its own source, basis and inheritance. ”


I worked at Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects in New York. César Pelli used to be the Dean at Yale, so the studio is kind of academic, while the projects we did were actually commissioned by mature developers. Some pioneering design studios conduct high-intensity practices and explorations by consuming architects’ strengths, which affects future development including recyclability and sustainability. On contrast, Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects has an average working hours between 40 to 50 hours per week (which is equal to RSAA), ensuring stronger stability for both staffs and projects. Although our clients are mainly developers, most of our projects are relatively exploratory and original. On the other hand, everything related to the project design, including the business process, the project pace, the project schedule, and the ways of negotiating with clients, is operated in a very professional mode.

▼庄子玉在西萨佩里事务所工作场景,working scene at Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects


Some people said that the first company where you worked would determine how your own company would work, and I think it is absolutely right. My experiences of working and studying in the U.K. and the U.S. have become the reference prototypes of our projects. Everything we talk about, including the extension of typology, the urban context, the construction culture, and the spatial narrative, has its own source, basis and inheritance. This inheritance comes from my supervisors Kenneth Frampton and Bernard Tschumi, my former boss César Pelli, the city I have ever experienced and the people I have ever known and met. This kind of “inheritance” is an integrated construction of all the individual experiences and cognitions; then, the architects will restore the personal cognition to the physical space, completing their own masterpiece, and definitely, there must be a certain relationship behind them.






The operation mode of RSAA


“I proposed an idea about further localization, expecting to combine with our own goals, determining the projects and contents that we want to create as well as the culture and the value that we want to deliver.”


其实我们早期在中国市场上积累了一定量的规划和城市设计项目,比如成都郫县新城规划,天津中新生态城规划等等,但这种项目很难产生落地结果和真正基于建筑内容的循环。同时也很难对团队产生长期的连贯性和成就感。所以大概在第三年的时候,我们意识到需要通过招投标去获取一些落地性很强的大型公建项目。从2012年我们中标天津四中开始,每一年我们都有大型公共项目中标 – 当时的市场还是政府层面的宏大叙事结构,注重的是规模和数量,非常标签化的形式表达。这种方式产生的项目有两个问题:第一,如果项目本身不是落地项目,它很难产生很好的社会层面的体验和反馈;第二,这种符号化的传播方式以及项目互动,很难真正产生市场层面的认知和和迭代。


Before coming to China physically, RSAA GmbH has established some project and business foundations here. For me, at that time, it was a remarkable opportunity to create a new company according to my own willings and modes.

Actually, since the early time, we have done several urban planning and design projects in Chinese market, such as the Pi Country New Town Masterplan in Chengdu, Sino-Singapore Eco-City Planning in Tianjin, and etc., but for these projects, it is hard to complete the construction phase and deliever the architectural contents. At the same time, our project team could not have a sense of achievement on the long run. As a result, during the third year around, we realized that it was necessary to strive for some practical large-scale public projects by bidding. Thus, ever since we won the bidding of Tianjin No.4 Middle School in 2012, every year, we have won the bidding of large-scale public projects. But the problem is, at that time, the market was a grand narrative structure at the government level, and its focus was the scale and the quantity, indicating a very labeling expression of the form. The projects generated under this way would lead to two problems: first, the public would not get experience we intended to create if it was not a completed project; second, it was hard for the market and the public to actually understand the project in the way that we hope.

In 2014, I proposed an idea about further localization at our annual meeting in Germany. Instead of adapting to the local market, we expect to combine with our own goals, determining the projects and contents that we want to create as well as the culture and the value that we want to deliver.

▼成都郫县新城规划草图,中国市场早期项目,sketch for Chengdu Pixian Urban Planning, early project of RSAA in China


“We expect to promote a type of content and a way of experience.”

在一个项目里,我们更多谈的是我们的特征性是什么?我们的态度是什么?它们是如何与主流市场方向以及整个社会大认知结构契合的?这些问题很抽象,但是更有利于帮助我们找到自己的位置,在市场中树立完全不同的态度。拿酒店为例,我们更愿意说酒店是一个生活方式的综合体,它的公共空间可以涵盖有共享办公的功能,它的客房又有地产属性。他的一些公共空间,可以提供一种精神性的空间体验 – 这是一种完全不同于传统类别化标签的定位。


In a project, we focus more on our identity and attitude, as well as the way they correspond to mainstream markets’ trend and the overall social cognitive structure. They are abstract, but meanwhile, will help us find our place and build up a distinct attitude to stand out from the market. Well, taking the hotel as an example, we would like to describe it as a complex of lifestyles, because its public space can host shared working space and its guest rooms can be treated as a property, kind of. In addition, some of its public spaces can provide a psychological spatial experience, which is a location that is totally different from the traditional stylized label.

In the same year, I gave a TED lecture in Chongqing University, during which I expressed some exceedingly basic appeals of the architectural design in a straightaway expression, such as the structural culture and the autonomy of the architecture, as well as the cultural inheritance and the significance of today’s content and space. For example, with the Tianjin No.4 Middle School, we talk about the educational complex, kids’ time allocations and learning processes in the space and their interaction with the space; and with the Jining Culture Center, we talk about how to realize the interaction between the commercial values and cultural values, and the reason why the relationship of the Chinese traditional space sequence is more and more like the experience of the European traditional street space, under a purer contemporary space condition. That is to say, we can talk about some theoretical architectural issues in a more creative and understandable way. Thus, we can combine these issues with commercial values and user experiences, meanwhile, get positive feedback on the communication level.

▼庄子玉TEDx演讲,Zhuang Ziyu giving a TEDx lecture


We moved our studio to a Beijing Siheyuan. Since then, we have talked about the relationship between the courtyard and its surroundings, and how it influences our experience and our understanding of the project as a spatial carrier. These attempts bring us stronger public perception progressively, and meanwhile, are reflected in our attitude towards the project and the mode of operating the project.

▼鼓楼七号院,RSAA/庄子玉工作室在四合院的办公室(点击这里查看更多),Courtyard No.7 at the Drum Tower, the office of RSAA/Büro Ziyu Zhuang in Siheyuan (click HERE to view more) ©苏圣亮

▼院落中的玻璃体块,glass volume in the courtyard

▼鼓楼7号院办公空间及多功能空间,working space and multi-functional space in the Courtyard No.7 at the Drum Tower ©苏圣亮


In fact, we don’t have any certain goals of long-term development, instead, we expect to establish our own context, culture, mode and the academic interaction with the market and the architecture field gradually through a much more international and domestic exploration based on the practical work of our company.

▼RSAA部分建成项目一览,selected constructed projects of RSAA



The role you play in the team


“The Beijing team had begun to surpass the German team in terms of the project quantity and content…maintaining the culture we have cumulated in Germany, our Beijing team will do some adjustment and iteration according to our practice in China.”

2015年开始,市场有了一个很大的转变,找到我们的业主越来越多;外资公司的标签在淡化,因为比起国籍产品自身的的特征性对业主来说变得越来越重要。2016年,集团公司意识到北京团队从项目量和内容性的创造上已经开始超越德国公司;这导致了后来我们调整后的公司运营双轨制 – 北京是产生内容的重要容器,德国科隆也是,我们不想丢掉在德国积累的经验,以及最开始和德国合伙人开公司时设立的目标,但会结合我们在中国的实践对其进行修正和迭代。

这种迭代体现在我们在内容创新上对自己的实践和改造,比如鼓楼7号院的办公体验如何改变设计者的空间认知;比如五季金陵酒店有着非常纯粹的几何形态,但是整个空间体验、漂浮的体块以及软性介质介入的方式,都是与当地文脉相关的全新语汇 – 我们在持续地迭代我们的设计产品和用户体验,不论是从内容本身上,还是从内容的产生方式上 – 这是革新的意义。

▼鼓楼7号院屋顶活动空间,activity space on the roof of Courtyard No.7 at the Drum Tower ©张辉(上),苏圣亮(中)

Since 2015, the market has experienced a significant transformation, and the most obvious thing is that we have received more and more commissions; besides, there are fewer people caring about the label of the foreign companies, for compared with the nationality, our clients care more about the identity of the project. And it was 2016 when our company realized that our Beijing team had begun to surpass the German team in terms of the project quantity and content, and that contributed to reformation and our consequent operation mode. It is a parallel mode, which means both the Beijing team and Köln (Germany) team are based on the design itself, but furthermore, by maintaining the culture we have cumulated in Germany and the very beginning goal my partner and I have set when we founded this studio, our Beijing team will do some adjustment and iteration according to our practice in China.

This iteration is reflected in our practice and transformation on the aspect of the content innovation, like the Courtyard No.7 at the Drum Tower and the Nanjing Five Seasons Jinling Hotel. In the Courtyard No.7 at the Drum Tower, we explored how the working experience could change designers’ spatial perceptions; and in the Nanjing Five Seasons Jinling Hotel, although we used a really pure geometry, things like the whole spatial experience, floating volumes, and soft intervention were all new architectural vocabulary related to the local culture. That means we are continuously iterating our design and user experience, both in terms of the content itself and the way how the content is produced,- and that is the meaning of innovation.

▼五季金陵酒店,悬浮的体块,Nanjing Five Seasons Jinling Hotel with floating volumes


我们在中国搭建了比较完善的工作机制。上海公司和德国独立团队直接跟北京公司绑定,组成人员都在北京公司工作过四年或以上,统一性非常强。另外我们还增加了一个全新的室内团队,使得我们大部分中小型公建都能够做到建筑室内设计的一体化。当然也会做一些独立的室内设计,比如现在在西安口碑很高的云顶57餐厅。我们还在做规划设计,但是量不大,基本一年做一两个重点城市重要地段的规划或城市设计,比如刚刚完成的大连市城市设计导则,还有广州CBD沥滘片区(海珠湾)城市设计 – 这些项目可以作为我们在行业内的标签,展示我们对于大型空间和城市尺度的控制力。

▼室内设计项目 – 云顶57餐厅(点击这里查看更多)
Interior Design Project – the Top of Cloud Restaurant (click HERE to view more) ©如你所见

We are talking about the culture export, and the market are focusing on the tendency of the youthfulness. I think the age of 35 is a threshold because your creativity, experience and the sensitivity to the market feedback will decrease once you are beyond this age. At present, young people are major customers, while young designers tend to have a higher sensitivity to the market. In the past, it was impossible for architects younger than 35 years old to complete a good large-scale project, while now, we can receive some commissions of large-scale projects as a design studio to accumulate experience, which is exactly an opportunity for our generation.

We have built up a relatively perfect working system in China. Both Shanghai team and the independent team in Germany have a direct connection with Beijing team, and everyone has worked in Beijing team for at least 4 years, making sure a really strong unity. In addition, we have established a new team focusing on the interior design, which integrates interior styles of most of our public projects in small and middle scales. Also, we have done some independent interior design projects, such as the Top of Cloud Restaurant, one of the most popular restaurants in Xi’an. Besides, basically, every year, we do one to two urban planning or urban design projects of strategic areas in major cities, such as newly finished Dalian Urban Design Guideline and Guangzhou Lijiao CBD Masterplan. I should say it is not a large number, but the urban projects we have done can serve as our label within the architecture field, demonstrating our ability to control over the large spaces and urban projects.

▼规划项目 – 广州沥滘CBD
Urban Planning Project – Guangzhou Lijiao CBD


There are around 30 people in our Beijing team, 6 people in Shanghai team and 4 people (who essentially belong to our Beijing team) in the German team. Every year, we can receive 2-3 large public building projects of 50,000 to 100,000 square meters, 5-8 small public building projects (for these projects, we are also responsible for the interior design), 2-3 independent interior design projects and 2-3 installation and exhibition projects. In most of these projects, we only involve in the concept design stage and post control stage.While the construction drawings, we find some others to finish them. In doing so, we can achieve a balance between the quantity and the quality of the project.

▼RSAA/庄子玉工作室项目插画合辑,illustrations of the projects by RSAA/Büro Ziyu Zhuang



The future of RSAA/ Büro Ziyu Zhuang


“I am more like a content producer, which means I have to balance my own time allocation and the total amount of projects.”




▼工作中的庄子玉,Zhuang Ziyu during work

We regard ourselves as a content company. During the past 1 to 2 years, our production capacity has been increased a lot, however, there are still numerous projects waiting for us to complete.

As an architect, it is difficult to give up any project. Imagine that there were 100 projects waiting for you, but you could only pick up 7 to 8 from them, in which you could probably only complete 2 of them finally. Such a high death rate, right? Then it comes to a thing about the balance. That is to say, in order to increase the number of projects we can finish, we need to do more projects. But the thing is that the more projects we do, the more risks and efforts there will be, indicating a limited focus on each project.

In the company structure, I think I am more like a content producer. In fact, I will check the angles of each photo and renderings, visit and research each new site, do each design stage presentation and construction stage presentation and control everything important in the project texts and expressions in person. It is not my style to intervene in the design process of the whole project, but I must finish the important phases and the final project states myself, which in turn, relates to the relationship between my own time allocation and the total amount of projects, meaning that it is impossible to just increase the production capacity. We position ourselves as a company centering on service, thus, in the next phase, we need to consider how to deal with and balance these relationships.

▼RSAA/庄子玉工作室部分作品一览,selected projects of RSAA/Büro Ziyu Zhuang






To become the “product manager” of the architecture.


“When I design a project, it is in accordance with how a product manager targets his product.”



When I design a project, operate a company, and even give lectures, I always focus on the experience and interaction, which are in accordance with how a product manager targets his product, although my product is architecture – an item with a really long life cycle.

Take the Beijing Laitai Commercial Complex that we have just won as an example. It is located at the center of the city, near the Third Ring Road, and adjacent to the US Embassy, so it is quite different from installation or a project in a second-tier city or a mountainous area. It requires us to treat this complex project with a more long-term attitude. Thus, we are expected to come up with diverse solutions combining the characteristics of the site and client’s requirements, rather, from our own initiatives.

▼北京莱太商业综合体,Beijing Laitai Commercial Complex


Even though, we can still choose projects according to our own preference. Two years ago, we did a small but widely spread project in the mountainous area in Tongling. Under this condition, we expect to maintain a correct perspective that the market puts on us, as the truth is that we don’t limit ourselves to the small non-bidding projects. Thus, in order to control the outlets to some degree, more than 90% of projects we did last year were commercial projects including schools, small public buildings, boutique hotels, academies,  and sales offices. Many of our projects are real estate-oriented. Thus, we are expected to combine the real estate requirements with the design when we do the school and hotel projects, even it is a high-end hotel such as the Banyan Tree. However, we have never done the residence projects that are truly estate-oriented, which means we still based on the market and the overall architectural environment when designing.

▼铜陵山居,山中的小建筑(点击这里查看更多),small project in Tongling (click HERE to view more) ©许挺(上),苏圣亮(下)

▼欧罗巴学校二期(点击这里查看更多),European School Campus No.II (click HERE to view more) ©Jens Willebrand


“Each product will contribute to our overall value, strengthen the diversity of our studio, as well as bring a balance during the process where architects hold a disagreement with the capital and the time.”


Last year, because of the large scale and the strong dependency of the projects towards the market, we had fewer projects built up, making us reconsider our direction this year to design some non-bidding and non-commercial projects like installations and pop-up stores besides regular projects. In this way, we can have more frequent communication with the market, making sure a higher feasibility of the project. Actually, we expect for more diverse built-up projects to respond to our various commercial goals, academic aims, and contents. From our aspects, as long as we could get a prototype related to space or material experience, it would be a completed project even though it was probably just an installation. As is known to us, the pop-up stores have a really short lifetime, which means we can launch a distinct prototype of the space experience to make up some regrets existing in the large projects due to the lack of time, which made us consider little about architectural issues like the thermal insulation and the MEP system. Each product will contribute to our overall value, strengthen the diversity of our studio, as well as bring a balance during the process where architects hold a disagreement with the capital and the time.



Architectural types and the typologies


“All of our requirements on the academic profession, the commercial projects, as well as the market and the politics, are integrated. ”





The final form of the architecture will be related to individual attitudes towards the academics and the directions that the discipline looks for.

I think it is necessary to break up some traditions, one of which is the so-called opposite relationship between clients and architects, as well as the commercial issues and academics. Actually, thanks to our unified goal, we have built up a really harmonious relationship with our clients. I expect for a product prototype, a creation of the new space form and experience since they are the foundation of our academic profession, also, the reasons why our clients give us these commissions. We talk about the re-creation of the localization that is based on typology and how the narrative that is based on Chinese culture and Chinese people’s contemporary lifestyles will influence the spatial cognition, both of which are in accordance with today’s market trend and the requirements of Chines cultural output.

All of our requirements on the academic profession, the commercial projects, as well as the market and the politics, are integrated. We keep on thinking about the entry point of the academics and the initial value. And the truth is we believe that we will succeed both commercially and academically if we focus on everyone’s experience.

This year, I taught at Tianjin University. Instead of giving conceptual projects, I gave my students some real projects we were doing, and in turn, got a series of prototypes in relation to our design contents. Fortunately, we got positive feedback from the leadership teams at Tianjin University about our teaching achievements, as well as some extra inspirations and prototypes.

▼庄子玉天津大学研究生国际实验班终期评图邀请朱小地、李兴钢、何崴等进行教学评图,final review of the teaching program in Tianjin University has invited Zhu Xiaodi, Li Xinggang, He Wei and etc.



The project scale


“Essentially, different scaled projects are not contradictory, as the destination of the experience is based on individuals.”




The scale is a relatively interesting part of the project control process. We can do some projects under the urban scale with the area of millions, which even have the ability to influence the skyline of a first-tier city. Also, we can design and build a small dwelling in the countryside, or an installation for an exhibition. Essentially, they are not contradictory, as the destination of the experience is based on individuals.

One interesting thing about our company is that we have a single team responsible for both large and small public buildings; and a more professional team responsible for the construction process. Besides, we have a single team to take charge of the urban design and installation design, as these two designs are both related to concepts, attitudes and the control towards the space form. Thus, they have similar topics and start points in spite of different scales.

We don’t define ourselves by project types, which is different from other traditional design companies, under the contemporary conditions, there will no longer be any certain type. The most obvious thing about this is that there are emerging educational complex and lifestyle complex with essentially the same origin that is the individual. Thus, even though we have an overall view when we do the urban design, we will base on the streets, contents and individual experience.

▼RSAA项目尺度跨越很大,RSAA’s projects in various scales
(左上)广州沥滘CBD,(中上)济宁文化中心 ©张辉,(右上)天津四中 ©张辉
(左下)苏州万科精品酒店,(中下)铜陵山居 ©苏圣亮,(右下)“坛城” ©苏圣亮
(up left) Guangzhou Lijiao CBD, (up middle) Jining Cultural Center, (up right) Tianjin No.4 Middle School
(lower left) the boutique hotel of Suzhou Vanke, (lower middle) Tongling Recluse, (lower right) the Cloud Maze




The operation mode of different projects


“The larger the projects, the less I involve in them. I mostly involved in some small projects with strong characteristics.”



▼铜陵山居初期概念草图,conceptional sketch of Tongling Recluse

The larger the projects, the less I involve in them, and the operation process is more commercial. When doing large-scale commercial projects, I will intervene in the project from an important entry point and combine some important contents to deal with space. This kind of intervention is quite powerful. We will communicate directly with the client about the spatial experience and feelings of the site, and then give them some referential prototypes. My team will combine these prototypes with our previous experience to produce two or three proposals, and eventually determine the final solution. We believe we can integrate the client’s demands into our ideas and therefore we usually don’t give many proposals to them.

I mostly involved in some small projects with strong characteristics, such as Tongling Recluse. Since the project was really small and fluid, it was difficult to apply any model to it. I drew sketches of the project, and the director of the project used my sketches as a guideline in the design process. The design team of the Tongling project is quite small, including only an interior designer and an architect, and I was in charge of the post design work.

▼铜陵山居建成后外观(点击这里查看更多),view of the Tongling Recluse after construction (click HERE to view more) ©苏圣亮


However, urban design is more like a short cycle and small project. The design phase usually takes only a few months. We would design with regard to content planning or urban positioning. We have some small public projects, which have a strong relationship with urban planning. For instance, the boutique hotel project we are designing for Vanke in Suzhou is more like a combination of urban design and interior design. The building is an existing building, which means we can’t change too much. The design focuses on combining urban analysis, and spatial and functional analysis altogether, and then fills them into the existing structure.

▼苏州万科精品酒店,the boutique hotel of Suzhou Vanke

广州恩宁路项目会在今年落地。项目位于老城区核心地块,规模只有几千平米,要做新型业态,设计流程和传统的不同,交互频率非常高。项目施工条件较差,没有大型机械的展开面,因此我们会对具体的节点进行特殊设计,其中涉及到很多技术层面的问题。 苏州颜家巷项目的立面材料我们采用了阳光板,不需要立面自承重,避免增加新的结构体系,很大程度上影响了成本和施工周期。

The Enning Rd project in Guangzhou will be completed this year. The site, located in the core area of the old town, with an area of only a few thousand square meters, is designed to hold new types of operations. The design process is very different from the traditional  since there are a lot of interactions during the process. The construction condition is relatively poor and we have to design the specific details of the project, which involves many technical problems. In the Yanjiaxiang project in Suzhou, we use light sun boards as the material for the facade, which avoids adding new structural system, greatly reduces the cost, and shortens the construction period.

▼恩宁路项目,the Enning Rd project


Our team is flexible and tolerant with the projects. We encountered many different problems from the city planning aspect, technical aspect, and client’s demands. Under the complex circumstances, we have to work in flexible ways to deal with these challenges.



The integration of the system


Our team as an integrator, processing the demands from Chinese clients on the one hand, and providing different ideas on the other hand. Taking Jining Cultural Center as an example, we integrated our experiences overseas with our understanding of the sequence relationship of Chinese traditions and reflected them both in the project. In this project, we have a partnership with Tianjin Urban Planning and Design Institute. We have cooperated in projects such as Tianjin No.4 Middle School project and Tianjin Cultural Center project. The corporation is very productive and complementary, as we have a better understanding of the user experience and they have more construction experience. When designing the square space, we considered it as a commercial plaza, since people need to buy things while taking a break here. We thought of the commercial plaza of the Cologne Cathedral, which not only is a religious plaza, but also serves for commercial purpose, same as San Marco Square. However, the Temple of Heaven is purely a ceremonial space. Therefore, based on people’s appeal nowadays, we integrated the square with urban commercial space, which created both cultural and commercial experiences. Architectural design highlights the space.

▼济宁文化中心,Jining Cultural Center ©张辉


The column grid Mario Botta designed for the museum are different from ours. His design would affect the architectural experience as the spatial sequence unfolds. He wanted to add a maze in front of the building, which is understandable for European architecture, but not suitable for the Chinese garden experience that Chinese people are used to. In this case, we are able to communicate with them effectively with our international experience and perspectives and convince them with a more suitable solution. We held difference ideas with Academician He. Design strategies from the last generation serve the government mostly, thus, the grand and magnificent space is more about a symbolic meaning, showing the power of the authority. The spatial experience is somewhat neglected. When we were designing the master plan, Nishizawa Ryue had an idea about a free plan building, and therefore we arrange his museum in a completely free landscape, expecting a very soft touch. The design process was a learning experience for us since all of our partners are masters of design. We, as the younger generation, want to find our place while working with them. We gained experience and learned our lessons during the process.

▼济宁文化中心鸟瞰,将不同风格的设计整合在一起,aerial view of Jining Cultural Center, integration of different design styles ©张辉



Tongling Recluse


In the beginning, we focused the spacial experience. Many people think Tongling Recluse is not traditional, because we did not plan to design a traditional building. As a renovation project, the original house is traditional and we can’t get away from it too much. In consideration of the existing condition of the building, the roof is designed with tiles, which is also the material on site. However, its spatial form is based on the thinking of typology. There is some random variation in the space, where you can find relationship between the section of the house and the façade design. These are the main focus of our design, rather than the tiles on the roof, which are additional objects to fit the building into its context.

▼铜陵山居外观(点击这里查看更多),external view of the Tongling Recluse (click HERE to view more) ©苏圣亮


We talked about the concept of cavalier perspective, where there are different focal points in the house from the east side to the west side. The building is cut off into two pieces and a central atrium in between, which creates an opening for the side entrance. In the new living room, the window is aligned with the staircase, the high window is aligned with the separate cornice, and the overhanging cornice is aligned with the mountain outside. The concept of these independent focus points is from the visual system in Chinese long-scroll landscape painting. From the point of functions, the façade represents how space is unfolding, and my instinct tells me that the façade can be stretched further by five or even ten times.

▼建筑从中间切开形成中庭,the building is cut off into two pieces, creating a central atrium in between ©苏圣亮

▼出挑的屋檐与山体对位,over-hanged roof corresponded with the environment ©苏圣亮

▼建筑室内,interior of the building ©苏圣亮



Sichuan Boutique Hotel



When I got the project of Sichuan Boutique Hotel, I saw it as an opportunity where I could further practice the cavalier perspective that I introduced in Tongling Recluse project.

Sichuan Boutique Hotel is a completely new project. We hoped to do some exploration on the roof to create a soft gray space and bring different visual and spatial experience to the series of independent spaces. Because of the round-shaped site, it is not suitable for an elongated plan. I rolled the building up, which created some folding relationships between each floor and a completely different spatial experience. Linpan is an architectural complex in western Sichuan, stating the relationship between the mountain forest, the stream, and the architecture, which is mostly small-scale buildings. As the roof is relatively off the scale, if I chose to use large-scale materials, the overall proportion would be inappropriate. Therefore, I decided to use tile for the roof material, which is smaller in scale and can balance out the big roof. In the consideration of the relationship between the building and the environment, this tiled roof fits the building more into the context. The covering area of the tiles is more than 10,000 square meters, and the scale contrast is apparent. We slightly compromised on the scale problem for this project.

▼林盘行馆鸟瞰效果图,屋顶被拉长卷起,aerial rendering of Sichuan Boutique Hotel, whose roof is rolled up

▼内部空间效果图,rendering inside the Sichuan Boutique Hotel

▼林盘行馆施工现场,construction site of Sichuan Boutique Hotel



The project management after the design phase


We follow up on the project with great efforts, but the construction schedule of the project depends on the condition and the contract of the project. Tianjin No.4 Middle School won the bid in 2012, but the construction had not been completed until last year. The Jining Cultural Center and Wuji Jinling project will be completed this year, both of which had a tight schedule at the beginning but slowed down afterward. We now still have to adjust the facade details and other things for the Wuji Jinling project. The construction team of Jinling project is excellent and therefore we don’t need to spend a lot of time on site. However, Enning Rd project is very small in scale and needs more attention for its special construction methods. We do not draw construction drawings but do review the drawings and manage the construction work on site.

▼五季金陵酒店施工现场,construction site of Nanjing Five Seasons Jinling Hotel ©张辉



New Project Reveal


Now we are doing the Beijing Hotspring School Haidian Campus project, which is an international school with an area of 90,000 square meters and enrolls students from primary school to high school. The experience we gained from the No.4 Middle School project was helpful in this project, including construction methods and the relationship between the project space and urban landscape. Jialing Riverside Art Museum and Guizhou Sunshine Academy are both small and interesting public buildings, which could be a prototype in terms of space typology. The previous uncompleted cavity church project could be used as a prototype in a Hutong pop-up store this year. How to put a church into a pop-up store is an interesting question. Even if building the same type of projects on the same site, they may turn out differently with different ways of thinking.

▼北京为明学校海淀校区,Beijing Hotspring School Haidian Campus

▼嘉陵江畔美术馆,Jialing Riverside Art Museum

▼贵州阳光书院,Guizhou Sunshine Academy

▼北京感・感CAFÉ,胡同中的快闪店,Sense CAFÉ Beijing, a pop-up shop in Hutong ©苏圣亮


We have just won the bid of Beijing Laitai Complex project, the aim of which is to upgrade the original shopping mall into a flower-themed commercial complex. The Chengdu Yuerong Village project has just finished the planning and been put into construction. Its spatial form is relatively fresh for both the operator and the resort. We are also discussing with Vanke, whose position is the urban operator in this case, about some emerging commercial projects, and the projects have been already in the scheme phase. We will also build a 25-square-meter spatial experience installation in Shanghai. In a word, the projects are very interesting and exciting this year.

▼北京莱太商业综合体项目,Beijing Laitai Commercial Complex

▼成都悦榕庄,Chengdu Banyan Tree Hotel

▼“坛城”(点击这里查看更多),the Cloud Maze (click HERE to view more)  ©张辉(上), ©苏圣亮(中/下)

▼“坛城”2.0,the Cloud Maze 2.0 ©苏圣亮(上/下左),©张辉(中/下右)






Popularity Architect


“We hope the public can get to know deeper and more profound content.”



We do have a lot of transmissions, as we attribute and deliver ideas, but we don’t talk about this topic too much. Architecture is a long-term product, which requires the public’s attention and recognition. However, if we only focus on the attention and advertising, it would lead to some misunderstanding about our team.

From the perspective of products, architects as idea spreaders, hope that more people get to experience and understand architecture, and even know the stories behind it. We are trying to find a balance in this contradiction. The idea is that the content and the traffic come together. Our team would some interactions with the media or cooperation with brands. My attitude towards it is neutral. With careful selection, we usually reject 80% of the invitations and only cooperate with brands that can relate to our content. Our goal is to add value to the building we design. Our clients come to us for design, but we want to provide not only the drawings but also the experience. Our content can bring more to their products.

▼品牌合作 – (左)戴森,(右)爱马仕走秀
Brand Collaboration – (left) dyson, (right) Hermès


The reason why I want to give lectures and do in-depth exploration of the content is to eliminate the misguidance about our team caused by the fast-moving transmission nowadays. Even though the superficial content has its own value, we do hope the public can get to know deeper and more profound content.

▼天大教学评图,final review of the teaching program in Tianjin University



Architectural Design and the Media


“We need interactions with the media that has its own attitude and manage to reach a balance.”



We should have critical thinking over everything. The media judges the architects, and the architects have their own opinions towards the media. Each media has its own position in the market. In the same way, I give up on a lot of things to stand my ground, which is essential in the long run.

As an architectural firm, we need interactions with the media that has its own attitude. In this way, the same content can be presented differently with different media and thereby serves different people, which is exactly what I want. Our firm has control over our content, so does the media. We can manage to reach a balance.



The Biggest Challenge and the Future Plans


“Everyone is trying to push his or her physical limits.”




One’s acceptance with new things decreases with age, and the feedback on different information slows down as well. How to choose and balance is the biggest challenge to me, since I have little energy to spare. The company is very important to me for it allows me to do what I can do and want to do. I am very grateful to my colleagues and partners, who have been working with me for years. We move forward together with a tacit understanding, which is a state that costs a lot to maintain.

We have a very specific aim in the academics and creativity, which is to keep moving forward. The one problem would be that whether we can seize the chance or not. There are many limitations and uncertainties with different individuals, our company, the society, and the networks, which is another big challenge that we face. Moreover, we are inevitably caught in the middle of the debate about regionalism and globalization. What decision we should make as a small design team? It’s also a challenge for us. These three challenges are contradictory and interactive with each other.

In the future, I hope that design is still our main focus, which is a very good way to interact with society and the world. Stick to what I am doing right now and it is my only plan.

▼庄子玉,Zhuang Ziyu

More: RSAA/庄子玉工作室RSAA on gooood

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