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.50 introduces Zuo Long, founder of fabersociety
More: fabersociety on gooood
出品人：向玲 / Producer: Xiang Ling
编辑：武晨曦 / Editor: Wu Chenxi
“The character‘ZI’(梓) has the meaning of craftsman in ancient Chinese, while‘JI’(集) means gathering…There is also a sense of hometown love in this name, which refers to the studio’s long-term focusing on community…We located our office in Shenzhen for its fresh air, both in the senses of the climate and the discipline.”
The character“ZI”(梓) has the meaning of craftsman in ancient Chinese, while“JI”(集) means gathering, so ZIJI (梓集, fabersociety) is a gathering of craftsmen as the name implies. In the meantime, there is also a sense of hometown love in this name, which refers to the studio’s long-term focusing on community. The establishment of fabersociety was not an active choice, because it seemed to be the only way to go at that time. The architectural industry is too classical to provide sufficient options for us, especially for people who insist on independent thinking.
We located our office in Shenzhen for its fresh air, both in the senses of the climate and the discipline. It is independent of the conventional system and can stimulates practitioner to speak for themselves. Shenzhen also has a well-developed civil system in which the voices from the general public are abundant and independent.
▼梓集fabersociety工作室，fabersociety’s office © fabersociety
Running a studio is not the same as starting a business. We are still organized like it was a hundred years ago, and I think there is not much “creativeness”in that, since it is a work mode that has been naturally formed. Over the past five years fabersociety has kept its size of a dozen members and we still have many founding members here. It is a relatively stable sate, and it is why we like to move our office and give ourselves a toss from time to time.
every year, fabersociety updates its group photo © fabersociety
Methods and Philosophy
“We strive to give a clear expression in the simplest way, avoiding ineffectiveness and aimless work.”
The studio now has a relatively flat organization, which is also determined by its scale. Internally, we have always emphasized on efficiency. It does not mean we have to do everything fast, but rather trying to avoid ineffectiveness and aimless work. We strive to give a clear expression in the simplest way. In the meantime, the continuous output calls for pauses to do some accumulation and reflection, first and foremost, keeping everybody healthy. Every member plays an important role in our team, and the ability to think independently is critical. My colleagues are growing faster than me, which is also a huge motivation for me to keep working hard.
The projects of fabersociety are diverse in type and span a wide range of scales, and this keeps us excited daily. We do not like to repeat past work, so we actually dare not to draw any conclusion about the direction of our practice now, and we still need more accumulation and experience to balance between persistence and innovation. As for our philosophy, it is even a more difficult question that we need to spend much more time thinking about.
▼梓集部分代表作，part of the projects of fabersociety © fabersociety
Experience Before the Founding of fabersociety
“My attitude towards this profession had basically taken shape in Deshaus . The experiences that followed, including those in India, were a continuation of previous state.…The experience in India was very challenging both physically and mentally. One of the most impressive feelings at that time was the naturalness of the place.”
My attitude towards this profession had basically taken shape in Deshaus . The experiences that followed, including those in India, were a continuation of previous state, which also relates to some of my personal choices. The experience at Studio Mumbai in India was very challenging both physically and mentally. It was the first time I had been in a place without any Chinese language environment for such long time, and I was greatly impacted by some very detailed things with strong physical impression. One of the most impressive feelings at that time was the naturalness of the place: all its working environments were semi-open, with natural ventilation and light, accompanied by the sounds of birds and insects. The roof light kept changing its intensity with swing of the leaves, sometimes bright and sometimes dark. When the wind came up, the leaves fell on the metal roof, stirring up a sound of clattering. I often forgot whether I was indoors or outdoors, and there was always a sound of tapping in my ears, not the kind in a city which might make you anxious, but a pleasant beat that evoked slowness and distance.
the work environment of Studio Mumbai © fabersociety
“They had a very large yard where many 1:1 mock-ups would be built and tested, which was a very interesting way of working.”
Studio Mumbai at that time used an integrated design-build method and had only a few architects, and the other members were all well-known local craftsmen. Therefore, many of its projects, especially those in India, were basically constructed by the studio’s own craftsmen. They had a very large yard where many 1:1 mock-ups would be built and tested, which was a very interesting way of working. The intensity of the work there was so great that the only solace was the jar of Lao Gan Ma (a chilli sauce brand) in the kitchen. Perhaps fabersociety’s competitiveness is more derived from our locality. Although many of us have overseas backgrounds, once we returned to China, we forgot about Mumbai, Copenhagen, or Boston. There are times when we stand at the curbside in Shenzhen and feel like we have never left.
▼Studio Mumbai的院子，the large yard of Studio Mumbai © fabersociety
“If I had to say it’s dramatic, it might be the epic urban temperament of Shenzhen itself that painted it with a similar undertone…Several of our projects have now been demolished, and it was only after demolition that we suddenly wanted to summarize them. This was also the case in 1/3 Kiosk, which had a complete life cycle.”
This is a project that we really like. The site was the mill building of Dacheng Flour Mill in Shekou, and we found the space itself was cool enough. We decided to put the kiosk on the roof so that people could see it from the ground and be drawn through the mill building to the roof.
Several of our projects have now been demolished, and it was only after demolition that we suddenly wanted to summarize them. This was also the case in 1/3 Kiosk, which had a complete life cycle. We didn’t actually record many projects after they were completed because they were still growing and we wanted to continue to observe the process of their growth. This is also why we have done a lot of follow-up work for different projects, including documentation and modification, and sometimes relatively large changes and adjustments.
▼鸟瞰，rooftop view © fabersociety
▼改造前的磨机楼，the mill building before renovation © fabersociety
▼短暂存在的三分一宅（2015 – 2020），1/3 Kiosk as a temporary structure(2015 – 2020) © fabersociety
Entrance Renovation for Vanke Museum, Shenzhen
“It was probably the purest project we have ever done, as everything is about the space and the experience itself.”
The entire volume of the museum designed by Steven Holl was elevated in the air based on the building core, and the main exhibition hall was located in the basement. Such a spatial sequence was actually not appropriate for a headquarters-level museum, so the main design task was to reorganize the entry experience without overly affecting the well-developed campus.
▼万科总部博物馆入口空间，Entrance area of Vanke Museum, Shenzhen © fabersociety
▼场地平面图和建筑剖面，site plan & project section © fabersociety
▼入口空间内部，interior view © fabersociety
▼细部，detailed view © fabersociety
With a height difference of 6.9m between the ground and the basement level of the museum, it was difficult to create a flow in the very limited site conditions, and the traffic efficiency should be ensured first. So we tried to keep the opening in the ground as small as possible. There was an existing pool in the site which happened to have a descending slab, so we first excavated the slab into a sunken courtyard. Visitors arrive at the courtyard first, then pass through the preface hall through the stairs, and finally turn back to enter the exhibition hall via the ramp. This way, the descent from the ground level to the exhibition was delicately dissolved into a three-phase, absorbing experience. During the process, the visitors’ mentality will gradually quiet down with the dimming of light and the reduction of noise. The architecture and landscape, as well as the interior of the project were designed in an integrated manner. It was probably the purest project we have ever done, as everything is about the space and the experience itself.
▼花园和楼梯细部，garden and staircase details © fabersociety
▼水与光，water and light © fabersociety
GEEMU Resort in Yangshuo
“Intervene should not be novelty-oriented. We thought it might be more meaningful to expand on existing routine, to accept the conditions and to establish co-existence with the new.”
GEEMU Resort is a boutique hotel that explores local culture through community building and a child-friendly design, so it was a logical thing for us to conceive it as a kindergarten from the start.
One of the biggest challenges was that it was a renovation project, and the original building was a former self-built structure that could be found everywhere in the village, without any surprises. But then we rethought of it as exactly the “new normal” for the local villagers in Yangshuo, and was what they understood to be a quality way of life. Intervene should not be novelty-oriented. We thought it might be more meaningful to expand on existing routine, to accept the conditions and to establish co-existence with the new. It is also an ideal way for Yangshuo to return to its present and locality.
▼首层空间，The ground floor © fabersociety
▼空间重塑的方式，Reshaping the space © fabersociety
Another challenge was construction. We changed the construction teams for two times for various reasons, and each time with new problems. So we basically kept working on site throughout the project, sometimes carrying things and other heavy work in person. This had a great impact because we found that at times the technical drawings could have less practicability on site than a simple hand-drawn sketch. We therefore have been thinking of a way that information could be conveyed more efficiently. It might be a new method of drawing that gradually shifts from a 2D system to a 3D one.
▼中庭的演变，Evolving of Atrium © fabersociety
▼兴坪古镇新的日常，A New Normal in Xinping © fabersociety
A few keywords
“Countryside has a well-functioning system itself, which requires an intervention that not simply reconstructs a new order, but integrates into its disorderliness and reinforcement.”
We have experienced a period of introspection for countryside issues. Countryside has a well-functioning system itself, which requires an intervention that not simply reconstructs a new order, but integrates into its disorderliness and reinforcement.
In the meantime, our understanding of locality should not be restricted to the perspective of architects. In 2015, I went for a trip with Yoshiharu Tsukamoto to visit several of his projects in rural Tokyo, and there were two details that had impressed me a lot. One was a project whose span of spatial structure was completely determined by the maximum size of wood components that could be produced, processed and transported by the nearest timber manufacturer in the village. The whole construction process, from material to labor, was following the logic of its local economic. Due to the existence of the timber factory, the local residences had the same maximum span of structure, which showed a connection that distinguished itself from a simple imitation in forms.
The other case was a nursing home that had PVC facades with imitated wood grain texture. In the beginning we found it not easy to accept since it presented as a “fake” material and sounded hollow when knocked up. But later we learned that almost all the recent-built houses in that village had used such material for its durability, economy and low cost of maintenance, and therefore it was popular with the local villagers. I think this was a practice that particularly reflected the locality of a countryside.
▼左：日本乡村养老院内景；右：养老院的仿木纹立面 © fabersociety
Left: the nursing home project in rural Tokyo; Right: the facades with imitated wood grain texture
“You must first make clear and deeply understand what your social relations are. This will lead back to my previous talking about a life cycle…A project has to keep breathing after being built. We hope that each of our projects can persistently breath the air of the community where it is located.”
Sociologists have not actually reached a consensus on the accurate definition of the term “community”. Generally, community should be a fixed and identifiable human relations in society, but it exceeds the spectrum of family and consanguinity; meanwhile people within it can in turn identify themselves through community. In terms of design, this means that before you are able to strengthen the identity of yourself, you must first make clear and deeply understand what your social relations are. This will lead back to my previous talking about a life cycle. A project has to keep breathing after being built. We hope that each of our projects can persistently breath the air of the community where it is located. Some of them may seem deviated from the initial design, but if you look at it from a different perspective, you may find it in harmony with context.
▼不同状态的Lab O.C.O，Different status of Lab O.C.O © fabersociety
▼内外的延续，The continuity of inside and outside © fabersociety
Old and New
“Each “old” part carries a historical layer of a specific period. Taking the project in Nantou Old Town as an example, the village had been mussy and disordered, but it reflected a richness that resulted from the interweaving of multiple layers of historical periods and events.”
“Old and New” has always been a special concern for us, not only in the context of architecture. In fact, each “old” part carries a historical layer of a specific period. Taking the project in Nantou Old Town in Shenzhen as an example, the village had been mussy and disordered, but it reflected a richness that resulted from the interweaving of multiple layers of historical periods and events. In that project we externalized the entire reinforced pilasters to the facades and exposed them in a straightforward way. This newest layer was then placed on top of the old mosaic facades, and its structural properties were conveyed by strengthening it with a set of tapering columns.
Unlike conventional operation of repainting facades and replacing windows in many urban-village renewal projects, this approach of structural externalization essentially dissolved the building’s residential characteristics, demonstrating its potential in public use, and somehow freed up the internal walls and openings to meet new functional needs. We thought this might be another reasonable way of dealing with the old layers and the new ones.
▼深圳南头项目，改造后外观 © fabersociety
The renovation project in Nantou Old Town, Shenzhen
▼结构外化的做法是回应新旧图层的另一种方式 © fabersociety
the approach of structural externalization shows another reasonable way of dealing with the old layers and the new ones
▼模型照片和轴测图，project model and axonometric drawing © fabersociety
“One day in the future people will get tired of grand narratives and spectacles, making it important for us to learn to harvest a more efficient, richer and continuous urban experience at the level of everydayness…The essence of our profession is perhaps no longer to create a particularly striking landmark or some purely aesthetic existence, but to strike a delicate balance among multiple aspects based on complexity.”
▼改造前的创想社，Longwan Gallery before renovation © fabersociety
“Everydayness” is what we often mention in the context of renovation projects. Take the Longwan Gallery as an example, which can hardly be considered as heritage, but more like “industrial waste”. Before the renovation it was the most common physical space for daily production in Dongguan, meanwhile representing a golden era of Dongguan’s manufacturing industry. For us, the greatest value of the project was to inform people that such unattractive factory buildings still had new possibilities and ways of existence in contemporary life.
After the completion, the retail and office spaces were all leased out within a week, and because of the greenery of the adjacent municipal park, the gallery was full of residents from morning to night, which was the most encouraging result I would like to see. One day in the future people will get tired of grand narratives and spectacles, making it important for us to learn to harvest a more efficient, richer and continuous urban experience at the level of everydayness. After these years of practice, the essence of our profession is perhaps no longer to create a particularly striking landmark or some purely aesthetic existence, but to strike a delicate balance among multiple aspects based on complexity.
▼改造后的创想社，重新在日常性上发掘丰富而延续的城市体验 © fabersociety
Longwan Gallery harvest a richer and continuous urban experience at the level of everydayness
Recent plans and expectations
In the near future, we are still working mainly on small-scale commissioned projects, and occasionally competitions as a temporary break from this routine. A big project means away from “purist” thinking, and considering the intersection of more disciplines to reach a consensus. What is more important than consensus is to form the inertia of equal communication and mutual respect in this process. This is an opportunity given by the city, and it is definitely wrong to turn sideways.
▼前海城市新中心地标方案设计国际竞赛（优胜奖）Qianhai New © fabersociety
Competition proposal for the Qianhai Public Landmark (prize for excellence)
Lately we won the first place in the international design competition of Dongguan CBD Central Park, and now have entered the detailed design. In this project we tried to redefine urban landmark and establish a holistic, public cultural platform integrated into the whole landscape and park system.
▼公园中的当代艺术中心和未来馆，the contemporary art centre and future pavilion embedded in the park © fabersociety
There are several other projects looking to get off the ground this year. One is the Geemu Community, which is now expanding a second phase of restaurant and educational camp. In the process of exploring how space relates to the way children use it, our identity has somewhat shifted from architect to educator, which gives greater significance to the Geemu project. Another interesting project is the renovation of a small house located in Shantang Street in Suzhou. It has a footprint of just a few hundred square meters, but still brings us much challenge and pressure. We have to be very careful with every move due to the site’s cultural and historic significance, since Shantang itself carries rich memories of the city.
▼苏州山塘街项目：脱开已有的杂糅和混沌，新的部分更加当下，更加可“辨识” © fabersociety
Project in Shantang Street, Suzhou. The new parts become more “recognisable”, free from the mishmash and chaos of the context
A good news is that we have just won the 2nd Shenzhen Futian New Campus Competition, and with this project we would like to re-discuss what the campus boundaries may look like. Many people will regard the empty campus and stadium at night a pity. So in our imagination, if the public space of the school can be reused by residents in after hours, and this can be widely accepted by students, parents and the community, it will be a moving scene. Meanwhile, the high-density of Shenzhen is a legacy of passive urban development. While buildings embrace high-density space opportunities, they should still be soberly aware of the importance of solving the problem. We hope to find the natural experience of “low density” in high density, so that the campus has restrained space, not so full and specific.
▼深圳梅红小学项目：庭院里的树影婆娑，继续沉淀着梅林光阴 © fabersociety
Meihong Primary School in Shenzhen. The shadows of the trees in the courtyard continue to sediment with the timelessness of Meilin
“In the last few years there has been a lot of claims that architects should return to their fundamental work concentrating on buildings and construction. I agree with such arguments but recently the situation seems to be an overkill. Architects are now supposed to stop looking down on themselves, or else there will be a lack of responsibility within the scope of the whole industry.”
Speaking of planning, we actually don’t have a clear agenda, but we are always with the expectation of providing an open environment where everyone of the team could express themselves freely. We remain optimistic about the future. In the last few years there has been a lot of claims that architects should return to their fundamental work concentrating on buildings and construction. I agree with such arguments but recently the situation seems to be an overkill. Architects are now supposed to stop looking down on themselves, or else there will be a lack of responsibility within the scope of the whole industry. Apart from our own efforts, the success of each project calls on numerous social resources, which must be valued by all practitioners. This is all the more reason to occasionally step outside to better understand the dilemma we face, and to make well-intentioned judgements. Only this way will our practical action be more “appropriate” and it is also the basis for everyone to work together.
▼梓集工作室，fabersociety’s office © fabersociety