Aga Khan Program Lecture: Zhang Ke, “Rethinking Basics: From Tibet to Beijing and Beyond”
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Aga Khan Program Lecture: Zhang Ke, “Rethinking Basics: From Tibet to Beijing and Beyond”

September 16, 2019

Good evening, and welcome to
this year’s Aga Khan lecture in architecture. We’ve been fascinated here to
watch this sort of explosion over the past couple of
decades of Chinese architecture and urbanism. I just want to relate just to
give you a couple of markers, for example, in 1980 was
when Jack Portman, who’s John Portman’s son,
first moved to Hong Kong, learned Mandarin, and started
what would become the Shanghai Center Project, which opened
a decade later in 1990. That was– first of all, it
was the single most influx of foreign currency in a
building in China ever, up until that time. And it was eight years before
Zhang Ke graduated from GSD, just to keep that
marker in our hand. And then, of course, it did
sort of explode after that. 2002, the CCTV headquarters
of OMA started, wasn’t finished until 2012. And then between in 2008,
of course, with the summer Olympics in Beijing, which
I think for a lot of us became a kind of peak
in a certain way, let’s say a peak
of the playground period for Western
architects in China in some way to maybe be a
little too critical of it. But it was when these objects,
these stunningly original objects, begin to
appear in China, not to mention the building
of all the new cities. But it’s in that
context that Zhang Ke founded his studio,
ZAO/standardarchitecture, in 2001, just three years after
he graduated from the GSD. We were talking– I get to
explain that ZAO, I imagined, I kept looking up what I thought
was a Chinese pronunciation things like the morning
sun or purification, things like that because I
mispronounced it, of course. It just means Zhang
Architecture Office– Z- A- O, Zhang’s Architecture Office. [LAUGHTER] But it also, if you
pronounce it correctly, means building so it has
that kind of mystery. And Zhang’s
Architecture Office has emerged as one of the most
important, sort of protagonist offices in China among
the new generation of Chinese architects. Representing– and
I don’t quite know how to characterize this– they
seem exceedingly contemporary. There’s a kind of aura
of contemporaneity, but at the same time,
highly sensitive to locale, to material, and
also to tradition. And it’s strikingly
so, but I but I say that because I
don’t think we’re even close to theorizing
what’s happening with this generation in China. And that’s what fascinates me. So when Kenneth Frampton
comes here, as he did recently with our exhibition of
Chinese architecture, I mean, of course, there’s the
critical regionalism model, but that won’t be enough. It won’t be enough because
it’s not historical. It doesn’t accommodate this
history of these markers and this interaction
of East and West. So I think we still
have a long way to go. Ke will show us examples
tonight of the hutongs and the courtyard
transformation projects right in the city
center of Beijing, which he sort of carefully
crafts in those sites, as well as various buildings
embedded in the Tibet landscape, buildings that
both accommodate this need and this desire for tourism
and for sustainable growth, but at the same time, are deeply
respectful of their context. And it’s here that
Ke has already won a place to come
back and lecture in our Critical
Conservation Area in MDes because I look forward to seeing
those projects in that sense, too. In 2015, Ke won
the– or his office won the prestigious Aedes
Architecture Forum in Berlin, an award to receive an
exhibition, a solo exhibition, of the works of his office. His work has also been featured
in the Venice Biennale, the MAK in Vienna, the DAM in
Frankfurt, and the Victoria and Albert in London. It’s published in a number
of a number of places. And he has many honors both in
China and in the United States and in Europe, but I mentioned,
in particular, the Aga Khan Award in Architecture for 2016. He received his Masters
of Architecture, as I said, from the GSD in 1998. Ke’s here and for that, we
thank you and welcome you. Ke. Zhang Ke. [APPLAUSE] Many thanks, Michael. Actually, it’s also true that
ZAO also means to be early. [LAUGHS] That’s what I
always have problem with, so it’s another way to remind. Now I remember it. So I’m super happy
to be here today and also it’s an honor to do a
lecture as a Aga Khan lecturer. I’m going to structure
my lecture on– oh, I see Peter there,
also Peter Rowe there. And he was the one that
actually got me here, I think, as the first
[INAUDIBLE] student directly. So as three parts, I would
say one part is the Tibetans series which we did since 2007. And the second part is the back
to the center of Beijing city, the urban renewal interventions. And the third part would be
a series of more experimental beyond these two series and
some built, some are not built. I would start about the idea
that nowadays, no matter how discourses, debates,
concepts are global and ideas are extremely
global, exchange to flowing, it’s also the trends,
but at the same time, architecture remains to be a
very local practice, after all. Which means that to
build in any place, we have to draw,
in certain degree, the resources, inspirations. In some places are
stronger, some places less, but we have to deal
with the place. And if we use the resources and
the availability of resources of the place,
that’s going to gain a lot of advantage, rather than
disadvantage, for architecture. Because nowadays, images
are recycled so easily, but then the advantage of
architecture is to experience, you have to go there. That’s why I think to
utilize the resources in different locations and
cultures in an innovative way, becomes a lot of inspiration
for our buildings. How do I press OK? So I cannot see
anything on this screen, so I have to watch there. In 2007, when almost
everyone, all the architects are rushing to the city to
build for Olympic and things, partially because we don’t have
much projects to do so we went to this Tibetan plateau
and you see here, this is the Linzhi area
and then you have Bhutan about here, Afghanistan here. So we did a series of projects
in this Yarlong Tsangpo Grand Canyon region. And later, we also did a
few master plan projects at this 4,800 average
level of alley area, which I’m not going to show that part,
but mainly focusing on this. The first building we built
was this small boat terminal along the Yarlong
Tsangpo River, almost located at the entrance
of the Grand Canyon here. You can see the main
peak of the Namchabarwa. Of course, this boat
terminal is– the concept of it is very simple because
the water of the Yarlong Tsangpo River in different seasons,
it varies for eight meters. So this is like
almost the middle. So at the high point, it
goes to here and low point it goes to somewhere here. So it’s eight meters
of height difference. So to build a small
boat terminal, we have to start
with the ramp so that the dock will be able to
adjust to the different height. And then since we start
with the ramp, of course, we had this ramp going through
winding through the trees and then winding over
itself, cantilever back into the mountain where
you can see the Namchabarwa and also Gyala Peri
on the other side. We were very lucky because
we got in the beginning, I went to hiking for three days
with this [INAUDIBLE] friend, without knowing that
we’re getting this project and I was almost dead
after three days hiking, and then he said, you have
to do these projects for me. And then they said,
well, it’s very dangerous because if you don’t do it
well, you got notorious. But then he said,
if you don’t do it, somebody will ruin it anyway. So it’s kind of
a responsibility. I say, OK, let’s do it. So we see, everything
was done in about– from selecting
the site to finish for this first building,
was only 10 months. So it was extremely
a short period. In that kind of
time frame urgency, I thought it would be good to–
actually, we were designing not just one building,
we’re designing a series of building at the
same time for this alley. So I thought to
myself, it would be good to have to establish
a kind of consistency which is either material or structural
or strategic consistency that would be applied no matter how
the buildings’ function is. So of course, it’s
very natural to have this idea of the
local houses where they use just very humble
material, stone, and then wood, et cetera. So this is how this first
small boat terminal was. And you can see here there
are just three parts. One part is the waiting
room for the boat to arrive or just arrived. And then the second
part is the toilet. The third part is the part
that cantilever into the river, Yarlong Tsangpo River. And of course,
sometimes the weather goes so bad that you
have to stay overnight so that this room is for
passengers to stay overnight. On the plan, it’s very simple. It’s this ramp going over. So we found these four very
big trees and you see the plan. Actually, the plan was studied
for quite some long time until it reaches
this simple state. The stone material collected
on the site and then these very big trees, we have
to protect them in the process. And then the construction is
very, very basic, I would say. The second building is this
visitor welcoming center at the entrance of
the Grand Canyon. This was also designed
at the same time, almost the same periods, but
of course, this one was because it’s
a bigger building, the entrance of the canyon
there is this mountain. So we wanted to do something
that’s almost a landscape installation. So it has these slice of a
rectangular volume that cuts into the heel and grows out. And the fact that I took a
landscape studio here at GSD was very helpful, because
in Tibet, architecture is landscape, landscape
is also architecture. That’s also– to see it
not only as just buildings, we have to always engage the
topography and materiality and also plantation there. I wouldn’t go too much
into description of this. I know Frampton showed
it last time he was here, but it was also a
lot of spirituality deliberately designed. I called this a
stairway to heaven. You have these narrow walls and
then the sky light coming down. We’re lucky that we were
able to get one meter thick of stone masonry
walls to build only with concrete reinforcement. And this is the section that
you see the existing slope. One of the interesting
part of this building is we were able to draw
resource of the masonry workers from Shigatse which is close
to alley area, to this area, because they are famous of
building very nice masonry walls. So what we couldn’t have
designed these patterns as it is, but the good
thing is to give them the freedom of
interpretate, involve into the building process. And of course, one of
the biggest debates here was how to have
something clearly contemporary without shouting out, which I
think it’s very easy nowadays to be loud and
contemporary, but here, we want to do something
that’s more quiet. So as you know, that in Tibet,
because of all of the masonry walls, they have
to build thicker on the bottom and thinner
on the top in order to, because it’s just masonry. So here’s one of the deliberate
expression is we do it the wall deliberately
straight to show that it’s not one of these
other vernacular buildings without too much of thought. The third building
I’m showing here is Nyang River–
this visitor center, it’s along the other river that
links to the Yarlong Tsangpo. And around 2008, I
started something in my studio which is a
semi individual studio because the fact that
now, in China, I was aware that you have a lot of great
talent that come to work, but then it’s impossible to
get them anywhere in the world that you have them stay
in your office forever. So I decided to say, OK,
why don’t we speed it up? So after working in my studio
for four years, and then I set up this semi
independent studio which is [INAUDIBLE] studio
who later was recommended by me to come to GSD. Now he also was part of
the [INAUDIBLE] program a few years ago. The idea here was to
do something completely with wood structure, which the
other former two buildings was with a concrete reinforcement. And this one was taken the
structural types exactly like the old houses in Tibet–
and these are the wood beams– and to see if we
can make completely contemporary building that
nobody would doubt about it from even the first sight. You see this, the whole process
of building is very humble, but in the end, the idea
is at certain point, stone can also fly– the
weight of– And of course, this building in the
end and here now, it still remains to be one
of the illegal buildings because we cannot get approval
because it’s a totally traditional structural typology
that cannot get approved. If you don’t use
steel or concrete, you cannot get approval. Yeah, it’s one of what we called
it unauthorized buildings. The other building I’m
going to show is this one. At the same time,
we also invited a young Portuguese
office called Embaixada, because one of my
partner, Claudia, she’s Landscape from GSD,
one of my classmates, and then she’s from Portugal. So we invited them to
brainstorm for the first month, and then we came up with this
very nice idea of having– This is one of the
biggest boat terminal that it’s similar to the
other small one which is this ramp going up
and zigzag sometimes, has a waiting room, restaurant,
and parking lots winding up to the boat driver’s dormitory
and their recreational space, a little auditorium and
office, and go to the 3,000 meter for people to look back. I think this is totally
a landscape which in Tibet, of course, is
very strong of the site, but it’s also part of their
own building tradition which is what they
call [INAUDIBLE] which is like stair–
again, stair to heaven. So one of the interesting things
is, actually, all of the stone here used in this building,
we carved out of the site so we don’t have to ship a lot
of materials from elsewhere. And this is after a few
years, the rain and season start to merge the building
with the landscape. So this thing, it’s
almost like a room, like a aging effect which,
of course, we like very much. And again, clearly on
the windows and details, we refused to adopt any
kind of the typical Tibetan kind of motif, because
we had some debate. One thing I think it’s
interesting to do projects in this kind of culturally
very strong background is what I say is to look eye
to eye in the same level. Because, usually,
if you go to Tibet, there are two types
of people, of course, either you look up so
much that you admire them before even you go there and
then you say, I copy you, or you have this
condescending attitude saying, I know so much, I’m
from the advanced world. I give you something. So but then we had
to– straightforwardly, I had debate with my friend
[INAUDIBLE] and his friend [INAUDIBLE] who is Tibetan. So at some of the younger
Tibetan educated people would say, why don’t you
put the Tibetan thing here? Now I say, OK,
just wait and see. And after it’s built,
they all like it. This is more I would say a more
subtle kind of contemporaneity and the cultural relevance. This is a bus station
and art center. The art center, of
course, was proposed by us because they wanted
a big bus stop and as well as a
big tourist canteen. And then because the
level has two levels, on one level higher, this
level was the bus stop, so we have a big public
toilet and canteen under. And here, when we made
this kind of village like a street which
also resembles some of these big rocks of the hill. And because the
fact that this is one of the biggest
building in the village, we don’t want to make it
look like so intrusive. Yeah actually, when it’s
built, it works quite well. Reflections you can
see the village. And that’s the kind of
decorations that they have. The last building I want to
show in Tibet is– actually, it’s not building,
it’s this landscape. This was not a project
in the plan before. We were planning this route. Also when we drive by
and then on the back is this Namchabarwa
beautiful mountain. And this is the
Grand Canyon and then this very old mulberry
tree which the canopy is about 40 meters wide. So I talked to my
friend [INAUDIBLE], why don’t we make a
place here that people can come here to contemplate? How I persuaded
it was, maybe you can build a place that
people can get married here. They said, oh, great. That’s the idea. So that’s how they got a
budget, which is not too much. But originally,
it was very messy. The local people
cut here, dig a lot of holes here to get to earth
or stone for construction. And so what we did
was very minimal, was just cleaned it up. And then with this light
gray gravels to put it here. And then immediately,
it became a place. So in a way, this tree
and the mountain– because the cloud is always
changing in the background, if you sit there for half
an hour, it’s ever changing. One of the interesting things
is two years ago, I went there and it became one of
the most popular sites for the whole route. And then there
were people selling these gift stones and there. So I talked to one
of the ladies sitting there, the local ladies I said,
you know who designed this? And then she said, who? I said, I designed this. And she said, who cares? [LAUGHTER] It’s our place. I think that’s something that’s
great because if they feel like it’s their — it’s
been there forever, I think that’s a good
compliment, you know. I don’t think this
kind of project can come back again
because it’s a chance. So after a while, they started
to put this scarf which is worshipping the tree. It started to become some
meaning of the place. I think that’s a
very nice compliment. And the other one is at the
merge point of two rivers. They were planning to do a
vista point, which I intended to design something that’s
a vista point that moves so people can see the
movement of the two river in their movements, and then a
Tibetan tea-house underneath. So they all liked it so we
worked out all the construction documents two years
ago, but now the company already made some money. They have a lot of
bureaucracies to control us. And this building,
they calculated, is four times of their budget
so they still haven’t built it. But the idea is, maybe
at a certain point, we don’t have to
be totally limited to the idea of totally
so extremely humble, but at certain point, we can go
with stronger improvisations. And this is a
small spot also got canceled because of land
sliding after our designing, but of course, this hot spring
is natural and the idea of this is very interesting. It’s the concept of a spa, we
asked the basic question what’s the spa ever we can have? And then it’s among
our 20 schemes and this was the best answer. They said, the
best spot ever was with us being inside
our moms belly, so this kind of protection. And this is a house which we
designed on the top of one of the mountains. And it’s kind of luxurious
because whatever direction you see, you see a
snow mountain peak. So we linked these
directions, but in the end it’s the first time we start to
do these inwards rooms, that’s not just window,
it’s room that’s cantilevered in between
these two concrete walls. But in another aspect, the
idea of the Chineseness or the oriental feeling is, as
opposed to the Western idea, is more of the inwardness. Also, this didn’t get built,
but of course, this idea got continued on wards. And after seven years in
Tibet, of course, is still continue, but now
in China, the trend was all the architects start
to go to the countryside. It’s becoming more
of the new trend and a new fashionable thing. So we said, OK, it’s enough. It’s time for us to move back
to the center of the city. So we went back to
the center of the city and here we have in front of
the Forbidden City and Tienanmen Square we have this
[INAUDIBLE] area which is a historic area
and bath house area and also [INAUDIBLE] area. And on the east side, we have
our first city wall project, which was our first
project in 2001. This was when I was in
2001, when we first started, there was an international
competition of the city wall. And as you probably know,
the city wall of Beijing got demolished in
the ’50s completely. And then by 2000, they suddenly
discovered that, whoop, there’s one section that’s
still here, by chance, about 1.5 kilometer
in length which is to the south of
a railway station. They were kept because the
workers’ hut were built on top of the wall when they
were constructing the railway station. And then the competition
asked for ideas of what to do with the wall. Of course, we did studies,
surveys of the wall and life along the wall. So of course, we won the
competition unanimously from the juries because we were
the only ones said, come on, don’t do anything to the wall. But for a competition,
it’s very daring because everyone else was
proposing a steel wall, a glass wall, a water wall, laser
wall, whatever, you know. But our idea was to say the kind
of [INAUDIBLE] of the project is the wall is to show the
evidence of the history itself, rather than to fake it. And then we proposed–
this is part of the kind of urban design
approach that we learned. We were proposing
a south entry that linked for the
subway, et cetera, with the south of the
railway station which is now built not exactly as
beautiful as we designed, but more or less it’s there. And then the wall
is kept and then we had a park around it
so for the art festival and designing weeks,
and et cetera. And these trees
we surveyed them. They didn’t even have
any documentation of the trees, which I
think also benefited from my study of landscape here. I guess more if you would start
to take landscape studios. We get awareness of how
to document the trees. So it’s now quite a
popular public space. And then, in the past
four or five years, we start in these few areas. This map shows– the blue line
shows all the existing hutong area here. The red line here
shows the only thing that they decided that
that’s conservation area. And this overlap shows these red
parts are freshly demolished. If you look at the
image, it looks like being bombed
freshly last year. And of course, all
of the projects that they were
attempting would be replacing all these buildings,
either fake courtyards or building three times more
because this is the developer’s rule which is three to ones
ratio to balance your budget. And we studied, we
did about two years study of the strategy of how
to, because they always have these big messy courtyards. We were studying how to
subdivide them into a thinner slice so that it still force
form a kind of courtyard series, but then incorporating
the people who choose to stay and introducing
different programs. That’s the original idea. And then the micro
hutong was the first– it was one of the slice
that we got we realized. That’s three years ago
when we did the exhibition and also apply what
a kind of mock up. So the idea here is
to have the new– to keep all the
boundaries of the wall and these informal
additions that people built, and then to have the
new grow out of the old. And then there was
not a courtyard before so we were able
to create a new courtyard without increasing the
building area, which is still between just 35 to
40 square meters. And when it’s finished,
people immediately really like it,
especially the kids. Whenever the doors open, they
come in to occupy the space. And of course the
neighbors, also they come to see that they can
even within the height limits, within the building
area regulation, they can do build five
bedrooms with a toilet. So theoretically, this
could house two families, which is the same
area occupation as traditional residence. And here you can
see we have a real– there will be a curtain
in the future, of course. [LAUGHTER] But the new one,
it’s very advanced. We have floor heating. We have double glazing. We have operable
window skylight. And we have small windows
for natural ventilation. And it’s central air
conditioning, all hidden within this 35 square meter. You see here is where the
air conditioning coming in, with the central
air conditioning. So it’s a very humble
building, 35 square meter, but you with all the
contemporary comfort in this incorporated. Of course, I’m
going to talk later about the material we are
experimenting which is to mix Chinese ink with concrete. So it comes with
his dark gray that works more continuously with
the typical Beijing gray brick. So now we are
planning that there may be some international
architect or artist residence that
could program there that they do three
months of residence there that they can interact
with the local people to make some art, and then
there will be some exhibition. So that’s what’s planned. The other project I’m
going to show today also is this [INAUDIBLE]
micro [INAUDIBLE] children’s library and art center. As you can see here,
this is another kind of typical big messy
courtyard situation. But this char hutong is also
a more quiet hutong area and then next to it is one
of the important mosque in [INAUDIBLE] area
called [INAUDIBLE] Mosque. And we also did some
interesting study, because in the old city
of Beijing, actually, most of the local
people don’t even realize that,
traditionally, there are lots of Muslim
residence occupation from [INAUDIBLE] time. The old residents of
Beijing are mostly Muslim. And now they become
more and more discrete. They don’t show
the dress, but they are in terms of all the
religion and belief. And it’s very
interesting discovery. And even within our courtyard,
there are two families. So the idea here is I will
show the other– I will show these models, but you can
see that the idea here is the big messy courtyards– in
the beginning, it’s one family. In the ’70s, from
’50 through the ’80s, it’s subdivided into
about a dozen families. So every family start to build
a small kitchen for themselves. So you can see it
these are the kitchens and this kind of
situation exists in almost every big courtyard in Beijing. But traditionally, now
in all of the operations, they’re automatically removed
to go back to say 100 years ago. But we were trying to
test that maybe this is the most interesting
contemporary urban spacial fact that shouldn’t be forgotten. And what we can do is
maybe to introduce– there’s a few families
still living in to introduce some public program. We were negotiating
with the owner, which is the government there. And by inserting a small
Children’s Library, this was here because
this was the only space available in the beginning. And then we redesigned this
garbage pile like space into a step that a small
art gallery for children. And it started to grow. It’s a process. It’s not something
that’s designed at once. It’s been for four years. So of course, we
studied that one of the important
population in this area is children and old people. And of course, to your
design something for children always, we thought might
work, but we were not sure in the beginning because
they don’t know what to do. We were coming up with
this program proposal. But as soon as we finished
even the first phase, is immediately occupied and
then all the neighborhood kids they come and then
old people also come. So actually, this
boy with the helmet was the grandson
of Mr. [INAUDIBLE], who’s the one that take care
of our day to day operation. And this stair winding up
to these sitting platforms, it takes a lot of time to
design these small things. Sometime I compare this
to like solo playing or in a big orchestra. This is like solo play. It takes more time
for me to the design this than to design a 20,000
square meter building. And these are the test fall
for the ink added concrete. These are the bricks we are
comparing to the gradual color texture change. Here you can see some of the
pictures from inside, outside. Basically, I was
at the 10th time I was traveling around
the world and doing a lot of these
communication with the team. I see some people here who
also worked in my studio. Yeah, they really improvise
a lot into this space. Actually, during one
month ago, we were there and this was not planned. This man and he was the one
man band in the next hutong. So they were invited. He was playing for the old
people and some people, obviously, from
the outside, some of the students in
the studio, actually. But they really use it. And also, these 2/3 of this
temple space, the other one third is still
occupied by one family so we proposed this
multi-functional also dancing space. And they start to– this
is completely not planned. And you see these
pictures are taken by one of the kids themselves. We just gave them– because
they look at your– the way that they look into your eyes
is different because it’s one of the kids took the picture. Yeah, it’s really close
to the Forbidden City. Here you see the [INAUDIBLE]
tower, actually in the night. For Venice Biennale, I just
quickly show some images. We brought the idea
and then, of course, it’s all precasted into
pieces and then assemblable. So it’s a lot of
redesign because we have to be able to cut
these into six pieces and then put in the container,
consider all the opening width in order to get into
the artisanale and all these. Of course, this huge concrete
beam was hollow in the center so it’s not– And this one we use light
concrete so the weight of it is half of the
weight of concrete. And also, when you go
there you can touch it and then there’s a
smell of Chinese ink. So the space evaporates
around the installation. OK. Now goes beyond. There’s some projects,
this is a tea house we did in 2008, also
in the countryside with local sandstones. And, of course, the
roof in [INAUDIBLE] you know all the buildings
were open to the air. So we use traditional
wooden structure form, but the only request I
did to the contractor was to remove these two
columns so that it looks like this is floating there. This I always include this
project into my presentation because this was our first baby
of 2004 we first viewed it. I always say that this is
for auditorium building for a primary school,
elementary school, in Beijing in the east
side outskirts of Beijing. It was donated by one
of the developers who took part of the school’s
land for their housing. So they gave two million
to build this 500 seat auditorium, only two million. So they don’t care
what it looks like. And then the school doesn’t care
as far as they get a building. So we got this gap
of nobody cares. And we designed it in
about just two weeks. But of course, I always
say I had a lot of anger because at the time when
I just go back to China, I didn’t like a lot
of other architects because they’re either
copying, imitating big stars like REM or Zaha Hadid
or, you know, it’s copying. Or the other aspect is they are
so conservative, the old LDI group, they’re not open to any–
So there’s a degree of anger that when we first started. I guess here, the young
students also have this and when you first
started, you say, come on, I’m better than these guys, but
they get more projects than us. But the idea is,
of course, we did it’s almost a confrontation
between the old building and then there’s a plaza. And the funny thing
is, of course, when it’s finished, a
lot of people like it, but the parents don’t
let the kids going down here because they
felt like the wall would– Of course it’s not, because we
did a small structural trick. We buried another half of
concrete wall on the ground. So it’s the same length here. So it’s safe. And originally, the plan
was more zigzagging, but then after discussion, the
budget was so small that we cannot do too much of this so
we could kind of reverse it into sections. And then, of course, this
is a house, the stage, and the lobby, and
the entrance so it coincides with these
three elements. And on the plan is extremely
rational with house, stage, lobby, and then
the service space. But it’s not symmetrical so
it’s off center deliberately. Anyway, so we got lucky. The other one was
also early stage, early building which we did with
almost calligraphy Chinese ink. I always wanted to
experiment this kind of almost intuitive
movement that how this could project into architecture. But of course, to do
this is very easy, it’s like three
minutes, but then we suffered for six months
tried to realize it. But that’s how architecture
and life is about. I wouldn’t go too much into
it because this is already 10 years ago, more
than 10, 12 years ago. A tower, of course,
in here we have to show one tower I did
and this is not very tall. It’s 150 meter high. It’s just very thin. It’s a typical floor is
just 400 square meter. It’s one of these. But then, the discourse here
is about for the towers, there are so much vertical
freedom already expressed, but the horizontal kind of
freedom is not explored enough. And this is a real project. So each floor is a unit and
then 360 degrees of view and some terraces shifting. That was 2007. We got the complete [INAUDIBLE]. They start construction already
and then there was 2009 crisis and then they stopped it. Actually, if they built it, they
would have– because 2012 it went back. And the other building
was social housing which we did together with
other nine architects, five from Holland, five from
China– social housing with [INAUDIBLE] Of course,
the discourse here is to say– these are super dense. The building between each
other is just eight meters. So we say, OK, let’s build
one space for everyone. So this is theater that
could be food markets or improvisation, et cetera. So because social
theater housing. It’s only 15 square
meter per unit. But social housing doesn’t
have to be sad looking always. So that’s one of the idea. The only crazy idea we had was
about this village mountains. We did the research. This shows the
agricultural land of China. And these are the only
actually available area. And then in the Yangtze
River and Yellow River Delta, this area is the more
productive where also big cities are expanding extremely fast. So we did this research
also four years ago. And then this shows the decline
of the Chinese agricultural farmland. And per capita, Chinese
per capita farmland is the smallest
compared to the US. It’s five times bigger. Canada is more than
10 times bigger. In the past 15
years, we lost 8%– actually, that’s until 2010. Until now, I would
say 10%, which means that we lost
the ability of raising 100 million population. It’s a big thing and
big problem in China. And this was what is
going on in China. It’s the farmlands becoming like
this, buildings and buildings and expansion. So our proposal, of
course, is crazy. But the idea is not to build
it, the idea is to say, OK, come on, let’s build
villages upwards, but these are not skyscrapers
to show off power, money, but it’s something that’s
beautiful, ordinary people that they can build
their own houses. Or like this. This is New York. But can we do something that’s
not just the same typology. So each of these towers would
be say three villages, housing. And of course, there’s a lot
of digital helping with this. So 2012, we proposed
this to Milan Design Week which is showed in the
main exhibition that’s [INAUDIBLE] where
also the year before was Zaha there in the same. And they said, you’re crazy. You cannot build it. And we did it, of course. What we did, we hired
a whole Boeing 747 UPS to ship this thing there. We are crazy, yes. People really enjoyed
it, because it becomes one of the piece
that they still remember. And later, they brought
the marble city of Carrara. And then as Milan
Design Week sent back to the Beijing Design Week to
this [INAUDIBLE] way space. After this, I also conceived
the idea of the studio for one KM high habitat. So it’s not one
KM high building. There are some very
interesting student work I am not going to show here. Installation I did for design
week in Milan for Moroso 60 years anniversary. One of the interesting things of
the Western perception of China is they always want to
see explicit Chineseness. And then they call
it Water Dragon. I said, OK, but I’m
not going to show you a dragon so I call it
invisible hidden dragon. So this project’s
called Hidden Dragon. Of course we also designed
the sofa which is reverse, the sofa to sit back to back. And those I’m not– This
building is more serious. We just finished for
Swiss Novartis campus. It actually took me six years. The first three
years were almost 50% of time working on this, because
they don’t allow us to publish so it’s all almost secret. Now in June, it’s
finally inaugurated. The idea here is the kind
of organic cellular system that the perimeter
of this system is what– because one
thing I wanted to say is, in my high school, I was super
into physics and mathematics. I was never thought
to be an architect, but somehow mistakenly I’m in. But this module of system
that the basic geometry that can create those
possibility always fascinate me. So here we’re lucky. We’re probably the only
building in Novartis campus that has this crazy
network inside. But also, this became what
I started the same day with [INAUDIBLE]. Our building are
facing each other. It’s good because he has
a complete solid building. I have a complete transparent,
but inside it’s a system. The idea here is to have this
system, but not a system that’s just let the system
to work, but to have a lot of human interaction,
which is not you have a system then it’s nice. The perimeter needs a lot
of personal interaction, adjustment to make
the space interesting. Of course, this is another
kind of Chineseness idea, is totally inward
with five courtyards that winds up the stair
into a roof garden. We were very lucky because
we got great support from Terry Bell from who
worked with Frank Gehry for many years. He also hired Gehry
Technology to rationalize our curtain walls and
interior design support. We designed it until DD and then
CD was EXH, who’s half Swiss. But the movement inside
is also a landscape. So these glasses each are five
meter high, triple glazing, open joint. The larger pieces are
around 10 square meters. We went to Milan to select all
the furniture and lighting. So that that’s the
other extreme that we do besides the humble ones in
the city of Beijing and Tibet, also. The last one is my
office which was to the north of Forbidden City. We redesigned the inside so it’s
another inside out approach. And this was a picture
taken two years ago. It’s a casual picture,
but in Shanghai, we have people from Denmark,
Sweden, Italy, Puerto Rico, a girl from Germany. That’s me still
very much of anger. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] Time wise, I did OK, no? We’ll take a couple of
questions or comments for Ke. Could I maybe just
break the ice a little? Especially in the
Beijing projects, it’s implicit in the
Tibet projects, too. You talk a lot about
the way the kind of use of the buildings, the
courtyard, but even, quickly, the last projects,
the bigger projects. If you look at them, you
think they’re really, really formally and
materially highly considered, even exaggerated, let’s say. And yet, there is the social
life that clearly concerns you. And usually those things, or
often those things, diverge. Could you just say a
little bit about in terms of design process
and consideration, this concern for the
social life of the building versus the formal
and material life and how they enforce each
other, fight each other? How do you how do
you reconcile that? This is quite a sophisticated
question, of course. I will just answer it
according to what I understand. One fact is when you start to
consider the social aspect, it becomes so much into
the social statement that the design gods deemed
or got not so much inspiring. And the other side is
when you start to say, I’m designing something
new which is very common and easy nowadays– it happens
in every old city– is if you want to be new, it’s very easy. You just simply shout out. But then if you
can say, I concern, but the departure point
is social concern. But social concern also
means that the design also have to be innovative to make
this social concern valid. Otherwise, very often, you
see the kind of sad design. Or using social concern
as a selling point, but I think that that’s
not so interesting for us. So for us, it’s more
interesting to see if there’s a new typology
that we can create that other people
could be inspired and also to convince
the municipality as well as the citizens or the
neighborhood to say, oh we can actually do this. This Is the thing
that– because if you see these garbage
like situation, if you don’t realize it,
people will not be able to see. And when people don’t
see, even professionals, will not be able
to get convinced that this is a kind of
possibility that actually can work. So I think one thing
that the planning bureau, also in the end, decided to
approve both of our schemes, in the end, but they said,
these are approved officially as an experiment, not as a
pliable methodology do ever because they cannot say all the
unauthorized additions will be now officially authorized. So you have to do
a lot to realize one example to be convincing. So I guess we’re just trying. [INAUDIBLE] Hi. My question is about your
use of the word Chineseness and that’s a word
that sort of loaded. Oftentimes, Western
architects are asked to do projects
in China and it seems like anything goes,
except that sometimes they map a kind of
Western idea of what is Chinese onto the
Chinese context, like the Jin Mao
building, for example. This is SOM turning a
skyscraper into a pagoda and I find that
sort of simplistic in a kind of caricature. I’m struck by the way you
use it in your own work to sort of fight back on these
easy mappings or associations. And I’m also intrigued by the
way you work in a Chinese mode outside of China, like the
Italian projects where you can sort of redefine
the term, what does it mean to be Chinese by still,
with the very Chinese touch, I would say refused to produce
the kind of standard image of a Chinese project. So I find it really refreshing
to see the Novartis project and the Italian projects. Could you talk more
about Chineseness and this sort of transactions
between east and west and the kind of
expectations for your work and how you sort of fight them
in your more sophisticated way than the kind of easy mappings? Yes, of course. The word Chineseness exists
outside of China, of course. It’s like, I guess if
you talk to her talking to Herzog and de
Meuron, they wouldn’t be happy to talk about, oh,
the Swissness or the Dutchness of REM’s work. But I think that
how come Chineseness we have to address, but
somehow, if my attitude is, if you turn it around. But the Chineseness not as a
form, but as a sensibility, as more Oriental, more dated
back of thinking of ideas that we can draw inspiration. It’s like
contemporariness When we do buildings in
the old city, also how to do the
contemporary in a way that is more quiet
contemporariness, more subtle. So I would say the more
subtle Chineseness not as an iconal graphical way, but
it could be inspirational. For example, we have
a lot of inward space. That could also be
inspiring to the west. So I think the new time
is start to emerging that the Chineseness
is no longer recognized as the dragon played,
the red of the color. These are kitsch. So I think the new generation
and the elder generation has difference. The elder generation
probably has the pressure of to show off or even selling
the Chineseness abroad, or to say, oh, I have to
show something Chinese so that they can be able
to– for the people who never been to China will say,
the explicit Chineseness. But that’s no longer
something that interests our new generation, I believe,
the people who sit here also agree a lot with that. Hi, Maria. I know that we had this
conversation before, but it may be worth kind of
talking about it a little bit. So the question is, I am
very intrigued about the is continuity
discontinuity that you are creating in
your architecture using traditional techniques. So for example, you
allow the continuity through building that walls,
but then if you are attentive, you see that you use concrete
or this floating structures that are kind of
disrupting continuity. So is this a conversation
that is in a way interesting? And how is this happening
in the more recent projects or is it more difficult
in the project like the more recent buildings? The continuity you mean
the continuity of the– Of the knowledge
of construction. You allow that wall
to be constructed by the local people. Yeah. I think this– I talk
about this in China, we always should be aware of
the availability of the builders and contractors. So I think there will be
somehow the design of what I call tolerance. So the tolerance, the
imprecision in order to achieve the kind of
precision or visual logic. So I think that’s==I
was a curated continuity, rather than designed it. But that means that we
have to be aware of it. So I guess that’s the point. That’s an interesting question. Thank you for a lecture today. I’m just curious
about one question, maybe not really related
to today’s lecture. Like in China, there’s a lot of
newly built commercial street that building Asian
architecture still, but some people just claim that
there are fake Asian buildings. Like what’s your view point
towards those buildings that are newly built, but really
look like Asian style, but not as good as our
Asian traditional buildings? So you mean Asian or ancient? Oh, sorry. There are Asian
buildings, of course. Like older buildings. Yeah, that’s the kind of
kitsch I’m talking about, but it doesn’t only
exist in China. If you go to Europe,
you see it also, the tourist area you
see– in the US, also. So I think in China, we
just enlarged the effect to make it more drastic. Yeah, but I don’t know
what I can say about it. Thank you. Thank you. I have a question
about the landscape that you’ve been referring
to like a couple times. You said that some projects
are a landscape to solve and sometimes the architecture
also becomes the landscape. And I think that
inspires me a lot and I wonder how is that
related to the Chineseness and the Chinese culture
because as Western trained, we rarely talk about a lot about
the relation between the nature and the buildings. But I think that’s
a very inherent in a lot of the Asian
Chinese projects. And personally, I take
that as a reference back to the traditional
garden making and also the tradition
of architecture. Although in China,
we don’t necessarily have a concept of architecture
until very recent. I mean, yeah, I’m
just wondering what’s your take on the relationship
between nature and beauty and what’s your definition
of the landscape and how that could
transform into architecture? Last week we were
talking in Dubai about pushing the boundaries,
because architecture is such an ancient profession. It’s probably 3,000– Michael
probably knows better. It’s one of the most ancient
profession that still exist, but then somehow, we also
have to push the boundaries that architecture to go
over to landscape to product design to planning to interior. For me, I think even
the bath house tradition is everything is architecture,
but architecture, of course. Landscape doesn’t mean
it’s just outdoor. You mentioned the Chinese
garden, of course. It’s continuous
sequence of experience no matter if it’s
outdoor or indoor. Now it’s also the experience
of from Google Earth that’s also part of landscape
or architecture. But I really think
that the integration, the crossing boundary
of all the disciplines is necessary for architecture
to still be exciting. I was talking about
the Renaissance time that architecture was a
cutting edge technology because Michelangelo has
to build this 100 meter high one space, one dome. That’s technology. That’s rocket science, you know. So but here, we also
have the opportunity to do things, push that. I really think it’s not
just doing some buildings. Thank you, Zhang. [APPLAUSE]

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