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Discovering the spirit of China Travelling from West to East through the work of Wang Shu

Discovering the spirit of China

Travelling from West to East through the work of Wang Shu

Alexandridi Mirsini_Takopoulos Michalis

fig.1 : West Lake Hangzhou

Special thanks to professor Tasis Papaioannou, supervisor of this university theoritical research project, Mr. Sotiris Chalikias and Mr. Stavros Martinos, for their valuable advice. We would also like to thank Mme Christine Estève , professor of ENSAM and Mme Françoise Ged, director of the Contemporary Chinese Architecture Observatory in Paris, for their help and support.

_table of contents

preface 1.






introduction 1.1 synopsis


1.2 methodology


1.3 experiences from our trip to China


approaching the contemporary architectural ideology 2.1 China, the transformation


2.2 living at a frantic pace


2.3 the “painful� past


2.4 identity crisis


2.5 China, the country of contradictions


2.6 the architectural reality in China


approaching a different culture 3.1 a reflection on Western Thought


3.2 China as a heterotopia


China as a place 4.1 approaching the characteristics of the place


4.2 landscape through Chinese painting


4.3 observation


acknowledgement comes from the West



Xiagshan University campus, Hangzhou 6.1 the city


6.2 natural and artificial landscape


6.3 first phase


6.4 second phase


6.4.1 school of architecture




6.5 architecture through Chinese painting


6.6 third phase


Huamao Art Museum , Ningbo 7.1 the museum


7.2 creating an artificial world_the garden


7.3 traditional Chinese patterns


Ningbo History Museum 8.1 around the museum


8.2 the building


8.2.1 the entrance


8.2.2 navigating the interior


8.2.3 an answer to the surrounding environment


8.3 invoking the past








fig.2: detail from ningbo museum


The reason behind this lecture was our trip to China in December 2012. In that trip, we came in contact with a different culture and we had a first-hand look into the radical changes that are taking place in this distant country. The example of China, the country that would sacrifice anything in the name of modernization, seemed to be the perfect example for us to reflect on with the terms of regionalism, modern architecture and reference to tradition. That reflection is the main idea in our research project.


“Whoever escapes from tradition becames a victim of exception, whoever remains loyal to tradition becomes its slave. In both cases he is driven to the loss.” F. Nietzsche


China, a country of a population twice as big as Europe’s, has come to the forefront of the world stage. Everyone mentions China’s example, its great financial power and the rapid developments during the last 30 years. However, how is it possible to appreciate the resources and values associated with the place? Which concepts are redefined and for which citizens? During the last three decades, China has been turned into an example of “rapid urbanization”, the results of which are made visible through the violent changes of the landscape, cities and infrastructure. Despite the immense economic growth, the most populated country in the world has been showing signs of a cultural identity crisis. The widespread distress for the lack of a local idiom, leads architects to imitate Western models. The prevailing situation is an amalgam of a Soviet heritage, which is a remnant of the previous political situation, mixed with the modern Western idiom and the stereotypes and prejudices that make up the modern “chinesity”. Architecture is evolving into a mechanism of profit and image. It is employed by rampant capitalism that devours every shred of free land in the name of economic growth. In all big cities, high-rise buildings are repeated with almost identical materials and methods of construction, while tradition is detected only as an image for the sake of tourism, as scattered Chinese symbolism or as remnants of a previous situation which will sooner or later disappear. The Chinese metropolis is constantly developing around contrasts; contrasts between small and large, low and high, traditional and modern, destitute and luxurious, fig.3: detail of the facade of Ningbo History Museum

shadow and light, silence and deafening noise. On the one hand, the excessive xenomania inside the country which prevails and can be summarized in the phrase “what is foreign is modern” and on the other, the emergence of small-scale offices which use a method more adaptable to the place and try to transfer the spirit of the past to the present. The awarding of the Pritzker Prize to the obscure Chinese architect Wang Shu brought the issue of the connection of modern architecture with tradition and the place back to the surface. Our trip to China was the reason, while this award was the beginning of our reflection, from which arises the fundamental question of our thesis. Is there a criticism of traditional Chinese architecture? How does Wang Shu use history, tradition and the characteristics of the place in his work? Visiting the architect’s works and our experience with space leads us to try and give answers to these questions. However, approaching such a distant and different culture with Western eyes entails risks. Which “Chinese” place are we called to discover, what is its story and what is the philosophy of the people who live and build it? Throughout this process, we are faced with the East – West deichotomy, which exaggerates the differences and conceals the similarities. What happens though when the barrier of distance is finally refuted and we stand in front of the architectural work? When finally the dichotomy weakens and we are overwhelmed by the sense of the unfamiliar and the familiar simultaneously, then nothing else matters but our own senses. 11


In order to answer the questions we posed, we follow a spesific structure. In the first phase, we attempt to present China’s current reality and the reason which brought this country to the world stage. Then, realizing how difficult is to approach another culture as chinese, we try to understand the main characteristics of this place. This process leads us to study and present Wang Shu’s example through three distinctive works.

fig .4: Huamao Art Museum at Ningbo


_Impressions from our trip to China

_at first glance As soon as you arrive in China, you realize that nothing will be the same. The eyes of the crowd around you that stare at you, tell you that you are different. Shanghai, one of the largest cities in China and the most westernized, is the smoothest ‘’landing’’ in Chinese territory for a European. However, this does not guarantee that it will be easy for every foreigner to adapt. Everything happens so fast and everything is so huge. Shanghai is a vibrant city full of contrasts, noise and scents. It is characterized as a multicultural city and as the “New York of the East”. But there is a big difference between Shanghai and New York: Here the population is clearly divided between the Chinese and the foreigners. They look like two different parallel lines, which tend to converge to a vanishing point so far away. In this city, foreigners represent the West while the locals represent the East. Shanghai has survived and grown exactly from within this contrast for the last century. Nowadays this contradiction is growing and growing. Western people are arriving from every part of the world to work in China. At the same time, the Chinese are ready to accept them because they believe that they have so much to gain from the West.

_unexpected surprises Walking around the city, the size and the scale makes one feel tiny. The high-rise buildings, the huge construction sites and the densely packed crowd forces one to feel the urge to run to catch up with the city’s pace. If you turn your head to the sky, you can see the series of repeating floors of a typical 90-meter building. On the other hand, on the ground, you can meet the traditional Chinese street food, street vendors and small Chinese restaurants. Shanghai is a city where in the same street, you can cross an expensive restaurant, a street barber, a luxurious villa


and the traditional neighborhoods of Lilong. The city is changing and everyone wants to take advantage of it. The first impression is that Shanghai looks like a modern global city that has left the past behind. The ventilators of the restaurants and the street food, however, help you understand that you have to use all your senses to feel where you are. The strong smell of the food follows you everywhere. The sound of cars, the frequent fights among the Chinese citizens of Shanghai and the fireworks for the celebration of a new apartment sensitize your hearing. Your sight may see a city ready to welcome anything western but all the other senses push you towards believing the exact opposite. The space of Chinese megacities is constantly developing through contradictions. Contradictions between the small and the large, the low and the high, the traditional and the modern, the shadow and the light, the silence and the noise. These contrasts are characteristics of Chinese cities, most of which suffer from an inner pathogenesis which is based on the domination of the large-scale and the absence of moderation that relates to the Chinese tradition.

_welcome foreigneners We felt welcome in Shanghai. The Chinese feel the need to approach us, speak with us, even if Westerners are a very common sight in Shanghai. Walking in early December in the renovated and decorated for Christmas Xintiandi, one of the few preserved traditional urban districts of Shanghai, we felt welcome and at home in this strange city. However, we also felt a sense of compassion and sorrow for the Chinese tradition that is being lost and when a Chinese Santa Claus smiled at us, we nodded happily, forgetting our thoughts and staring at the Christmas lights and the fake trees.

fig.5: sketch from Shanghai


_Approaching the contemporary architectural “ideology�

_China, the transformation In the delirium of a globalized culture and an economy strong as ever how is it possible to evaluate the traditions and values associated with this place? Which concepts are redefined and for which residents? What are the new forms of buildings containing human activities? How is the development of cities organized? What is the relationship between the people living in the city and those who plan and finance it?





fig.6 : the levels of Shanghai

fig.7: Shanghai 1995

fig.8: Shanghai 2010


_living at a frantic pace

China has become an example of “rapid urbanization” the results of which can be deduced by the violent change of landscapes, cities and infrastructure. In Beijing 1, Shanghai, in all major Chinese cities, there is a peculiar capitalism. Many call it a “red” capitalism and interpret it as an early communist capitalism, attributing its beginnings to the Chinese party state itself and blaming it for the sharpening of social inequality. Of the 1.3 billion people living there and despite the limitations of internal migration that are already being applied, some 400 to 500 billion people have migrated to the new Chinese cities. The modern way of life promises comfortable living and consumption of every kind of product and attracts rural residents urging them to abandon their small rural settlements and their age-old occupation with the land and accumulate by the thousands in cities. “One way to deal with an unfulfilled life is to buy more and more stuff,” says Noam Chomsky. The giants that stand next to one another become symbols of wealth and superiority.


The boom of Europe in the 19th and 20th century now comes to China, but it is twice as fast and at a much larger scale, leading to huge problems. The negative effects of all this mindless growth have already begun to appear. High-rise buildings in downtown Shanghai constructed twenty years ago are already considered old. The cheap materials of the facades and the interior, the lack of central heating and proper insulation create the impression that the building is at least half a century old, although it was manufactured after 1990. Buildings that were actually created to solve the housing problem were constructed under the worst conditions with easy profit as the aim. Because of their ease of sale, there was no concern about the quality of construction, only quantity – produced in the shortest amount of time possible. 2

fig.9: a big contrast between old houses and new skyscrapers


_the “painful” past

_identity crisis

Up to 1949 China’s economy was based on agriculture and its architecture was practical, serving the needs of rural life. The birth of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 did not simplify things and did not contribute to the regeneration of Chinese architecture. The needs of the state were now different and its influences came from elsewhere. China’s shift to the industrial sector, nearly half a century after the development of industry in Europe, signaled the need to develop an architecture that would be compatible with the new standards in order to accommodate the new role of China as a an industrial country. A kind of architecture that could serve the needs of the production process had already been implemented in Europe several decades before and therefore it was an easy solution to transfer this kind of architecture to China in order to achieve the same purpose. Τhe still unclear image of the new China as well as the great capabilities of a country that had already exceeded one billion in population led the architectural process into becoming a mechanism for profit and aesthetics. It is at the service of a frenzied capitalism that devours every shred of free land in the name of economic growth. In all the major cities, high-rise buildings are repeated with almost identical materials and methods of construction. Urban planning rules are applied in terms of distances and coverage of land in order to ensure ventilation, insolation and free land. However the end result is a mass of colorless buildings, which do not give the impression of being a product of collective thought. 3

China is suffering from a cultural identity crisis and this widespread anxiety about the lack of identity causes architects to mimic that which is new. This is confirmed above and beyond by the “imitation” of Dutch cities designed with windmills, English towns in the style of Tudor, Italian cities with squares and canals and country districts in neoclassical style. The reality is that the investors and customers themselves seek such images overwhelmed by an excessive xenomania summarized by the phrase “what is foreign is modern.” Very often, a building must be sold before its completion. Therefore it’s not the ground plans and construction details that are the most important elements of the project, but the three-dimensional image of the building with lights, colorful fountains, exotic trees that accompany the buildings, always according to the taste of each client. The result is the mass production and copying of Western models in buildings designed to house an operation as soon as possible. The purpose is not to highlight the personal style of each architectural office, but the creation of a building that enhances the feeling of belonging to a “modern world”. Inlays and columns are repeated without any sense of scale and proportions. Entire new conurbations are designed in the shape of a butterfly, a dragon or in the style of traditional Spanish houses or Greek islands.

fig.10 : house block in Shanghai 20

fig.11_ collage of architectural styles 21

_China _ the country of contradictions

The area of the city is continuously growing around contrasts. Contrasts between small and large, low and high, traditional and modern, destitute and luxurious, shadow and light and silence and deafening noise. These contrasts are characteristic of Chinese cities, most of which suffer from a tendency to be dominated by the large scale and a loss of moderation, leading to enormous social and economic inequalities. fig.12 : the inside of a complex


fig. 13

fig. 14

fig. 15

fig. 16

fig. 17

fig. 18

fig. 19

fig. 20 23

_the architectural reality in China

From 2001 onwards, China has been transformed into the reality of the 21st century, a reality in which every problem is multiplied tenfold, where human values and ideals are violated in the name of profit and economic supremacy. In such a reality, how does the process of architecture develop? In the last decade, large American and European architectural firms have begun to make their appearance in the growing cities of the Chinese state. Regardless of their place of origin, all these agencies share a common trait, and that is their structure in terms of number of employees and the various technical professions they include, which makes them largely resemble the Chinese institutes4 that retained the monopoly up until a few years ago. The question that emerges however is, what is the role of the new Chinese architects in this architectural wave that hails from the West and what is their response to the previous architectural state of affairs in their country? In recent years, a new generation of Chinese designers have come to the fore who, acting independently and settling up their own small offices, try to explore the architectural reality of China, with supplies that differ from the outdated Western models of the previous decade. They act driven by their travels and studies abroad and attempt to envision their own Chinese future. This is the first generation of Chinese architects who create their own architectural vocabulary, influenced by the West, but free from imitation and copying.


fig.21: Museum of handcraft paper- TAO architects

fig.22: Τelevision Center - M.A.D.A spam

fig.23:Dafen Art Museum - Urbanus Architects

fig. 24: Three courtyard community center- Zhang Lei architect

fig. 25: Maritime safity administration building - Atelier Deshaus

fig.26: Bridge School - Atelier Li Xiaodong



1. Until 1978 Beijing was a city of 50 square kilometers with a maximum of two to three floors per building. The new city was built following the standards of former socialist countries of Eastern Europe. Wide streets and large squares in conjunction with the hutong neighborhoods form the new city structure. Since November 2003, a sprawling network of roads and major transportation arteries crosses the city, which then reached 600 square kilometers, while at the same time six expressway rings encircle it in an attempt to vent the suffocating congestion. Old villages, far away from Beijing 30 years ago, are now an incorporated part of the city and have been turned into skyscrapers in order to house businesses and to meet the housing needs of their employees. Major multinational companies make their appearance here too, declaring that nowadays, borders have been abolished and even cultures of ancient civilizations like China do not find fertile ground to maintain themselves and grow, so they end up lost in the powerful international standards. 2. The difficulty in finding housing and employment, transportation and catering through continuously developing road networks that are however unable to reverse the daily traffic jams, the lack of irrigation and drinking water and the inability to manage the excessive quantities of waste and are just some of them. The issues at stake are beyond the competence of one person; urban planners, economists, architects and sociologists pose broader questions of an architectural and urban planning interest. The attempts to satisfy the need for densification of the land, the struggle against poverty and unsanitary housing, the protection of ecosystems and the reduction of pollution, the methods of strategic transportation and traffic into the cities and the appreciation and preservation of the cultural heritage are some of these questions. However, every architectural and urban project is directly connected with politics, culture and ethics that are unique and different for every place. As far as the projects that are underway in China are concerned, these characteristics lead architects, teachers and students to wonder about their design approaches and seek for solutions in examples from different environments.


3. In the 80s, the aim of new investors was to start rebuilding the cities so the mayors were appointed the responsibility to find the necessary land for urban regeneration. The land was still owned by the state, but its value was auctioned and prices skyrocketed many times before any regeneration was done. Of course, the benefit of such investments is great and much faster than establishing specific regulations and laws. For example, for an area within the city to be built, the absence of the owners leaves the field clear for contractors to act independently, often with the help of government officials. The public and private sector are closely connected and organize land transactions in which the state provides the land while the private sector provides the building, leading to both of them sharing the profits. In this way, the commercialization of land freed the public sector from the burden of reconstruction and simultaneously earned it huge profits. 4. Chinese design institutes appear around 1949. Before 1990 all institutions were owned by the state. Regarding their structure, they are essentially big state enterprises with staff that can reach up to 1000 people. Until a few decades ago they had the absolute jurisdiction by the state for the production of architectural and urban projects. Even later though, when other independent agencies began to grow too, the institutes were the only ones that could grant permission for a project. They supervised all the “free” offices and had exclusive state support. Moreover, foreign firms operating in China since 1990 needed to cooperate with the institutions in order to obtain an authorization. Typically, foreign architects undertook the design part of the project and the Chinese “partners” were responsible for the construction plans and the supervision of the work. Over the past two decades, those institutions have undergone tremendous changes in their structure and mode of action and have largely lost their competence.


_Approaching a different culture _a reflection in Western thought

François Jullien, a French philosopher and sinologist, mentions:

Thus, in trying to approach the Chinese culture, we see that we are incapable of understanding the values that govern Chinese thought. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to “see” a culture outside of our own knowledge with eyes freed from the standards we have grown up with.

One more interesting difference is the one we can trace in the notion of time. One characteristic of European thought is that it can clearly define the past, the present and the future, in other words it can define a beginning and an end. On the contrary, Chinese thought perceives this fact as « Part of the foam on top of the wave of mutations continuously renewed ».2 The Chinese perceive time as a transition, a transformation. For example, we think of birth and death as points of a beginning and an end respectively. However in Chinese thought, death is not the end of a condition neither is birth the beginning of one, but both are a kind of transformation.

The concepts of existence, justice, freedom, history, time and God have been born through Greek philosophy and they have given birth to European thought. The notion of existence is ontological significance for Aristotle and has been the foundation of our philosophical thought. European thought is aiming at defining a beginning and an end, thus existence means being specific. This, however, does not apply to Chinese thought too, where the existential question is not the same as the ontological one and its meaning is different.

When the Europeans came in contact with China in the 17th century, what they discovered came as a great surprise. They discovered the existence of a completely different world, «completely different compared with European references and equally developed with our world, the world of Europe» 3. Jullien calls this the « shake thought» and connects it to what Michel Foucault had said; that China is not only different, but it is also located in a different place. In his book “Words and Things”, Foucault introduces us to China’s “heterotopia”.

“In my eyes, China is a great civilization developed far from the European thought; far from our language, the great Indo-European languages, far from our history.” 1


_China as a heterotopia

What Foucault discusses in this book is the order in which we have learned to think, trying to make us doubt the rationality with which we perceive and assess reality. He does succeed in that, since just by reading the book’s preface, we approach China as a heterotopia and we understand that on the other side of the Earth we live on, there is a culture that would not allocate known creatures in any of the categories we can think of and name. In the example of China as a Foucauldian heterotopia, one can perceive : «Heterotopias are disturbing, probably because they secretly undermine language, because they make it impossible to name this and that, because they shatter or tangle common names, because they destroy ‘syntax’ in advance, and not only the syntax with which we construct sentences but also that less apparent syntax which causes words and things (next to and also opposite one another) to ‘hold together’». 4

We perceive China as an “otherness” because it is something completely different from what we are used to. We could say that it is our exact opposite, which sometimes becomes our complementary. Every single characteristic of it, from its language that is completely different from ours, to its writing system that has a vertical direction, and its philosophy on the smallest and the greatest matters; everything seems different to us. We are indeed referring to a culture of which the language and character, the way of life, its creations are so different than ours that it is as if we are talking about people from a different planet. These differences however do not stop us from admiring this culture and trying to approach it. The difference between our thought and that of the Chinese may exist, or it may not. We need to keep our eyes and all our senses open to it so we can see and observe.

KOON Wai Bong, Reworking the classics II. 2010



1. Franรงois Jullien, Praise of blandness: proceeding from Chinese thought and aesthetics, New York : Zone Books, 2004, p.13 2. Franรงois Jullien, Praise of blandness: proceeding from Chinese thought and aesthetics, New York : Zone Books, 2004 , p.78 3. Franรงois Jullien, Praise of blandness: proceeding from Chinese thought and aesthetics, New York : Zone Books, 2004 , p.16 4. Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (New York: Vintage Books, 1994), xviii.



_China as a Place «Every place entails a particular way of thinking, every place has its own patrilineal memories» Tadao Ando 1

_approaching the place’s characteristics In our attempt to approach China and understand the architecture that has been and is currently being created, we must first attempt to interpret what China means as a place. In the previous chapter, we saw the difficulties and limitations set by our own thoughts when we try to approach a kind of thinking that is beyond us. We regarded China as a heterotopia, but in order for us to come closer to reality now, we will have to recognize China as a place. To us, China looks like a vast, infinite landscape that encloses thousands of contrasts within its interior. It is a great challenge to discover something of the «spirit of place» of this country. We are going to approach China as a Place, through the prism of different meanings. We are keeping in mind that around 1945 a philosophical approach of the place arises, the phenomenology of the place.2 Concepts such as singularity and existential dimension are now fields for thought and contemplation. The place, with its specific geographical characteristics, is taken into account by the architecture and urban planning theory and practice, which are trying to emotionally and experientially organize the existential space and landscape. The «spirit of place» is understood since ancient times as a reality which the person-inhabitant must face and adjust to his daily life in order to ensure his survival. For Norberg-Schulz the «spirit of place» also known as genius loci, is the spirit through which the identity, the singularities and the character of a place appear.


There are many notions about what place means. Frampton sees the place «as an Aristotelian phenomenon which arises at the symbolic level with the conscious signification of social meaning and at a concrete level with the establishment of an articulate realm on which man or men may come into being»3 For Heidegger, «place is a geographical environment acquiring scale, heterogeneity and meaning through experiential, thymic and emotional care of the human being».4 Through the literary and architectural works of Dimitris Pikionis 5, we understand how place constitutes a whole which is comprised of light, dirt, earth, and stone and enfolding man, his history and his life. The place is born and expressed through the sacred presence of the earth and the ground’s geometry. The individual character of every place, its specific traits that make it identifiable, has been interpreted by Aldo Rossi as the locus of the place. For him, locus is “… the specific but also universal relationship between a certain site and the buildings that are on it …” 6 What we understand is that the place is comprised of the formation of relations between the local natural characteristics and the activities of the people who experience the place. What is more important to us is that the place is focused on the relationship between man and nature. In order for man to inhabit a place, he must recognize his environment’s characteristics, interpret them and use them to his benefit. In order to do that, he must observe nature and identify with it. According to Norberg-Schulz inhabita-

_ the landscape through Chinese painting tion most of all requires the identification with the environment, which means that man must reconcile with the place. “Nordic man has to be friend with fog, ice, and cold winds; hehas to enjoy the creaking sound of snow under the feet when he walks around, he has to experience the poetical value of being immersed in fog.” 7 Residence, or rather inhabitation, indicates the overall relationship of man with the locus. In order for man to inhabit a place, apart from identifying himself with his environment, he also has to orient himself in it , he has to become aware of the earth and the sky and go along with them, be one with nature. Inhabitation is associated with architectural thought and application. Architectural application constitutes the facilities of the environment, from its simplest forms (a bamboo hut) to its more complex ones (a pagoda, bridges, the Great Wall). Heidegger says: “Particular houses, villages, cities in comparison with it are mere buildings, concentrating in and around them manifold “betweens”. Only the buildings bring the earth closer to people as an inhabited landscape and, at the same time, they open the proximity of neighborly inhabiting to the vast heaven.” 8 So, in order for a place to harbor human existence, the elements of the earth and the sky, the divine powers and man himself must coexist in harmony within it.

Man’s relationship with nature and the landscape is what impressed us the most when we first saw Chinese paintings in the Suzhou museum. Just by looking at a painting from a distance we could discern the shapes of mountains, the trees, the lake that majestically dominated in the center of the painting. All parts seemed to have found their place in a composition that does not simply capture the scenery, but reveals an entire philosophy for the understanding of the world. Looking at those paintings, we could see a place that complies and goes hand in hand with the principles of nature. In such a place, man is also an element of nature. The individual figure in the landscape of mountains and trees does not hold a leading role in the composition. Instead, it is mingled with the scenery and becomes one with it. Yet its constructions also appear as an integral part of nature, embodying the entire Heideggerian philosophy on the integrity of the fourfold. In these paintings, the earth meets the sky and unites with it through the mountains that levitate in the divine and the human. Many ancient civilizations define the creation of the world through a union, the matrimony of the sky and the earth. 9 The mountain emerges from the earth but reaches up to the sky, so for Chinese philosophy, it is a symbol, a place where the structure of the entire world is manifested. Its material renders it an indestructible and solid element in nature. Trees rise at the foothills or on top of the mountains; trees with spindly trunks and sparse foliage that we don’t see in our landscapes. In the paintings, trees seem to be alive and swaying in the wind. Their existence depends on the water element, so the lake or the river is never absent in the scenery. Water is the primary essence from which all life forms come from. 33

fig.27: Dong Yuan ( 930-960) , Riverbank


fig.28: Li Cheng (919-967), A solitary temple in mountain


Chinese art reveals the philosophy of cosmic creation but only through the effective and genuine observation of nature. In traditional Chinese thought, the concept of guanxiang (observe – cogitate) expresses the way in which one should perceive nature. Observation is the way through which man can reconcile with nature and identify with his place. The concept of observation is linked to wandering in nature. Observation is followed by cogitation and then cosmic thought is born. If we search in nature, we won’t find places such as those depicted in these scrolls. But if we walk in the scenery, if we wander in the mountains’ foothills, then we may see many different landscapes. If then we try to capture what we saw on paper, we will use this kind of painting; because that painting is our report of the trip, the different places we saw, in different moments, in different places and times.

«Wang Ximeng’s scroll is quite extraordinary because of its size. It is only 51cm high but nearly 12m long. When hung in a museum it can be viewed as a whole but if you move away you don’t see the detailed drawing and if you move close up you only see a part of it. That brings us to the notion of “ observing”, and the act of “ contemplating” . When you contemplate the world you think you are observing it but you don’t see the details. And if you examine the details you can’t see the whole. When people look at the detail, how do they remember the whole, and when they consider the whole, do they know that it contains a multitude of details? The world cannot be described in simplistic ways and details cannot be left out. That is the philosophical attitude we were talking about ».10

Looking at this image from “A Thousand Li of Rivers and Mountains”, we can see the components of the place. A line of mountains that forms the borderline between the earth and the sky and, among them, scattered trees and wooden huts, all surrounded by the water element. «... for me this painting has a philosophical significance for it expresses a world view, an awareness, and a profound feelings about our country, a country that has endeavoured to comply with natural principle ». 11 What impresses us the most in these paintings though is that nothing is randomly placed. The mountains, the trees, the human structures, the water, the people, everything has its own place in the composition. The buildings are connected to their environment as they stand on the ground and rise to the sky. Thus by observing these paintings, the words of Schulz about man-made structures as anthropogenic environmental compartments come to mind. Here, architecture complies with nature’s principles.

fig.29 35

«I am always amazed with these paintings when I see that the trees , buildings and mountains are not just placed haphazardly. If you take the time to examine them, you’ll see that the design is truly architectural, and every building is laid out in a certain way in relation to the landscape and the trees, the direction it faces depending on the light and the featurers of the location, which make it suitable for human habitation ». 12 A place is presented as a whole that yields a character, an atmosphere. However, the structure of a place does not constitute a constant, eternal condition. Places change, and sometimes very quickly. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the spirit of the place changes too or fades away. The spirit of the place, the spirit of China, is the people who live there, the religions that define their way of life, the way in which they see and respect nature and coexist with it. This spirit, however, cannot be expressed with words nor can it be captured with ink. It lives in the little, daily things, and we need to keep our eyes open and our thought free in order to see it.

water and people; it is a whole of all of the things that constitute poetic images, placed carefully and in absolute order in a vast space. In such paintings of unusual simplicity, we can grasp the truth of the world through the observation of the simplest objects. We wondered, therefore, if we can find any traces of China’s spirit in Wang Shu’s buildings. In order to answer to that question, we visited almost all of the architect’s buildings in different cities. His realized work is found in three cities in Shanghai’s surrounding areas. We travelled with the purpose of visiting Wang Shu’s works in the following cities: Suzhou, one of the oldest cities of China, Hangzhou with its famous lake, and Ningbo, with its tremendous growth over the last decade. Below, we present the most characteristic examples of his work through our personal experience with the place, examining them regarding their relationship with nature and tradition.

Chinese painting awakens our senses, as what we see when we observe a painting is not just trees, mountains,

fig.30: Wang Ximeng (1096-1119), Thousand li of rivers and mountains


fig.31:Zhao Boju (1120-1182) , Automn colors of river and mountains



1.Tadao Ando’s esssay intitled “The place and its character”from the book “History and Theory 6“, National Technical University of Athens, School of architecture, Athens 2007 2. Schulz refers to the term «phenomenology of place» in his book “Genius Loci: Towards a Phenomenology of Architecture “, Rizzoli, 2000, p. 9 3. Kenneth Frampton’s essay intitled “On reading Heidegger“from the book “Theorizing a new agenda of architecture-An Anthropology of Architectural Theory 1965-1995“, Kate Nesbitt, Princeton Architectural Press, 1966 4. Τερζόγλου Νικόλαος- Ίων (Nikolaos-Ion Terzoglou),Ιδέες του χώρου στον εικοστό αιώνα / Nisos Editions, Athens 2009, p.263 5. Dimitris Pikionis was a major Greek architect of the 20th century and had a considerable influence on Greek architecture He studied civil engineering at the National Technical University of Athens and then continued his studies to Paris and Munich, in sculpture and drawing. Later he returned to Greece and in 1925 undertook a lecturer position at the decoration department at the National Technical University of Athens. He has been often described as a critical regionalist and sometimes as a European modernist. Although he actually built few buildings, Pikionis is revered for the landscaping work in pedestrian areas around the Acropolis of Athens, a work done in the 1950s. Utilizing rough-finished marble in various shapes that appear irregular, yet are strictly geometric, and incorporating expertly chosen local fora on his terraces and steps, Pikionis’ work has astounded visitors to the area and remains highly thought of ever since. 6. Aldo Rossi, The Architecture of the City / Oppositions Books,1984, p.8 7. Christian Norberg-Schulz, Genius Loci: Towards a Phenomenology of Architecture / Rizzoli, 2000, p.23


11. Wang Shu, Building a different world in accordance with principles of nature, Inaugural lecture at the École de Chaillot deliverded by Wang Shu on January 31, 2012. Text edited and translated by Francoise Ged and Emman- uelle Péchenart , English Translation Krystyna Horko, Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine, p. 32 12. see note 11, p.30

fig.32: building of Hangzhou’s pedestrian road 40

_Our questions «Chinese visitors tell me that my buildings seem chinese. However European visitors compare my architecture with Siza’s . This is very important for me ». 1 Wang Shu

The difference between architecture as a profession and architecture as an art form is chaotic in China, and it recently came to the fore again with the awarding of the Pritzker Prize to Chinese architect Wang Shu in early 2012. The judges said the following: “The question of the proper relation of present to past is particularly timely, for the recent process of urbanization in China invites debate as to whether architecture should be anchored in tradition or should look only toward the future. As with any great architecture, Wang Shu´s work is able to transcend that debate, producing an architecture that is timeless, deeply rooted in its context and yet universal.” 2 After an initial disbelief, the news of the awarding of the prize to a Chinese architect brought great pride and enthusiasm among students of Chinese architecture. Among the architectural community, however, reactions varied. Wang Shu was considered to be too young of an architect to receive such a great award and not so much a representative example of modern Chinese architecture. He was considered an artist by many, revealing the ap-

proach of the term "architect" in Chinese society. The awarding of the Pritzker Prize to the obscure Chinese architect Wang Shu brought the issue of the connection of modern architecture with tradition and the place back to the surface. Our trip to China was the reason, while this award was the beginning of our reflection, which is summarized in the following questions: • Can we approach China as a place in terms of regionalism which were developed in Europe? • Is there a link between traditional and modern Chinese architecture? • How does Wang Shu use history, tradition and the characteristics of the place in his work? Visiting the architect's works and our experience with space leads us to try and give answers to these questions. However, approaching such a distant and different culture with Western eyes entails risks. Which “Chinese” place are we called to discover, what is its story and what is the philosophy of the people who live and build it?

_notes 1.Lecture of Wang Shu at Graduate School Of Design at Harvard University, intitled : “ Geometry and Narrative of Natural Form”, 04.11.2011 2.The Pritzker Architecture Prize, Wang Shu, 2012 Laureate, Media Kit, 25.15.2012


fig. 33 : roof of architecture school, Xiangshan Campus



fig. 34 : Xiangshan Campus


_Xiangshan campus, Hangzhou _the city

Hangzhou is a city of 8.000.000 inhabitants about two hours away from the busy Shanghai downtown, a famous tourist destination and well known for its historical center that stretches out around the West Lake. Hangzhou’s transformation has been taking place during the last few years and it is a challenge for the whole country. «In this spectacular development phase, Hangzhou lost 90% of its traditional buildings i n just 30 years. In one fell swoop we destroyed nine-tenths of our architecture that had endured for 2000 years », Wang Shu points out in one of his lectures.1 The city’s image about three decades ago was completely different from today. In almost a decade, its surface area has increased tenfold and its citizens embrace this change. Its historical center is surviving in the midst of this madness only because it constitutes a tourist pole for the whole country. The view from our room’s window was a sea of traditional dark grey roofs. We wandered in the alleyways of the settlement and tried to identify the Chinese elements before our eyes; but the many tourist shops and dozens of Chinese tourists that popped up on every corner reminded us that all these elements existed only to serve tourism and profit.

small Shanghai. The line dividing those two landscapes is clear: an elevated peripheral expressway, under which lie the remnants of the old urban fabric. We took that road on a bus, heading south in order to visit the new campus of the city’s Academy of Art. The XiangShan campus hosts a school of architecture, a school of graphic design, a school of sculpting, a school of video and film editing and others. Over 5000 students live, study and work there. As we got closer, the city was fading in the distance and the students were filling the bus. At the end of our bus trip, we reached a small village of very low construction and with nature prevailing. Inside the bus, we met Chinese students who, being proud of their school, explained its history to us and were eager to show us around.

Outside the boundaries of the historical center progress is rapid; highways, enormous buildings and images of a

fig.35 : traditional roofs at Hangzhou


_natural and artificial landscape

In 2000, the Academy of Art decided to place its new campus at the eastern edge of south Hangzhou’s mountains, and not at the zone of higher education institutions approved by the government. Despite the lack of infrastructure, the teachers of the academy, artists and architects, who made this decision all agreed that, according to Chinese tradition, when the time comes to choose the proper place for education, the natural landscape is more important than architecture. The location surrounds a 50 meter high hill called Xiang. Two small creeks run down the mountain and merge/join at the eastern edge of the hill before flowing into the QianTang river. The landscape is complemented with dense vegetation, which is an unexpected surprise. The academy’s design is divided into two phases: in its northern part that was completed in 2004 and includes ten buildings and its southern section that was completed in 2011 and includes ten more buildings. The third phase of construction has already been started. The first thing we see as we enter the campus is a great “void”, a “void” full of nature, water and a bright green hill. The first phase of construction unfolds to the right and the second one to the left. Twenty buildings turn their backs to the outside world and converse with the mountain, creating a promenade between nature and building. The traditions of the Academy of Art and of Hangzhou, a city of an acknowledged natural and cultural heritage, are important factors for the design of the campus. The effect these factors have on the final architectural result and on the essence of design as perceived in China are hard to


see with Western eyes. Wang Shu and his office, Amateur Architecture Studio, which had been founded only three years before, undertake the designing and the construction of the entire campus. 2 As a first impression, one understands that all the buildings unfold around the hill and follow the lines that nature has defined through the small rivers. Buildings of a similar scale but different materials rise next to one other. Every one of them constitutes a unit that is disconnected from the others, yet at the same time they all form an indivisible unity. Such an immediate contact with nature creates a kind of sensitivity and an admiration for the buildings themselves. Following the main road of the campus and having the built part on one side and the hill on the other, we felt that that street didn’t form a border between them. The hill is on our right and the central library is on our left, while we heard the sound of the river flowing by our feet. We actually felt as a part of a living space where nature exists along with buildings in harmony, a relationship between the artificial and the natural, where they highlight and enhance one another. Continuing our walk in the campus, we were impressed by the way in which the hill was calling out, as if it wanted you to climb it. Preserved traditional fishing bridges coexist with contemporary metal ones and link the campus’ buildings to the hill. Nature is part of the educational process, as students informed us. The students go to the forest in order to sketch and attend painting and photography classes.

fig.36: masterplan, Xiangshan campus


fig.37 : Xiangshan campus

fig.38 : Xiangshan campus


Cement, metal, brick, traditional black roof tiles and stones, wood, bamboo, glass and reused materials from traditional structures of all kinds create a wide palette of materials here. As an answer to the large scale demolitions that have been taking place in China the last few years, over seven million pieces of old bricks and roof tiles of different decades from the surrounding area were gathered here for the building of the campus. The bricks and the roof tiles that are elsewhere considered useless are reused here. Every building is different. By using some of the above materials, a unique architectural expression is created for every building, but every one of them converses with those around it.

with the previous one, which urged us to always seek them out. That feeling is completely justified if we consider the fact that we are referring to twenty different buildings by the same architect which function as an indivisible unity.

As one walks in this space and sees one building appearing after the other, they feel as if the architecture of the campus is a result of architectural experimentation and deep concern about the final architectural image. Every building has many similarities and several differences fig.39 : the connection of built environment and nature


fig.40 , fig.41 : variety of materials 50


_first phase

The first phase expands on the northern side of the hill, creating a band of independent concrete structures that consist of nine buildings that are connected to one another by walking routes. In the center of those buildings, three of them stand out with an identical top view. This typical top view is a rectangle, “cut” by a square-shaped garden, giving the building a Π shape. The exterior square space is the main courtyard, providing a view of nature. It is clear that the Π-shape typology is used here for the optimal insolation and ventilation of the whole building.

The interior hallway that surrounds the courtyard and follows the shape of the whole structure protects the classrooms and constitutes the intermediate space between the external and the internal temperature, reducing any heat loss. Large, industrial type glass panes cover the exterior, while the impressive metal-framed louvers with roof tiles are taken from demolished traditional Chinese houses. The above relation of the glazing with the traditional aspect of the louvers is a breakthrough in the relation of the contemporary and the traditional.

The external surface of the Π is covered in concrete, while the three sides of the interior courtyard consist of wooden panels which can be opened and unite the two spaces. The long wooden panels are used as sunshades on the top floor and as exterior doors on the ground floor. They reduce the concrete’s roughness and endow the building with irregular openings. Flexibility and versatility are the main characteristics of these buildings. In the summer, the air circulates in the buildings through the gardens and the open passageways. The setting that is thus created reveals one of the main components of all the campus’ buildings: the creation of intermediate spaces which are neither complete interior nor exterior.

The buildings of the first phase are building typologies embedded in nature. In our eyes, the typical floor plan and the use of wood brought to mind the organization of a monastery and its relationship with the natural environment. As we moved into the space, we realized that the hill becomes a benchmark, and it remained in sight even through the interior of the buildings. The building seems to have been designed so as to create different perspectives of nature.


fig.42 : phase A’ (2004-2007)


fig.44 : buildings of phase A’


fig .43 : wooden panels



fig.45, fig.46






_second phase In the second phase (2007-2011), by observing the thirteen buildings that are located at the northern side of the mountain, it becomes easy to understand “evolution” in Wang Shu’s architectural vocabulary. In contrast to the first phase, the ground plan is more complicated, and unexpected relationships are created between the buildings and the landscape. The entire complex is pierced by elevated walkways that move around and through the buildings, matching together as a whole and offering a practical and continuous movement from one place to another. The composition is denser and the buildings are placed closer to each other. The techniques and materials are diverse and the whole composition is characterized by variety. The architectural stroll converses with the area’s slopes and traverses them; a stroll that sees the natural landscape on one side and the built architectural setting on the other. Most of the roofs are flat, while many have classrooms and even outdoor lounge areas built on top of them, creating a city at a higher level. As we walk through the second phase, we see an outdoors movement starting at the first building and gradually rising and then piercing through the rest of the buildings. Our first contact with the complex of buildings of the second phase didn’t take place with the sight of their external appearance, but it is more of a walk from one building to the other, alternating levels and traversing through their interiors; a succession of spaces with different functions with a movement based on the intermediate semi-open spaces and the alternation of settings, following the same way as the ancient Chinese gardens. An elevated metal bridge connects each building with the next, while revealing a different view on the hill every time.


The materials and the methods of construction and architectural expression vary and the buildings are presented before our eyes like a large architectural palette. What stands out from the above are the vast surfaces of reused materials. Thousands of pieces of black roof tiles or modern and traditional bricks are gathered here from neighboring demolished villages and are recycled. The result is a first: a surface of small pieces with different shades of dark colors, which already seems to be old as if it has been there for years. On the same wall, tiles from traditional Chinese houses meet modern bricks and stones with Chinese symbols and they all respect the past and the tradition together. Similarly, the impressive large irregular openings reduce the monotony caused by the external concrete walls and create frames for the external landscape, leading your eye to specific views outside. A variation of patterns that appear in tradition are reused here, reminiscent however of their origin. fig.53

fig.54 : phase΄Β (2007-2011)


fig.55 : the movement around the buildings



fig.56: Yu garden


fig.57 : Xiangshan campus


fig.58: Wang Shu’s sketch_phase ‘B



fig.59 : detail of the roof


_school of architecture

The building that stands out from all the second phase’s buildings is that of the school of architecture. Looking at the ground plan, all the buildings create an imaginary curve in correspondence with the hill’s shape. The building of the school of architecture is the only one that strays away from these imaginary boundaries and emerges facing the opposite way in relation to the rest of the buildings and the hill. Therefore, the first impression of this building is completely different compared to the other ones when approached. The first contact with the building is angled because it faces a different way, while the reflection on the lake in front of it makes it seem larger, fully integrated into the natural landscape. Here the roof is used as a direct reference to traditional Chinese roofs, without however conforming to traditional proportions. Its design gives the impression of a free curve and does not constitute a true representation of the traditional reference. It is a modern translation of architectural styles, which tries to convey abstract images of tradition, evoke memory and connect to the place.

Entering the building, the uncoated concrete prevails. The enclosed courtyard, however, is visible from the entrance, through the wooden panels of the internal surface. Along the corridor, there are wooden panels that can be opened and closed and fill the interior with light. As with the typologies of the first phase, the internal courtyard plays a crucial role here, though in different proportions. It still serves to offer a view to the hill here as well. At the same time, however, its small size and the lake that is a natural barrier with the exterior strengthen its private character and make it a vital space for the building. The building seems to have an introversion. Looking at it from the outside, the lake that mediates and the narrow opening separating the two symmetrical blocks does not allow you to perceive what is happening inside. The Î shape of the building in conjunction with the water of the lake that blocks the western side creates the boundaries of an imaginary square that surrounds the courtyard. This structure of the atrium with the blocks around us brought to mind the Tulou typology. These are houses in southern

fig.60 : south elevation

fig.61 : east elevation


China, the typology of which arose from the tribe’s need for fortification. The Tulou buildings are of square or circular shape and contain a patio in the interior. The square or circular courtyard is a vital part of the home and openings existed only there. Similarly, in the building of the architecture faculty, only the sides facing the patio can be opened completely. This feature gives the building an introversion that occurs in these traditional forms dating back to the 15th century. In the building of the architecture school, archetypal forms are designed with modern tools. External walls surround the interior with traditional materials while the Chinese roof converses with the vertical concrete blinds. Wood and nature surround an inner courtyard, which is the heart of the school. All of the above is surrounded by the natural element of water, since half of the building is in the small pond. The traditional references are apparent and the presence of nature leads us to identify them while we also distinguish modern elements of western architectural expression.

fig.62 : the building


fig.63 : construction detail of the roof


im.64 : the enclosed courtyard im.65 : detail of the wooden panels


past _the Tulou

present _the Xiagshan campus






im.71 69

εικ.74 : Υπαίθρια τάξη


_Comparison with a Chinese painting tt

Wang Shu himself mentions: «When I designed this major project, my main concern was ti integrate the building to the location and impliment the osmosis between a contemporary public building on the one hand, and traditional aechitecture and the nature environment on the other ». 3 On this topic, it is interesting that the architect compares the designs of the academy with Li Gonglin’s painting «Mountain Villa" and points out how important the art of Chinese painting is to him and that he is able to find architectural elements in it. In this painting, we can discern moments from the daily lives of people and we understand the relationship between the whole and the individual parts that compose it. The natural landscape of the painting is inextricably linked to human activities and the elements of water, hills and trees create a harmonious entirety. In the same way, the composition of the landscape in Hangzhou Academy is a whole in which all the architectural elements coexist with nature and accommodate human activities. Looking at the painting and compar-

ing it with the plan of the campus, we discovered some interesting correspondences. We could divide the two into subsections, each of which would represent different spatial units. In the painting, each of these parts is also a place with different elements. So, we can discern a forest in one part, like the one on the hill at the campus. In another section we can see an opening then succeeded by the element of water surrounded by hills in the center of the composition. Then, we view a man-made plateau suitable for meditation and relaxation and finally the paths that are carved at the foot of the hill appear. Throughout the work therefore, we observe a variety that does not break down the unity, but rather enriches it. In the exact same way, the diversity found in the design of the campus with the alternations of the liquid element and the plateaus, the closed blocks and the courtyards, the natural element and the artificial, instills the whole with harmony. So, as we divided the painting into five frames, we could also distinguish different spatial units that accommodate different human activities in Wang Shu’s design too.


fig.72 : « mountain village», του Li Gonglin

fig.73 : the plateau

fig.74 : the mountain 72

fig.75 : the water

fig.76 : the path


_third phase

The third phase of the campus has already begun with the "Wa Shan" Guest Building being built during our visit last December. What distinguishes this work is that it is being constructed on the foot of the hill on the other side of the river. We observed the way in which the workers put the reused tiles on the large wooden roof. Apart from the scale of the roof, the rammed earth walls also stand out, which Wang Shu uses for the first time. As Francoise Ged4 mentions: « Wang Shu insisted on learning how to build with rammed earth in China. So he came to France in order to achieve it. Despite all the difficulties that he had been through, because of the chinese soil’s composition, he finally made it.». 4 This is the element that stands out in what Francoise Ged describes: namely that the architect insisted on transferring the know-how of the West into Chinese knowledge. Through our visit, we realized that the architecture that we observe has a special relationship with the Chinese architectural idiom and also an explicit connection with what has happened in the West. What is certain is that the architect’s trust in traditional materials and the potential of China as a place is evident throughout the campus complex. In the third phase, foreign architects are planned for the first time to build in this complex. Kengo Kuma and Alvaro Siza are already designing the buildings to be built in the coming years on the campus of Hangzhou. This endeavor provokes great interest. Two architects who have spoken about the place and have supported much of their architectural creation in its relationship with the environment are invited to build on Chinese soil and in direct conversation with Wang Shu’s architecture. What is the relationship of these three architects? Are we still focusing on the local contemporary Chinese architecture or about something more universal? Could this architecture have global implications/extensions and influences that we ought to recognize and its references to the place are not clear? 74

These questions cannot be answered easily and it is very likely that there is no one correct answer. Surely reflections emerge around the locality in contemporary architectural expression. The blurred boundaries between today and yesterday but also between the East and the West are what create the above questions on Wang Shu’s architecture. The dichotomies and contradictions we encountered as well as the ways in which they are bridged are the essence of our reflection on contemporary architecture with references to tradition. Talking about ideal examples of architecture that help develop architectural theories, and especially so contemporary and so unique as the work of Wang Shu is unrealistic. The campus, however, is in itself a form of utopia. This project offered him and his wife the opportunity to practice architecture on their own terms. He admits, rather cautiously, that what he created is not the real world. Unlike any commercial construction project, this one had a massive budget and the architect was allowed to experiment. Of course there are also those who claim that the excessive creative freedom in the campus endangers the functioning of architecture itself. Moreover, many critics argue that the architecture of the campus is a modern structure with appropriate "clothing". In our opinion, it produces an architectural language that insists on using and recycling local materials, it creates an intense conversation with nature and it concerns a change in the way of teaching of architecture in China. It focuses on the basis and essence of architecture and its relationship with the place, a place that is at the same time both an architect and a teacher.

fig. 77 : visitors’ center

fig. 78 : museum and conference hall by Kengo Kuma



1.Wang Shu, Building a different world in accordance with principles of nature, Inaugural lecture at the École de Chaillot deliverded by Wang Shu on January 31, 2012. Text edited and translated by Francoise Ged and Emmanuelle Péchenart , English Translation Krystyna Horko, Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine, p.18

3.Wang Shu, Building a different world in accordance with principles of nature, Inaugural lecture at the École de Chaillot deliverded by Wang Shu on January 31, 2012. Text edited and translated by Francoise Ged and Emmanuelle Péchenart , English Translation Krystyna Horko, Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine, p. 64

2.Architect and Professor Wang Shu was born in 1963 in Urumqi, a city in Xinjiang, the western most province of China. He received his first degree in architecture in 1985 and his Masters degree in 1988, both from the Nan Nanjing Institute of Technology.

4.Françoise Ged is an architect and a specialist in Chinese evolution and development, is the head of the Contemporary Chinese Architecture Observatory at the Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine, in Paris.

Wang Shu and his wife, Lu Wenyu, founded Amateur Architecture Studio in 1997 in Hangzhou, China. The office name references the approach an amateur builder takes—one based on spontaneity, craft skills and cultural traditions. Wang Shu spent a number of years working on building sites to learn traditional skills. The firm utilizes his knowledge of everyday techniques to adapt and transform materials for contemporary projects. This unique combination of traditional understanding, experimental building tactics and intensive research defines the basis for the studio’s architectural projects.


fig. 79 : construction of the roof _ visitors’ center


fig. 80: Huamao Art Museum


_Huamao Art Museum, Νingbo, reference to Chinese Gardens _the museum The city of Ningbo is around 200 kilometers south of Shanghai. It is a major port of the Zhejiang province and has become one of the largest financial centers. At Ningbo’s economic center, there is a private museum inside the Hua Mao school complex, the most "insignificant" and unpublished work of Wang Shu, since it is not even included in the projects listed on the official document issued by the Pritzker Prize committee. It is a project for a private school in a modern extension of the city of Ningbo that aims to preserve a private collection of traditional Chinese works of art. When one arrives at the museum, a completely different world unfolds before one’s eyes. Here Wang Shu creates an entire artificial world. Approaching the museum, we were suddenly inside a garden and saw the imposing building dominating over the surface of the water.

Wang Shu creates an entire artificial world, as pointed out above. In front of the entrance and in perfect continuity with the inner courtyard, the water that enters the building creates a large artificial lake. Rocks, trails, stones and plants surround it, creating a setting that initially seemed fake and pretentious to us; it was a representation of a landscape but it had no place among the jumble of skyscrapers. Subsequently, though, we realized that this scenery was nothing but a direct reference to the artificial world created in every traditional Chinese garden.

fig.81 : detail of the roof

The transition from the noisy freeways of the area to a completely different scenery which cuts you out of the external environment was startling. A variety of elements usually found in natural landscapes create here a strange composition, at the end of which the perfectly symmetrical and visually simplistic building invites you to wander through it. Access to the interior of the building is achieved through a two-storey, semi-open space that divides the block of the museum in half. This central courtyard immediately aroused our attention because of the atmosphere created by the calm water in conjunction with the light coming from above through the openings in the roof. The inner courtyard relaxes the eye of the visitor, while the elements of water and nature are in perfect harmony with the museum’s artworks.


Lou Qinxi, professor in College of Architecture of Tsinghua University , mentions: «The art of the chinese garden emphasizes the portrayal of a mood, so that the hills, waters plants and buildings, as well as the special relationship are not just a mere materialestic environment but also evoke a spiritual atmosphere» 1 Walking in a Chinese garden, both small and large, we discovered a completely different environment than what we are used to in European parks. We were confronted by an atmosphere that gave us the impression that we were transplanted into another place. This is precisely the aim of the Chinese garden. Through the creation of forests, mountains and lakes within the city, the poetic quality of nature that drives people away from the madding crowd becomes prominent The garden was something special and unexpected during our visit to the museum. It is an artificial landscape unaffected by whatever is happening around it in the modern city and hides quite successfully within the complex of a private school. From the garden of the museum, the building itself looks different. The rough concrete converses with the stones and appears to be like a huge rock over the water. The relationship of the water


with the building affects the processing of the façade, which has direct references to corresponding traditional constructions. In the Hua Mao art museum, the architect does not use traditional materials to invoke memories. A contemporary construction of pure geometry with a modern expression and materials does not give the impression of an association with Chinese tradition. Perhaps a traditional reference that can be found in the building is the repeating triangular apertures, creating a pattern which is found everywhere in Chinese tradition. The patterns are re-interpreted, they become shapes of apertures and they are repeated through the shape and the way in which the natural light enters the building. These are the only openings on the concrete surface and they reduce the monotony of the rough surface. The modern references that come to the architect’s mind and the visitor's eyes obstruct the work and one cannot focus on them for too long. What we understand is that in this project, the architect is called to rediscover the elements that he wants to keep in order to unify them in their modern version.

fig.82 : the entrance

fig.82: left_facade of a traditional house in Suzhou right_facade of the huamao museum past











fig.83 : the internal semi-open space


fig. 84,85: museum’ s garden and Yu garden fig.86 : traditional chinese motivo

fig. 87 : detail of the facade of the museum



1.Chinese Gardens, In Search of Landscape Paradise, Lou Qingxi, China International Press, p. 3


left: fig.94: facade of a traditional house in Suzhou right: fig.95: the facade of a Huamao museum










water 85

fig.88 : masterplan of the museum of Ningbo


The museum of history of Ningbo _around the museum

Up until recently, the place where the museum now stands was a farmland on a flat and wide surface between mountains. The expansion of the city completely changed the landscape from 2000 onwards. In the surrounding area, about a hundred traditional villages were demolished and, according to the new urban plan, every building had to maintain a distance of a hundred meters from the next one1. The uses for the new land were office buildings and businesses. The distance from one building to another was indeed great and we felt like we were walking in a “dead” zone; large squares, streets and public spaces that nobody used. The landscape changed as we moved east, where the park Yinzhou with its lovely lake is located. The lake is surrounded by a small new financial center, but for many of the inhabitants of the surrounding areas it is one of the few natural elements in the city. The lake and the park around it were flooded with people and the landscape was full of life both the times we visited.

_the building

fig.89,90: Elevations of the museum

In a plot by the lake and with the above urban planning regulations, but also in the midst of this contrast, an international competition for the building of the History Museum of the city of Ningbo took place. Wang Shu was the winner of the contest, with quite a bold statement. Since 2008, the History Museum of Ningbo stands adjacent to two government buildings, a cultural center and an enormous empty square with palm trees. The building is characterized by a rectangular base, which gradually “breaks” and “opens” up until the top. Externally, its scale and the pointed ends of the walls overwhelm the visitor, who feels small when faced with its enormity. The outer surface does not reveal anything about the interior of the building and dozens of small, scattered rectangular openings seem to have been placed completely randomly. What strucks us was that already before we entered the building, the history of Ningbo was before our eyes. Thousands of pieces of traditional bricks, stones and tiles constituted the sides of the 87

building. Twenty different types of materials derived from the large-scale demolitions in the city of Ningbo were gathered here and reused, covering the entire museum. The pieces of the past on the front view were no longer used as units and we perceived them as a single surface. Large areas of concrete with a bamboo formwork complement the exterior view. Before entering the building, the tour outside the museum lasted much longer than expected. The outer surfaces were calling you to touch them, contemplate them and try to understand the Chinese symbols carved on them. The building looks so alien to the modern environment that is being built around it and so different from anything we had ever seen.

fig.91 : the first impression of the facades as you enter the bulding


fig.92,93,94 : details of the elevation of the building

_the entrance

Through a wide opening in the center of the museum comes the entrance to the transition area of the building, where the water element is also present. Before the main entrance of the museum, this space has a large hole framing the sky and bringing sunlight into the heart of the semi-open area. On the ground and first floor, the exhibition areas are located on the north side while on the south side are the offices and the archive, to which the dozens of small windows on the face of the building correspond. Movement in the space is simple and is made possible through the internal patio. A system of vertical movement unfolds there which brings the visitor to the first and second floor respectively. _navigating the interior The patio in the heart of the building brings light to the first floor through the sandblasted glass that surrounds it. At the same level, the visitor may go outdoors into two isolated courtyards, closed on all four sides with limited views of the city and their only opening to the sky. The interior of the building is dominated by alternating white surfaces and bamboo formwork concrete. The impressive false ceilings made of irregularly arranged metal materials are complemented by the metal and wooden doors and sandblasted glass. Stylish materials characterize the whole interior, it “shines� from the reflections of the natural and artificial light and differs considerably from the outside.

On the second and final level, which is the climax of the movement, the scene created is completely different. The galleries are independent blocks that create sloped surfaces and define the oblique shapes in the four corners of the building, which can be seen from the outside. The movement and transition from one block to another are made possible through the external environment, creating completely different qualities than inside the building. The visitor is outdoors, but inside the building at the same time. In essence, the main movement from one block to the next is made through the outside environment. Strolling down the wooden paths, one comes into contact with the facades and the vistas created by the empty spaces formed by the walls. A microcosm is created in the upper level of the building, with the visitor being between blocks of no more than ten meters. The bamboo formwork and the rows of traditional bricks and tiles on the facades of the blocks create a dynamic which, combined with the lack of verticality in the corners of the buildings that tend to touch one another, intensifies the sense of motion while the visitor wanders through the exterior.


right: fig.95 : the interior of the museum down: fig.96 : white surfaces and bamboo concrete formwork


fig.97,98,99 : the external terasse of the museum



left: fig.100 : the external wooden passage

down: fig.101 : Detail of the facade of the building


ÂŤI designed the Ningbo History Museum as though it were a mountain... It is the only one in which they can find their past, since all traditional buildings have dissapeared in the region. They come to this museum in search of their memoriesÂť2

Wang Shu

fig.102 : comparison between the building and the shape of a mountain, as can be found in traditional chinese paintings


_a protest

During the visit, the museum gave the impression that it was not just a building, but a response towards its structured modern surroundings; a building that, in our eyes, existed there as an expression of concern and as a thunderous protest for what has happened in the city of Ningbo during the last decade. In this sense, the social dimension of the intentions of the design are revealed, and also an extensive correspondence with the actual content of the museum. In essence, the visitor comes in contact with the history of Ningbo from the moment he faces the building.

_the connection with tradition According to the architect himself, the entire museum resembles a mountain as portrayed in traditional Chinese paintings of landscapes. The variety of materials, dark colors and oblique shapes are to him interpreted as a Chinese mountain that hides valleys, water, caves and gardens within. In our opinion, the above interpretation of the museum does not constitute its direct connection with tradition. The relationship between architecture and tradition can be achieved through a poetic way (museum - mountain), a spatial one (Hua Mao museum), a modern translation of a Chinese image (modern translation of the Chinese roof – Hangzhou campus), but also in a more substantial way, as is done here. The construction of the exterior of the museum is based on a technique called Wapan. More specifically, centuries ago the inhabitants of these areas suffered from frequent hurricanes, which destroyed the walls of their homes and in their haste to protect themselves, they constructed walls with whatever materials were available to them. Thus the result was walls of mixed traditional and modern materials and led to the introduction of this technique. This process of building by ordinary workers and citizens was virtually lost and it is now reborn here in this museum.

fig.103 : walkthrough in the terasse of the museum








«There were few workmen who knew this technique and they helped us not only with the construction but also they manage to preserve this traditional method.» Wang Shu3


εικ. 114


εικ. 115


fig. 106

More particularly, contemporary architecture achieves the preservation of tradition in such a way that it is itself regenerated and also creates something new. Contemporary architectural expression does not only select certain elements of tradition but it develops a two-way relationship with it, which benefits both. The architect manages to maintain a traditional style while producing a completely modern outcome. The memory that the architect invokes for his project plays a key role in the psychology of the visitor and creates a close link with the memory of the place. Memory is an essential reading tool for the place, since the place is the memories of the people and the very people who inhabit it. Thus people come here to visit something from the past and touch materials that are, in many cases, not such a distant past. The thousands of pieces of brick, stone and tile are the invocation to the place of Ningbo.

fig. 107,108,109 : bricks with chinese emblems and tiles on the facade of the mueum




This invocation of memory is reminiscent of the way in which D. Pikionis worked in the formation of the Philopappou hill, where he gathered tiles, marble pieces and ceramics from houses of old Athens that collapsed and turned them into paths and walls of the church of Loubardiaris. One of Pikionis’ students, Dimitris Antonakakis, who worked on the Philopappou projects said:

The process by which Wang Shu worked in the construction of the museum is described by the same words. The architect himself says:

«He works in an unusual way. He is on the site almost every day. He cooperates with the workmen, explains, asks, plans, contemplates, decides. He collects the marble and ceramic pieces from the brazenly demolished Athens of the 19th century, attempting a giant “collage” of the past and the present.»5

A way of working emerges, in which the workers do not only follow commands, but they also play an important role in the final design. Wang Shu stresses the manner of construction and the materials that, finding their place alongside one another, with the help of the workers, make an invocation of history and tradition.

fig. 110

«The result is half mine and half of the workers who worked there, the was a plan but the final result was changing during the construction.»

Wang Shu

_notes 1.World architecture-05/2012-Wang Shu: World of Difference,p. 80

3.see note 2

2.Wang Shu, Building a different world in accordance with

4., title of the article: «Διερεύνηση των συνθετικών εργαλείων του Δ.Πικιώνη στις διαμορφώσεις του λόφου του Φιλοπάππου», Manolis Iliakis

principles of nature, Inaugural lecture at the École de Chaillot deliverded by Wang Shu on January 31, 2012. , Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine3.Lecture of Wang Shu at Graduate

School of Design in Harvard, title: «Geometry and Narrative of Natural Form», 04.11.2011

Dimitris Pikionis

fig. 111



Conclusions Technology renders every user capable of gathering a very large amount of information in a short period of time, frequently from unreliable sources. While the speed with which the user learns a piece of information increases, the depth and the substance of the study of that information itself is reduced. It is impossible for this fact not to affect architecture. The need for criticism, study, categorization and the insertion of labels to everything stem from this modern way of thinking. In architecture, the above process involves risks. It is inconceivable for an architect’s building to be evaluated while it is being built. The impact on society as a whole, the overall work of the architect and his influence on the development of architecture are key factors that contribute to the study, understanding and ultimately the criticism of architecture. The above effort becomes even more difficult when we refer to the work of Wang Shu. Despite the awarding of the Pritzker prize, the short period of architectural creation and the ever-changing landscape of architecture in China leave no room for clear thinking and conclusions. The above risks do not deter some from referring to Wang Shu as one of the modern examples of critical regionalism. Especially in the realm of the internet, several articles highlight the relationship of Wang Shu’s architecture and other Chinese architects with the terms of critical regionalism, as formulated by Alexander Tzonis and Liane Lefevre and became widely known through Kenneth Frampton.

Tzonis and Lefevre also make special mention on using the term “regionalism”1 and the misconceptions that were created in their book “Critical Regionalism, architecture in a globalized world”, published in 2003 and attempting to reinterpret the term. In their latest book «Architecture of regionalism in the age of globalization»2 they refer to the architecture of regionalism, having removed the critical dimension of the term. In this book, through three successive chapters they explain the evolution of the term (ch. 10: Regionalism Rising, ch. 11: Regionalism Redefined, ch. 12: Regionalism Now). In the third of these chapters, special reference is made to the architecture of China and the issue of the place, as it has emerged in the last decade. At that point, a special reference to the work of Wang Shu is made, who is presented as a prime example of modern regionalism.

How can a term that was born and based on Western examples and standards be so easily used for what is happening in China? What is the equivalent procedure followed in China based on critical thinking towards tradition in the last century? Which elements define Wang Shu as a “regionalist” and how valid is this term?

Over the years, the term “critical regionalism” and its theoretical background has been deemed unfounded. Many examples of architects used as key elements for the theoretical basis of the term have been contested and questions emerged about the boundaries and definition of what is regional and what is global. These disagreements and the insufficient counterarguments left the term swinging across the spectrum of theory and reality.


Peter Eisenmann3 stresses how important the development of critical thinking was in the late 18th century with its main exponents being Immanuel Kant and Giovanni Battista Piranesi, which was instrumental in shaping the critical consciousness of many European architects. He also emphasizes through examples such as Jakarta, Singapore and Hong Kong that something similar did not happen throughout the rest of Asia. Concerns about the criticism and philosophy with which China faces its tradition and history begin in the late 19th century, when China experienced major educational reforms and the academic community was divided into traditionalists, modernists and reformists. The second category developed various theories and set as the primary objective of the future education system the phrase «Zhōngxué Wéi Ti, Xīxué Wéi Yòng», which means “Chinese learning for fundamental principles and Western learning for practical application”.4 This emphasis on the need of the Chinese sense-substance “ti” and Western functionality “yong” was an ideological trend that lasted until the beginning of the Sino-Japanese War, and stresses the need for modernization based on the creative assimilation of Western practices in Chinese philosophy. Yi-Jie Tang, professor at the University of Beijing, speaking at a conference about harmony in Chinese philosophy as well as prospects and relations with the West at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 1985, gave a speech with the title “The Problem of Harmonious Communities in Ancient China.” At the end of his presentation he concludes:


«Despite the contributions of Chinese philosophy, we cannot overlook the shortcomings in this national way of thinking. An overemphasis upon harmony and unity resulted in the prolonged stagnation of feudal society, the slow growth of capitalism, exaggerated national pride and a lack of progressive thinking. Chinese traditional philosophy lacks a systematic epistemology and a tradition of logic. Theoretical thinking in Chinese philosophy has not undergone analysis, and is rich in terms of the cognition of essences, similar to some of the conclusions of modern science. But without the necessary analysis and argument, it cannot develop into modern science. Because of the excessive attention paid to mutual relationships and unity, the traditional Chinese failed to mature along the path taken by modern science in the West. We must reform our traditional ways of thinking, applying logical discourse and scientific epistemology to the concepts of relationship, unity and cosmic harmony. We should make good use of the tenets of Western philosophy, in order to establish a school of scientific philosophy with Chinese traits.»5


In the above text, the problem of development and the evolution of a Chinese philosophy, which has remained unchanged for centuries, becomes apparent. For the creation of a new, scientific Chinese philosophy, criticism, reason and science and the influence of the West are considered necessary. The same can also be found in architecture. Ιt is understood that the processes and the changes that have taken place in Europe are not present in China and this inevitably has had an impact on the development of Chinese critical thinking as regards tradition. Critical thinking is not, however, only a matter of the development of architectural theories, but it has its roots in the science of history. In 1920, Luo Jialun, professor of history at Beijing University points out that: «Chinese culture and society are truly depressing these days. Not only are they depressing at the present, but they may be said to have been this way for two thousand years. Europe, on the other hand, has experienced ceaseless progress since the Renaissance. The creative force in Western civilization is, simply, the spirit of criticism.» 6 These views make it clear that there is a large gap that separates China and its approach of the past in relation to the West. The changes, the theoretical searches, the criticism of history and the past are absent in China and create a completely different background compared to the West. Throughout the 20th century, the history of the Chinese state leads to the detachment from tradition. The gap that is created in conjunction with the introduction of the idea of the globalized capitalist society led the tradition of Chinese people to the imperatives of the Western way of life and progress. Françoise Ged, head of the Observatory of Contemporary Chinese Architecture in “Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine” in Paris, disagrees with the above concerning critical thinking in China. Ged has been researching China’s phenomenon for over 20 years, published books, curated exhibitions and books published in the last five years on modern Chinese architects. At a meeting with her, she explains:

«Critical thinking and the study of the past concerning architecture has always existed in China. The difference with Europe is that studies on tradition of the 60s and 70s could not be published for obvious reasons. These studies were published much later in the 80s, when the wave of development had already begun.» From the discussion we had with her, we concluded that there were certainly efforts of study and association of contemporary architecture with the past since the 1960s, without however coming to the surface and forming a basis for further research. The size of the country, the priorities of the governments and the general vibe dominating in China keep any efforts of effective research from coming to fruition. The current generation of modern Chinese architects was not born from scratch and does not constitute the first reaction against the system and against what is happening in China. Certainly though, it is the first generation of Chinese architects who express themselves freely, work with their personal sense of architecture and are optimistic about the future they envision. Debates regarding the lack of critical thinking towards architecture, the political upheavals and the rapid growth in the last twenty years are not the only reasons that create differentations with the development of the West For Example, the term “monument” itself has a different meaning in China and the West. During our trip to China, we visited several “ancient monuments”. For example, the pagoda of the Xingshengjiao temple near Shanghai dating back to the 10th century AD is a construction of the 20th century which had been reconstructed over the centuries and nothing on it is considered authentic for Westerners. The point is that the Chinese culture does not preserve its history on buildings. When Chinese people see a historic building being burned or destroyed, they do not consider it a blow to their culture, since it will be replaced and reconstructed, maintaining the same function. China’s past is a past based upon memory.



In an environment in which the architectural past is more virtual rather than built and where the evaluation of past architecture lay in obscurity for years, how is it possible to talk about terms such as regionalism and criticism on the same basis as they are used in the West? The answer to this question is not simple. China and its philosophy may differ from the West, but how far is Wang Shu himself from the architecture of the West?

When Wang Shu was accepted into the fairly selective Tongji University of Shanghai, his relationship with the modern world was filtered through the study of texts of the 20th century such as those of Wright, Mies and Scarpa. The evolution and theories of the architecture of the West were a theoretical background an equivalence of which, as a student, he could not find in China. He dedicated his doctoral thesis to Aldo Rossi, a supporter of genius loci, and to a delicate re-reading of the basic archetypes. Anywhere else in the world, it is more common for a student to study the past. As shown above, this approach is very important in China. As major influences, he mentions the architectural work of Louis Kahn and Alvaro Siza. He has studied calligraphy and has been ingrained with Chinese culture, but his references, especially concerning architecture, cannot be limited to China. But if Wang Shu’s Western references are so strong and China’s architectural past is rather virtual than created, which past does his architecture rely on? Wang Shu’s architecture is swinging between the virtual and the built past on China. On the built level, he does not choose the architecture of monuments, but focuses and highlights rather the traditional Chinese architecture, its practices and its habits.

According to him, the modern translation of the pagoda in the Xiangshan campus constitutes an abstract reference to the monument’s and the landmark’s image. While the wide use of the Wapan technique for the Ningbo Museum’s walls is a clear reference to the building techniques of the traditional craftsmen of the past, the use of dirt as a building material is a method which the architect is taught by the West, trying to integrate it into China’s reality and adjust it to his architectural vocabulary. On one hand, there is the element of the traditional Chinese architecture that is lost and on the other hand, there are the references to Alvaro Siza’s architectural vocabulary. On one hand, there is the connection with nature and the role of the ancient Chinese garden and on the other, the rough concrete and the metal structures. An architectural element may contain different concepts and multiple ways of approach at the same time. The use of traditional materials from demolished Chinese cities states the invocation to the past and history of China, while at the same time constitutes one of the most modern examples of viable architecture with recyclable materials. Nothing is interpreted in the same way and every observer with his individual references construes a unique meaning from the same “text”; a “text” that is composed in a specific architectural vocabulary so that it can’t be read by everyone.


The regional and the non-regional are two interwoven concepts in Wang Shu’s work. The one-to-one correspondence of elements aiming at the definition of their origin and categorization creates confusion and weakens the final architectural result and its value. Wang Shu seeks for China’s archetype in order to create his own architecture. His conviction in maintaining the «savoir faire» of traditional ways of construction shows the architect’s orientation towards folk architecture. In other words, Wang Shu penetrates the architectural tradition of his country in a Western way of approach and theory. With the above mindset and deeply ingrained with the Chinese culture, the architect works in Western standards producing a unique architectural result both for the East and the West.

Despite all that, Wang Shu remains an optimist and explains: «Demolishing and rebuilding everything is a very important element of chinese tradition, this period they aim to demolish everything»7

As pointed out above, Wang Shu is not the only example. A great team of architects is now moving against the flow established during the previous decades. Many of them are already teaching and many young students become privy to a different way of thinking. The entire educational system is affected by these changes. While contacts with the West are becoming more common, beyond the example of Wang Shu, there are many schools of Europe and America that have established close relationships with Chinese universities. Student exchanges, research programs and partnerships between schools in China and abroad have grown rapidly the last five years. The speed of evolution of the architectural scene of China in recent years does not leave room for future predictions. What is certain is that the consequences of the unconstrained growth in China are already known, while the first positive steps in creating a different way of thinking have made their appearance. 108

fig.115: Ο Wang Shu at the Xiangshan Campus


1.«Critical Regionalism-Architecture and identity in a globalized world», Liane lefaivre- Alexander Tzonis,Prestel, 2003, σελ.10 2.«Architecture of regionalism in the age of globalization, Peaks and Valleys in the flat world», Liane lefaivre-Alexander Tzonis, Routledge, 2011 3. Peter Eisenman ,Critical Architecture in a Geopolitical World, from the book intitled Architecture Beyond Architecture: Creativity and Social Transformations in Islamic Cultures, Cynthia Davidson-Ismail Serageldin, London: Acade my Editions, 1995 4.Introduction à la pensée chinoise, ,Nicolas Zufferey, Marabout, 2008 5.«Ηarmony and Strife, contemporary perspectives, East & West» , The Chinese university of Hong Kong, Shuhsien Liu, Robert E. Allison, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, 1988, p.324 6.The study of Criticism: Three W-sims in Xinchao (New Tide) 2:3 April 1920, pp. 601—603 used as a reference at the essay: «Wang Shu and the Possibilities of Architectural Critical Regionalism in China», Thorsten Botz-Bornstein, Nordic Journal of Architectural Research, Volume 21, No 1, 2009 7.«Wang Shu and the Possibilities of Architectural Critical Regionalism in China», Thorsten Botz-Bornstein, Nordic Journal of Architectural Research, Volume 21, No 1, 2009


Bibliography _General Bibliography

• T.S. Eliot,The Letters of T. S. Eliot Volume 3: 19261927/ Faber & Faber, 1988 • Lafcadio Hearn, Lafcadio Hearn’s Japan: An Anthology of His Writings on the Country and It’s People / Lafcadio Hearn / Tuttle Publishing, 2007 • Christian Norberg-Schulz, Genius Loci: Towards a Phenomenology of Architecture / Rizzoli, 2000 • Claude Lévi-Strauss books, Anthropology Confronts the Problems of the Modern World / Belknap Press, 2013 • Aldo Rossi, The Architecture of the City / Oppositions Books, 1984 • Aldo Rossi, A Scientific Autobiography / Oppositions Books, 2010 • Klaus Vrieslander, Tzoulio Kaimi, The Rodakis House in Aegina /Akritas Publications , δεύτερη έκδοση 1997 • Liane Lerfaivre and Alexander Tzonis, Architecture of regionalism in the age of globalization, Peaks and valleys in the flat world / Routledge, 2012 • Michel foucault, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences / Routledge / 2001 • Martin Heidegger, Building Dwelling Thinking, translated by Albert Hofstadter, Harper Colophon Books, New York, 1971 • Junichiro Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows / Leete’s Island Books 1977 • G. Bachelard, The Poetics of Space/ Beacon Press, 1994 • Papaïōánnou Tásēs (Papaioannou Tasis), Ē architektonikē kai ē pólē / Kastaniotis Editions, Athens • Papaïōánnou Tásēs (Papaioannou Tasis), Ē architektonikē tou kathēmerinoú / Kastaniotis Editions, Athens

• Terzóglou Nikólaos- Íōn (Nikolaos-Ion Terzoglou), Idées tou chórou ston eikostó aióna / Nisos Editions, Athens 2009 • Kontarátos Sábbas (Kontaratos Savvas), Architektonikē kai parádosē_ ideologíes, praktikés kai problēmata stē chrēsē tou architektonikoú parelthóntos / Kastaniotis Publications, Athens 1986 • Kōnstantinídēs Árēs (Konstantinidis Aris), Melétes kai Kataskeués / Agra Publications, Athens 1992 • Kōnstantinídēs Árēs (Konstantinidis Aris), Ē architektonikē tēs architektonikēs / Crete University Press • Pikiónēs Dēmētrēs (Pikionis Dimitris), Keímena, MIET, Athens

_Specific Bibliography

• Sōtērēs Chalikiás, Parádosē kai neōterikótēta stēn Kína_ to chronikó mias anapántētēs próklēsēs / Indiktos Publications, Athens 2013 • Lu Xun, Call to Arms / Simon & Schuster, 2014 • François Jullien, Praise of blandness: proceeding from Chinese thought and aesthetics, New York : Zone Books, 2004 • Bruno J. Hubert, Architectures/Mutations_ Urban transformation in China / École Nationale Supérieure d'architecture Paris- Malaquais, Cité de l'architecture et du patrimoine, 2012 • Shu - hsien and Robert E. Allinson, Harmony and Strife_ contemporary perspectives, East and West / The Chinese University Press , Hong Kong 1988 • Ioanni Delsante, From research to design / Compository 2012 • Ioanni Delsante, Experimental architecture in shanghai / Officina 2011 • Robin Visser, Cities surround the countryside_ urban aesthetics in postsocialist China / Duke University Press, 2010 • Seng Kuan and Peter G. Rowe, Architecture and urbanism for modern China / Prestel Munch 2004 • Peter Cachola Schmal and Zhi Wenjun, Contemporary Chinese Architects¬_ M 8 in China/ Jovis, Berlin 2009 • Christian Dubrau, Sinotecture¬_ New architecture in China / Parenthèses, 2008 • Jérémie Deschamps, Positions: Portrait of new generation of Chinese architects / Actar Coac Assn Of Catalan Arc, 2008

• Wang Shu, Hsieh Ying- Chun, Illegal Architecture / Garden City, 2012 • Wang Shu, Building a different world in accordance with principles of nature / Cité de l'architecture et du patrimoine, 2013 • Wang Shu, Imagining the house / Lars Muller, 2012 • Bianca Maria Rinaldi, The Chinese Garden_ Garden types for contemporary landscape architecture / Birkhauser Basel, 1 edition 2011 • Philip Jodidio, Architecture in China / Taschen, 2007 • William Willetts, Chinese Art 2 / A Pelican Book, 1958 • Christine Estève - Jérémy Cheval, Lilongs- Shanghai / Mon Cher Watson

_Theoretical Research Projects

• Kosmás Arōnídēs- Ntaïánna Tarkazíkē (Kosmas Aronidis-Diana Tarkaziki), To yperbatikó kai ē parádosē sto érgo tou Tadao Ando : anaparástasē kai aphaíresē stēn katoikía Azuma / N.T.U.A. Student Lecture 2008/51 • Christiánna Perntetzē (Christiana Perntetzi), Diereunēseis tēs énnoias tēs antílēpsēs tou chórou_ apó ton tópo sto topío / D.U.TH. Student Lecture/ 2013 • Nantéznta Nténtseba (Nanteznta Ntentseva), Sbēnontas tēn architektoniko sto topío : ē schésē architektonikēs - phýsēs sto érgo tou Kengo Kuma / N.T.U.A. Student Lecture2009/9 • Níkos Papamichael (Nikos Papamichail), Apagoreuménē pólē : ē ermēneía tou sýmpantos kai ē parádosē stēn kinézikē architektonike / N.T.U.A. Student Lecture 2009/33 • Myrto Kioúrtē (Mirto Kiourti) - Kostas Tsiampáos (Kostas Tsiabaos), Tópos schésēs, tópos mnēmēs / N.T.U.A. Student Lecture 1999/4 • Tribyzá Eirēnē (Triviza Eirini), Made in China_ to phainómeno tēs architektonikēs mímēsēs stē sýnchronē Kína / T.U.C. 2013 • Spýros Alysandrátos (Spiros Alisandratos), O bathýs topikismós sto érgo tou Reima Pietila / N.T.U.A. Student Lecture 2011/88

_ Journal Articles • World Architecture , Wang Shu : world of difference, 05/2012 • ΔΟΜΕΣ (DOMES), Διεθνής επιθεώρηση αρχιτεκτονικής, Η άλλη Κίνα, August 2008 • Monde chinois, Le renouveau de l'architecture en Chine/ Choiseul, no 16 • Monde chinois, Tourisme et patrimoine_ un mariage difficile/ Choiseul, no 22

_Web Publications • Giōrgos Xēropaēdēs (George Xiropaidis), Cháintenker kai architektonikē_ Paratērēseis gýrō apó éna amphilegómeno théma from Heideggerand Architecture.pdf • Scott Paterson, Critical analysis of " Towards a critical regionalism" by Kenneth Frampton / from http://www. aisgp/texts/regionalism.html • Thorsten Botz-Bornstein, Wang Shu and the possibilities of architectural regionalism in China / from wangshuart.pdf

_Reference list of pictures fig.1-6: fig.7: fig.8: fig.9: fig.10:

Courtesy of the author Courtesy of the author blog-post.html fig.11-16:Courtesy of the author fig.17: shanghai-china/ fig.18-20:Courtesy of the author fig.21: fig.22: fig.23: public/36569/Art-in-Public.html fig.24: yard-community-centre-azl-architects/ fig.25: fig.26: li-xiaodong-atelier/ fig.27: fig.28: Li_Cheng_%28painter%29 fig.29: fig.30: Category:Zhao_Boju fig.31: fig.32: Courtesy of the author fig.33: fig.34,35: Courtesy of the author fig.36: WA magazine , Wang Shu : World of Difference, 05/2012-263,p.75 fig.37: Courtesy of the author fig.38: asiasouthasia/ss/Wang-Shu-Portfolio_8.htm fig.39-43:Courtesy of the author fig.44: fig.45-57: Courtesy of the author fig.58:

fig.59-65: fig.66:

Courtesy of the author rum/00NaUR fig.67: WA magazine , Wang Shu : World of Difference, 05/2012-263,p.47 fig.68: resources/earthen-architecture-the-environ mentally-friendly-building-blocks-of-tangi ble-and-intangible-heritage/ fig.69: chitecture-studio/china-academy-of-art/ fig.70: http://mypostalcards.wordpress. com/2013/01/27/fujian-tulou-in-china/ fig.71: Courtesy of the author fig.72: Gonglin-Mountain_Villa.jpg fig.73-76: Courtesy of the author fig.77: fig.78: the-china-academy-of-art/ fig.79-87: Courtesy of the author fig.88: WA magazine , Wang Shu : World of Difference, 05/2012-263,p.79 fig.89,90: bo-historic-museum-wang-shu-architect/ fig.91: bo-history-museum-is-built-from-rubble/ fig.92-94: Courtesy of the author fig.95: WA magazine , Wang Shu : World of Diffeence, 05/2012-263,p.83 fig.96-100: Courtesy of the author fig.101: ningbo-museum/ fig.102: Wang Shu, Building a different world in accordance with principles of nature / CitÊ de l’architecture et du patrimoine, 2013 fig.103-110: Courtesy of the author fig.111: fig .112-114:Courtesy of the author fig.115: my-of-art-in-hangzhou-wang-shu-amateur-ar chitecture-studio/

Discovering the spirit of china: Travelling from West to East through the work of Wang Shu  

The example of China, the country that would sacrifice anything in the name of modernization, seemed to be the perfect example to reflect o...

Discovering the spirit of china: Travelling from West to East through the work of Wang Shu  

The example of China, the country that would sacrifice anything in the name of modernization, seemed to be the perfect example to reflect o...