The Yellow Mountains, Anhui China | 中国安徽的黄山 There and Back Again by Architect Design firm Location
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Jonathan Chausset Architectural Deisgn and Research Institute Huangshan City, China (Shanghai)
I had high expectation prior to arriving at the Yellow Mountains. I’d been told that “one day stay is not enough to experience Huangshan” and “to visit Huangshan multiple times is not enough”. I am glad to say that Huangshan was well above my expectations, so robust and strong, yet so calm and beautiful.
Design studies at the institute - Club House Design study - Large Residential Gate Design
The suspense was high and after just a short summer in Sweden I arrived in the fastest growing architectural society in the world.
My attention soon went to their expertice in 2D modelling, and how well and effectively they implemented this to make easy-to-read drawings. In China architecture and engineering is intertwined in a lot higher degree then what we are used to in Europe. The collaboration here between architects and engineers were perfect for me, since I’d previously taken a bachelor’s degree in Architecture and Engineering.
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I was excited, ready to start working, and had no clue what to expect next of this wonderful culture and society.
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My internship took place at the Architectural Design and Research Institute of Huangshan City (http://www.hsadi.com/), which focuses on preserving the Huizhou architecture and culture.
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My undergraduate portfolio and previous contacts helped me make the internship there possible. Contacts in China might be as usefull as the portfolio, and to have a good degree from a respected school sometimes outperform the portfolio itself.
The report will include my experiences when interning at the Architectural design and Research Institute of Huangshan City, China. I’ve stripped it down to these subjects;
In the eastern part of China, just west of Shanghai, lies the well known Huangshan county. It has for many years been one of the largest tourist places in China to experience architecture and nature.
In spring 2011, just before the completion of my bachelors degree, an oppotunity arose as from nowhere. I’ve always been inspired by the fast growing country which is The peoples Republic of China (PRC), and when i received an invitation to work as an architect there, it was a no-brainer.
As you walk around Huizhou architecture, there are several qualities that stand out.
Village Planning Features
Individual House Features
Most people, by the time they visit Huizhou villages, will be familiar with the typical design of a courtyard home; we will here dwell on Huizhou’s deviations from this familiar pattern. On passing through a doorframe, constructed of stone rather than wood, the visitor will enter a small courtyard flanked on three sides. The reason this courtyard is so-sized is to allow for adequate illumination and ventilation, while restricting possible rain and drafts. The sloped roofs above the courtyard are so designed as to collect the maximum amount of rainwater. This is done because geomanticallyminded Huizhou merchants were reluctant to let any form of energy escape their control; they were interested in amassing and accumulating property rather than letting it disperse and escape. The collection of rain is symbolic of their accumulation of wealth. Either side of the small courtyard, which sometimes features a garden, are two bedrooms. Straight ahead is the central meeting hall behind which is the dining and kitchen area. Unlike other courtyard homes, often Huizhou homes are two-storied, sometimes three storied. The upper floors, shaded from view, sport verandas, fitted with benches. Since Huizhou women were discouraged from meeting men from outside the family, these benches were placed for them to survey goings-on in the main courtyard beneath.
A noticeable feature of Huizhou villages are the high, crenellated walls that separate neighboring buildings. Called fire-proof walls, and sometimes fire-wind walls or horse head walls, their important purpose was to prevent the spread of fire through the town from one building to the next. Their two subsidiary functions were to block drafts from entering the homes’ inner courtyards and to discourage burglary.
Owing to the wealth accumulated by Huizhou tradesmen from the mid-Southern Song (1127 - 1279) to Emperor Qianlong’s reign (r. 1736-1796) in the Qing dynasty, an influential, regional architectural style was able to develop in Huizhou. Many features of this local style were incorporated in the architectural development of the south, in particular the canal towns of the Yangzi River delta.
Most streets in a Huizhou village line either a brook or a canal. Flagstones, paving the street, are on a gentle incline to drain water into the neighboring channel. Further, the flagstones are often pitted so that in spite of their drainage function they are not slippery. Alongside the street, there are often steps leading down to the water’s edge providing easy access to water for washing, cooking or bathing purposes. •
Even if you do not reach Tangyue Arches Complex, you are likely to spot Memorial Arches as you drive around Shexian county, which with 94 arches has preserved over half of those chronicled in its county annals.
These arches memorialize three different categories of honor - scholarly, imperial and ethical. Scholarly honor arches celebrate family members passing the provincial or national level imperial exams. Imperial honor refers to an Emperor’s decree ordering the erection of a memorial arch in recognition of the contribution of a local government official. Ethical honor describes arches put up to recognize the uncommon personal integrity of a particular individual or set of individuals. Traditional themes were righteousness, charity, chastity and filial piety. The Long-Lived Arch, for example, celebrates a loving couple, who lived to be 100 years old during the Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644). Usually, memorial arches were made of stone. Single-fronted, they bear calligraphy, describing the reason for the memorial arch. Often two posted, some have four posts and others, especially if they are square, have eight supporting posts. Although most of the arches are double-tiered some can be as many as five-storied. The Tang Yue Arches are seven arches acknowledging the successful political career, filial piety, chastity and charity of continuing generations of the Bao family. Three of the arches were erected during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) and four during the Qing dynasty (1644-1911).
Typical Huizhou Architecture, Anhui China | 中国，安徽徽派建筑
The older population never learned any english while young, so therefore they are having a hard time expressing themselves to foreigners. In most cases a translator will have to accompany them. In comparison, the younger population are already a lot more experienced in expressing themselves in english. I wouldn’t stretch as far as to say they can speak english well, but it’s a big improvement from ten to twenty years ago. Shanghai is a lot different thought, with it’s more international society. If I didn’t know better, I would say that Shanghai reminds of New York City. Not that I’ve ever been there, but the high rise buildings, people which are always in a hurry and the multicultural inhabitants certainly make it feel that way. I would say this is a good thing, because they are beautiful for what they are, a modern city with a multicultural population. For a foreigner to work in Shanghai or Hong Kong is not harder then moving to say Paris, Barcelona or London. You will be more surprised about how many things that feel the same before you think of what is different.
With this being said, it’s here you will experience what China is all about, the local cuisine, nature and architecture. It’s important to remember that while travelling in China between different provinces, the european comparison would be to travel between countries, in regard to the geograpical scale.
Chinese culture is one of the world’s oldest and most complex and covers geographical region as large as europe. The culture and architecture varies greatly between towns, cities and provinces. Important components of Chinese culture includes literature, music, visual arts, martial arts, cuisine, etc. All of this forms what chinese culture is all about today, and how it has shaped modern chinese architecture.
When moving away from the largest cities you will experience a couple of things. The first thing is how much less expensive it is to live there. The second thing is the lack of knowledge when it comes to anything regarding what lies further from the exterior borders of China.
This is interesting because the difference between countries close to eachother in Europe is fairly large, and the same could be said about provinces in China. Everything changes, the food, nature and behavior of people. Even the language changes, and every province in China has a certain local dialect that no one else understands. Almost everyone can speak and understand mandarin though, which is the common tongue.
To work as an architect in China can be both demanding and surprisingly hard. The expression “clash of cultures” can be taken into the equation while trying to explain how it is to work there. The hardest thing, as in most cases with moving to a new culture, regardless of purpose, is to get used to the language.
The spring festival, which takes place in late january, was especially interesting. Everyone, gets off work to spend time with their families, much like the european or american way of spending christmas.
This usually involves multiple dinners, gifts and over friendly greetings, to express and show that they value the collaboration and friendship.
It seems as most chinese value the relationship with foreigners highly. This is because of what we can learn from eachother. Europe, which is a further developed region then China, can contribute itâ€™s knowledge to what now is a fast growing China. Better living, nicer cars and a higher demand in international travel. In the same way, we can benefit highly from having a good relationship with China. For the 5 months I stayed in China, I was always well taken care off. In exchange I held my head high and tried to be as helpful as I could be. At the Institute where I worked, the level of knowledge in english increased exponentially while I stayed there. We both could benefit from me teaching them english and they teaching me mandarin. In the end this is what itâ€™s about, helping and learning from eachother to get a common understanding of a good relationship.
In China, business relationships are very different from Europe. Many will say that they are valued higher then elsewhere, which in my experience is very true. Both to foreigners and non-foreigners, they make sure to create a good friendship between the two parties.
I was often asked to give speeches to a crowd of people. Not because I necessarily had the most interesting thing to say, but in most cases to express the gratitude I had for creating a relationship between us. Since most of them never had met a swedish person before, I as a single person in a way represented how their view would become of swedish people, which is a big task to be responsible of.
Together with a colleague, we designen the concept proposal in Shanghai with UDG China (http://www.udg.com.cn). The presentation took place at Hainan Islands, presenting in english, with a translator to chinese.
I left Huangshan City and went to Shanghai where we could prepare the material for the presentation, which took place the day after. It involved everything from ppt-files to AutoCad drawings where we could illustrate conceptual drawings. As this was in the conceptual phase of planning, our main goal were to demonstrate what our office had done before, the key architects that worked in the european office and aswell to show something that they could relate to, which would be the chinese architecture firm UDG China. We rehearsed slightly, and were as well prepared as you could be for a multi million dollar presentation, but sometimes itâ€™s a good idea to improvise, it comes out more natural that way, especially if you have the confidence to do so. Well at the Hainan Islands, the work changed from preparation to execution, with pre meetings with the clients, involving a smaller dinner et.c. The â€œless then a 24 hour duration stayâ€? at the Hainan Islands made the visit very effective with little, if any, sleep. The presentation took place in a large room, in the very hotel where we stayed, with up to 50 people, involving mostly investors, but also other people related to the project. The presentation went well, and nothing unexpected happened. It took roughly 1 hour, which I would say is the maximum amount of time to have a presentation in, everything above that rejects negativly back on us. A 45 minute presentation might be ideal. After the presentation we exchanged business cards, and our part there were done.
For a very short period of time I helped an european firm to design and propose a complex urban design development presentation for clients at The Hainan Islands, southern China.
The Hainan Islands
The experience was like no other, with a high tempo from start to finish.
Shanghai Shanghai is a place like no other. The pulse itself of the city makes you want to stay there forever. Everythingâ€™s alive. I had the opportunity to go there several times, both for business and pleasure, and I enjoyed it every time. The city, larger then any city in Europe, and the biggest in China, reminds me alot of The Big Apple. I would say this is due to three main factors. The first being the shear amount of high rises, especially if you are in the central part of Shanghai. 20 years ago you could see none, now there are new ones being constructed every year, each one more beautiful than the other. You have the nice opportunity to enter most of them and go to the top for a small amount of money. In the top you can experience a mesmerizing view of the central landscape of Shanghai, especielly during night time view billions of lights lit. To sit in a bar when the sun goes down is a view everyone should should experience. The second factor is the fast haste the city moves in, even the way people walk in Shanghai is faster then other places. This is due to people working harder here, and in the same time having to move by foot, subway or bus between the many businesses of Shanghai. Taxi can be expensive and having a car in Shanghai is not an option for most people with the taxes and everything. Even thought the city if more than alive during daytime, itâ€™s during nighttime when the city really comes alive. The impressive amount of bars and nightclubs in Shanghai gives people the opportunity to work hard during the day, but to experience a good time during night. Many business meetings takes place during the evening at bars, due to the timelimit a normal day offers, making it possible to create a hybrid between work and joy. The third, and maybe most important thing, is the big multicultural population of Shanghai. Going everywhere else in China, with the exception of Hong Kong and Beijing, the only thing youâ€™ll see is chinese people. Even at tourist places, the vast majority of people will be chinese tourists. This makes Shanghai excellent to foreigners, making it easier to communicate throught the vocal barriers that so often excists elsewhere.
The Pudong (east bank) skyline
Shanghai World Financial Center
Jin Mao Tower
Puxi (west bank)
Contact information Jonathan Chausset
I’ve met wonderful persons, and I want to thank everyone that made this internship possible. I hope to someday return to Huangshan and meet with friends and colleagues.
It’s nice to be able to say that you have no regrets. All I regret about China is that i didn’t stay longer...
Five months has passed since I first came to Huangshan City. I’ve experienced a lot on the way, both when it comes to be a better architect, but also to help me grow as a person.
To have a look at my work from the Architectural Design and Research Institute of Huangshan City, please have a look at www.jonac.info.