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Models are designed to help the mass production in factories. By simply copying the prototype, a huge number of products with same appearance are made. What an efficient and convenient way to make profits! But when the models are used for architecture, which means the same rules or methods are used to design in an environment of complexity, the architecture will lose the connection with the surrounding and lack the ability to meet multiple needs. The Architecture of China are facing this problem. The urgent need for developing forces the architects to copy existing methods without thinking during their new design. In other words, they are relying on the models, some of which are out of date and not suitable for their projects. Even worse, they become thinking in models. Same architecture is existing in different place, like the products of mass production. Escape from models, escape from traditional ways and conventional ideas. Discover the new possibility from existence. Or least, stop simply copying.


[Hanging Hostel] The Hostel of Containers Design

[Garden School] The School of Architecture Design

[Fold-Unfold] The Urban Installation Design

[Street of Humanity]

Zhan Xu

Research & Urban Design

MSAAD, GSAPP, Columbia University in the City of New York

[Urban Fragments]

Mailing Address: 501 West 110th Street, Apt 3H, New York, NY 10025 E-mail: Tel: 917-655-5125

The Complex Design

[Other Works]


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[Hanging Hostel]

The Hostel of Containers Design Personal work & Compitition Instructor: Ting Zhang Site: Shuangque Mountain, Shandong Time: June 2014

Architecture should suit well to the environment and brace itself in an efficient way at the same time. When a youth hostel made of containers is required in the mountain, the great view of the nature and the durability of the containers should be both made the most use of. There is an intriguing solution, which is, “hanging” the hostel under the bridge across the valley, which provides the visitor an easy access and an exciting view of the valley below. The containers, the units of the hostel, also meet their most reasonable way of structure- like themselves hanging when transported in the port. In addition, this new construction will do the least harm to the nature, since it takes no ground to “stand”.


1. The site consists of several valleys and hilltops, which are main scene in the mountain.

2. An existing road connecting some hilltops as a “U”, but not completed.

3. A closed loop should be created to provide visitors with a complete scene.

4. To finally close the loop, a bridge is designed above the valley.

5. The bridge will be the center of the new landscape planning, where the hostel hangs.

6. Accompanied by series of landscape designs, the site will be more attracting.

Unit + Hanging + Bridge + Mountain In the ports, we can see containers lifted swiftly and steadily by cranes, which suggests that “Hanging” is a safe and efficient way for the hostel of containers to brace itself. So it is possible to hang the hostel under the bridge in mountains. Nature will be preserved, users will enjoy the great view of the valley. Also the hostel can be easily transported into mountains in containers after produced in the factory, overcoming the short of supply in the mountains.

Advantages under the bridge.

Where is the Bridge?

Building under the bridge do the least harm to the plants on the mountain.

Building under the bridge can be the most easily accessed by travelers.

Building under the bridge can provide the most complete view of mountains.


The bridge is mainly for hikers and cyclers. Arbors made of containers are inserted in the road, as a part of landscape design. Containers hang under the bridge, making up the hostel, some of which are converted to rooms and corridors. Others are merge to create a bigger public spaces and entrances, located in the middle of the plan for an easy access from the bridge. Following the structure of the bridge, the organization of containers is symmetrical so that the, which also makes the bridge more steady.


The bridges and the hostel share the two-floor lookout, visitors on the bridges can also use the cafe and pub in the hostel.

Possible Fuctions To make the most use of the containers, the scale of which is studied. The potential function of 20’ and 40’ container is listed, based on the relationship between the size of human, furniture and containers.

The entrance is at the middle of the bridge, accompanied by the lookout.


1. Prefabricated Tube (For Water & Electricity) 2. Prefabricated Doors and Windows 3. Prefabricated Wall (With Insulation)

By putting different furniture and compare their scale with container's, units of different functions are developed. And the combination of several containers will provide large space. So containers under the bridge can also serve the functions require by a hostel.

When the hostel is no more needed, it can be moved from the bridge. So the units need to be prefabricated, which is convenient for construction and replacement.


Unit Composition

Rendering Staff Room



Room for 4


Bridge Using the Anchored suspension structure, the bridge looks lighter. The railing connected to the suspension also uses the same pattern of wires

Truss The truss provides additional brace for the bridges. It is also the foundation of the boom.

Composition A

Lookout As the top of the suspended 40’ containers, the lookout made of wood is also the entrance.

B Boom The design of booms refers to the crane, which can equally hang the containers.


Composition of Boom


Composition B

Containers and equipment inside are prefabricated in the factory.

South Elevation


[Garden School]

The project of the school of Architecture is surrounded by green and series of schools and universities. How to provide students a close relationship with the nature and provide them with comfort when they are studying? How to let them enjoy open spaces with high quality? A slope of green merges the inside with outside, giving an answer. Green joins the open space in the building, expanding the place for public. Voids are added within the classrooms and work shop, creating the space for light, wind and communication. The school is finally drew into the nature.

The School of Architecture Design

Personal work & Compitition Instructor: Ting Zhang Site: Beijing University Of Civil Engineering And Architecture Time: April 2014


The Potential Space Summarizing the spaces and activities in the school of architecture helps us find out that most of the behaviors, including teaching, studying and communicating happen inside the building. While under some circumstances they accidentally happen outside. The field study of plants, the 1: 1 model studying create a more vivid experience for students. Is it possible to make the outdoor space a former space for Architecture teaching, and to make outdoor teaching and studying essential in the new school?

Activities of School

Small Classroom


Middle Big

Practicing/learning Indoor

Studio Exhibition

Communicating Corridor Open space

Space of School





Green Open space

Open space

Green Classroom



Sub open space


Open space


Sub open space


The school of Architecture in Architecture and Industry University of Beijing is located in the suburban of Beijing. The site is surrounded by schools and large area of green, providing perfect chance for outdoor studying and communication.

Former school spaces are clearly separated for different function. Same goes for interior and exterior. To change this monotony, spaces of different function are mixed up. Voids are inserted between the classrooms as sub open spaces. Green is added to the roof. To further enhance the relationship between outside and inside, a slope of green is designed, connecting the open and private spaces.


Section 1-1 Rendering



2. Join the two cuboids with a roof garden.

3. Lower one side of the garden to the ground.

4. Deduce the north volume for entrance

5. Extend some spaces inside to the garden as workshops.

6. Open voids within the plan for sunlight and communication.

7. Connect the voids with the garden with a bridge and a corridor.

Forming 1. Copy the exsisting volume for the new school as two east-west cuboids to agree the surrounding texture.



The urban installation design

Personal work & Compitition Cooperator: Jianshuang Li Site: Prince Harbor, Shenzhen Role in the Project: The concept of folds & protoype testing. Time: July 2014

An installation made of steel is required in the square in Prince Harbor to serve as a place for newsstand, stall or temporary exhibition. The scale of the volume is limited under 5*5*5m. Considering the multi-function, the small size and the temporary needs, we decided to design an installation which can change its own size to manage the function it provide. Also, it should be able to be packed and transported to different sites in the city. When paper is folded, the area covered by it can change as the paper unfolded. So we use "folds" as the concept of the installation. The steel is folded when produced, unfolded on the site to a surface covering the space of exhibition and stalls. It is temporary, efficient and multi-functional.


Folds Prototype Developed

Combination: Mirror

Prototype: Arch


Simple V

Hills Valley

Basic Unit 1

Basic Unit 2

Prototype: Board

Combination: Parallel


2 -2

By studying the principle and possibility of simple V folds, we develop several prototype of boards and archs. The arch provides a better cover than single board. Also, arch cover can support itself without other composition. So we choose the arch prototype which can be fold into a rectangular, the shap of which is easier to transported and stored.


Prototype Choosing

Top Plan


The installation unit are made of plates connnected to the transmission shafts to realize the "folding" of the surface. Two units can join into a larger surface. The angle of folds are controled by the anchor to the ground.





Blinds are added to the plate to enhance the lighting and ventilation in the installation. As a unit folds into 120 or 150 degree, two different spaces are created. The 120 degree is used as newsstand or stall, while two 150 degree units makes a hall of exhibition. This multi-function unit can be removed or transported elsewhere after used.


[Urban Fragments]

The Complex Design

Personal work & Compitition Instructor: Yuan Wuang Site: Qingdao Rd, Wuhan Time: December 2014 It is a complicate task to build a complex in a site of both high historical and commercial value. The new-built architecture need to be adjusted and limited to converse with the context, and provide open space for the high-dense district, however the volume rate of which should be high enough to compensate the expensive land price in the central area. When facing this conflict, each step of the design should be taken very carefully. The complex should be the union of fragments of information from the context and needs. After researching the urban texture and analyzing the needs and context. I convert these “fragments” into diagram to interact with the formation of the new volume. All essential needs and information effect the design. With respect to history, economic needs satisfied and the new open space for citizens provided, the complex finally becomes the union of the “fragments”


Urban Texture Research

To recall the history of the site, urban texture is studied. The block is in central area of Hanko, Wuhan, which used to be English Concession in 1860s. By recording the characteristics of the path and the space in the site and drawing diagrams, we get the current texture. Compare it with the historical map, we can figure out the relationship between the history and the current layout.

The old map also indicates that the 75° blocks origins from 1860s when the Concession was first set up and divided by 79 areas of 81.7*38.1m with angle of 75°. While the texture still remains today. This special texture can be used for the further design of the public space.

Points+lines: Diagram for the City The new complex should suit itself to the exsist pattern as well as the spacial requirement. How can it be the summary of these mass messages? In the book Points+Lines, Stan Allen use diagrams to express the urban imformation in the design . Same method is used to generate the figure of the complex.






Art Workshop

Roof Garden Keep two original lanes, connecting the open spaces with the surrounding communities.

Connect the site with the potential public sapces nearby, to organize the fuction of the new volume

Basing on the two former needs, the functions of the new complex are generated.

Diagram of Urban Function

Every step is taken carefully. The condition of the site and the needs of the clients are both transform into lines and patterns. By merging these diagram, the “fragments� of the city are put together with the urban pattern which has been studied previously.

The Deduction of Density and Volume The high price of the land need the complex to be "big" enough to make profit, which make density an essential issue when conducting complex design. Within the same area, the volume are changed according to the diagram to create different possibility of density. The complex need to be big when providing urban public space at the same time.








Structure and Tower Concept

The conventional structure of a tower is locating the core cube at the center of the plan, which is inflexible for space to be divided.

For 1 Big Company

For 6 Mid Companies

Tower Plan

When the core cube is moved to the periphery of the plan as a huge framework, space incide can be freely organized, with open space and green.

For 8 Small Companies

For 11 Small Companies

With this structure, space can be flexibly divided, rented to companies with different needs for space. Plans are no longer monotonous.


The main problem faced by the tower is shear. When the core cube is removed from the center of the plan, a huge framework structure is added to steady the tower. This framework consists of columns, beams with cables to steady every unit of the frame. It anchors the tower from the outside.


East Elevation

North Elevation








1. & 4. Graphic Design 2. Photo Shooting 3. Rendering of Fuzhen Temple, Wudang 5. Watercolor 6. The Structural Model of Zhenwu Temple (For Exhibition ARCHI-NEERING DESIGN)

[Other Works (Prat1)] Fine Arts & Works about Ancient Chinese Architecture








1. On the Roof - Revit 2015 Compitition 2. Gluebamboo Prototype Construction 3. Ibox - Chengdu Design Festival with AA School 4. Ring Design - Exuberance Workshop 5. Light Design - Back to Future Workshop 6. Studio Design - Space in Between Studio, MIT

[Other Works (Prat2)] Competition, Studio Work & Workshop


Zhan Xu

MSAAD, GSAPP, Columbia University in the City of New York Mailing Address: 501 West 110th Street, Apt 3H, New York, NY 10025 E-mail: Tel: 917-655-5125


Zhan xu portfolio