pei zhuportrait © designboom
we met pei zhu in beijing on november 4th, 2009.
what is the best moment of the day?its after 3pm until around 9pm. I think that’s my best moment.normally I work quite late. during the day I usually discuss work with my team to see the progress and if we have achieved a good result.
what kind of music do you listen to at the moment?when I was a student I use to like michael jackson, … you know – a lot of pop music. at that time china opened up to the western world. now? nothing in particular. sometimesclassical, sometimes rock, really everything. not at work though.
tao museum,cichuan,china, 2009image courtesy studio pei zhu
do you listen to the radio?only in the car.
what books do you have on your bedside table?right now I’m reading a book about chinese cultural values in the conceptualization of forgiveness. this book is quiteinteresting, as far as I know it has not been translated into english.
shenzhen literature & art center, shenzhen, china, 2009image courtesy studio pei zhu
do you read design / architecture / fashion magazines?I should really read them but the majority of the time I just flip through really quickly.
I assume you notice how women dress.do you have any preferences?in general I like women who dress casual, who show their character.
OCT design museum, shenzen, chinadesign: 2008, construction: 2009 – 2010image courtesy studio pei zhu
OCT design museum – modelimage © designboomsee more pictures here
what kind of clothes do you avoid wearing? purely black. I think too many designers and architects wear totally black. actually all of this (points to what he’s wearing) is not black.I also don’t like wearing suits or ties.
do you have any pets?no
ìurban oasis’ pavilion for the shenzhen hong kong biennale, china 2009image courtesy studio pei zhusee more pictures here
when you were a child, did you want to become an architect?no. I didn’t know that architecture was a profession.I wanted to be an artist. I had a teacher who was an artist, but he encouraged me to walk away from painting to studyarchitecture. I listened to his advice.
where do you work on your designs and projects?most of the time in the studio and visiting the building sites.most of my inspiration I got from the places since I really respect nature. well, …. to be honest most of the time my ideas come when I’m not working.
what project has given you the most satisfaction?so far none. I always feel a sort of disappointment with my projects, especially when the design is not achieved in the way we wanted it. this happens already during the process, most often during the construction. we feel there’s something going wrong, we see the mistakes made by manufacturers, contractors. sometimes it’s the relationship between client and architect.good is that each time we learn some lessons, its a big challenge. I think to myself there should beno excuse – I mean, I can do better.
xixi wetland art museum, hangzhou, chinadesign: 2008 construction: 2009 -2010image courtesy studio pei zhusee more images of the project here
do you discuss your work with other architects?I discuss our work with people from other fields, most often artists. you can learn alot of things from people who have different experiences. I am very busy, I think right now the only chance for me to discuss with other architects is on a panel, where the audience is exposed to various viewpoints at the same session. in private I sometimes discuss with architecture colleagues, but not in a serious manner. we rather just joke or chat. describe your style, like a good friend of yours would describe it.I wish to reconnect modern urban china to its roots,reinterpreting the vernacular in a contemporary context.
art museum for artist yue minjun, sichaun, chinadesign: 2007 – 2008 construction: 2009 – 2010image courtesy studio pei zhusee more images of the project here
today, architects identify ‘sustainability’ as the most important change…whatever you do in some way is harming our environment. as an architect, you build an object for society, or an individual, based on your understanding of this world.‘nature’ in many ways influences the form of our project for buildings. we put a lot of effort into thinking about sustainability and natural ventilation and how we could save energy not relying on technology. we’re looking for a natural idea, because I think that’s the real ecological way.I think architecture is a very good way of bringing people together, to better communicate with the environment.
guggenheim art pavillion, abu dhabi, UAE – modeldesign: 2006 – 2007, currently under constructionimage © designboomsee more images of the project here
how do you bring modern architecture closer to people?I don’t like the current insensitive development that has disrupted the traditional hierarchy of the chinese city plan. the government favors large, iconic buildings.my preference is for contemporary structures that leave only a light mark on the cityscape. we have done a few ‘invisible’ buildings, almost floating. installed on the construction site without any damage to the ground. we try to meticulouslypreserve the existing structure, the quintessentially chinese of traditional buildings.we try to reconfigure these classic principles in a contemporary manner by stripping ornamentation back to its purest lines. courtyards, gardens and landscaping, … the chinese form is at once an architecture of enclosure and an architecture of the natural world.
cai guo-qiang courtyard house, beijing, china – 2008image courtesy studio pei zhusee more images of the project here
please describe an evolution in your work, from your first projects to the present day.it’s not a question of scale.my first project was actually quite big, and when I became more influential in china, initially I refused other big projects. I wanted to test my ideas also on small scale projects. what changed? now, actuality I choose clients not a project type. it doesn’t matter if big or small, housing projects or a museum… I don’t mind as long as the client and I share similar goals.
guggenheim museum, beijing, chinadesign: 2007image courtesy studio pei zhusee more images of the project here
who would you like to design something for?right now? a factory or a space for machinery, or an airport.I’m interested in movement, accommodating large groups of people. something related to transportation.
digital beijing,beijing,china, 2004-2005image courtesy studio pei zhu
digital beijing,beijing,china, 2004-2005image courtesy studio pei zhu
is there any designer and/or architect from the past, you appreciate a lot?le corbusier is probably one of the most influential, since he had a lot of thoughts related to the transformation of architecture from the industrial system into the more cultural form within nature.
uf software, beijing, chinadesign: 2004 – 2005, under constructionimage courtesy studio pei zhu
and those still working / contemporary?toyo ito, rem koolhaas. to name a few. I think they have strong ideas.can I cite an artist? I like richard serra.his work is close to what we are doing right now.and chinese artists cai guo qiang, su bing … since they are all my clients and my friends.
blur hotel, beijing, chinadesign 2004 – 2005 construction: 2005 -2006image courtesy studio pei zhu
what advice would you give to the young?the younger generation in china should know more about our traditional chinese culture and philosophy.since most of our projects are located in china, we need to deal with its people, but most young architects lack a cultural vision. in the last 20 years too many architects just focus on the problem of urbanization, the physicalinfrastructure. they resolve the problem with a collage of ancient styles on the one hand and stupid imitation of western experimentalism on the other. instead I would like them to provide some soft, enjoyable, poetic vision within the project . therefore I’m suggesting to study history and chinese philosophy. our heritage is so different to that of western cultures. we should look at things from a different angle.
what are you afraid of regarding the future?there is too much pressure for the big scale and the artificialdominate this world. technology and industry. I just fear that industries will make technology very powerful.our conception of the value of people is getting smaller and smaller. we have already lost too much of nature, too manyvaluable things in our daily lives. for example – right now – every chinese city is getting bigger but actually peoples minds are getting smaller. the rush to modernize, chinese cities are becoming homogenized and losing their distinct identities.people are frustrated with their everyday work. they work and then go to sleep, without enjoying the place in which they live in.
STUDIO ZHU PEI (21)
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