Ma Yansong & MAD presented their installation, dubbed the Shanshui Experiment Complex at the the Shenzhen and Hong Kong Bi-city Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture. The elaborate model is based on Nanjing Zendai Thumb Plaza, the firm’s new master-plan for the Chinese city. The model, and the proposal more generally, are indicative of the firm’s commitment to meeting the demands of modern urban China through naturalistic architectural efforts.
The name given to this approach is Shan-Shui City, a phrase that predates MAD but has been extensively developed through the designs of Yansong, the firm’s founder. Its first two words translate as mountain and water, the two pillars of Chinese landscape painting. In the context of Yansong’s practice these two representatives of the natural world are seamlessly incorporated into the urban context in which MAD operates. In doing so MAD attempts to distance itself from the notion that the man-made and natural environments exist on opposite ends of a strictly defined binary.
In the Nanjing proposal the blurring of these lines results in a series of buildings that avoid the obscene heights of the new skyscrapers increasingly prevalent in 21st-century skylines. The shapely structures are imbued with an organic irregularity that allows them to meld with the surrounding atmosphere without trying to breakthrough it. Amongst these mountains curved pathways link plazas in which artificial and natural landscaping coexist and the distinction between the two is ambiguous. Here, the natural world is not relegated to strictly defined green spaces but is instead allowed to pervade every aspect of the urban environment. The aesthetics on display in the installation are very much in keeping with other MAD projects also conceptualized along Shan-shui principles.
Situated within the Yangtze River Delta and surrounded by mountains, the rapidly growing city of Nanjing is a fitting location for the implementation of Yansong’s methods. If all goes according to plan, MAD’s creations should be added to the Nanjing landscape by 2017.