Posts tagged with "China":

Towards Openness, Book Launch at NEW Inc.

Book Launch and Discussion with authors Li Hu and Huang Wenjing of OPEN Architecture Drawn from keen observation of the rapidly changing social economic landscape of China, and using OPEN Architecture’s projects as case studies, Towards Openness is a symphony of seven built projects and six idea chapters that are interestingly interwoven to offer an in-depth examination of OPEN’s unique practice and the critical thinking underlying its work. OPEN is a passionate team of designers, collaborating across different disciplines to practice urban design, landscape design, architectural design and interior design, as well as the research and production of design strategies in the context of new challenges. Authors Li Hu and Huang Wenjing will introduce the book and discuss current work. The book will be available for sale at the event. www.openarch.com If you are not a member of the GSAPP Incubator or NEW INC community and would like to attend this event, please RSVP.
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Why is MVRDV’s Binhai library full of fake bookshelves?

After recently completing its eye-shaped library in Tianjin Binhai, China, Dutch design firm MVRDV is facing questions over the functionality of the shelves in its main atrium. After the building went viral for its visually stunning floor-to-ceiling shelving, patrons have reported that the books on display are either fake or printed onto the shelving itself. Commissioned by the Tianjin Urban Planning and Design Institute as part of a master plan to create a new cultural district for the city, the Tianjin Binhai Library went from design to completion in only three years. Layers of white, terraced bookshelves in the atrium wrap around a glowing orb that anchors the library and doubles as a centrally-located auditorium. Slotting the building into an existing 393,000-square-foot master plan by German architects GMP, MVRDV rolled the required auditorium into a multi-use cavity that leads to reading rooms, lounge areas, offices, meeting rooms and computer labs. The building itself is only 6 stories tall, so every programmatic element is accessible directly from the atrium. MVRDV acknowledged that their original plans for accessing the top bookshelves through upper-level rooms had to be scrapped because of the tight construction schedule, with “perforated aluminum plates printed to represent books” filling the inaccessible spaces. However, as Yahoo reported yesterday, visitors have been met with empty shelves and dangerously uneven stairs. Most of the real books on display for the opening were only put out for a photo shoot, and have been moved to traditional reading rooms deeper in the library. The library's deputy director, Liu Xiufeng, told Yahoo, "We can only use the hall for the purposes for which it has been approved, so we cannot use it as a place to put books." The decision was made by local authorities and against MVRDV’s wishes, according to spokeswoman Zhou Shuting. Originally promising to house 1.2 million books, the library has stalled out at 200,000, although it hopes to eventually reach that goal. Still, the project’s online popularity has bolstered the number of visitors that the library receives to 15,000 every weekend. The lack of books isn’t the Tianjin Binhai Library’s only problem, and less attentive tourists have fallen victim to the irregularly shaped stairs. "People trip a lot. Last week an old lady slipped and hit her head hard. There was blood," a guard told Yahoo.
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Why China is absent from the design conversation

Despite its solid economic growth and sizable population (the largest in the world), China is noticeably absent from many conversations and events surrounding design. As numerous publications have pointed out, there was very little representation of China this past year at Milan Design Week and New York Design Week, among others.  To learn more, The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) managing editor Olivia Martin sat down with Yuichiro Hori of Stellar Works, a Shanghai-based design company, to talk about the current design climate in China. Although Hori is Japanese, he found Shanghai to be the best place to launch Stellar Works, a cross-cultural brand that has worked with designers such as Yabu Pushelberg, Space Copenhagen, Neri& Hu, and David Rockwell. Stellar Works has been praised as one of the few companies truly representing China (and Asia in general) in the design fair circuit. The Architect’s Newspaper: Tell me a bit about starting Stellar Works and how you ended up with a factory in Shanghai and a factory in France. Yuichiro Hori: My background is in furniture design, so I was designing my collection without my own factory and I was supposed to be making everything in Japan. The quality of Japanese manufacturing is very good, but the problem is that the factories aren’t very flexible. The Japanese manufacturing mentality is conservative and people hesitate to take on new challenges. This leads to long lead times and high costs. I had lots of ideas for my new collections, but it was difficult to get them done. When I went to China, I was surprised by the large-scale furniture factories with new machines and highly skilled workers—I was very impressed! I started asking some of the Chinese companies to work with me. Ultimately, I set up my own factory in Shanghai, which is an amazing environment: It is innovative and dynamic and international and I am able to find skilled workers easily. So, I moved to Shanghai for my factory there and also started working with the high-end French manufacturing furniture firm Laval to do the furniture’s hand detailing.   How does that combination of Japanese-Chinese-France work?  It’s very interesting. It’s a unique combination. Everything is different, even the way we work and the way we talk. Every day we have a new surprise—mostly positive surprises. We are learning about each other and learning from China. The French factory is smaller than the Shanghai factory and can only be open for 35 hours a week, whereas the Shanghai factory can be open for double that because the people are very young and very willing to work. Obviously, the two cultures are very different. We like to say that we are made in Shanghai rather than made in China. We enjoy the city here and the nice living environment. Typically, strong design movements come out of very strong economies and Shanghai has a strong economic background. As we get more and more design requests we can support the improvement of local manufacturers and challenge new designers.  Overall, we have noticed a lack of Chinese design at major furniture fairs, even as the Chinese market has grown. Do you agree with that or are we looking in the wrong places? I think China is still more hardware than software. China is the factory of the world; they are producing everything and exporting everything. So the challenge for China is that they are so focused on manufacturing design rather than creating it. I definitely don’t think that is bad, but it makes it more difficult for design development. But, China is booming and growing so sooner or later it is going to happen.
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After furor, Kushner Companies’ Jersey City project still seeking funding

One Journal Square, a mixed-use development designed by global architecture firm Woods Bagot, has been put under the microscope as the project’s developer, Kushner Companies, seeks funding through the controversial EB-5 investor visa program. The Jersey City development has been hit with turmoil recently, with its main tenant, WeWork, backing out and taking several million dollars of tax breaks with them, as well as potentially losing a major chunk of cash ($30.4 million in city bonds, to be precise) and a 30-year tax abatement to boot, according to Bloomberg News. Kushner Companies, like many developers, has turned to Chinese investors to garner funds, specifically $150 million of the $1 billion budget, utilizing the EB-5 investor visa program. The EB-5 program, more formally known as the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program, was created by the Immigration Act of 1990 as a way to spur investment into rural communities and communities struggling with high unemployment rates. The gist is that a foreign investor can invest a minimum of $500,000 to $1 million in a business that will employ at least ten American workers, and, in exchange, they will receive a U.S. visa, which can turn into permanent residency for the investor and their family. The program was developed to spur growth in downtrodden communities, however, the program has become a loophole for developers to fund luxury projects, claiming nearby neighborhoods struggling with unemployment in order to qualify their luxury developments for the program. Then all they have to do is sell visas to wealthy foreigners in exchange for ‘cheap money.’ The number of visas issued through the EB-5 program has increased dramatically in recent years, from a meager 64 visas in 2003 to nearly 9,000 visas issued in 2015, according to The New York Times. Of those 9,000, approximately 80 percent were to Chinese investors, according to The Washington Post. Despite the increase in growth, a report by the Government Accountability Office in 2015 suggests the program is at high risk for fraud and has no reliable means of verifying sources of funds (like that one time invested funds were linked to several Chinese brothels). Although the EB-5 program itself is no stranger to scandals (for example, a member of Iranian intelligence utilized the program to obtain a visa), there is no doubt that much of this particular scandal comes from the company in question’s ties to a particular senior adviser to the White House (that would be Jared Kushner, husband to Ivanka Trump and former chief executive of Kushner Companies). Only one day before Kushner’s sister spoke to investors in Beijing about One Journal Square, saying the project “means a lot to me and my entire family,” President Trump signed an extension to the EB-5 program as part of his Omnibus bill, raising many eyebrows. Although there is no evidence that Kushner or his sister have done anything illegal or in direct violation of any ethics codes, the controversy surrounding One Journal Square has drawn a lot of attention to the conflict-of-interest concerns floating around President Trump’s White House, as well as the ongoing debate about the future of the EB-5 program and what that means for luxury developers. Despite the scandal and struggle to find funds, however, One Journal Square is still set to begin construction early next year. Stay tuned.
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China plans to build two million affordable housing units in 2017

China is aiming to build two million affordable housing units this year in an effort to increase access to housing across the country, senior officials from that country report. According to Reuters, Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (MOHURD) vice minister Lu Kehua explained that access to affordable housing was becoming a top priority for the government, as housing affordability across China’s largest cities has plummeted in recent years. Many parts of the country are currently experiencing a property boom that has left China’s low-income residents—especially migrant workers who have moved to China’s bustling cities from the countryside—out in the cold. The new units will be developed with an eye toward housing such populations, Lu explained. Official Chinese state publication Xinhua reports that the government has boosted investments and financing in public housing production in recent months to begin the process. Confusingly, the so-called property bubble in major cities comes as many of China’s smaller cities suffer from housing overproduction, resulting in “ghost cities.” China’s unequal, helter-skelter housing growth is straining city residents and has the potential to end badly, economically speaking, as builders take on more and more debt to build housing where it is neither needed nor in high demand. Of course, the low-skilled workers most dependent on the booming building industry there are due to suffer most in the event of economic collapse. Though two million new units is an impressive feat, the new affordable housing efforts are relatively paltry, considering China’s population currently stands at roughly 1.357 billion inhabitants, with roughly 70 million people living in poverty there. Overall, China provides affordable housing for roughly 11.3 million families. By comparison, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, administers roughly 4.8 million affordable units, according to a recent report. By one measure, China’s forthcoming affordable units, if developed proportionally in the United States, would result in over 466,000 new units. That number, coincidentally, is close to the number of new units needed to begin to address California’s housing crisis
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Studio Roosegaarde’s giant air-purifier leaves Beijing’s air cleaner than it found it

During his visit to Beijing in 2013, Daan Roosegaarde, Dutch artist, designer, and innovator, discovered the air quality in the city was so poor that children were kept indoors and he was unable to see out the window of his hotel room. But Roosegaarde saw more in the smog than most; he saw the possibility for clean air for the people of Beijing. He returned to his team of designers at Studio Roosegaarde and they set to work on designing, building, and testing (what they claim is) the world’s largest air purifier. Standing at almost 23 feet high, the Smog Free Tower can clean 30,000 cubic meters of air per hour using the same amount of electricity as a home water boiler (about 1,400 watts). According to Roosegaarde, the system can collect, capture, and turn to dust about 75% of dangerous PM2.5 and PM10 airborne smog particulates, creating a bubble of clean air in its midst. Studio Roosegaarde turned to Kickstarter to get the project going and were able to build their first Smog Free Tower in Rotterdam in September of 2015. One year later, with the support of the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Smog Free Tower opened in Beijing’s 751 D.Park on the first stop of its global tour. “We warmly welcome Smog Free Project to Beijing,” said Liu Guozheng, Secretary-General of The China Forum of Environmental Journalists. “This project is key in our agenda to promote clean air as a ‘green lifestyle’ among Chinese citizens. Our goal is to guide the public to a healthier lifestyle, low carbon development and to raise awareness amongst the public and reduce smog.” Visitors have also enjoyed visiting the Tower during its stay, calling it the “clean air temple,” in reference to historic Chinese pagodas. During its stint in Beijing, the tower cleansed 30 million cubic meters of air, equivalent to the volume of 10 Beijing National Stadiums, and removed 400 grams of smog. The smog particulates collected from the tower’s Beijing stay have been used to create 300 limited edition Smog Free Rings, each crafted by a member of Roosegaarde’s design team. The purchase of the rings aids in the development of the project and its global tour. “Smog Free Project is about the dream of clean air and the beginning of a journey towards smarter cities,” said Roosegaarde. He and his team hope that the Smog Free Project will inspire citizens, governments, and other members of the tech industry to work together toward smog-free cities. To learn more about Smog Free Project, Smog Free Rings, and the Smog Free Tower’s next stop on its global tour, visit Studio Roosegaarde’s website here.
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Shanghai mall offers special refuge for husbands shopping with their wives

When wives or girlfriends utter the phrase "Let's go shopping!" on a Saturday afternoon, husbands and boyfriends may groan at the thought of the impending boredom, or find themselves suddenly paralyzed by the fear of hours on end in the women's section of local department stores. In an effort to create a more pleasant mall experience for both genders, the Vanke Mall in Shanghai recently opened a "Husband Nursery." The space (originally reported on by China Daily) is equipped with lounge chairs, a massage chair, a television, a fridge, magazines, and newspapers. Husbands and boyfriends can relax while their wives and girlfriends are cruising the shopping floors. When those ladies are all spent and ready to go, they'll know where to find their significant others. Located in Qibao, a smaller town in the Minhang District of Shanghai, Vanke Mall also offers a Tree House playground for kids.
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This master plan calls for a brand new city to alleviate China’s water issues

Chicago-based UrbanLab has a knack for combining water infrastructure with architecture and landscape to find new urban forms. In the 2014 Venice Biennale, the studio presented the Free Water District (FWD), an urban-scale multiuse, multi-environment development that would encourage industry through a controlled, but free, use of Great Lakes water. In its latest commission, UrbanLab has been asked to address an even more complex urban situation in China.

The Yangming Archipelago in Changde, Hunan, China, will be a new district that will accommodate 600,000 people in five square miles. Changde is part of a larger program in China to implement large water-infrastructure projects in order to improve urban water quality. At the heart of the project is an island-filled lake, which will act as an ecological, as well as a social and cultural space. The Yangming Archipelago also includes a dense system of public transportation and housing, integrated into eco-boulevards.

Eco-boulevards, a concept that can be found in many of the studio’s proposals, put water at the center of urban improvement. The idea is based on case-by-base performance-based infrastructural landscapes. These rich boulevards would come in many forms and sizes, but they would all function as more than a space for vehicular movement, providing social, ecological, and energy amenities. The boulevards would traverse the city with integrated water-filtration and water-retention technologies,a space for vehicular movement, providing social, ecological, and energy amenities. The boulevards would traverse the city with integrated water-filtration and water-retention technologies, a space for vehicular movement, providing social, ecological, and energy amenities. The boulevards would traverse the city with integrated water-filtration and water-retention technologies, both passive and active. The stitching of nature to the larger urban environment would connect formerly disparate parts of the city with a common civic space.

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UrbanLab is combining water infrastructure with architecture to reimagine how cities work

With work ranging from houses and storefronts to city-scale master plans, Chicago-based UrbanLab fluidly navigates architecture and urbanism. Regardless of scale, the studio addresses complex social and ecological issues with straightforward yet ambitious proposals—while managing to introduce a hint of levity in every design.

Midwest editor Matthew Messner sat down with UrbanLab to talk about the Yangming Archipelago and how the studio works with water as a design component.

The Architect’s Newspaper: How does UrbanLab approach water as a resource for architecture and urbanism?

UrbanLab: Water, we believe, is the primary infrastructural framework and life-support system of cities. We think water infrastructure has the capability to unlock questions of how to best shape urban form and support healthy lifestyles. Today, the ways in which cities address their water challenges will be critical to their ability to prosper and grow. We see water scarcity as typically the result of shortsighted or poor planning strategies (or lack thereof) that use water only once before relegating it to waste. In this simple, linear model, water is typically castoff after its first use, at which time it becomes successively more polluted. We think this is crazy: Water is rarely so toxic that it can’t be salvaged and recycled again and again. As Buckminster Fuller remarked, “Waste is merely a resource in the wrong place.” So too is “waste” water that is routinely ejected out of cities instead of being kept and put back to work. Alternatively, UrbanLab’s water-based urbanism projects view water as part of a circular economy and ecology, where it keeps its value after each use, and ultimately returns to an original source.

How does this play out in the studio’s projects?

Each of our projects is a “bowl” of varying size and shape in which water circulates in semi-closed loops. Shifting to looping circular models that store water, from linear models that discard water, can replace scarcity with abundance, and help solve challenges of long-term supply and demand. We’re very interested to combine water infrastructures with architecture and landscape to find new urban forms.

How is water-based urbanism deployed in the current Changde project?

Our client, Changde’s planning bureau, aims to realize the plan in the next five to ten years. Currently, the project site is sparsely developed farmland bordered by high-density superblocks. At the center of the site is a highly polluted lake that is prone to flooding. Our primary design concept is a continuation of ideas we’ve been developing: To reimagine water as an amenity (not a problem) for people. The lake is re-planned as a bowl-shaped “central water park” for the entire city.

What are some the ecological aspects of the design?

To help clean the lake, water-filtering infrastructures, or eco-boulevards—an idea we’ve been working on through several projects—pre-treat storm water runoff. Eco-boulevards are connected to additional water-filtering infrastructures such as tree-lined feeder roads, storm-water parks, and in-block rain gardens. Together, the streets and open green spaces are a porous framework of sub-bowls that naturally absorb and clean rainwater before [it enters] the lake. A fine-grained urban grid accommodates a mix of transportation options within and between eight new subdistricts. Compared to contemporary, car-centric urban grids in China that encircle gated superblocks, the geometry of our compact grid allows for a highly efficient bus transit system, reducing energy use and pollution. Bus stops and transfer nodes are planned within a 10-minute pedestrian walk to all new developments. In the lake, a group of new islands is planned. The “Central Business District Island” contains the most prominent new commercial buildings, and a chain of “Cultural Islands” contains new civic venues and gardens. The islands filter lake water and naturally enhance biodiversity and the living environment.

This article was part of our Oct. 12 issue which focused on how water is shaping today’s landscape architecture and urbanism. Communities face deluges and droughts—for some, the stakes can be survival itself, but others see opportunities for decadence. To explore these stories from around the U.S. and the world, click here.
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MAD Architects reveal designs for China Philharmonic Hall in Beijing

Beijing-based MAD Architects has revealed plans for the design its latest project, the China Philharmonic Hall. The 286,000-square foot music hall is located on a 2.86-acre property in Beijing’s Central Business District and has been designed in collaboration with acoustics expert Yasuhisa Toyota in an effort to create a state-of-the-art music venue for China’s capital city. Toyota was also an acoustics designer for the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, the Philharmonie de Paris, and the Suntory Hall in Japan, and is known as a master in the field. The concert hall, surrounded on two sides by vegetation and a lotus pond, is designed to be approached through park areas and act as an urban refuge. In a press release from the firm, Ma Yansong, founder and principal at MAD Architects, describes the project as a place of respite in what is otherwise a hub of trade and commerce, saying, “We wanted to create a pure and sacred oasis in the midst of the bustling city.” He added, “From the moment you enter the building, you will be taken to another time and space.” Like many of MAD Architects’ recent projects, the building’s functional interior spaces—a 1,600-seat concert hall, a smaller 400-seat rehearsal hall, recording studio, library, gallery, offices, and rehearsal rooms—are all amassed together at the center of an otherwise airy and porous building. Flowing around the central building mass is a sinuous exterior facade made of translucent white panels that contain circulation and gathering spaces. The venue’s main concert hall is designed with a terraced seating arrangement made up of wooden platforms and is capped by a series of billowing white forms that are, according to the architects, inspired by the petals of the lotus flower. These surfaces will be used for projections during performances—all part of the effort to have a transformative effect on the venue's harried urban occupants. The project is scheduled to begin construction this year and is expected to be completed in 2019.
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Diller Scofidio + Renfro wins competition to design artificial island complex in China

New York firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) has trumped nine other studios in a competition to masterplan a man-made island in Haikou Bay, China. In doing so, DS+R beat off Foster + Partners, UN Studio, and fellow New York practice Morphosis Architects to design 250-acre plot of land.

The crescent-shaped island is officially known as the South Sea Pearl Artificial Island and is located in China's Hainan province. It will be joined to Hainan—itself a large island off the south Chinese coast—by a bridge. Chinese developer HNA Group, the group funding the project, wants to create an eco-tourism hub complete with a hotel complex, theme park, yacht harbor, and cruise ship port. The total price tag will be $1.25 billion.

"Our studio worked for a couple of months to imagine how to take this amount of land and how to consolidate all the building program in the smallest footprint possible, but also in a very natural land form," said Elizabeth Diller, a partner at DS+R, in an interview with Chinese news service CCTV. "It's a stitching of nature and culture together, so we’re very excited about that," she added. Meanwhile, Ni Qiang, the mayor of Haikou, spoke of the economic implications and what the project will mean to the island in a general sense. "This island will not only help boost local economic growth and create more jobs but also bring some of the world's most advanced concepts in urban development to China,” he said. Construction is expected to begin in 2017 and take approximately a decade, wrapping up in 2027. The other offices that competed were: Office of Architecture in Barcelona; Seoul-based Iroje Architects & Planners; Rotterdam-based KuiperCompagnons; Los Angeles-based The Jerde Partnership, Beijing-based CCDI, and internationally-based Boston International Design Group.
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Laguarda.Low Architects wins large planning project in Jining, China

Laguarda.Low Architects, a sixteen-year-old firm with offices in Tokyo, Beijing, and (until recently) Dallas, has consolidated their head office in the Flatiron district in New York City. They have developed an international practice, working on nearly every continent and have just been awarded a massive planning and architecture project—over 3 million square feet—in Jining, China. The plan is a major urban development scheme, one that few countries but China seem to be able to pull off. The firm principals Pablo Laguarda and John Low say that they created a cohesive design for the plan “by adding a grand public plaza (including landscaped plantings, courtyards, and water features) between cultural buildings” designed by Mario Botta and SANAA. All east facing facades are clad in white stone, matching the paving of the plaza. This particular stone was chosen to provide uniformity in materials between the paving, building facade and roof, and create a curtain like backdrop for the cultural buildings. The project will be built in will be built in six phases, beginning with a new hotel, retail center, four office towers and two high-end residential buildings. Construction will start in 2016.