Posts tagged with "China":

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Foxconn Said to Be Considering Investment in American Manufacturing

Much has been made of the decline of American industry and, more recently, the rise of small-scale urban industry, but one of the largest international manufacturers, Taiwan-based Foxconn, could change the industrial scene completely if it decides to build factories in the United States. The Guardian reports that Foxconn is considering Detroit and Los Angeles for potential outposts thanks to rising costs overseas, but the company infamous for manufacturing Apple products among others at its 800,000-worker-strong Chinese facilities would have to adapt to radically different American ways of working. It was early last year—after a string of workers committed suicide and a lethal explosion tore through a plant—when Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook asked the Fair Labor Association to assess Foxconn’s working conditions. Reforms where set in place that doubled Foxconn’s worker salary levels in China and cut overtime hours. The increase in costs in places like China has prompted the company to consider locations overseas. In September, plans were announced for a nearly $500 million factory to be built in São Paulo, Brazil where Foxconn will hire up to 10,000 people to make computer and some Apple products. The company also plans to open a new phone factory in Indonesia by the end of 2012. If built, Foxconn's new U.S. factories and work standards would be altered for the American workforces, who won’t likely work for China’s low wages or live in work dormitories. Instead of manufacturing products that rely heavily on hand labor, the American factories would  primarily build flat screen televisions, which use a primarily automated process. Company officials would not comment on the possible expansion into the U.S., but did say American engineers will be invited to its Chinese facilities to learn about its manufacturing process.
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Chinese Firm Plans to Build World’s Tallest Building in 90 Days

Move over Burj Khalifa, a group in China has its eye set on building the next world's tallest skyscraper, and they plan to do it in just 90 days. Called Sky City Changsha, the tower envisioned for central China's Hunan province could rise nearly 2,750 feet over 220 floors. That's 32 feet higher than the current world's tallest in Dubai. Broad Sustainable Building (BSB), an air conditioning manufacturer behind the proposal, will prefabricate building components to achieve the impossibly short deadline. BSB has already proven their speed. In 2010, the company built the 15-story Ark Hotel, also in Changsha, in a mere six days, followed by a 30-story tower built in only 15 days (see video below), both using prefab construction. In contrast, Dubai's Burj Khalifa, built with traditional construction techniques, took six years to build. The secret is in their pre-planning. An extensive amount of construction materials—93 percent in the Ark Hotel—are prefabricated, which leaves the final act of putting them together all the easier to speed through. BSB estimates that using factory-built prefab components produces less than one percent of the usual waste associated with traditional building methods while consuming less steel and concrete. The company also claims its prefab structures are earthquake resistant up to a magnitude of a 9.0 earthquake. If completed, Sky City would be a city unto itself. Included in the building's one million square feet is living space for 17,400 people, a 1,000 person hotel, retail, schools, office space and a hospital. Pending approval from the Chinese government, Sky City could be completed as soon as January of 2013. [Via WSJ and geek.com.]
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Unveiled> BIG Joins the Supertall Ranks in China with Rockefeller Center-Inspired Tower

Bjarke Ingels, architect of mountains, now has set his eyes on Everest. The New York and Copenhagen-based architect's firm BIG has been tapped by the Rockefellers to design one of the world's tallest buildings at 1,929 feet for a new commercial development in Tianjin, China, a city of nearly 13 million people. Ingels revealed a cryptic, fog-shrouded rendering of the tower on his web site—indicative of the scarcity of detail yet released on the tower—but this being the information age,  AN found more information and views of the tower on a clear day. BIG is working with HKS Architecture and Arup to design the $2.35 billion Rose Rock International Finance Center set within an SOM-designed master plan for the Tianjin Binhai New Area Central Business District. The new commercial neighborhood to the southeast of Tianjin replaces a formerly industrial peninsula with a mix of high-rises, historic sites, and parks anchored by a high-speed rail station and helps to connect it to the coast. Rose Rock Group, founded by Steven C. Rockefeller Jr., Steven C. Rockefeller III, and Collin C. Eckles, held a ceremonial groundbreaking on December 16, 2011 and is promoting the new tower as a key to transforming Tianjin into "the financial center of Northern China." Renderings show a terraced pyramidal tower with a palpable vertical thrust and clear reference to the Art-Deco stylings of its inspiration, the Rockefeller Center in New York. Just as the Rockefellers built ambitiously skyward in New York 80 years ago, Ingels said in a statement, "The Rose Rock International Finance Center will be to the contemporary Chinese city what the Rockefeller Center was to the American city of the 1930s: an architectural landscape of urban plazas and roof gardens designed to stimulate and cultivate the life between the buildings." Only this time, over a thousand feet higher.
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Unveiled> SOM’s Latest Supertall Building in China

A "supertall" building is one which tops out at over 1,250 feet. Right now, there are 18 completed supertall buildings and 21 under construction. Chicago-based architects Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill (SOM) will break ground on Tuesday on the 1,740-foot-tall CTF Tower in Tianjin, China. It will be the tenth supertall building to begin construction for SOM, the most of any firm in the world. The building is a carefully-crafted design which deliberately merges structural challenges with program and form. The mixed-use tower in the Tianjin Economic Development Area, an area planned for new growth, has retail at the base, topped with offices, 300 residential units, and a 350-room, 5-star hotel. "The functional aspects of program were integrated with the structure," said SOM design partner Brian Lee. "And the form was also developed alongside the structural scheme." Larger floor plates are needed for the office spaces, which are placed near the base of the building. Residential units with smaller floor plate are at the top. The gentle curves of the building and the large, sloped, concrete elements form a "mega-column," which acts as an external frame. Environmental conditions also affected the final design. Wind slots, a porous crown at the top of the tower, and a gradiated opacity toward the higher floors all help to decrease wind loads, and the corners are rounded to prevent a vortex effect on the back side of the building.
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Breaking> Chinese Architect Wang Shu Awarded Pritzker Prize

Chinese architect Wang Shu has been named the 2012 Pritzker Architecture Prize laureate, marking the first time a Chinese architect has been honored prize which brings a bronze medal and $100,000 purse. Wang Shu is known for building with traditional Chinese forms and materials, often recycling bricks and tiles to form a patchwork mosaic in his buildings, which demonstrate a distinct modern sensibility. He is professor and head of architecture at the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou, China and founded Amateur Architecture Studio with Lu Wenyu in 1998 where he has taken an outspoken stance against architecture that he perceives as destroying vast urban and rural landscapes across China. Amateur Architecture Studio derives its name from the traditional building practices of the amateur Chinese builders who have crafted cities for centuries. He spent years learning from these craftsman and brought back the traditional building techniques to mix with his experimental and site-specific practice at Amateur Architecture Studio. “The fact that an architect from China has been selected by the jury, represents a significant step in acknowledging the role that China will play in the development of architectural ideals," said Thomas J. Pritzker, chairma n of the Hyatt Foundation which sponsors the prize. "In addition, over the coming decades China’s success at urbanization will be important to China and to the world. This urbanization, like urbanization around the world, needs to be in harmony with local needs and culture. China’s unprecedented opportunities for urban planning and design will want to be in harmony with both its long and unique traditions of the past and with its future needs for sustainable development.” Wang Shu has previously been awarded the Gold Prize from the French Architectural Academy in 2011, the Schelling Architecture Prize in 2010, and the Holcim Award for Sustainable Construction in 2005. He also received a Special Honor at the 2010 Venice Biennale and was the Kenzo Tange professor at the Harvard GSD, which has previously been held by Alvaro Siza, Peter Zumthor, and Raphael Moneo among others. He delivered the Tange lecture at Harvard last November titled "Geometry and Narrative in Natural Form," which you can watch below. The formal awards ceremony for the Pritzker Prize will take place in Beijing on May 25.
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Unveiled> Geenland Tower in Suzhou by SOM Chicago

SOM Chicago has won a competition to design a mixed-use tower in the new Chinese city of Suzhou. Located along a lake front, the tower includes a distinctive void carved out the upper portion of the tower, splitting the floorplates in half to better serve hotel uses. Offices will fill the lower, larger floorplates. "We've been doing these kinds of mixed-use towers since Hancock," said Ross Wimer, a partner at SOM Chicago. "Instead of tapering the tower, we've carved away a slot to bring fresh air and light into the building." On the upper floors the building uses the cooler outside air for natural ventilation, reducing the building's overall energy load. SOM's sustainability group estimates the building will use 60% less energy than is typically used in a similar tower in the US. "It's about figuring out ways for tall buildings to stop fighting the environment," Wimer said. The silvery curtainwall includes both glass and stainless steel, with the south-facing wall using more opaque metal and the other sides more transparent glass. The project also includes an L-shaped commercial building and a large public plaza. "In China, developers often build out the entire site, but we felt it was important to include a public space," Wimer said. The 75 story, approximately 2.9 million square foot tower is expected to be complete in 2017.
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City in China Disappears Overnight

Chaohu city in China has been canceled. It wasn’t a small city. In fact the population of more than 4 million is comparable to Los Angeles, the Phoenix metro area, and the whole of South Carolina, but that is now irrelevant data, since Chaohu's official city status was annihilated on August 22. Although buildings and inhabitants remain as proof of a once-coherent city plan and living organism, the land has since been divided into three parts and absorbed by its neighbors, Hefei, Wuhu and Ma'anshan. Situated in eastern China’s Anhui province, about 200 miles west of Shanghai, the idea was to strip the dead wood and make the surrounding cities more competitive, which, unlike the former Chaohu, are rapidly industrializing and urbanizing. In a recent interview for NPR, economics professor Jiang Sanliang from Anhui University explained: "Chaohu's development hasn't been good, but Hefei … needs land, so absorbing Chaohu will benefit Hefei. The government hopes that redistributing the land will improve the entire province's GDP," he says. It turns out, according to this report, Hefei’s average growth of 17 percent was enough of a reason to dissolve an entire city. Though it is an unusual scenario, there are some benefits to the new divisions. For years the city’s namesake, Lake Chaohu, has been undergoing an intensive clean-up effort to meet the countrywide agenda to cleanse its badly polluted lakes. In the new arrangement the lake falls under Hefei’s administration and has more chance of getting the funding it needs to meet the Government’s 2030 deadline. However, there is no doubt that the move is at odds with other city-planning approaches in China; in August we reported on a new kind of utopia in Chengdu. Designed by a New York architect and local developer, it was one that aimed to foster connections and strengthen communities rather than amalgamate and alienate them. Indeed, instead of public consultation and even public announcement many inhabitants of the former Chaohu learnt about its abolishment from local news on the morning it happened; the striking off happened overnight. No ceremony. No funeral. No Chaohu.
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Spotlight> Beijing Design Week

Beijing Design Week September 26–October 3 Beijing Design Week, now in its second year, aims to change the catchphrase “Made in China” to “Designed in China.” The festival will bring together 30 local and international design firms for packed roster of events focusing on urban design and including Dutch artist/architect Daan Roosegaarde’s experiments with LEDs (above). Design Week will take over the whole city, staging happenings everywhere from the trendy 798 art district to Tiananmen Square, whose neighboring historic district will host pop-up shops and street art installations, to the site of the China Millenium Monument, where Paul Cocksedge will unveil an installation on October 1. This year London was invited to be Beijing’s “guest city,” and emissaries from the London Design Festival will translate some of their most successful ideas and activities into a new context.
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Aggregated Porosity Canopy: Digital Architecture Laboratory

Students and architects create a curving plywood canopy during this summer's Digital Architecture Laboratory workshop

This summer, Hunan University’s School of Architecture sponsored the Digital Architecture Laboratory (DAL), a workshop created to bring architects and students together to explore digital fabrication techniques. Hosted in Changsha, China, the workshop was led by Biao Hu, a professor with the university, and Yu Du, an architect with Zaha Hadid Architects. Suryansh Chandra, also with Zaha Hadid Architects, and Shuojiong Zhang, of UNstudio, were invited to participate as tutors for the workshop, which with a theme of “aggregated porosity” would explore variations in material density and the juxtaposition of solid forms with skeletal ones. Additionally, the project had to be a structure that provided shade and fit within an approximately 10-by-10-by-20-foot area.
  • Fabricator Digital Architecture Laboratory
  • Designer Digital Architecture Laboratory
  • Location Changsha, China
  • Status Complete
  • Materials Plywood, steel, tensile cable mesh, fasteners
  • Process Laser cutting, hand assembly
Using the concept of a waiting area outside an existing building, the team began the design process with a right-angled shell that resembled a typical bus shelter. The orthogonal grid was then stretched into an S shape, so that the lower curve formed a bench and the upper curve created a canopy. The form was rationalized into a grid of hexagonal components, each with a unique shape. By constraining three sides of each hexagon and allowing the other three sides to be changeable in length, the team was able to create a fluid, organic form, with curves and perforations, using a single shape. The canopy is supported by six L-shaped steel sections anchored to a wall. To these are attached set of six curving, laser-cut plywood ribs, which are cross-braced by additional ribs running parallel to the ground. Tensile steel mesh is fastened to this underlying grid, providing netting to which the hexagonal plywood panels could be attached. Made with off-the-shelf hardware pieces assembled into a customized circular joint, the fasteners allow each hexagon to be tuned by hand, ensuring panels are precisely positioned on the x, y, and, z axes.
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On View> Light Pavilion by Lebbeus Woods & Christoph A. Kumpusch

Light Pavilion by Lebbeus Woods and Christoph A. Kumpusch: Construction Drawings & In-Process Photographs at the Mackey Garage Top MAK Center at the Schindler House 835 North Kings Road West Hollywood Through August 6 The Light Pavilion by Lebbeus Woods and Christoph A. Kumpusch was created for Steven Holl’s Sliced Porosity Block project now under construction in Chengdu, China, and will be Lebbeus Woods’ first built work of architecture. A physical intervention into Holl’s rectilinear structure, the pavilion consists of a series of columns and stairs that are illuminated from with and change color, and the luminous effect will be amplified by the pavilion’s mirrored interior walls. The MAK exhibition includes construction drawings and process photographs of the installation, as well as conceptual renderings of this project, above, and other work of Woods and Kumpusch.
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Quick Clicks> Cathedral Restoration, Haunted, Deserted and Isolated Cities

Restored London. Building Design reports that after 15 years, St. Paul’s Cathedral in London is scaffolding-free. The £40 million project restored Christopher Wren’s masterpiece to its original glory in time for the cathedral’s 30oth anniversary. St. Paul’s will host a photography competition and display the winning selections in the cathedral crypt to celebrate its complete renovation. Artificial England. While China continues to be a hot spot for architectural and economic development, its many ghost towns lack permanent residents. The Infrastructurist exposes one of China’s English-inspired uninhabited cities, Thames Town, built in 2006 as part of Shanghai’s “One City, Nine Town” initiative at decentralization. The state-of-the-art $9 billion design draws tourists, but not residents. Trucks, not Tanks. At the United States Conference of Mayors, local government representatives vote to reallocate federal funds directed toward the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the improvement of American cities. The municipal leaders assert that the conflicts’ $126 billion per year budget would be better spend building urban infrastructure, employing civil servants, and supporting educational and family institutions. Mall City. City Watch LA evaluates Rick Caruso’s latest business proposition: running for public office. The billionaire developer envisions a new Los Angeles comprised of isolated communities each with its own shopping mall, a potential reality if Caruso wins the 2013 mayoral seat.
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(Updated!) A Call to Free Ai Weiwei, Artist, Architect, Activist

(Updated 4-6-2011) As details emerge, be sure to track the comments on this post for the latest on Ai Weiwei. We have learned that the US State Department called for his release on Monday. According to VOA News, Mark Toner, State Department Acting Deputy Spokesman saud, "The detention of artist and activist Ai Weiwei is inconsistent with the fundamental freedoms and human rights of all Chinese citizens, including China's commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and we urge the Chinese government to release him immediately." Today, the Guardian reported that Ai Weiwei is under investigation for "suspected economic crimes" according to the Chinese state news agency Xinhua which has since deleted the statement.

AN also received the following note of support for Ai Weiwei from Richard Meier. Please feel free to voice your messages of support in the comments.

Ai Weiwei deserves all of our support in his efforts to communicate with the world community of architects about the conditions that currently exist in China. We all hope that his immediate release will happen quickly in response to comments from all of us that support him in his cause.

Sincerely yours,

Richard Meier

(Original Report 4-4-2011) News that Chinese artist, architect, and activist Ai Wei Wei has been detained and disappeared as of April 3, 2011 broke yesterday in the International media.  As reported by Andrew Jacobs in the New York Times, and more recently today by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, his detention and police closure of his Beijing studio coincides with what is known as the "Jasmine Revolution," a protest movement in the People's Republic of China that was inspired by the 2011 Tunisian Revolution and has prompted the Communist Party’s six-week crackdown on human rights lawyers and activists, with many of those detained still not released, and others, such as pro-democracy writer Liu Xianbin, sentenced to 10 years in jail for subversion.

While his arrest is not unexpected, and indeed was anticipated by Wei Wei and others in his community, it is a devastating and saddening blow that follows upon the forced demolition of his Shanghai studio in January of this year, his recent house arrest in the wake of Liu Xiaobo's Nobel Peace Prize, and his beating by Chinese police in August 2009, with emergency brain surgery required.

Wei Wei, the son of revered Chinese poet Ai Qing (regarded as one of the finest modern Chinese poets and himself imprisoned by the Chinese Communist Party), is internationally recognized for his cultural and architectural practice as well as his tireless activism on behalf of social justice and political reform in China.

His many projects include the Bird's Nest (2008), a landmark design for the Beijing Olympic National Stadium (together with Herzog and De Meuron); Fairytale (2007), in which he sent 1001 Chinese citizens to Kassel, Germany as a cross-cultural exchange; and the Sichuan Earthquake Names Project, which sought to uncover the names of the thousands of schoolchildren who died in the Sichuan earthquake of May 2008, many as a result of poor maintenance of school buildings.

His 2010 "Sunflower Seeds" exhibition, currently on display at Tate Modern, features 100 million porcelain seeds made in the Chinese city of Jingdezhen and forms a seemingly infinite landscape in the museum's Turbine Hall.  As a commentary on the relationship between the individual and the masses, the project explores the geo-politics of cultural and economic exchange and, as curator Juliet Bingham has remarked, invites us to consider such questions as "What does it mean to be an individual in today's society?"

We urge the Chinese government to respect Wei Wei's health and to insure his safety, and to release him immediately.  His detainment and disappearance is a great tragedy and devastating blow to the international community.  Wei Wei is an artist that feels a great love and compassion for China and her people, and we urge the Chinese government to recognize this fact and allow him and his family the freedom if not to speak freely, then to at least leave.

We strongly encourage you to raise your voice and to contact your elected representatives, government contacts, and civic institutions, to advocate for official statements and positions on his behalf as well as all of those that have been detained these last weeks in response to the Jasmine Revolution.