Saturday, July 30, 2011

Wenzhou Projects

Zhejiang Province, China

In collaboration with Tian Ren Architects of Hangzhou, I participated in several new developments in this prosperous coastal city, including some public schools and the new Opera House.

My biggest involvement was with another vacation home development in the town of Wencheng, a drive to the west of about an hour, into the mountains. Once again, we were asked to review plans done by other architects for the site. It seems impossible that the others had ever visited this rugged site, as the layout was one you would expect to see on a prairie cornfield; there was no reference whatsoever to the existing topography. Luckily, no site "improvements" had yet been undertaken, beyond an entrance road to and the leveling of the first plateau.

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The client was pleased with our new approach, and with some specific comments, asked us to explore it further.

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The client was an experienced developer, and was having difficulty turning loose of the standard western formula- single house, single plot- that was now the Chinese norm. Yet he was taken with the idea of designing "lifestyle" along with housing units, and with some more comments, had us continue with the overall concept.

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This was an unusual amount of time to spend on a project in China. The red tape in acquiring the land from local government was probably compounded by the originality of our approach: no one knew quite what to make of it, and shunted any decision higher up the ladder. This was of some oblique benefit to the developer, however, and he was willing to invest our effort: he asked us to outline the next step we would take in developing this scheme: design development.

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When we had gone as far as we could we the village and medium-density portions of the project, the client asked us to apply the same thinking to the north half of the site.

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