China is being inundated with architectural inspiration as the awards ceremony for Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate Wang Shu wraps up and an open forum regarding the country’s architectural future is brought into full focus.
In a prelude to the ceremony, 700 national and international architects gathered in Beijing to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the Chinese industry, with a key focus on how to tackle the industry boom and urban development growth, in a way that capitalises on modern design and technologies without forgetting cultural roots.
“The success of China’s urbanisation will be critical to its economic and social development,” says Thomas J. Pritzker, chairman of the prize sponsors. “The challenge, as in any urbanisation throughout the world, is to achieve urban growth that is in harmony with local needs and culture.”
With the rapid growth in China, the industry is looking to develop long-term urban development plans that will cater to the growth, in addition to setting the foundations for a modern country. However, 2002 Pritzker Architecture Laureate Glenn Murcutt has urged forum members to maintain cultural links in even their most modern of developments.
“I think one of the dangers in the modernization of China is the forgetting of the rich culture and the beauty of the buildings that you’ve had,” Murcutt says. “It is very easy to just look to the future. I think looking to the past is also incredibly important in being able to integrate those aspects that do belong to the present and to the future.”
Chairman of the Pritzker Architecture Prize jury, Lord Peter Palumbo, says Wang Shu has been awarded the highest level of architectural recognition for his ability to bring these key elements together.
“The jury saw the emergence for the first time of authentic, contemporary Chinese architecture of great quality,” says Palumbo. “They combined all sorts of things: the new and old, modern and traditional, past and future, all these questions were beautifully combined in his work.”
The discussion that his architecture and the recent forum have aroused has always been Shu’s goal, and an aspect he feels needs to be explored and debated in order to create a successful Chinese industry and built environment.
“What I am practicing is in contrast to the huge, shining, modern, iconic and powerful architecture located in the center of our cities. I am striving for something that is close to the grass-roots, to the rights of common people, and is related to Chinese people’s traditions and daily lives,” says Shu. “My architecture [is] not shining, and sometimes even looks crude. It is quite different from the mainstream architecture in China and I think it will continue raising debates and discussions.”