Amateur Architecture Studio | publication

Wang Shu | Amateur Architecture Studio

MARK Magazine has in April/May 2009 its 19th issue out. Bert de Muynck | MovingCities contributed to it with an interview with the Huangzhou based Chinese architect Wang Shu 王澍 [& LU Wenyu 陆文宇 – Amateur Architecture Studio 业余建筑工作室] called “Local Hero“.


The interview took place in December 2008, when MovingCities met with Wang Shu in his recently completed Ningbo Historic Museum. Wang Shu and his wife, Lu Wenyu, are the principals of Amateur Architecture Studio. The office derives its name from his analysis of the current state of affairs in China. ‘Built spontaneously, illegally and temporarily,’ he says, ‘amateur architecture challenges professional architecture but is generally considered to be insignificant. Professional architects think of buildings too much as physical objects, in my opinion. They can learn from amateurs in that respect.’ Professor and Head of Architecture department at the China Academy of Arts in Hangzhou, Wang Shu is one of the few Chinese architects with a clear insight into the mechanisms underlying the development – or should I say ‘non-development’? – of architecture and cities in China.

Ningbo Historic Museum | Amateur Architecture Studio

Wang Shu’s architecture is neither a protest nor an alternative to the numbing work, both foreign and domestic, that is preventing China from building a future distinctly its own. In search of identity and creativity, Wang Shu explores the rich legacy of China’s intellectual and architectural history and subsequently takes a seemingly simple approach to architecture that culminates in astonishing creations. In the interview Wang Shu talks about his work, attitude, philosophy and the state of affairs of architectural and urban development in China:

An important aspect of your approach is the relationship between architecture and landscape design. In today’s Chinese cities, that relationship seems to be lost. How come?

In China we have lost the tradition of building cities and of creating architecture that is part of the landscape. In my design for the Hangzhou campus, for instance, I positioned the buildings at the foot of the Xiangshan (Elephant) Mountain in such a way that each building enters into a different dialogue with the mountain, offering various views of it. To me, a building as an object isn’t important. It’s the building’s relation to nature that most interests me.

Contemporary Art Museum (Ningbo) | Amateur Architecture Studio

Tea House (Ningbo) | Amateur Architecture Studio

Our conversation ranged from the absurdities and realities of the construction process in China to his concern for the ‘common life’ and his ambition to be a local architect. Wang Shu explains his points by going deeper in some of his recent constructions like the Contemporary Art Museum, Five Scattered Houses, the Historic Museum [in Ningbo 宁波], CAA Xiangshan Campus [Huangzhou 杭州] and the Ceramic House [Jinhua 金华 see wikipedia].

An intriguing addition to the “Local Hero”-interview with Wang Shu are the two documentaries the architects at 0300TV made about him in April 2008. Both are part of the “China According to China”-documentary. Recently they re-uploaded the Amateur Architecture Studio [interview] and the footage of the visit to the Xiangshan Campus | Amateur Architecture Studio.

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“Local Hero | An Interview with Wang Shu (CN)”
Published in Mark Magazine #19 April-May 2009.

Other publications in MARK Magazine:
A Letter from Beijing | MARK #09 [Jul-Aug 2007]
An interview with Ai Weiwei /FAKE Design | MARK #12 [Feb-Mar 2008]
Olympic Architecture | MARK #14 [Jun-Jul 2008]
Babel for Billionaires | MARK #15 [Aug-Sep 2008]
Mongolian Private Meadow Club by MAD | MARK #16 [Oct-Nov 2008]
Anything That Is Good Is Called Lekker | Mark #17 [Dec 2008 – Jan 2009]

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UPDATE: Wang Shu is the winner of the 2012 Pritzker Prize!

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