MovingCities published, in the March-April 2014 issue of FRAME magazine #97, an interview with Lyndon Neri 郭锡恩 & Rosanna Hu 胡如珊 [NHDRO] looking back at their triumphant first decade in Shanghai 上海 while discussing project such as Design Republic Design Commune (Shanghai, 2012), Le Meridien HOtel (Zhengzhou, 2013) and FARINE (Shanghai, 2013). During the past decade, the couple’s venture into a range of creative disciplines has yielded an acclaimed diversity of furniture, interior design and architecture projects. Currently, they are exploring metropolises further afield, such as London, New York City, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.
About Neri & Hu [NHDRO]
Founded in 2004 by partners Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu, Neri&Hu Design and Research Office [NHDRO] is a multi-disciplinary architectural design practice based in Shanghai, China. Neri&Hu works internationally providing architecture, interior, master planning, graphic, and product design services. Neri&Hu’s location is purposeful. With shanghai considered a new global frontier, Neri&Hu is in the center of this contemporary chaos. The city’s cultural, urban, and historic contexts function as a point of departure for the architectural explorations involved in every project. Because new sets of contemporary problems relating to buildings now extend beyond traditional architecture, the practice challenges traditional boundaries of architecture to include other complementary disciplines.
A few extracts from the March-April 2014 issue interview with Neri & Hu [NHDRO] as published in FRAME magazine #97
Ten year is a milestone that suggests a moment of reflection, as you look back on the development of your practice.
Lyndon Neri It generates a mix of emotions. On the positive side, we feel blessed to have been given this platform in China, to have clients that trust and allow us to build what we propose – even designs that are anything but practical. But it’s heart-wrenching to recall projects that were never realized because of poor decisionmaking or inadequately managed design processes. We also face an ongoing dilemma with respect to our modus operandi. We employ a hundred people, which in most countries would be considered a corporate structure, yet we operate like a mom-and-pop shop and not at all like the streamlined organization many people think we are.
Looking at your work, I recognize a clear concept and an understanding of style. You combine a nice piece of dark wood with a bit of corrugated steel and punch some holes in a white wall to reveal a surface of old bricks. After adding a few beams à la Mies van der Rohe, you end up with a Neri&Hu whirlwind. Any comment?
LN It makes me happy to hear you describe our current work this way, because our early projects had an almost retro-antique Chinese appearance and certainly no Miesian elements. It was hard to get past that phase, but when we got the Waterhouse commission we began developing a different approach to design.
RH What we really want is to shed any sort of stylistic signature, but that’s not easy, because design critics always want to put you into a box.
LN We’ll continue to move in the direction you describe, while also delving deeper into spatial relationships and into notions of public and private.
RH Other areas of interest are the interplay between high and low culture and the exploration of ‘local flavour’. Today we work a lot with Corten steel, but tomorrow it could be plastic.
Why do you like working in this city?
LN Shanghai is a platform for experimentation. A meeting in the West can include upwards of 20 consultants from different fields of expertise. It may seem organized and efficient, but it’s suffocating. Before you’ve even made a proposal, somebody slams a list of restrictions on the table. Instead of coming up with an idea, your job is to solve all these problems. Shanghai – and many other Chinese cities – provides us with a crazy, chaotic environment where, instead of consultants, you deal with a client who wants to hear about the programme, the profit-and-loss study, et cetera.
As architects in China, we’re more educated than a lot of our clients. They build their houses and see that three bedrooms are not enough. So they go for a bigger house – with 350 rooms – and call it a hotel. Or if their private art collection doesn’t fit into the living room, they build a museum. China’s a very interesting country – full of opportunities for architects and designers.
RH Don’t forget Chinese food, which is another good reason for living here.