Many of the new landmarks being built in China's cities have been designed by foreign architects. When I look at these large and daring structures, I get goose bumps from the hatred I feel. High-rise buildings are a form of greed. They are born from a desire to display a kind of power and wealth, and it is of absolutely no relevance as to whether they provide a superior lifestyle.
Due to the economic development that has proceeded at breakneck speed, China's old buildings have disappeared to the point of no return. Those that remain should be thoroughly protected. What is most lacking in China's architectural circles is a consistent conscience. An architect with a conscience would surely turn down a job that involves the destruction of a historical or cultural relic.
We've kept building cities like Beijing. Wide thoroughfares, massive supermarkets and residential areas. The kind you find in a typical Western city suburb. Beautiful towns have been turned into huge suburbs. This is utterly mistaken.
In Chinese landscape paintings, there are mountains, bodies of water and houses. In the concept of modern architecture, houses are seen as architecture, and everything else is regarded as the environment. However, from a Chinese perspective, everything within a landscape painting is architecture. Houses in landscape paintings are always subtly positioned and don't become landmarks. If you have an awareness that nature is more important than cities or architecture, most of your approach will change.
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My works retain Chinese traditions despite the country's remarkable modernization. For example, the exterior of the Ningbo History Museum was made with traditional handicrafts. Many Chinese architects are afraid of being late to latch on to international trends and are staking their careers on chasing after them. However, no matter how much they try to chase them, they'll never catch up. That's because trends are constantly evolving. China's modernization and globalization is all the more reason why it is extremely important to maintain the distinctive qualities of our own culture. It is that very act of possessing the clearly distinctive qualities of our own culture that allows us to carve out a niche for ourselves.
(This article was compiled from an interview by Tatsuo Kotoyori of The Asahi Shimbun GLOBE.)
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Born in 1963 in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China. Gained a master's degree from Nanjing Institute of Technology and a doctorate from Tongji University in Shanghai. Works as a professor at the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, and also runs a design office with his wife, who is also an architect. Noted works include the China Academy of Art's Xiangshan campus, the Ningbo History Museum and the Ningbo Contemporary Art Museum. Received a Pritzker Architecture Award in 2012.
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