Rumble, to take a glance at the world by wandering. Ramble is an album including many sub-albums, and this sub-album is about foreign architects who work in China. We would introduce you six foreign architects come from Asia, Europe or America with their opinions regarding China, as well as their working and daily life here.This sub-album of Rumble, “foreign architects in China”, includes 6 episodes, and here’s the third episode: BAM (BAM on gooood).
▽ video视频，建议选择1080 HD
百安木于十年前成立于美国，现在正以中国为主要基地发展。百安木中国公司有三位合伙人，分别是两位美国人和一位中国人。gooood对两位美国合伙人Jake Walker和Dan Gass进行了采访，了解了百安木的发展历程和设计理念。公司从装置艺术做起，注重细节，把控设计的每一个阶段，成长并完成了更大尺度的项目。同时，他们不局限于固定的轨迹，不断寻求和尝试更多的发展方向。工作之余，他们也十分享受在中国的生活。
BAM was founded in the USA and now the company is developing its business mainly in China. There are three partners in BAM Chinese company，two from the US and one from China. gooood interviewed the two American architects Jake Walker and Dan Gass about the development history of BAM and its design philosophy. They started from installation designs and gradually increased their work scale in landscape. They take part in every stage of the design and try their best to control the details. Their work is not limited in one type and they keep seeking for new directions. Besides the hard work, they also enjoy their life in China very much.
▼讨论中的Jake Walker（左）和Dan Gass（右），Jake Walker (left) and Dan Gass (right) discussing
gooood × BAM
It is not necessarily a decision to start in a foreign country.
Please describe the first time that you have had an occasion to come to China? And why did you decide to start up a business in a distant continent?
Dan Gass：我最早是和我未来的合伙人Jake 和 Allison一起来的中国。那时候我们都还是学生。我们在大学的时候就一起做过艺术装置。这次中国之行我们去了很多地方，给我留下了深刻的印象。毕业几年后我们就来到了北京。
Jake Walker: The first time that I came to China was in 2004, and it was during a school trip with our university. We, the three founding members of BAM basically started out in the same university, Cornell University studying architecture. And during that time we had the chance to come to China for about three months and study the urban conditions happening there. And in terms of why we decided to start a business in a foreign country. I don’t think it was really necessarily a decision to start in a foreign country. When we were practicing before we started our company, it was before the global financial meltdown. There was Dubai, China, and Brazil. And in America, in comparison to that, there really wasn’t that much interesting things happening. So I think that when we started practicing or working for other companies, we were already traveling everywhere to go to these other places to do projects and it was just more a kind of consequence of the time. So the question wasn’t if we were going to do it. It was just about where.
Dan Gass: One of the first time that I came to China was with my future business partners Jake and Allison. When we were in college, we started to work together by doing art installations. So we took this big long trip around China, then we graduated from school and couple of years late moved to Beijing.
▼百安木三位创始人初期的合影，portrait of Ballistic Architecture Machine’s founders
Something interesting in China
Constantly doing new things is probably the most interest things of living here.
What is the most interesting part of living in China?
Jake Walker: The most interesting part of my life in China is the diversity of situations that come across when you are working. When we are doing the work, we encounter so many different conditions, just because it’s developing so rapidly and everything is changing. It’s pretty incredible how varied every project experience is. So constantly doing new things is probably the most interest things of living here.
Dan Gass: I live in China so I’m always here. I travel outside the country. Last year I spent two and a half months outside of China. But I’m here. We have a great office in Sanlitun, which is a very fun area, so do a lot of work in the office, go out for drinks, and other stuff in the area.
▼BAM北京的办公室，the Beijing office of BAM
▼办公室中摆有各色模型，工具和资料，various models and design instruments in the office
▼Jake和Dan正在工作，Jake and Dan are working
Difference between China and the USA
Constantly doing new things is probably the most interest things of living here.
If I was in America, I would be an architect. But in China, I should be a landscape architect.
How do you see the role of architects in China? How to deal with the differences between China and the United States?
▼BAM参与了多种尺度的景观项目，landscape projects in various scales of BAM
Jake Walker: I think that in China Landscape is actually a better field than in the United States. Because the Chinese culture is developed from a kind of garden culture, and the garden culture is where people would make paintings, write poems, it’s where governors would govern. It’s like a political and cultural expression as the garden. And by extension the landscape is understood as a place where people should be designing, a cultural kind of medium. In the United States it’s not like that. United States believes that the Landscape is a place for cultural expression. It’s a kind of young culture and they haven’t really blossomed to that belief that the Landscape is something that represents the culture. So here that’s ingrained in what we do it’s how people just see the Landscape as critical in that way as having a cultural importance. So that’s why it’s just a better field here.
Dan Gass: Personally, I feel that there is a lot of great architects already in China. And when I look around the city I feel that architecture isn’t really helping the city. So for me landscape architects are much more important, because they are dealing with everything outside of the buildings, which is essential for the cities to really start working well. There has to be lot more investment in landscape design and innovative thinking in landscape. So I think the Landscape architects in China is the most important design field right now, partially because of where China is a country in terms of the development. If I was in America, I would be an architect. But in China, I should be a landscape architect.
▼让城市更美好的景观设计 – Indigo儿童游乐场，Landscape that makes the city better – Indigo Playgrounds
▼让城市更美好的景观设计 – 雨水环，Landscape that makes the city better – Rain Ring
Criterion of projects
When we look at projects we look at projects that have the best impact.
We go the whole way and we are designing even we are on the site.
BAM also extends the field to installation designs, what are the criteria for project selection?
▼百安木设计的装置艺术项目，installation projects of BAM
Jake Walker: I tried not to actually consider myself any of those things, an architect, or a landscape architect. If anything that would be an anti-architect. But in terms of how we select our projects, I think we just look for situations where we are going to impactful in what we do. I think that the progression form the installation to what we are focusing on now which is really the urban landscape is just kind of a natural progression about how do we influence the public realm, the people who use the spaces, the people around us and that’s kind of how we developed. So I think that when we look at projects we look at projects that have the best impact in that way, and it doesn’t really matter if is installation, or landscape, or an event or a parade or something like that.
Dan Gass: When we started working together, we didn’t have any client, so we would do things that we would call installations, we would intervene some public place. If a client brings up something and we have a really kick ass idea then we will take it for art. But what we really look for is something that people would interact with. It’s a chance to not just make something that is really pretty, but like something that actually connects to the people that are using it and around it.
▼公共空间中与人互动的装置 – Chandy 水滴枝形吊灯装置设计，Installation in the public space that people would interact with – Chandy, the installation design of Droplet Chandelier
What is your favorite project up to now? And as the designer, why is the project the most attracting one?
Jake Walker: I think I have to say L’IDIOT restaurant, which was our first real project. The project was given a good period of time to design. It wasn’t like too rushed, and that really allowed us to develop every aspect of it. I’m really think deeply not just in the concept phase, but also going through the construction we were there building every little piece, watch the whole thing come together from beginning to end. So it was a very almost lucky first project. It was still in my heart one of the most unique experiences.
▼L’IDIOT 餐厅，不同颜色和形状的马赛克精致如工艺品，L’IDIOT restaurant composed of mosaic in different colors and shapes like art
What is the most important factor in BAM’s design process?
Jake Walker: I think that in terms of the actual design process, I don’t know if there is necessarily specific way we do things. But I do know that Chinese companies, especially the Landscape companies tend to break the design process into a series of stages: concept stage, SD(schematic design), DD(design develop), construction drawings, construction, administration. And the project goes through those stages, passes from one team to the other. So people that do construction drawings tend to have nothing to do with the process at the beginning of the project. So there is kind of disconnect. And it’s not only bad for the product; it’s also bad for the people working on it. In terms of that what people learn is that design is happening at every stage of the process. Even when you are doing construction drawings, there is still design that needs to happen, decisions that needs to be made. It’s not just that you come up with a beautiful idea, and you do some strokes on a piece of paper. So I think that in terms of we do in China is fairly unique.
Dan Gass: A lot of times we get ask about our design process because our work is really varied. But for us the secret recipe is just that every part of the design process is a true phase of design. From the initial concept idea to the visual development of that idea into the detailing and into the construction, we see each step as a part of the design experience and process. As it go through these process, the idea gets enriched. And for us a designer go through all the steps of the process, we go the whole way and we are designing even we are on the site. Our best projects were actually on the site. We are installing handmade pieces from within our studio on to a site. That’s the ideal design process for us.
▼参与设计的每个阶段，engaged into every stage of the design
The details BAM developed are highly refined and required precision and care in the drawing, manufacturing, and installation. How do you balance the limited cost and the strict demand？
Jake Walker: I think that we just focus really heavily on the details and I think that if there is a client that we can tell is really motivated to see the extent to which the design can be embellished trough details, I think that then we really dedicated everything we have to that project, and not every project, not every client care that much.
Dan Gass: Sometimes we don’t. We had projects like when we were getting started we would build our own art projects, which was a huge mistake, because we became so invested in some of those projects that we would loss a lot of our money to build something to give to the client. And when you are a designer, you just go down that hole. And it’s like making this for somebody. So in the beginning we went over budget, I think that taught us how important that it is to stay focus and how you can carry the design through the process and stay in the budget. It was a painful experience, but we learned it and we are better for it.
▼百安木设计的项目中精致的细部，delicate details in BAM’s project
Understanding of nature
The idea is that we have to bridge the visual distinction between what looks like nature and also the city that we live in and the manmade objects.
The motto on BAM’s website is saying, “Nature is an idea”, but we haven’t seen any project that relates to the sustainable relationship with ecosystem. Could you please explain to us how you practice this concept in an actual example?
▼自然，城市与人 – 北京住总万科广场项目景观设计，Nature, city and people – Vanke Jiugong Project Landscape Design
Jake Walker: I think that there are misconceptions that are common in the general public and in the design industry. The first misconception is just that ecology has an aesthetic, you can see ecology. Ecology doesn’t have a specific aesthetic or it shouldn’t at least. As for Landscape, I think you would be pretty hard pressed to find any other profession in the world that is more ecological than Landscape. I mean we plant trees, plants, we design parks, these are fundamentally ecological things, that’s the material of what we are doing is fundamentally sustainable. And not only that, but you cannot take humans out of that equation. Ecology is not about saving the planet. The planet doesn’t care about whatever happens on it, in a million years, it’s going to heal itself or explode. And the whole process will start over again. So ecology has nothing to do with saving the planet, what ecology has everything to do with is saving humans. So I think that it’s important to understand that if you are dealing with the human aspect of those things that there is a key part of dealing with sustainability, and with ecology. Also there is like the natural elements, plants, trees, water, all that stuff, the human aspect of that is also just as important as all those other elements, and critical to the definition of the ecology or the sustainability. It’s not really a case of saying that it doesn’t look like it’s ecological because it’s a hardscape, and there is lots of people playing on it. I think that in all of our projects that there is an underlying ecology that sometimes goes more towards like social and cultural land, and then sometimes is depending on what the project goes more to I guess a natural ecology.
Dan Gass: “Nature is an idea.” Nature as a word has a little bit of a problem. If you think back to like the first cave man, the first monkey that started to live in a cave. He called the cave as house and outside of that it was nature. So the start of the problem was “us and them”. It has the same logical problem that “us and them” arguments always have. But to us a cave is nature still. Once you say that is us versus them you take yourselves out of the picture, but really, we are just monkey, we are part of nature. So what we do is nature, so it’s not some big mystery. Nature is just an idea that we made. The second part of it that relates to our work is really important is there is another dichotomy that we have in terms of visual language between organic and regular manmade shapes like squares. So if we take the role of architecture and graphic design, these like very, you know rectilinear shapes or boxes. This language is a regular geometry language that people design with. But in landscape we are pulled into another realm of visual language, is like how can you describe the shape of a cloud, how can you talk about the root of a tree. So for us the idea is that we have to bridge the visual distinction between what looks like nature and also the city that we live in and the manmade objects.
▼自然，城市与人 – 国贸景观规划，Nature, city and people – Guomao Landscape Design
▼自然，城市与人 – 大兴公园，Nature, city and people – Daxing Park West Project
Cooperation, try and exploration
The urban condition is really what interests us and we are looking to evolve and push in as many directions as possible and then allow that evolution to take its own course.
At this stage, BAM is now working on the Shimao Group’s Quarry Hotel project; the project is very complex, regarding of roof greening, huge height difference, and circulation system of the introvert water body. In previous designs, BAM haven’t involved in such a highly complicated project, how do you manage to overcome the huge disparity.
▼世茂深坑酒店景观设计，Landscape design of the Shimao Quarry Hotel
▼世茂项目施工现场，construction site of Shimao Quarry Hotel
Dan Gass: Just in house we call this project the “Deep Hole”. And it’s basically this giant pit; it’s an 80-meter-deep quarry. And it’s going to be filled up with 15 meters of quarry water. So the landscape of the project goes around the top of the quarry would also takes you down into the quarry and the hotel goes down inside of the quarry as well. I think I’m agreed with Jake’s response on that. There is technical difficulty is in every project and what you have to do when you are dealing with a project that’s more developed, you just have to have a client that’s able to manage all the disciplines so that you can talk and work together. That’s the only difference that you are part of a bigger team, so you have to play on a team, and you have to be able to operate your own part of the design and work with the architects’ vision.
Jake Walker: In terms of the Shimao project, I don’t see it is necessarily that much more complex than a lot of other projects. These days the urban situation is almost everything is on structure anyways. So many landscapes are over parking garages, subways, or malls. So I think in that condition, the quarry is not really that different than something that’s over a mall. In terms of the Landscape, I think there are some there we could point to they are even more complex, and have more constrains than that one. For example this one here in Daxing. That’s a whole park and under half of the park is a huge parking area. And on the B1 it connects down into the metro station. So even a situation like that there are tons of architectural cores coming up, there are vents, subway stations, all these things that are happening, and then the park has to kind of deal with all of those condition. So in terms of the complexity, I wouldn’t necessarily say that the quarry is much more complex than the Daxing Park, or other ones.
▼大兴公园尺度大，内容丰富，比起上海深坑酒店可能更为复杂，Daxing Park West Project has a large scale including various functions, probably more complicated than the Quarry Hotel
BAM has been delivering diverse design languages in your projects, are you still trying to explore different design vocabularies? What kind of project do you want to engage in? And what is the form and style that interests you the most?
Dan Gass：当我们第一次来中国的时候，方振宁说“中国需要BAM这样的80后设计师”。听到这个的时候，作为美国人的我们从没有把自己跟“80后”联系在一起过。当我们了解后，觉得非常棒。可能就像80年代中的 Miami Vice 或者 Phillip Starke 的作品一样视觉上很酷吧，于是我们说“好吧，我们乐意接受这种评价。”另一个评论家Carson Chanson也说过：“BAM的一些形式看起来特别像星期六早上会看到的卡通片，实际上是有年代感的建筑。”我们也非常喜欢这个想法。当我们创建公司的时候，我们决定将其命名为BAM, 即“Ballistics Architecture Machine”，因为聚合的机器比单独的个人要更有力。我们在项目中有非常大量的实验，这是因为我们会共同参与到设计中。项目从开始设计到建设，每个人都会加入一些想法让它变得更为丰富。这样的实践方式会让项目变得更具活力，更特别，这是一个单独的设计师所达不到的，也是最令我们激动的。
Jake Walker: I think that the projects that we are interest in and engaging the most are the kind of urban realm public projects that are dealing with parks plazas and all the spaces that people using outside. And the urban condition is really what interests us and that’s where we are focus to work.
Dan Gass: There was a critic when we first got to China that said, “China loves the 1980’s designers BAM”, or no, “China needs the 1980’s designers BAM” it was Fang Zhenning. We read that, and we Americans never associated ourselves with the 80s’. But when we saw it we loved it. The 80’s are so cool visually like Miami Vice and Phillip Starke. We were like OK, cool we will be that. And another critic Carson Chan said that, some of BAM’s forms look like they came more from Saturday morning Cartoons, than the history of architecture proper. And we also like that idea. The fact is that when we set up our company, we decided to call it BAM, Ballistic Architecture Machine because we had this idea that it was greater than one person’s voice. And the reason why you see a huge variety of experimentation visually in our work is that we work together and we hand stuff off through this process, it goes through from the concept and all the way through construction. Because we are working it through the whole way, this new kind of like enriched thing comes out at the end. So it’s like Vultron from the 80’s, the thing is bigger and more powerful than something that just a solo author could ever make. And that what excites us.
▼风格迥异的项目，projects in different styles
What is the BAM’s plan for the coming years?
Dan Gass：这一年对BAM非常重要，这是我们的第十个年头，是我们的十周岁生日。为此我们正在编一本书，这本书是关于设计的叫《A Landscape Vision》，同时我们还在编写另一本书，会把我们的设计项目和工作都编写进去。另外在秋天的时候我们会在798举办一次展览，这个展览是BAM十周年大记事，希望大家都来参加。
Jake Walker: Just keep working. I think that our company is about evolution in a way. We evolve from doing installation pieces just temporary stuff to more permanent things and to landscape. We’ve started to move into larger planning scale stuff. And it’s really about evolving. So how we keep pushing the boundaries of what we do, branching out and as many ways as we possibly can. I don’t think that we are looking to get into a track. I think we are looking to evolve and push in as many directions as possible and then allow that evolution to take its own course.
Dan Gass: This year is big year for BAM, because this is our 10th birthday year. So we are releasing a book, that’s a book about design called A Landscape Vision, and we are also working on another book that compiles a lot of the projects we are working on. And we are going be having a show here in Beijing at 798 in the fall, which you should all go to. It’s a big birthday year for BAM.
▼BAM全体合影（后排左一：中国合伙人，后排左三：Dan，后排右一：Jake），BAM crew (first person from the left in the back row: Chinese partner of BAM，first person from the left in the back row: Dan, first person from the right in the back row: Jake)
More: BAM on gooood.