gooood team interviews creative individuals under 35 years old from all over the world, some are pioneering founders, some are ordinary practitioners. gooood is tring to record the authentic living and working states of this era. Your recommendations and suggestions are appreciated!
gooood Under 35 NO.3 introduces C+ Architects, Cheng Yanchun. More: C+ Architects on gooood
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Under the tree in the courtyard
“人 自然 建筑”
“Human Nature Architecture”
▼ 高中作为体育特长生的程艳春，Cheng Yanchun as a student with sports talent in high school
I lived in the suburb of Beijing since I was born. I remember most vividly is a seventy or eighty years old tree in the courtyard of my home. During the summer, I would have tea with my father under the tree. The shadow of the tree covered the yard and made the yard feels cool. During the winter, leaves fell off and sun shined the whole yard. My sister and I could play badminton sometime, and every life scene of my family life was filled in the yard. Every morning, all kinds of birds singing on the tree: swallow, magpie, and sparrow, sometimes even wood peckers, and so on. Basically we don’t need alarms to wake us up. During night, there would also be owls. The root of the tree extended to others’ yards, and new trees would grow in their yards after years. So, the old tree for me, might be the most original enlightenment of relationships between human, space, nature and architecture.
As for learning architecture, in fact, is a particularly accidental thing. Besides everyday study, I was a student athlete in high school. Architecture was my second choice when I was choosing major. I had never learned how to draw before I was assigned to architecture major, so it is hard at the very beginning. However, during years of study, the more I understand architecture, the more I like it. The more I like it, the more I want to working on it. After all, it became to this status.
▼ 设计中的程艳春，Cheng Yanchun doing design work
The core philosophy of C+ Architects
“I wants to start from home research…and i want my studio to become a home.”
Before, When I was in Japan, I studied modern Japanese housing. During three years of PhD, I studied a lot of good cases. So, to home, I have some of my own ideas.
First of all, “Family” is the basic component of society. The composition of family influences the composition of society. City is big settlement. The concept of the home is abstract, but to every specific family, how does it composite? How does it live? This is an extraordinarily specific and practical question. Normally, urban design starts with zoning arrangement, but what if we reverse the logic which means considering how does every family live here first, or what kind of city is more suitable for people to live, that is, from small scale to large scale, we might get another good angle.
Also, for many design of contemporary housing, especially large-scale residential, we do not know who are the future of specific users. Residential is an object that has commercial quality. It is what we called as commercial residential. But it cannot become “residential home”. So the researchers have to face the very specific person, his or her needs for space and the demands for the city.
▼ 在日本现场考察住宅案例时期（案例：森山邸-西泽立卫），study residential architecture in Japan (case study: Moriyama House-Nishizawa Ryue)
Initially I set up this studio that also wanted to start from home research, so it is called C+ Architects. Another reason is that I want my studio to become a home. Everyone can help each other like brothers and sisters, having the same architecture conception. I am not used to treat my studio simply as a company.
▼ 忙碌却又和睦的C+ Architects工作室，busy while harmonious office of C+ Architects
▼ C+ Architects工作室的阁楼，loft space in C+ Architects
▼ C+ Architects工作室窗外美丽的树影，shadow of the trees through the window
Discover more wisdom in traditional architecture
“I hope to develop more from these buildings.”
I think the influence is not from any specific building, but from reflection on feelings and experience. After visiting so many modern buildings, I was particularly interested in their traditional architecture. This is also what I am thinking about now. I found the experience and idea of many modern architects are explored from traditional architecture and also discovered more and more wisdom in traditional architecture, including Chinese traditional architecture. Therefore, I hope to develop more from these buildings.
▼ 从传统建筑中看到了更多的智慧，discover more wisdom in traditional architecture
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication
“Using the simplest way to solve problem and providing infinite opportunities, but it does not mean losing identity.”
A person’s design must first be like himself. It must be the direct reflection of one’s own experience, this has very big relationship with the personal growth experience.
Many say that our design is similar to style of Japanese style. I do not mind this comment, because in the compact global setup, it is impossible to be not influenced by any country. For example, when you design, you might be influenced by America, by Japan, by Europe. You might even be influenced by a tribe in Africa, because you actually had been there and gained experience and memory. This is the era we live in, the design method that I chose might accidentally has some common experience with a place that existed somewhere.
Of course, we can extend this discussion. For example, many people are using iPhone and other similar mobile phone product. You can hardly say it is Chinese-style, Japanese-style or American-style design, because it must be global. Just like what Steven Jobs quoted from Leonardo da Vinci: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”, which is what we used to say “true greatness is simplicity”. Using the simplest way to solve problem and providing infinite opportunities. But it does not mean losing identity. For example, although people are all using IPhone, but the Apps in their phones are varied. The little differentiation reflects every person’s living habits in small aspects.
▼ 阶屋剖面模型，section model of Stair Pavilion
▼ 山水居模型，model of “Shanshui” House
How to control the quality of construction with cost limitation
“From the perspective of space, light, and the relationship between people, there are many aspects can be cut into this point.”
Good architecture does not have to be expensive building. There are many criteria for judging the quality of an architecture. In practice, we happen to encounter some projects that need to be resolved in a limited cost. In fact, this is a particularly big challenge. How to be creative in a limited condition, so that the building has good experience? My understanding is from the perspective of space, light, and the relationship between people, there are many aspects can be cut into this point.
In the design of Nashare Hotel, we painted the exposed facade with dark gray. Normal container has very bright color and industrial feeling. But apparently it does not consist with the quality of natural environment. Also, not like black, dark gray does not have absolute purity. It can reflect the nuanced change of shadow casting from the tree and daylight. And it is a color makes people feel quiet. The most important idea is that it can make the architecture back into the mountains and shadows without feeling abrupt. On the contrast, the interior of the architecture uses large amount of wood to create a comfortable atmosphere. During the night, the warm light become obvious and the architecture hides into the surrounding trees and shadows.
“The simplicity of an architecture is the only kind that strikes me.”
Everyone has different understanding of design and causes his design is different from others. I hope to resolve a complicated problem with a simple solution rather than with a complicated one. So, it is my own decision of design. Take our Brama Beijing Office Renovation project as an example, the client at the beginning wants to use only one white color to design the office. Finally, we actually built the whole space through white, courtyard and light.
We have always insisted on a very simple way to solve complex problems, and through creativity, making architecture has more possibility and experience. I think this would be the direction that we will be keep discover recently. During the trip or visit of buildings, this is the only kind of architecture can strike me. Many architectures in the photo look very complicated and magnificent. But when in front of them, I do not want to enter. On the contrary, some buildings are very simple in the picture, but the moment I see them, it makes me think it’s gorgeous.
▼ “简单”建筑案例之铃木大拙馆，case of “simple” architecture – D.T. Suzuki Museum
▼ “简单”建筑案例之圣玛利亚大教堂，case of “simple” architecture – Saint Maria Church
For example, the “Hair Focus” Hair Salon project, we consider to use operable curtain to create an ambiguous and blurry atmosphere. Although this design seems simple, it changed the overall image of the shop. Besides, the metal screen directly folded from a whole piece of steel plate gave the traditional objects a new vitality. We hope the steel plate will not have any wrinkle after folding, thus, in the process, we have to consider specifically on the texture and reflective state of this material. Initially, we wanted to use galvanizing to create a blurry texture, but we made some compromise based on the budget and choose a texture with lower price.
Many furniture in our design are specifically designed. In the Jingyuan No.22 Transformation project, except using environmental friendly OSB as the main material for the furnishings，we also combined a slide that can directly access to the toilet and a furniture together，people all loved it. Later, many young architects applied our office because of this installation. When they saw the slide, they thought we were a very interesting and relaxing studio, but as soon as they come here, they will find out I am a very serious person.
Time and Architecture
“Would you choose a temporary eternity or a recyclable eternity?”
I went to India last month and this trip is extremely influential to me. In fact, the intension of this trip was to see some masterpieces of modern architecture (such as Le Corbusier and Louis Khan), but in the end, those modern architecture was not as striking as the ancient architecture for me. From my understanding of Indian culture and local climate, there should be some wooden architecture. However, during this trip, I did not only see any wooden architecture, but an ancient castle made of stone, imitating wooden structure, which made me think a lot.
▼ 印度别具魅力的石材建筑 – 阿达拉杰街井，the charming stone architecture in India – Adalaj Stepwell
How long does a building’s history can be seen as “old”? From the beginning, people considered many stone architectures are eternal, but now many of them have become ruins. Thus, many wooden architectures, on the other hand, have different characters. The Ise Grand Shrine in Japan, for example, is reconstructed every twenty years. And also, in Horyu Temple, there are architectural components from different time periods. This is a very incredible thing, which exists in our traditional architecture too. Would you choose a temporary eternity or a recyclable eternity? These are two very distinct systems, which I am more intrigued by the beauty of the latter one now.
▼ 日本不断维持翻修的法隆寺，Buddhist temple in the Horyu Temple area under constantly reconstruction
▼ 采用“永恒”石材建造的建筑已经荒芜 – 印度：法泰赫普尔西克里，the architecture made of “permanent” stone material is now abandoned – Fatehpur Sikri
▼ 采用“永恒”石材建造的建筑已经荒芜 – 印度：萨克吉罗萨，the architecture made of “permanent” stone material is now abandoned – Sarkhej Roza
Where did architecture come from and where is it going? I think the only way to answer it is nature. People take materials from nature to build and when a building ceases to perform its function, it will end up in nature by different means. Just like human’s lives. The development of architecture is like the evolution of human being, in countless cycles and renewals. When we put architecture on a timeline, there are no eternal architecture, just like there are no eternal human lives.
Designing architecture is dealing with the relationship between people, environment and buildings. Therefore, architecture itself and its internal relationships are the basic attributes of the existence of architecture. From this point of view, there are no eternal architectures now. Although the pyramids, cathedrals and temples still exists, the relationship behind those architecture has changed and in the end became museums and ruins. Yet, what if we consider architecture with a different mentality? If we suppose that architecture would not exist for a long time, and, from the beginning of our design, to consider how to construct a building and make it disappear elegantly at the same time. For a long time, we appreciate “palace” aesthetic, but “shelter” architecture is closer to our intrinsic needs.
Old buildings made of stones and bricks, as time pasts, cumulate their charms as they are constantly weathered. If we consider the ancient constructions as cathedrals and temples, we would find that base on the situations, some are built in decades or even hundreds of years. Because those architectures are made of organic materials, some parts are already eroded during its construction. Thus, I think you could say they are “weathering while constructing”. I think this gives an opportunity for people to think about the essence of architecture.
▼ 采用“短暂”材料建造的建筑/庭院在不断更新下仍然弥久历新 – 日本：龙安寺，the architecture/courtyard made of “temporary” material is still alive under constantly reconstruction – Ryoanji Temple
▼ 采用“短暂”材料建造的建筑/庭院在不断更新下仍然弥久历新 – 日本：桂离宫，the architecture/courtyard made of “temporary” material is still alive under constantly reconstruction – Katsura Imperial Villa
Light and Architecture
“When we design architecture, we first need to make sure the position of the sun…Good lighting can give an architecture a very different vitality.”
▼ 半壁店办公室改造的项目也追求朦胧且多层次的光线效果，摄影：夏至（更多内容请点击这里），Renovation of No.8 Building in Beijing Banbidian Industry Park, chasing for multi-level lighting effect, Photographer: Xia Zhi (click here to see more about this project)
Light is very important. I think especially in terms of the relationship between light and space, because good lighting can give an architecture a very different vitality.
When we design architecture, we first need to make sure the position of the sun, because people interact with the sun and so does architecture. Therefore, the relationship between the sun and the building is a very important aspect of architectural design. Also, based on my travel experiences, architectures in different regions have different relationship between building and light. European architectures are mostly mineral, thus mostly binary relationship between light and shadow occurs in those structures. On the other hand, in many buildings in China, Southeast Asia, and Japan, which are botanical, especially in traditional architecture. Light in buildings exists in a translucent condition which makes the space smoother, people would sense different spatial layers generated by different layers of light.
In Renovation of No.8 Building Banbidian Industry Park project, we placed a skylight above the central stairs. The light coming down from the skylight, reflected by the U-shaped glass panels at the sides of the stairs, diffuses and generates multiple conditions of daylighting. Then, at night, artificial light is also reflected. In fact, it is also pursuing a translucent, blurred and multi-layered light. Also, in our hair salon project, we try to generate a diffused lighting by using curtains, so that the spaces seem more delicate and various.
Opportunity and Challenge
“In an era of design, what kind of design is a good design?…In the global competition, we are facing the same problem. What kind of solution will Chinese architects come up with? And where does the answer come from?”
Nowadays, many presses focus on design, people have a higher requirement to their articles of daily use, house living, or even the city. So there will not be a better time for designers and architects. However, it brings another question: in an era of design, what kind of a design is a good design? Or as a designer, what level the design need to be achieved? Before, a friend told me he thought our project has a feeling of designed and liked it very much. Later, I considered this “design sense” for a long time. I did not take it as a complement. On the contrary, I questioned whether a project has a “design sense” is a good design? I hope to find the answer form the past and tradition culture, just like what I said, traditional architecture actually has many extraordinary wisdoms.
Moreover, we are facing a global competition. For example, when we having a problem in Beijing, we might have American architects, Australia architects or European architects to solve our problems. Then what kind of solution will Chinese architects come up with? And where does the answer come from? How to find our own answer in the global background? This is an important challenge to young architects, or architects at any phase.
▼ 认真工作的C+ Architects团队，C+ Architects at work
“Architecture is not just an object but an event.”
We just finish a design of a Hope Primary school. We hope the school can bring vitality to the area, the excellent resource of the city to the school and change local environment. Actually we did not only just design the architecture, we are also involved in the whole project planning and the coordination. So, this project makes us feel that architecture is not just an object but an event. From the beginning of design, it is actually designing many events, it is just one object contains all the events through a form.
Another project is house renovation, this is also one of my interest. When we buying a house, first of all, the house is designed as a merchandise. In many condition, one might have a bigger house than another, but I think our lifestyle do not have any essential differences. Because the planning is always considering from a larger scale and then break down to smaller and smaller zones. If we consider from a different perspective, presuming that we design the housing suits each person, let people having enough free space and being able to choose their own housing and lifestyle, and then think about what the city should look like, maybe we will finally get a better answer. In this case, we combined the client’s need and life condition and make a housing that has merchandise quality to become a real extension of human body. House is like clothing, it should be fit and appropriate, and make people feel comfortable.
Also, we designed a kindergarten in Taiyuan, Shanxi. We hope the kindergarten can let children have an experience of primitive cave dwelling experience, let the kindergarten creating a relationship with local community and become a communal school. In this architecture, children are like in the primitive cave without feeling disconnected with the world. It is actually important to let children experience nature elements such as wind, water, earth, stone and wood. So, in my understanding, this kindergarten project is not just to design a building that is safe and comfortable. It is probably a more important topic to be able to promote children’s thinking in virtually. Just like my home, the relationship between the old tree, the yard and my house always have a great impact on me.
▼ 办公室空间中的细节，details of the office
Suggestions for architecture students
“I believe the best advice is not providing any advice. I don’t think everyone should become an architect.”
I believe the best advice is not providing any advice.
First of all, I don’t think everyone should become an architect. We have more than one hundred students in a grade, but only few can become architects. I believe the aim of college is helping them finding what they are interested in or the direction of future, avoiding getting lost after graduation.
▼ 程艳春在学生中人气很高，下图是学生为他做的祝福卡，Cheng is popular among his students. Here is the greeting cards from Cheng’s students
Plan in the future
“Our future plan is to make the world a better place.”
I think our future plan is to make our studio better, and to prepare for more challenges. Also, I am currently teaching at Beijing University of Civil Engineering and Architecture. The university has established a new high-technology and special research center focusing on studying urban and rural issues, such as community construction, old town renovation, construction of new city centers and so on.
▼ 程艳春在北京建筑大学进行教学评图，reviewing student’s work in Beijing University of Civil Engineering and Architecture
Therefore, I wish that I could relate my research, practice, and teaching closely. As architects, the current issues of Chinese cities and rural areas are inevitable. If our job can make our environment or even the world a better place, I think that is the most joyful thing, and it is my biggest plan as an architect.