gooood team interviews creative individuals under 35 years old from all over the world, some are pioneering founders, some are ordinary practitioners. gooood is trying to record the authentic living and working states of this era. Your recommendations and suggestions are appreciated!
gooood Under 35 NO.7 introduces Li Xu, Partner of DMLJ and Buildever. More: Li Xu on gooood , Buildever on gooood
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gooood x Li Xu 李煦
Nontypical Beijingness and typical science student
I am a Pekingese, but not that kind of typical one. There are briefly two kinds of Pekingese if you have watched the movie called “In the Heat of the Sun”; people who grow up in Hutong are the first kind of Pekingese, the other is who lives in the military compound. I belong to the later group. I was brought up at the intersection of the West 4th ring road and the Chang’an Street extension cord, where many military compounds sit. The place where I grew up was like an introverted micro-society, the atmosphere here was simple and sheer. My parents are both high school teachers, they have offered me a pure growth environment. The school was close to our home; I did not even need to cross any road on my way to the classroom. It only took me five minutes to get back home, sometimes could be even faster if I climbed over the wall after the evening self-study.
On the other hand, I was quite good at math in high school, a typical science student. I had won the Olympic math competition and was recommended for admission to Tsinghua University for that reason. Also, I used to learn painting and enjoyed that experience. So choosing architecture as my major was a decision that combined all advantages of mine. I did not want to be restrained in one field, science or art, and architecture seems to be the discipline of intertwined both art and skill. That could be my best choice.
▼李煦的母校十一学校，Beijing National Day School
Gap Year: A Record of one-year absence
“As a senior student, I have the responsibility to help the coming students, to show them with wider choices, and I hope they could know better about the future.”
我08年北京奥运会前去的美国，那个时候社交网络比较风靡，校内网大家都在用。自己在校内网上更新在美国学习、生活情况。 gap year是我在美国后才知道有这么一个概念，其实就叫休学一年。
I went to U.S. right before the Beijing Olimpic Games in 2008. At that time social network was popular among students, so I kept recording my life in U.S. and post them online. After arrived in U.S., I started to get to know the concept of the gap year; it is just a year that absent from university.
As for the reason that I chose to be away from school-life for a short while is the disparity of our classmates. My major in Harward is MArch II; those 29 students were coming from all over the world. Most of the foreign students were much older than me and had many years of working experience. They were already professional architects, and some of them even keep studying after bearing a child, while Chinese students were freshly graduated and had no work experience. The discussions between professors and foreign students, some of whom had already started up their own business, were more like the debates between practitioners and architects. Comparing to these experienced classmates, we Chinese students were obviously inadequate, which directly exposed in the learning quality.
▼左：同届中国学生合影。右：听Moneo教的建筑评论课。/Left: photo with Chinese fellows. Right: Moneo teaching architectural criticism in GSD
After finishing the first term at GSD, several our foreign classmates decided to take a gap year. I found it was worth to try, and started to look for internships that last for at least half a year. Fortunately, BIG accepted my application; then I embarked on the journey to Denmark.
I had never been to the European countries before I set foot on Denmark. After arrived in there, I found the Nordics were living in a comfortable and relaxing way. Thus, the designers are eased and creative. BIG was still a small company at that moment, my boss and colleagues were as close as brothers. Working in a very international environment, the team members are coming from worldwide. At the beginning, I was just posting some trifles on the website to record my life and work in Danmark, gradually a sense of responsibility of sharing my experiences with the people who were learning or just interested in architecture started to emerge. Another reason that made me decide to share my life in this way was the help that I received when applying for the graduate school. The senior students from Tsinghua had helped me a lot, they had shown much kindness to me. And I think that was very important for the abecedarian: as a superior one, we have the responsibility to help the coming students, to show them with wider choices, and know better about the future. Thus to me, spreading a potential idea to them is a continuation of virtue. Since I took a year away from school, most of the fellow students would choose to have a gap year, which had hardly ever happened in Chinese students before. I think in some ways I lead this trend.
▼在BIG和同事讨论纽约W57项目概念模型，discuss the concept model of New York W57 project
▼左：丹麦住所。右：BIG工作日常。Left: accommodation in Denmark. Right: working in BIG
▼BIG的同事十分平易近人（左：李煦，中：BIG创始人BJARKE INGELS）colleagues in BIG were very amiable (left: Li Xu, middle: BJARKE INGELS, founding partner of BIG)
The year in Denmark was the time that I missed the most. I was so relaxed, not like the people who were struggling to make a living or under the pressure of school works. I would like to call this year “study voyage”, which was like learning during this trip. I used to spend a weekend or exchaning working days to travel to another country visiting the architectures there. I felt that period had become a cornerstone of my study in architecture and my own life. It is hard to experience that feeling again when you graduated and started your career.
▼在欧洲的游学经历，study voyage in Europe
Five Years in Hong Kong
“Hong Kong is a society of diversity which requires an excellent communication skill of people who work there. And this has to be the challenge that Hong Kong has brought to me.”
Hong Kong is an international cosmopolitan. Choosing to stay there instead of directly get back to the Mainland was trying to have an interim period. I used to work at BIG, a starchitect kind of firm, so when I got started in Hond Kong, I had chosen a relatively more commercial and professional company. The work in Hong Kong was hectic, and my colleagues were all extremely competitive. However, the local architecture industry was not as prosperous as it did, most of the projects come from the Mainland. It is a place full of diversity, all different kinds of cultures; your colleagues might come from all over the world. Working with the international team members, including the locals, requires an excellent communication skill and this has to be the challenge that Hong Kong has brought to me. Also, I am very lucky to be trusted by the company to responsible for some large projects, including of the part of presentations for clients and governments. The years in Hong Kong makes me more skilled at project management and I have grown up to be a team leader in all aspects. The Hong Kong’s architecture market is an introverted, professional one, unlike the various types of offices in the Mainland China.
I spent five years living in Mong Kok area and have never moved. Comparing to the traffic in Beijing, Hong Kong’s overall urban transportation is very convenient, barely need driving. We were all taking subway or buses traveling around the city. Because Beijing’s urban area has been stretched too much, the pressure of public transportation is very troublesome.
▼在香港五年的居住环境，living environment of the five years in Hong Kong
▼从办公室（左）和家（右）看到的室外景色。View from office (left) and home (right)
采访转行建筑师 与 自己的转行
Interviews with career-changed architects and the career-change of myself
“I am a man of sense and sensibility. I will do anything that is meaningful.”
The idea of interviewing architects who have changed their career path was entirely based on personal interests. Once on a break back to Beijing, some of our friends were gathered together, CHEN Xing from Bǐfú, LIANG Qiwei from S-Game, my classmate from Harvard CAO Nan who had started up a juice business, and my future partner QI Tian from DMLJ. After the reunion, I surprisingly found that all my classmates were not doing architecture anymore. And that was kind of interest to me. On my flight heading back to Hong Kong, I sent a message to XIANG Ling from Gooood expressing my orientation of a series of interview about career-changed architects. And she was very supportive, taking this as a unique starting perspective.
After returning to Hong Kong, I interviewed our eight guests who had changed their career paths either by telephone or directly meet then in person. And this had generated a prompt response on the internet; all the readers started to share their stories about career change. I was happy about this, by initiating a small topic, the whole industry began to notice this phenomenon, and generated a series of successive arguments. The architect is a job of complexity: executive power, the skill of doing handicraft, the capacity of detail control, are all the advantages that brought by learning architecture.
When we finished this interview series, a lot of people started to tease me of whether I would join their crew by doing something else. I soundly remember that my answer was “Absolutely not.” But thing got changed, after four years in Hong Kong, I have learned enough things and i have spent most of my time working, while seldom make my own time for thinking. So I resigned at the end of 2015. Hong Kong University was recruiting for TA at that time, and I applied for the teaching assistant position for Professor XU tiantian.
▼左：带香港大学学生在北京调研。右：带香港大学学生参加威尼斯双年展。/ Left: research in Beijing with students from Hong Kong University. Right: in Venice Biennale with students from Hong Kong University.
During that period I often traveled between Hong Kong and Beijing, and started to get back in touch with my friend QI Tian. We were very close to each other in university, and I paid sustained attentions to the things he had been doing. I gradually get to know about this business and deeply touched by the meaningful choice he had made. After that, the desire of getting involved in this work making me joined to his team, DMLJ. At the end of last year, I become one of the partners of the company.
I am a man of sense and sensibility. I will do anything that is meaningful. What has DMLJ has delivered to the public is a thing with profound influence: it propagates Chinese traditional things, including with the spirit of promoting artisans, through innovative design to the international stage.
▼加入端木良锦，join in DMLJ
“One of our many goals in starting this brand is to revive the long-forgotten Tang Dynasty aesthetics by designing vintage small woodcraft.”
现在端木良锦团队一共有九个人，有三个合伙人，是核心团队。创始人是我在清华建筑系的同班同学祁天，他也是宾夕法尼亚大学建筑的硕士；另外一个是她的太太李渊君 – 宾夕法尼亚大学的电子工程专业；另一个就是我。三个人的分工比较明确，祁天主要是在产品设计和研发；她太太有一部分工作是团队的管理，还有一部分是我们木作的镶嵌技术研发；我很大一部分是品牌的管理和市场的开拓。在产品研发上我的工作重点是把所有的产品进行三维建模，比如说木包上的五金配件需要通过精确建模，3D打印测试好后才发给五金件制作厂批量生产。我现在很大一部分的工作是跟人接触，之前做建筑师包括跟甲方接触、跟施工方接触锻炼出来的能力现在非常有用。我们现在接触的人往上有政要夫人级别，往下面走有我们自己的工人，还有各种媒体等，所以我要随时转换自己的角色，包括跟不同的人打交道的方式，这对我也是一个非常大的挑战。
Right now we have a team of nine people; three of them are partners, who make up the core of the team. The founders partners are my classmate in the School of Architecture in University – QI Tian, who graduated from UPen in M.Arch; the other partner is his wife LI Yuanjun – she studied electrical engineering in the graduate school of UPenn; and the last one is me. We have a precise distribution of fields: QI Tian is mostly in charge of production developing and researching. His wife helps with the team management, and she is doing research of the insertion technology for our products. My job is mostly for brand management and market expansion. Regarding my position in the product’s development, I am focusing on developing the three-dimensional models for all our products. For instance, every metal hardware of our products has to be tested on a highly precise 3D printed model before sending to the manufacturer. A large part of my job is dealing with people, which is what I learned from dealing with clients and construction team back in the time I did architecture. Currently, we have to cope with a broad range of people from family members of significant political figures, different Media groups, to our workers. Thus, I have to switch my role constantly. The fact that I have to cope with different kinds of people in different ways is a major challenge to me.
▼工作室合影（右二：李煦，中：祁天，右三：李渊君）group photo of the DMLJ studio （second right: Li Xu, middle: Qi Tian, third right: Li Yuanjun)
▼端木良锦工作室，带庭院的500平米小楼，所有人在这里生活、工作，DMLJ studio, a 500 square meters building with a courtyard, where Li Xu and his partners work and live
One of the most classic designs we produced is a Patterned Wooden Clutch in Tang Dynasty style. The back of the Clutch is set with hand-made floral patterns. In the first glance, that easily reminds you of the typical Louis Vuitton handbag, but in fact, there is a story behind it. The pattern we are using is adapted from the Jewel Sign Lotus, a traditional floral pattern in Tang Dynasty. We found this pattern from a book, in which it presents a National Treasury of Tang Dynasty string instrument. The artifact is originated from Tang Dynasty and was brought to the king of Japan as a gift by Japanese ambassador two thousand years ago. We are astonished by the beauty of the pattern and highly impressed by the intricacy of Tang’s craftmanship. We intended to replicate these intricate pattern in woods by contemporary technology. Therefore, the entire surface of sixty flowers is hand-made by Golden Phoebe and Chinese boxwood. It may look like Japanese or Louis Vuitton’s design, but it is purely Chinese originated. That somehow resonates with one of our goals in starting this brand: to revive the long- forgotten Tang Dynasty aesthetics by designing vintage small woodcraft.
▼满嵌唐琴纹檀木手拿包，Patterned Wooden Clutch in Tang Dynasty style
▼钱包花纹来自唐代琵琶，the pattern on the clutch is from a pipa in Tang Dynasty
▼用金丝楠木和黄杨木手工镶嵌的花纹，handmade pattern composed of Golden Phoebe and Chinese boxwood
Currently, our countrymen’s knowledge of traditional Chinese style is mostly from Ming or Qing Dynasty for artifacts from these two Dynasties are chronically closer to us and better preserved. To us, the paramount of Chinese Aesthetics achievement is between Han and Tang. Tang Dynasty is the most prosperous period in Chinese Ancient History. And we literally call it the Prospering Tang. The lines and colors in Tang style are exquisite and simplistic rather than being complicated like Qing style. There are much to discover and exploit from Tang style, yet there is little relics from Tang left in this country. We spent a significant amount of time in collecting, sorting and studying art and designs in Tang Dynasty.
▼研究唐代元素运用到产品中，discover from Tang style and apply into the product
▼中国传统特色产品与国际相结合，combine with the international trend
I am rather optimistic about the future of our brand. Currently, we are getting covered from an increasing amount of Media, including the People’s Daily and CCTV. We will gradually start cooperations with major domestic brands and platforms. We are hoping to let our idea be conveyed to a wider range of people while focusing on developing a Chinese luxury.
▼端木良锦产品展示包墙，products displayed on the unique feature wall in DMLJ studio
恒筑 – 建筑创作
Hengzhu – Creation of Architecture
“I am now concentrating in DMLJ. Thanks to my partners in Shenzhen, the architecture office is operating well.”
今年5月，我们在深圳的第一个项目云里智能园建成开园，是一个旧工业厂房改造项目。项目位于深圳龙华区坂田街道，离华为的产业园非常近，属于九十年代的仓库厂房转型。一共有六栋旧式仓库需要做全面外观和内部的提升。我们从建筑的外立面）做起，结合现代设计的手法和材料，把整个建筑进行更新换代。还有一个项目是在纽约曼哈顿暗黑风格的买手店叫Atelier New York，这个买手店主要是经营欧美暗黑风格设计师的品牌，他们的VIP客户包括Brad Pitt，Kanye West等知名人士。在设计风格上我们不希望它是简简单单产品展示，更多希望成为一个小的时尚聚合，所以空间里的家具装置都是灵活可变，有时候变成时尚发布会，有时候变成临时品牌的pop-up，也能开时尚party。项目处于纽约的历史建筑保护区，外立面不能变，所以所有的改造在建筑内部进行。建筑门脸是一个盒子，跟旁边的店铺有所区别，同时保留一定的神秘感。
The first project of our office is Shenzhen Winlead Intelligent Park which was finished and opened to the public this May. It is a transformation project, sitting in Bantian Street Longhua District, Shenzhen close to Huawei Industrial Parks. The park comprises a complex of the 90s’ decommissioned industrial building; six former warehouses need to be innovated inside-out. We started from the surface, with the modern design languages and innovative materials to convert these buildings for new use. Another interesting small project we did was in Manhattan called Atelier New York. It was a shop selling goth style design brand. Their customers including all celebrities such as Brad Pitt, Kanye West, etc. We would like the shop to be a party space for fashion, instead of being a simply displaying area. Thus the installations and furniture there are flexible to be moved and reoriented. Different spatial combinations could be adapt to fashion shows, brand’s pop-ups or even parties. The project locates in a historic district where the architecture’s facades cannot be restored. Thus the manipulation works can only be taken into interior space. The front view of the project is a box-like image, with some iconic feelings makes it different from other shops and to keep a sense of mysterious among surroundings.
▼曼哈顿买手店，Atelier New York
Consideration in industry and enterprise
“If you hope to make a difference in the career you are willing and enjoy to do, one has to let himself emerge in that business, so that you will have the persistence of overcoming regardless any hardships. I believe that is the essential part.”
I have started living in Songzhuang, an outskirt village of Beijing, since I came back to Beijing last fall. I have been working and living in this 500-square-meter courtyard for almost a year, in which I could think and do the introspection of our business. What I have been thinking the most are the issues that we have encountered at the beginning of starting up a business. Briefly, doing industrial corp is hard.
One will never know how hard it could be until he/she get involved in that situation. Most issues I have met are external factors, things such as you could not find a suitable manufacturer for the piece of hardware that you want to make. We are a small company and have fewer orders; qualified manufacturers do not even bother to take these tasks. Therefore, we have to work on ourselves in many cases. Learning how to do the craftsmanship by ourselves from the very beginning, become adept at the techniques, and then start to train our staffs There is no need to mention the huge challenge behind all these works. Nowadays, everyone stresses on the Spirit of Craftsmanship. Even a phone case seller markets on that slogan. But what does the Spirit of Craftsmanship truly means? To me it is to bring innovations while carrying on traditional techniques and is to adapt the wisdom on the Ancient artefacts to improve modern living.
▼发扬工匠精神制造产品，make the product with craftsmanship
The contemporary society is a little bit impetuous. People who want to focus on their professions are few, but those who wish to make good money are common. If one can earn more money from gaming on real estates, why bothering to spend five years on designing a wooden case? If you do hope to make a difference in the career you are willing and enjoy to do; one has to let him/herself emerge in that business, so that they will have the persistence of overcoming regardless any hardships. I believe that is most important.