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.11 introduces SU Architects, More: SU Architects on gooood
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gooood x SU Architects 素建筑
From the border to Shanghai, and from the city to the rural
“在同济最大的收获是独立的思辨能力… …我开始思考那个哲学问题：“我是谁”的时候……就是要立足本土，正本清源，在我们中国丰厚无比的文脉中找自己的路… …城市建筑的文脉传承惨不忍睹… …在乡村实践更为自由。”
“What I have gained the most in Tongji University is mental analysis… when I started to think about that philosophical question of “who am I ?”…I decided to base on the local and to start from the very bottom, and thus, seeking for the way in the long history and culture of our own… the inheritance of cultural vein is terriable… we arrived a place with full of freedom in the village”
I was born in Lanzhou, a small city in the North-west China. In that place, you will find the wild custom co-exist with the cultural atmosphere, that brought by the former intellecturas. Grown up in such an environment made me wild inside while to be sensitive to art and culture. Like doing other things, the reason I do architecture design is because of my interest. I am not the one that is always following the lines and architecture looks so cool to me. I made up my mind to become an architect because of my friend Li Shuo. Soon after I reallised that 90% of the architects are not as cool as I thought thus I gave up my career of being a normal archcitect. I became a wild architect instead, facing countless obstacles as well as gainning happiness.
The independent mental analysis is the best thing I have learned in Tongji University. Tongji is jokingly called “Eight-Nation Alliance” by people, which architecture school was composed by four other schools. So in Tongji there is no pyramid structure like in Tsinghua University or Southeast University. The atmosphere here is freer, in which one could have their own opinions, find their own camps and take advantage of their own sources. Studying in Tongji is relatively relaxing since here is no standard answers. It is where I gainned the ability of independent mental analysis. I was influenced by digital architectural design when I was at school. When I started to think about that philosophical question of “who am I ?”, it became natural that we got back to the values we are practicing now. That is to base on the local and to start from the very bottom, seeking for the developing paths in the long history and cultural of our own. Until now, there are a large number of architects who are still “copying and pasting” the western forms and methods in our motherland of profound history and culture. I jokingly call them the “American Faction”. And for sure, that is not our way ahead.
▼同济学习时期的素建筑创始人马科元（左）和郭少珣（右），photos of Ma Keyuan (left) and Guo Shaoxun (right) when they were studying in Tongji, partners of SU Architects
There are many reasons why I gave up the jop in design institute and devoted into the rural construction. Firstly, the work I was doing in design institute was not design, but calculations related to the projects. Every time I was going to take a design action, we started to calculate. My time and energy were wasted in struggling with data, which made this job more like a accountant but an architect. The design ideas were restricted by the unnecessary and overelaborate formalities. Secondly, work of design insitute was more like “book selling”. What architects made was not architecure but elegantly colored diagrams, passionate renderings in well-printed proposals. However, when the architecture was about to settle, they would left the work to the LDI, the contractor and the project manager. Besides, the city that we are living in is like a simple-minded barbarian. The buildings in the city are low-intellectual constructions with little inheritance of the cultural vein. Architects are used to do design with pinterest, making collage without any personal opinions.
So we headed for the village. On one hand, we arrived at a place with more freedom. 99% of our energy could be devoted to the design process, in which we could quickly complete a project and spent some time to review. Though such high efficient practice we have improved a lot in design works. On the other hand, since there are still preserved the tangible and intangible cultural heritage, which are already disappeared in the urban places, it provided us a profound context to discover and study. We are always talking about city offering economic supports to the rural places. I believe that the rural will provide cutural supports to the urban in turn.
▼在乡村勘察基地，指导施工，study the site and guide the construction in the countryside.
Going back to the projects in urban places, we seldom participated in residential, commercial complexs, or other commercial projects. We are more into the projects of public buildings, which are with more intellectual efforts. In fact, we mostly like to build temples now. Temple is a very interesting architecture style, where religious and demotic characters, cultural and memorial features coexist. The religious architecture in western countries have already transformed and renewed. However, we haven’t had a modern temple that represents the indigenous culture and knowledgy of the universe and I think it will be an interesting direction.
▼在办公室工作的二人，working in the office
Excitment and Happiness
“Architecture couldn’t make me excited. Instead it makes me happy… stage and architecture are only different ways of expressing”
Comparing to stage drama, architecture couldn’t make me excited. Instead it makes me happy. Excitement and happiness are two different concepts. Achievements in architecture design are more-to-earth. I have a strong sense of happniess even if there are no claps. From the very beginning of design stage to the construction, the whole process, even the quarrels with the construction team, makes me feel happy.
Design is my job and my career, while the stage drama is just for my own pleasure. I spend most of my time and energy in design. Only when I have ideas in mind and have gained enough spare time, I will write a stage drama script and play it. There seems to be a big difference between these two, though their inner cores are connected. In my point of view, stage and architecture only different ways of expressing and they have much in common in the metaphysical view, which we called the substance. It is one’s reflection of the world, of his values and himself. The actors, the story and stage are languages, just the same as space, material and light which can be controlled by learning and practicing. They are not too hard for me.
Certainly, the stage drama and design each has its own expressing method. The difference is that the time line of the stage drama is monodirectional in clues but multidirectional in narration, while architecture design is just in the opposite way around. Hence, architecture is tangible while stage drama is intengible; architecure lasts long and peacefully while stage drama stays short but powerful. Though they are totally interlinked in the metaphysical view.The Linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure has great influence on me.
▼马科元创作的话剧台照，用和建筑不同的形式来进行自我表达，photos of stage drama that created by Ma Keyuan, which is a different way to express oneself compared to architecture.
To devoted myself to the guest house
“SU Architects only has 4 to 5 projects processing each year, which is unacceptable to other design companies. Yet, we are not anxious. We believe that it is more valuable to do a small but exporatory house than coping ten large buildings… We insist that, houses should be look like the way of where they come from. “
Most of our projects are guest houses. It is a market trend and we enjoy doing this kind of project a lot. Most of the guest house projects are in the rural places and managed by private developers. Thus we could have maximum freedom that all architects long for. Meanwhile, the small scale of the guest house leave us the possibilities to go over every detail. SU Architects only has 4 to 5 projects each year, which is unacceptable to other design companies. Yet, we are not anxious. We believe that it is more valuable to do a small but exporatory house than coping ten large modern buildings. Definitely, this will bring us more pressure in runing our company. For instance, a 300000sqm residential project in the design institute takes the same time and staff resources as we do a 300sqm guest house project, while the design fee is in exponential difference. Even though, we could still survive in the market thanks to the clients who completely trust us.
▼素建筑民宿作品一览，guest house projects by SU Architects
The guest house is where urban residents go to the rural places, and where they occupy the rural place and source to earn money from the urban residents. The transforamtion implemented in rural places would bring influences of both positive and negative. The good point is, they would promote the economic development in rural places, change the employment value and improve the public facilities which would possibally promote the rural revival. On the contratry, there would also be the bad part, in which architects copying the similar design concepts as the urban places, destroying the villages’ identities and leaving them the same. We are here trying to do the real different designs for village instead of removing an object from the urban. In the recent years, for instance, there appeared many architectures of different shapes in Moganshan, which seems like a modern architecutre exposition. While it still caused a passive effect on townscape of such a village in Zhexi. We insist that, houses should look like the way of where they belong to.
▼富有当地特色，与环境和谐的民宿建筑，guest houses with local characteristics, being harmonious with the environment
More than half of our time is spent in the investigations and site judgement. The way we implementing the rural project is totally different from that in the urban. We have to ensure that, from the beginning to the end and from interior to landscape, every step of the project is under control. While in the urban projects, the work would be assigned to design architects, interior designers , architects for consctruction and interior drawings, landscape designers etc.. While in the rural project, we are involved in the whole process to maintain its integrity.
To intergrate the design concept into the place, we should firstly know better of the site. We have to know how the residents living here, and how we could make it more poetic and practical. We often talk and eat with the locals to have better knowledge of their daily life. Thus we could come up with the design idea with respect to the local custom as well as corresponding to the context.
The Deep³ Courtyard
“Probably as a Chinese we all have a world view of universe and human deep in our mind. We might not read The Four Books and The Five Classics, yet something exists in our gene influences our daily lives.”
The Deep³ Courtyard is a project we did about 5 or 6 years ago. The client was introduced by my friend casually and we made the agreement after a discussion of the project. The client originally wanted two houses, which one in the front for living, and the one behind for privte uses. My suggestion was that Chinese house are scattered and intergreted with the courtyard. Hence, the former idea of two houses are divided into four houses and ten gardens. Long after the accomplishment, once I was watching the “Rong Xi Zhai Tu” by Ni Zan, I suddenly realised that the painting has a strong isomorphic relationship with the Deep³ Courtyard. I have no idea of this at the beginning. I am gradually aware of that as Chinese, we probably all have a world view of universe and human deep in our mind. We might not read The Four Books and The Five Classics, yet something exists in our gene influences our daily lives.
▼深深深宅，充满中国园林氛围的建筑空间，architectural space with a sense of traditional Chinese Garden in Deep3 Courtyard
“We were happy that our design concept was kept during the constructions. The villagers like the project and it makes the village better.”
Tonglu lies on a very diverse environment with Fushun River, hills and mountains. It has deep roots in culture and very convenient transportation.Considering the future management of the guesthouse, we drew a circle of 3 to 4 hours’ transportation from the site’s major guests to set the project location. Tonglu is right there inside the circle, four hours’ traffic from Shanghai. We finally found the place with the help of the local municipality. In order to deal with the numerous adjustments required during the construction stage, we moved our company from Shanghai to Tonglu county. We rent a small house and went through the whole precess including every detail. We were happy that our design concept was kept during the constructions. The villagers like the project and it makes the village better. We are satisfied in both design and the local circumstances.
▼隐于桐庐山中的建筑，architecture hidden in the mountain of Tonglu
▼传统与现代结合的建筑形式，modern architecture combined with traditional elements
▼在室内可以欣赏优美的自然景观，enjoy the natural view from the room
The method, philosophy, the challenge and the future views of the two founders
“We accept the difference of each other. It is the difference that inspires our own thoughts… To discribe our architecture vision abstractly is “poetic construction”… The young architects should drop the easy obtained achievements and keep moving forward.”
We are independent and paralleled in creation works, but are agreed on the basic design philosophy. Though we usually had different oppions in some of the projects, even argued, which were just so normal to us. We accept the difference of each other. It is the difference that inspires our own thoughts. It is good to us. To discribe our architecture vision abstractly is “poetic construction”. We have our own understanding of form and we prefer them to be introverted and modest. We were required to do appealing and stirring renderings in large design institutes. Now we are doing small-scale houses which are designed mainly based on the environment and should not be conspicuous. Form is not the primary, but the outcome of the design.
We prefer to doing a real project, than manufacturing a product. We are a research based studio and we hope that in the future we could take design as the starting point and step a bit further in some aspects of architecture itself, instead of just making appealing forms by advanced design methods. SU Architects will stay a small company, since we don’t want to put so much power in administrating.
▼素建筑办公室中一些研究性的小模型，research models in the office of SU Architects
One of the future challenges for us would be the lack of talents. A big plan of mine is to make a deep research into the traditional residential of different regions and come up with a general solution to give new lives to these old buildings. However, this calls for a large amount of time and labor. Another challenge is time. In the age of Internet, we have more than before the interferences which could confuse us. Graphic works on the Internet, as references, make architects easier to do their jobs, which brings them easier and faster achievements. However, the easy-obtained achievements made the young satisfied easily and thus they would stop in improving themselves. I think I need more time to think of, to analysis and to distinguish the clue hidden in the development and mental analysis of Architecture.
▼素建筑办公室，工作氛围浓厚，office of SU Architects with strong working atmosphere
The young architects should drop the easy-obtained achievements and keep moving forward. The whole era is progressing fast. One of my clients was an ordinary tea planter with little sense in aesthetics two year ago. Now he is professional enough to discuss the granular size of terrazzo with me. The learning ability of our clients is amazing and so do the alternations of this era. We can no longer doing designs by simply pulling various sorts of things together. We would like to think more and ahead further.
▼素建筑创始人郭少珣（左）和马科元（右）Partners of SU Architects: Guo Shaoxun (left) Ma Keyuan (right)