The Chinese architect Wang Shu’s buildings – a crossover between traditional Chinese culture and large-scale modern architecture – have earned him the prestigious Pritzker Prize. “Democracy means a really diverse society,” says the architect in this inspiring interview.
”Architecture is not just an object that you place in the environment,” Wang Shu explains.” Your experience of the architecture starts far away from the building. Architecture is not only the house in itself; it also includes a big area around it. All of this is architecture.” Shu does not take his responsibility as an architect lightly. Architecture can ”change the life of people and give them a new one right away. This is not a job for normal people to do. This should be the work of God.”
His studio, Amateur Architecture Studio, co-founded together with Shu’s wife Lu Wenyu, focuses on architecture that fosters community and works from the bottom up. ”We think that a society that is good for people to live in starts from the ground. Real culture starts from the ground,” says Wang Shu, and recounts his favourite project: designing a public toilet and wash-room for a rural Chinese village which became a local gathering spot for all of the villagers.
In the end Shu challenges the common understanding of Western democracy versus Chinese dictatorship. Modern societies have strong centralizing forces that level out differences, he states. In this light, Wang Shu argues, securing variety and local diversity within society is the real challenge, in China as well as the Western world.
Chinese Wang Shu (b. 1963) is considered one of the most important architects of our time. Together with his wife Lu Wenyu he runs the Amateur Architecture Studio. The studio is known for breaking architectural boundaries by weaving together ancient Chinese building tradition and an almost hypermodern formal language. He is the dean of the School of Architecture of the China Academy of Art and has received multiple awards, among others the 2012 Pritzker Prize, considered the Nobel Prize of architecture.
Text and video courtesy of Louisiana channel