Liu Yanchen: Urban Renewal and Architectural Form and Content — Time and Space Observation of CAFA’s Architectural Creation

TEXT:Sue Wang    DATE: 2018.7.16

Liu Yanchen is a young teacher at the School of Architecture of the Central Academy of Fine Arts (abbr. CAFA), but she has an unique perspective of CAFA’s discipline in architecture as she finished her professional studies in Hong Kong and the United States. When she visited the graduation show this year, she did not only see the development of architecture at different stages, but also the different presentations of architecture in different cultural regions. She is a rigorous and calm observer and thinker. In her opinion, the graduation design should “make a problem” and the architecture of CAFA is a crossover in art and has an unique logical thinking process that is different from the ones by the students from the universities and colleges of science and engineering.

First of All, the Graduation Creation Should “Make” A Problem  

For the students of the School of Architecture, it can be said that the graduation design is the first time for students to independently explore a topic. Compared with other design courses arranged during the undergraduate study, rather than demanding students solve a problem, the graduation design should first define a problem and even “make” a problem, and then using their own analysis to interpret this problem. The process of gradually stripping out the essence from the complicated phenomenon is the beginning of the design, and is even more important than the design itself. The process of “making” a problem is actually a process of constantly making a series of hypotheses on the social situation we envision. For example, we would assume that an old tube-shaped apartment located in the center of the city will be more popular with young people, or assume that the government will spend huge sums of money to build an art exhibition hall at the golden area on the riverside pier. The process of thinking of social situations will make students sharply observe objects in their future practice, but it is actually a circular process. Through real social experience, the original hypothesis is verified or subverted, and the original idea is constantly refined.

Specification and “Non”-Specification of Architectural Design

If we take architectural design or urban design as a professional practice, from regional planning to the size of furniture, there are a series of norms and standards, which are all designed for people, and they have never changed over a decade. However, as far as a graduation creation is concerned, there is not any principle or concept for students to follow, because it is reasonable as long as the content is in line with the original idea of the graduation design or the logical framework they built, and is convincing.

Architecture Is Related to the Status Quo of the City: CAFA’S Architecture Sensitively Captures the Status Quo Of Urban Renewal and Architectural Renovation  

My undergraduate study was done at the University of Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s social background, context and the concerns of architectural discipline are different from in Beijing. Take the matter of residence as an example, the things that people might explore in Hong Kong might be how to break the inherent commercial real estate design routine, how to create a multi-racial and multi-level balance in the community, while people in Beijing are trying to transform the traditional neighborhood to one related to public life, transforming the closed communities to open communities, etc. Of course, as far as Beijing is concerned, topics of concern in the discipline of architecture have also been significantly changed during this decade. For example, ten studios of the School of Architecture, CAFA, are all concerned with the problems of urban renewal and architectural renovation. It is closely related with the saturation of domestic construction and the industrial upgrading during recent years, while we still recall that the School of Architecture is still facing the problem of cities which were crazily expanded ten years ago. In addition, just as the development of technology was ahead of the development of architecture a century ago, the present Internet business, the repetitive social communication style and the capital operation mechanism intensified and have swept through our lives, and the topic of architectural design concerns make a weak response in this ensuing wave.

Architecture is Related to Art: CAFA’s Architecture Pays More Attention to the Content of the Building  

Observed from the presentation of the graduation show, the works by students of CAFA are very expressive. Although the cycle of graduation design is very short and the time for presentation and expression is very limited, students can still perfectly and quickly present their designs. In the process of creation, the logical basis is often preceded by a formal sensibility, which is different from the habits of students from other colleges and universities of science and engineering. In addition, students from CAFA pay more attention to the content of the building, such as furnishing inside the architectural space, immersive drama or music, rather than the building itself, which also benefits from the integration of the architectural discipline and other disciplines in art and there are more opportunities for the discipline of the architecture at CAFA to influence other disciplines.

Text by Liu Yanchen, translated by Chen Peihua and edited by Sue/CAFA ART INFO

Photo courtesy of CAFA