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Building foundations with imagination

By Xu Haoyu | China Daily | Updated: 2023-12-02 11:10
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Architect Ma Yansong and his firm MAD Architects display some of their designs, including the interior of Quzhou Sports Park. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Celebrated architect's exhibition showcases a unique style, Xu Haoyu reports.

An exhibition presenting significant projects from the past two decades by Ma Yansong and his firm MAD Architects opened at the Shenzhen Museum of Contemporary Art and Urban Planning in Guangdong province.

The exhibition aims to initiate discussion of the interconnected relationships between cities, communities, architecture, culture, and nature through the presentation of a variety of content and thought-provoking questions. It encourages the public to reflect deeply, while also sparking their imagination about future life and cities.

As Ma states in the exhibition's preface: "Architecture and cities are not abstract sciences and technologies; they are real scenarios where life unfolds. Architecture is about sensations, atmosphere, and time. It is alive, possessing characteristics of life, and, as a result, it is filled with energy: flowing, dynamic, and uncertain."

With 79 models and nearly a thousand examples of work, the exhibition narrates the lesser-known efforts made by the firm to overcome technical and construction obstacles. It is also the firm's largest, most comprehensive, and most significant exhibition since its founding.

Over half of the content consists of materials previously never displayed, including project-related documents from the conceptual and design stages, such as sketches and research reports. It also encompasses the evolution of design drawings during the development process and simulations of construction samples, as well as visual records.

The exhibition unfolds around a large round table, which displays 100 printed questions from past and current MAD colleagues to visitors.

These questions revolve around topics such as the city, architecture, daily life, the future and dreams. The intention is to inspire people to engage with the exhibition through these questions and, in doing so, create ongoing, widespread and profound opportunities for dialogue, according to Ma.

In response to one of the questions on the round table, "what real-world problems should architects solve", Ma answers: "Almost all problems are related to architecture, whether they are social, cultural, historical, or related to daily life."

He says that architecture is highly interdisciplinary, and can be viewed from multiple angles, including art, technology, functionality, materials, and even through the lens of sociology and anthropology.

"I believe that architecture should make the real world better. Some spaces can reduce communication, while others can promote harmony. Architecture has the potential to serve many purposes," says Ma.

He adds that as a human creation, architecture is an externalization and extension of the psyche, both in terms of tools and artistry.

"It reflects our attitudes toward the external world, history, and the future," he says. "The subjective and diverse process of externalization generates a multitude of voices, interpreting the best aspects of harmony and resonance."

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