Cultured Magazine

Summer 2012

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for design marked by deliberate sensibility. BY DAVID SOKOL Eastern Promise In a country in which growth is fast and furious, this year's Pritzker Prize winner, Chinese architect Wang Shu, stands a highly considered exercise—the jury composition changes only glacially, and the mem- bers eschew photograph gazing for real building visits. The process demands an equally thoughtful awardee, and this year's winner, Wang Shu, may be the master of measured steps. The Hangzhou, China–based architect completed his first building in 1990; there was no immediate follow-up. Instead, he spent most of the next decade studying the techniques of traditional Chinese masons and carpenters. Research involved laboring right alongside them, doing demo- Picking the recipient of the an- nual Pritzker Architecture Prize is lition and renovation work, and usually in double shifts. Shu founded Amateur Architecture Studio with his wife Lu Wenyu in 1997, and the methodical past allows a more improvisational present. Am- ateur embraces vernacular responses to its projects, such as the plywood sheets with which Hangzhou vendors bridge the decorative canals it carved into Zhongshan Road Pedestrian Street. The studio also affixes traditional (and occasionally found) finish materials to buildings' structural frames. The 86 CULTURED roofs of the Xiangshan Campus of the China Academy of Art, where Shualso is dean, are completed in the tiles of local demolished houses. One million pieces of recycled brick, tile and stone skin the Ningbo Historic Museum, making it both rugged monolith and urban palimpsest. Indeed, the work meditates on continuity amidst rapid development. The wood-clad courtyards of Xiangshan and the partly submerged Library of Wenzheng College at Suzhou University prove that contemporary expression can be based on historic precedent. (The library design is meant to minimize disruption of chi.) The buildings' introspection and quiet determination also represent simple endurance in a whirlwind of flux. Only when a project is temporary by definition does it assume a little flash: Ningbo Tengtou Pavilion at Expo Shanghai cracks open like a cartoon hammer taken to a windshield. The Pritzker jury's selection of Shu marks the second time a Chinese architect has been premiated. The first was I.M. Pei. The honor, then, signals a shifting geopolitical power, as well as an advocacy position. This year's Pritzker jury hopes for the same deliberate sensibility that guides its deci- sion making to prevail in a country in which, thus far, explosive growth has been big and brash, digital and derivative. With ascendancy on the world stage, so comes responsibility.

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