AREA invited Preston Scott Cohen and I to do a dialogue on his projects in China. The article was recently published in AREA China 100+7. The bilingual text of the article is attached if you are interested, the images are at the end.
The Beauty of Constraints
A dialogue between Preston Scott Cohen and Ruan Hao
Preston Scott Cohen
The architecture of Preston Scott Cohen is recognized for its innovative geometry and for its new approach to integrating buildings with their environments. Preston Scott Cohen, Inc. located in Cambridge, MA USA, is a full service firm with projects of diverse scales and types including houses, educational facilities, cultural institutions and urban designs for private owners, institutions, government agencies and corporations. Recent projects include theTel Aviv Museum of Art Amir Building in Israel, Datong City Library, Taiyuan Museum of Art, and the Nanjing Performing Arts Center.
Cohen is the Chair of the Department of Architecture and the Gerald M. McCue Professor of Architecture at Harvard University Graduate School of Design. Cohen has held faculty positions at Princeton University, Rhode Island School of Design, and Ohio State University. He was the Frank Gehry International Chair at the University of Toronto in 2004 and the Perloff Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles in 2002. He is the author of Contested Symmetries (Princeton Architectural Press, 2001) and numerous theoretical and historical essays on architecture. His work has been widely published and exhibited and is in numerous collections including The Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and the Fogg Museum of Art, Harvard.
RUAN Hao is a candidate of Master of Architecture in Princeton University School of Architecture. He holds a B.Arch and M.Arch with distinction from Tsinghua University in Beijing and he was was a Visiting Fellow at Harvard Graduate School of Design. He worked in Preston Scott Cohen, inc. as the chief coordinator of the firm’s Chinese project and the principal design assistant for Taiyuan Museum of Art and Ordos 100 House. He has previously worked in several leading architecture firms including SHoP architects in New York and Fink + Jocher architects in Munich. He was an architecture correspondent of CCTV’s “Design for China” series and he writes for several leading architecture magazines in East Asia, including World Architecture, Time + Architecture and Art4D. He was honored as “Goldman Sachs Global Leaders” and “Asia Society Asia 21 Young Leaders” for his efforts in protecting cultural heritage of ethnic minority groups in western China.
Ruan Hao (RH for short in the following text): I would like to start by discussing your exploration of contemporary representation of vernacular Chinese architecture. Some contemporary Chinese architects have one way of such representation by reclaiming the design methodology is deeply rooted with the traditional Chinese culture. For example, some try to extract the fundamental relations of spatial elements in Chinese gardens and implement such relations into his contemporary representation. I see an exceptional and unique way of such representation in your practices in China, such as the Nanjing University Student Center. What interests me is that you are trying to create a localized language, local material etc. with a western or outsider’s perspective. This to me is a great challenge and I would like to know how you understand this project to that extent.
Preston Scott Cohen (PSC for short in the following text): It’s interesting to think about it as a vernacular condition, not only because of the exterior material finish, but at a deeper level, because of the cast in place concrete structure which was actually over-engineered. In order to save himself the time and trouble to calculate a complex structure to suit the geometry, the engineer introduced a great deal of redundancy in the structure which caused us to make even more interesting plans.
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