Zhu Pei is one of the leading architects in China providing substantial solutions to urgent challenges and questions of ongoing urbanization within the country. The rapid rate of urban growth, as well as the commercial pressures of mass consumer society, require well-considered concepts that also satisfy the need for authentic architectural expression. In the cacophony of urban collages and architectural super signs against the backdrop of the real megacity, Zhu Pei has set off in search of his own roots within traditional aesthetic concepts, successfully adapting them for implementation in his work. By drawing on traditional concepts of space and the built structure, he has been able to devise solutions that are specific to the location and region, while demonstrating great skill in terms of form, aesthetics, and materiality. Informed by an understanding of the global architectural discourse, he follows his own path to give each of his buildings a specific character within a contemporary architectural form.
Studio Zhu-Pei was founded in 2005, acquiring international acclaim for its work on the Cai Guoqiang Courtyard House Renovation (2007), the OCT Design Museum in Shenzhen (2012) and the Minsheng Art Museum in Beijing (2015). With his architectural accomplishments, Zhu Pei is considered to be at the vanguard of contemporary architecture in China.
This exhibition presents five large cultural buildings by the architect, which are currently being built: the Yang Liping Performing Arts Center and the Museum of Contemporary Art, both in Dali, the Shijingshan Cultural Center in Beijing, the Shou County Culture and Art Center in Anhui province, and the Museum of Imperial Kiln in Jingdezhen. The buildings stand out as individual, creative solutions that have been developed with remarkable sensitivity to the urban and cultural context. Zhu Pei responds to the conditions at hand, articulating his surroundings in a modern architectural language or integrating the new buildings into the given context. The numerous models, plans, and films on display illustrate the specific relationships between the projects and their surrounding environment. The buildings’ powerful formal expression is revealed in an installation against a backlit panoramic background of the architect's striking ink drawings.
Inspired by the duality of yin and yang, the Performing Arts Center will be the new home of Yang Liping’s dance company, the first of its kind to openly list on the Chinese stock exchange. In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang describe how two related yet opposing elements can be brought into harmony. On the outskirts of the city of Dali in Yunnan province, Zhu Pei contrasts and unites the undulating, hilly topography of the theater's organically-shaped performance spaces with an expansive, rectangular accessible canopy. This significant new building does not seek to become a monument, but instead sets the stage for the vast natural landscape beyond it: the towering Canshan mountain range in the back and the Erhai Lake before it.
Under simultaneous construction in Dali is the Museum for Contemporary Art, located diagonally across from the Performing Arts Center on the south side of the city, on the former grounds of an ancient Buddhist pagoda and a Taoist temple. In contrast to the Performing Arts Center, the new museum building nearly disappears entirely into the earth. The scale of the visible building components allows them to engage in a dialogue with the remains of the old temples. Deep-set courtyards and gazebo-like structures organize the museum in the landscape. The Museum of Imperial Kiln designed by Studio Zhu Pei is located in Jingdezhen, long an important city in the production of Chinese porcelain. The form and the material of traditional kilns inspired the building’s design and promises visitors a unique spatial experience in vaulted spaces that are linked by courtyards. The collective memory of the kilns becomes a formative element of the city's future cultural expression.
Both conceptually and aesthetically, the projects featured in this exhibition reflect the architect's desire to fuse local narratives and traditional forms of expression with a new visual language.
Zhu Pei studied architecture in the nineties, receiving a master’s degree from the renowned Tsinghua University in Beijing, as well as the University of California in Berkeley. Since then his work received many awards: He won the Honor Award from the AIA in 2015, was named one of “the 5 greatest architects under 50” by the Huffington Post in 2011, was awarded the DFA Grand Award and Special Award for Culture, Hong Kong, in 2008, the Architectural Record awarded him in 2007 the Design Vanguard Award and in 2005 the China Award, the Beijing-based magazine World Architecture awarded him the WA Award in 2004 and UIA and UNESCO awarded him the Special Merit Award in 1989. Today he also teaches as an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University in New York and at Tsinghua University in Beijing.