A: Essentially this is a matter of education. To achieve this, we need to appreciate our tradition and protect it. Old architecture was the fruit of our ancient architects, and it self had its own function which we need to learn. For instance, I used to renovate an ancient village in Oxford shire in UK. I didn’t mean to touch anything, but tried to reinforce the house and add in modern facilities before the old building could be re-used by the villagers. The village kept its soul but was endowed with modern values by me. Being designers, we need to appreciate the value of old buildings and architecture, instead of negating it. This is all about education. We have to educate ourselves before teaching other people. Only when people would use it with pleasure, will the value of architecture be realized.
Q: Currently there is a phenomenon in China that many historic architectures and vernacular buildings vanish gradually while heaps of modern buildings arise. Conversely, in Europe, traditional buildings are protected very well. How do they do this? What can China learn from this?
A: it’s true. Most of old European buildings used to be the royal’s habitats which were great designs with strong functions. I was in charge of a design for a fast food chain store in UK. The owner purchased many old buildings and asked me to renovate them with modern elements. Fast food is unpopular with English people and many of them would not like to choose a fast food store for a meal. Unexpectedly, the English people accept fast food because they enjoy dining in a place with original english culture. This is ethos edification. Actually, there are many amazing ancient buildings in China. As long as our designers renovate them with heart, we can see the creativity on those buildings. Unlike invention, creativity is defined as the discernment of and adaptation to future development with technical knowledge. We must find out the future of ancient architecture.
Q: Foshan is a historic city in China which is rich in vernacular culture. Do you think about some projects here? Foshan is the biggest production base of building material in China, and how do you value the material here?
A: I have heard of the city with its rich culture and I would like to take the opportunity to visit some architectures. SW is preparing for 3 to 4 projects here so we are keen to show my design and I hope my design concepts can be appreciated.
Meanwhile, as a designer, I really appreciate the material here. In my opinion, this place is not only rich in building material, but rich in culture and designers. I think China is like a ship which is ready for the journey. The world is watching China and waits for it to march.