01 December 2010

Zhang Ke (1970)

Education Bachelor of Architecture 1993 and Master of Architecture and Urban Design 1996, Tsinghua University, School of Architecture 
Foreign Experience Master of Architecture at Harvard University, Graduate School of Design (GSD), Boston, USA (1998) 
Office Founder and partner of Standardarchitecture

I completed my studies ten years ago at Tsinghua university in Beijing. At that time, the education there was a mixture of Moscow University, Old U Penn-style Beaux Arts and Chinese fine arts. It was all about craftsmanship. GSD in Boston is based on a Bauhaus tradition and so still very much focused on craftsman-ship. The challenge for me was thus to forget about craft skills and learn more about rea-soning skills, logic and what was really going on in the world. My major quest abroad was finding out what young architects in other places in the world were doing. The Chinese educational system in my days did not include those kind of global visions. Happily things are changing. Students today have many chances to study abroad. And new style architectural practices contain a mix of Chinese and foreign students, while access to all kinds of information has improved.

‘The greatest stock-in-trade I brought back after six years in the USA was ambition and anger concerning the Chinese situation. Look at our first big projects and you will discover the hatred they contain. How we hated our clients and other architects! The buildings they produced were only made for their looks. Architects in China, sadly enough, are even proud of their direct copies of famous build-ings by star architects like Rem Koolhaas and Zaha Hadid. I came back to China with the idea of showing that our profession can be practised in a completely new way. We have to forget about making pirate versions of modern Western architectural icons. In our office, we fight against the standard systems, the academic establishment and the former state-owned companies. We strongly encourage students and staff members to go overseas. We invite people into our office for an open debate and to criticize our work. And we consciously dis-tance ourselves from many of the other typical young architects who are engulfed by a trend of noise-making and media feeding. Our focus is the realization of urban visions and new ideas. In terms of city development, we have many chances in China to make new cities because of the current speed of construction. And should the government decide to give away part of the power to design new infrastructure, our gcnera-tion of architects will be the first to be able to design infrastructure. We will face the challenge of redesigning cities. Not a city based on cars, rather I am thinking of an urban landscape that takes hydrogen cars and subways as a starting point.’
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