ZAO/standardarchitecture + Embaixada, Niangou Boat Terminal
08 March 2018

What does “Make New History” mean for you?

Zhang Ke: It could mean “make history new”, “history newly made”, or a new way of interacting with history.

How did you react to the brief of the Biennial? 

Zhang Ke: Our exhibition is entitled as “Make New Hutong Metabolism”, in which we presented three built projects located in the historical hutong areas of Beijing: Micro Hutong, Micro Yuan’er Children’s Library, and Co-living Courtyard. We think the standpoint of the presented projects respond to the brief precisely about “how can buildings speak to history without being nostalgic or pastiche, and how might we build connections to the past that are relevant and valuable to our present”. “Hutong Metabolism” also refers to the historical Metabolism movement, in a historical urban background and a renewed perception.

What is your approach to history in your daily practice and your architectural work? 

Zhang Ke: History is important for me only if it binds together the imprint of the past and the possibility of the future, to enable the places in which I build my work to retain the potential to become without ceasing to be, and to be without ceasing to become.

ZAO/standardarchitecture + Embaixada
Niangou Boat Terminal
Linzhi, Tibet 2013

Located in Linzhi county, Tibet, where Niyang River and Yaluzangbu River merge, the Niang'ou Terminal sits above a gently sloped bay, with old willows bowing over sand deltas. The bay then gradually turns into a steeper hill. Behind, layers of soft, nameless mountains. 

The project originates from a reading of the primal landscape: in Tibet, architecture cannot be separated from landscape. The two are equivalent. In our design we embed the building into the landscape, neither as an attachment or a detachment. Hence we arrive at this zigzagging path, which linearly integrates all complex functions. Rising from the highway, the ramp organizes parking, staff dormitories, offices, conference rooms and theater, forming a wide platform at 3000m altitude, guiding one's eyes back at the magnificent union of rivers. From the highway down to 2971 altitude, one finds a ticket office, bathrooms, waiting room, canteen and kitchen leading to a dock near the water. The ramp defines the relationship between various spaces, creating a chain of platforms and places. Each and every space firmly lodges into the landscape, subtly mediating the human body with nature.

The twist and turns not only emphasizes the mountain ridges, but also calls for the spirituality of the journey. In the same way that the turn-and-descend of an Indian step well complicates one's expectation of his destination, Niang'ou Terminal also stretches the course. When approaching the river bank, one cannot help but imagining and envisioning, until his release at the final moment. 

Every twist forms a platform, serving not only as transition between circulations, but also a pause for contemplation and a frame for lookouts. The boundaries of platforms clearly defines a view frame, in which the barren hills and disheveled bushes take on a hint of humanity. We have discussing a problem of phenomenology here: a primal and redundant landscape becomes sacred, when gazed and pondered upon by the human eyes. Architecture provides an angle for pondering, as well as a direction for gazing.

Like other projects in Tibet by ZAO/standardarchitecture, the regional character is not manifested through specific symbolisms, but through the unique relationship with mountains and rivers as well as the creative interpretation of local lumber. The main body of the terminal consists of a concrete frame, filled in by local masonry, stones gathered from near the site and patterned by local builders in their own technique. The railing is built from fire wood collected nearby, narrating, after exposure to weathers, a quiet and humble contemporaneity.

Credits and Data
Project title: Niangou Boat Terminal
Client: Tibet Tourism Holdings
Architects: ZAO/standardarchitecture + Embaixada
Design Team:Zhang Ke, Hou Zhenghua, Zhang Hong, Chen Ling, Claudia Taborda,Embaixada(Cristina Mendonca, Augusto Marcelino), Sun Qingfeng, Dai Haifei, Gai Xudong
Site Area:35000 ㎡ 
Floor Area:3300 ㎡
LDI: Tibet Youdao Architectural Design Institute + China Academy of Building Research Architectural Design Institute

チベット、二ンティ郡 2013






Make New History
Sharon Johnston & Mark Lee
(Guest Editors,Artistic Directors of the Chicago Architecture Biennial 2017)

The act of looking to the past to inform the present has always been central to architecture. While different eras saw the imprint of history more strongly than others, one of the most dramatic ruptures in the evolution of architecture over the last century was between history and modernity. Spawned from a revolutionary and positivist climate, early modernism's repression of history severed architecture's future from its past. While measured and moderate attempts of incorporating historical models before and after the apotheosis of modernism bore witness to movements ranging from Novecento, Rationalism, Neo-liberty, Postmodernism, Tendenza to various modes of revivalism, the zeal of modernism prevailed in obscuring these short-lived episodes. The insistence on being unprecedented and unrelated to architectures of the past reached new heights at the beginning of the millennium as more and more architects became reluctant to consider what they do as being part of a larger collective project or architectural history.

Today, history neither represents an oppressive past that modernism tried to discard nor symbolizes a retrograde mindset against unbridled progress. Instead, at a time when there is too much information and not enough attention-when a general collective amnesia perpetuates a state of being eternally present-the desire to understand the channels through which history moves and is shaped in architecture is more prevalent than ever. Ova- the last decade, a renewed interest in precedents of architecture as a source for design has been emerging. For this generation, what has gone before is neither as a constraint nor a validation for design, but a body of accrued knowledge: a foundation from which to build and improve upon. Committed to progress, but always from within an architectural tradition, these architects are producing innovative and subversive work grounded in the fundamentals of the discipline-rooted in the fabrics of the cities where they are built-without having to keep up with the latest micro-trends or accusations of cultural appropriation.  

As artistic directors of the Chicago Architecture Biennial 2017, we showcased a diverse plethora of work from around the world to examine the underpinnings of this renewed interest in history. Make New History, the title of this biennial, focused on the efforts-across registers of building and discursive production-of contemporary architects to align their work with versions of history. From the vantage of the discipline, the biennial examined the interplay of design and the broadening access to, as well as recall of, historical source material, In the realm of building practice-from new construction to adaptive reuse to conservation-it investigated the ways that the architect's encounter with a site is, in fact, a prior accumulation of state and government regulations, social conventions, and markers of personhood to be interpreted and responded to. Currently under consideration for architecture-within the concept of history-is the regulation and management of power and identity, what prevails and what does not, and how to recognize the significance of untold narratives.

Architecture's entry into the domain of the art biennales, almost forty years ago in Venice, opened with a reflection on the relationship of history and memory in architecture. The event showcased an expanding repertoire of theatrical devices and scenographic modes of display. Today, with the increased proliferation of biennials-from Sào Paulo, Rotterdam, Oslo and Seoul, to Shenzhen and Hong Kong-the role and influence of history in the field of architecture has changed in response, as has the exhibition. On the one hand, the biennial now sits at the core of architecture's cultural project: a forum to reach and produce new audiences. On the other hand, it begs a new question each time it rematerializes: how to display and toll stories about absent buildings. The participants in Make New History answered this challenge with a series of installations that approximate the scale and presence of architecture. From the Vertical City to the Vertical City, or from the arcades to the atrium, these installations are physical, haptic, and to be experienced in person. Emerging topics such as typological transfer, atmospheric histories, new primitivism, or history as representation reveal that the assumptions on history embedded in culture require examination and discussion.

This special issue of a+u showcases for the first time, an array of works and installations in the Chicago Architecture Biennial, as well as a series of projects from the offices of selected participants, to further substantiate the changing role that history plays in the making of architecture. The work depicted foregrounds questions and ideas regarding the making of a new history: what political role has history played in the regulation of buildings and the city, how can buildings speak to history without being nostalgic or pastiche, and how might we build connections to the past that are relevant and valuable to our present?

(With thanks to Associate Curators Sarah Hearne and Letizia Garzoli.)

Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee are the founding partners of the architecture firm Johnston Marklee & Associates. They are Professors in Practice at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Since its establishment in 1998 in Los Angeles, Johnston Marklee & Associates has been recognized nationally and internationally with dyer 30 major awards and numerous publications. Johnston and Lee were named the 2016 USA Oliver Fellows for Architecture & Design by the United States Artists.









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