1.As a professional architect. What are the concepts that you care most during your practice.
"It is most important to be site specific. You need to understand the natural environment, what is built around you and the culture of the place to have a successful project. So research is the key to successful development.
I call it the R&D factor, the more you have time to study and plan, the better the developers project will be, and hopefully the more successful the financial rewards for everyone. Developers who short-change the schedule, or the fee to do a good concept, only hurt the project.
In China, there is a saying about "China Speed", and in architecture, sometimes speeding to a solution is as dangerous as speeding in your car, the results can be accidental. The new leadership in China is setting the tone for slower, more sustainable development, and it will help developers to be more thoughtful, and give architects a fighting chance to design lasting projects. Extending the life of buildings is a key need for China, and the first step is careful design and detailing.
Developers who short-change the schedule, or the fee to do a good concept, only hurt the project.
In my work, I try to design with nature. I want to exploit the natural beauty already there, restore what has been lost, and design enduring architecture, which can stand the test of time. China has a long history, but unfortunately much of the historical buildings have been lost, so what is being built today, may dominate the landscape of the coming centuries. It is incumbent upon us as architects to design for the future, in part by respecting the past.
Original design should be generated from concepts directly tied to the site investigation. Too many Architects use magazines to get ideas about projects. Copying built projects may be a short cut to a quick solution, and somehow may work with a site, but it is likely not the best way to approach design. To be inspired by past projects is one thing, to copy projects is another, and I tend to see a lot of "Xerox" architecture in Chongqing and other places in China. So in my work, I always start with site planning, visiting the site, reading up about the people, and getting a sense for the climate and the desires of people in that area. In the South, people like large balconies, places to eat and drink outdoors, earth-tone buildings, shade from the sun.....In the North people like direct sunshine, insulated environments, and bright buildings. And there are many specific qualities in every place you go, if you are a Mountain City, a River City or on an island in the tropics. I have been fortunate to design projects from Harbin to Hainan, and so all extreme environments and everything in between.
2.What's your view on current architectural situation in China? such as large scale new projects, demolition, city planning, city and urban(country side), etc.
Development is happening too fast. Thoughtful architecture should take place over decades and centuries not months and years. China is playing a catch-up game as your post WW2 era did not keep pace with the rest of the world, and so you have about half a century of catching up to do. The fallout from this is that your natural environment has taken a heavy toll. The rivers are dangerously polluted, the air in many places is unhealthy, the dust from construction coats every leaf, car and sidewalk, acid rain eats away at the facades of buildings....if mother nature had emotion, she would be crying in pain in China.
City planners should cap the amount of demolition that can happen at one time, and enforce dust control measures. When I see a man with a small garden hose, watering down the demolition of a 10 story building, I laugh out loud (LOL). You need to visit the West, and see how construction dust mitigation is done. I live next door to a major bridge construction, and often the crews work all night to the detriment of people trying to sleep in the 6 block area. The noise, bright lights, explosions, smell of welding and other caustic substances permeates the neighborhood, and it is unrelenting everyday, at every hour. There needs to be consideration of humanity in development, it is currently ignored. The sidewalks are shut down and people forced to walk in the street with cars and buses, simply unacceptable, but tolerated in China.
The scale of projects is increasing. This is a bad trend. Instead of concentrating on one, two or three buildings, most new residential developments may have twenty or thirty towers and hundreds of apartment buildings. So huge patches of land have matching buildings. In downtown Chongqing, there is a traditional city grid, with individual buildings. Most of the new buildings are high rise, but the quality is good, and they are individually designed. In the Jiangbei District, most projects are gated communities on super sized blocks of land, the repetition and monotony of the place makes it a visual desert, and some of the projects resembling tombstones in cemeteries. It turns out that the old downtown Jeifangbei area in the Yuzhong district has advantages, easy to walk around, better aesthetics, and better orientation. The old downtown could benefit from more parks and vegetation. Jaingbei is difficult to navigate, the streets are to wide to cross for pedestrians and so everyone has a car or takes the bus there. The landscaping is improved, but often times the land is flattened to make building easier, removing the character of this mountain city built on hills. Sometimes, smaller is better.
Urban sprawl is a major problem in China. I would rather see 70 story buildings and higher density in the core of a city, than to see more and more green land, used for agriculture chewed up by the sea of 100 meter tall, 30 story buildings. High rise buildings can be exploited in places like Chongqing, which are now seeing a new crop of supertall, skyscrapers. The building code, which penalizes developers for exceeding 100 meters should be examined, to allow for more variety in building height. The monotony of 30 towers of the same height in one development times 300 developments is mind numbing. Building codes and Design standards should allow for developments to build a project with more variety, so that the skyline is improved and compliments the natural environment.
Turning a city of 10 million into a city of 20 million may also not be the right solution for the future. Smaller cities should be looked at for potential of spreading out the population. Some people advocate returning to rural environments and living a more simple life, but improving the rural landscape can be a solution. Upgrading impoverished areas is a balance to just simply relocating everyone to a mega city. In the US, many small towns are now upgrading infrastructure, retail offerings, better restaurants, and allow people to do work in a more comfortable environment. Especially high tech, service, or jobs that can be done from home or on the computer can benefit from this concept of upgrading in rural locations. Sometimes too big, is worse.
3.What do you think about Pong Bo growth and potential in the future as an architect in China
As a young Architect in the prime of his career, he is in the right place at the right time. China needs people with talent, and his educational background in the UK gives him a unique perspective as a returning Chinese professional. To be creative in the field of Architecture, it is helpful to have a broad perspective, and to have experienced many different environments. The famous American Architect, Frank Lloyd Wright was influenced by his travels to Asia, when developing his Prairie School Architecture at the turn of the century in Chicago. Without this knowledge, an entire category of building style, may have never happened. This is what traveling and broad experience can do, and that is why I am encouraged when people like Pong Bo return to China with a wealth of knowledge of the world, and a strong desire to make their home country better.
The tools used in design are advancing rapidly today, and making us understand our designs better before they are built. But a good sketch hand is still important for an Architect. If you can draw your concept by hand, you can imagine the possibilities better, before you use the computer to aid in the visualization of the design. Pong Bo has a good ability to sketch with emotion, and that renders a more exciting project. Knowing about our peers projects in Architecture is also important, and Pong Bo is an avid reader of current Architectural digests, which informs about new materials, new techniques and better details. Incorporating smart design is a focus today, and every project builds on the base of knowledge we have as Architects. Pong Bo takes full advantage of the sea of information which is out there.
Pong Bo, like myself is worried about the natural environment. Is it comfortable to live here, does the very City make us tired, do we yearn for a more calm place to be. Chongqing City is an exciting place to be, but as Architects, we should figure out how to make it more of a place to live and relax. Instead of building plazas of polished granite, where people slip and fall in the rain, we should look at building places shaded with trees, walkable, and places to sit and enjoy the smell of flowers while drinking a tea, coffee or beer for that matter. Wouldn't it be nice to ride a water taxi or ferry boat to work, rather than drive in a car on a crowded road. Chongqing has the waterways that connect every district, they should be used. What makes a young, successful man like Pong Bo want to live in the City of Chongqing for the rest of his life? Likely a healthy environment, a good place to live, and a good place to work. Young talented designers are the hope for the future of a sustainable Chongqing.
Getting the right talent here, to assist Pong Bo is the need. With so much work, and so little time, firms have to recruit, retain and train the Architects of the future. Pong Bo's future depends upon the talent of his staff as well as the willingness of the Developers to do good work. So the complexity of the business, is difficult to comprehend. The spirit and energy of the young, experienced Architects will drive the profession to higher and higher levels in China, and that is very positive. Building a comfortable, sustainable project, will contribute to the advancement and upgrading of places like Chongqing.
A slowing of the pace of development can only help Chinese Architects build more thoughtful projects. I think that Government, Developers and Architects can sit at the same table, and get better results for everyone. China's base of knowledge in doing better quality work is growing, and needs to grow. It is my hope that Pong Bo finishes his career in Chongqing, and not move to a foreign city to live in a better, cleaner environment. If Pong Bo and his peers do well in the next decade, Chongqing will be not only a better, but a great place to live.