An ar­chi­tect whose China her­itage in­spires his de­signs

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSSAMERICA - By DENG YU in Seat­tle lin­dadeng@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

Zhang Ming, a widely rec­og­nized ar­chi­tect and suc­cess­ful Chi­ne­seAmer­i­can busi­ness­man, as­cribes his suc­cess to his Chi­nese back­ground and the fast de­vel­op­ment of his home­land.

“My Chi­nese her­itage and my cul­tural roots con­trib­uted much to my ar­chi­tec­tural de­signs. I have drawn my in­spi­ra­tion from ideas of ar­chi­tec­ture of An­cient China, and it is the rea­son that we won the de­sign project for the Red­mond city hall build­ing,” Zhang said, re­fer­ring to the Wash­ing­ton State city that is the home of Mi­crosoft Corp.

“What is more, I al­ways keep in mind of the qual­i­ties shared by over­seas Chi­nese people such as hard work­ing and hum­ble, which al­lowed me to over­come all dif­fi­cul­ties and chal­lenges”.

This year, Zhang — who is a leading de­signer of mixed-use de­vel­op­ments, cor­po­rate of­fices and re­tail cen­ters world­wide — was elected to the Col­lege of Fel­lows of the Amer­i­can In­sti­tute of Ar­chi­tects (AIA). He will re­ceive the fel­low­ship medal dur­ing the in­vesti­ture of fel­lows’ cer­e­mony at the AIA’s 2014 Na­tional Con­ven­tion and De­sign Ex­po­si­tion on June 27 in Chicago.

The AIA’s 2014 Jury of Fel­lows el­e­vated 139 mem­bers of its or­ga­ni­za­tion to its pres­ti­gious Col­lege of Fel­lows. Elec­tion rec­og­nizes the achieve­ments of ar­chi­tects as in­di­vid­u­als and their sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to ar­chi­tec­ture and so­ci­ety on a na­tional level.

The jury awarded Zhang the honor be­cause of his “no­table con­tri­bu­tions to the ad­vance­ment of ar­chi­tec­ture”, and it es­pe­cially rec­og­nized Ming’s work that has dra­mat­i­cally im­proved stan­dards and de­sign in China.

“China’s fast de­vel­op­ment and ur­ban­iza­tion also cre­ated op­por­tu­ni­ties for the suc­cess of over­seas Chi­nese,” said Zhang, who has prac­ticed ar­chi­tec­ture for more than 20 years in China and the US.

In 1986, Zhang left Nan­jing, China, to at­tend grad­u­ate study in the US. He was im­pressed and deeply at­tracted by Chicago, a city rich in ar­chi­tec­ture, de­sign and ed­u­ca­tion.

“Chicago is ded­i­cated to the mod­ern — from the sky­scrapers that punc­tu­ate its sky­line to the spir­ited style that in­flects many of its dwellings and in­sti­tu­tions, from the New Bauhaus to Hull-House — it is one of the mod­els of Amer­ica’s ur­ban de­signs,” Zhang said. “My stay in Chicago not only let me see the huge gap be­tween China and US in mod­ern ar­chi­tec­tural de­sign, but helped es­tab­lished my own style of high-rise de­sign­ing later.”

Af­ter Zhang got a mas­ter’s de­gree in ar­chi­tec­ture from the Illi­nois In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy in Chicago in 1990, he moved to Seat­tle.

“At that time there were a lot of open spa­ces on the West Coast and Seat­tle is the clos­est hub to China. It is a per­fect place for im­mi­grated ar­chi­tects like me to re­al­ize my ar­chi­tec­tural dream,” Zhang said about what he called one of the sig­nif­i­cant de­ci­sions he has made.

At the be­gin­ning, Zhang worked as a de­signer for an in­ter­na­tional ar­chi­tec­tural firm based in Seat­tle. Due to his Chi­nese back­ground, in 1993 he was put in charge of projects in China. His first one was a ho­tel in the Shang­hai’s Pudong District.

“I feel I was re­con­nect­ing to China and I saw the huge op­por­tu­nity pre­sented by Chi­nese mar­ket,” he said.

In 1996, Zhang founded his own firm — ZGA Ar­chi­tec­ture. That same year, his beau­ti­ful de­sign style and deep un­der­stand­ing of China beat world fa­mous de­sign­ers in com­pet­i­tive projects in Xi­a­men, China, and his name was soon widely rec­og­nized in China.

Projects such as of­fice and bank build­ings were given to his firm from the city of Xi­a­men, Jiangsu prov­ince and Fu­jian prov­ince. “To be cho­sen from among other com­pet­ing firms and de­sign­ers is a tes­ta­ment to our de­sign ca­pa­bil­i­ties and solid rep­u­ta­tion in China,” Zhang said.

Zhang’s cre­ativ­ity in the de­sign of high-im­age projects and his deep in­sights into the Chi­nese mar­ket were soon rec­og­nized by Jerry Lee, head of the ar­chi­tec­tural firm Mul­van­nyG2, and in 1998 Zhang joined the Belle­vue, Wash­ing­ton, firm.

“He is an ex­cep­tional de­signer and has sin­gu­larly moved Mul­van­nyG2 into the in­ter­na­tional arena, carv­ing out a solid foothold from which to es­tab­lish Mul­van­nyG2 as an in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned ar­chi­tec­ture firm,” said Lee.

Now Mul­van­nyG2 is ranked among the top 40 largest ar­chi­tec­ture firms and is the sec­ond-largest re­tail de­sign firm in the world. It has worked with hun­dreds of clients, in 13 coun­tries, spread across five con­ti­nents and ev­ery time zone.

“Of course, China is our im­por­tant mar­ket. We re­cently cel­e­brated the 12th an­niver­sary of our Shang­hai of­fice with 1.2 mil­lion squarefeet of projects built across China,” Zhang said.

Zhang thinks ev­ery Chi­nese Amer­i­can should be an am­bas­sador to the US, to pro­mote com­mu­ni­ca­tions and bridge dif­fer­ences. He has ac­tively par­tic­i­pated in US-China ex­changes ac­tiv­i­ties and con­trib­uted to the Chi­nese com­mu­nity in the Seat­tle area.

In 2005, Zhang ac­com­pa­nied Wash­ing­ton Gover­nor Chris­tine Gre­goire and her trade mis­sion to China and hosted a visit to Zhangjiang Semi­con­duc­tor Re­search Park.

With Zhang’s help, a his­toric Chi­na­town gate in Seat­tle’s Chi­na­townIn­ter­na­tional District be­came a re­al­ity in 2008. He vol­un­tar­ily joined the team to de­sign it and raise funds to build it.

Zhang served on the ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee of the Wash­ing­ton State China Re­la­tions Coun­cil for many years, and he has con­trib­uted to Chi­nese or­ga­ni­za­tions and groups through con­sul­tancy, pre­sen­ta­tions and do­na­tions.

Zhang trav­els fre­quently to Asia for de­sign projects and spends onethird of his time in China ev­ery year.

“To par­tic­i­pate in China’s in­cred­i­ble growth and mod­ern­iza­tion is a priv­i­lege and es­pe­cially mean­ing­ful to me,’’ he said. “As a youth grow­ing up in Nan­jing, I never imag­ined that I would be rec­og­nized for de­sign­ing land­mark build­ings in China to­day.”

Born: 1963 in Nan­jing, China • BA in ar­chi­tec­ture, He­fei Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy (1979-1983) • MA in ar­chi­tec­ture, Illi­nois In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy (1986-1990) • Se­nior de­signer and di­rec­tor of China for Cal­li­son Ar­chi­tec­ture Inc. (1990-1995) • Founded ZGA Ar­chi­tec­ture

(1996) • Pres­i­dent, Mul­van­nyG2

Ar­chi­tec­ture (2004) • “Liv­ing Pioneer” by NW Asian Weekly Foun­da­tion (2006) • Awarded “Top 20 Most In­flu­en­tial De­sign­ers” China Land­mark Award by Chi­nese Re­search Cen­ter for Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment and En­vi­ron­ment (2008) • Named “Ten Emerg­ing De­sign­ers in the World” in Ur­ban Land In­sti­tute Mag­a­zine (2014) • Elected to the Col­lege of Fel­lows of the Amer­i­can In­sti­tute of Ar­chi­tects (2014)

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