A VI­SION­ARY AHEAD OF HIS TIME

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI -

and many oth­ers were forced to be­come farm­ers. As a young boy, Wang en­joyed work­ing in the fields as it en­abled him to feel a con­nec­tion with the earth. He said that he also found ful­fill­ment in phys­i­cal la­bor.

Wang loved read­ing and had for­tu­itous ac­cess to a range of books cen­sored by the gov­ern­ment when his mother was trans­ferred from the fields to be­come a li­brar­ian.

When he was 10, Wang moved to Xi’an of Shaanxi prov­ince where he at­tended lessons in tents in­stead of class­rooms. He later came to wit­ness how the lo­cals would build new class­rooms and was fas­ci­nated with the bam­boo frame­works used in the con­struc­tion process.

As Wang was pas­sion­ate about art and engi­neer­ing, he de­cided to study ar­chi­tec­ture in South­east Univer­sity be­cause he thought the dis­ci­pline was a per­fect blend of the two. He de­scribed him­self as a re­bel­lious un­der­grad who was al­ways ready to chal­lenge pro­fes­sors. Wang even wrote a the­sis crit­i­ciz­ing mod­ern Chi­nese ar­chi­tec­ture.

A keen lover of tra­di­tional Chi­nese art, with a par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est in an­cient gar­dens and land­scape paint­ings, Wang was ea­ger to in­cor­po­rate the aes­thet­ics and build­ing tech­niques of such places in his own creations.

But he was per­haps too ahead of his time, be­cause no one in China’s ar­chi­tec­ture scene ac­knowl­edged or un­der­stood his ideas. For sev­eral years fol­low­ing his grad­u­a­tion, Wang had no com­mis­sions to work on.

Wang said that it was his wife Lu Wenyu who filed the rough edges off his per­son­al­ity. In 1997, the two of them founded the Am­a­teur Ar­chi­tec­ture Stu­dio. In his new book To Build House, Wang paid trib­ute to his wife, con­ced­ing that “for the first seven years of our mar­ried life, it was her who sup­ported me”.

The cou­ple lived an idyl­lic life in Hangzhou where they would of­ten stroll along the West Lake and had plenty of time to spend sip­ping tea with friends. Wang said that this calm­ing ex­pe­ri­ence nur­tured his heart and in turn evoked a change in his per­spec­tive to life.

“You could spend a long time watch­ing the rain, how it falls along the ridges of a build­ing, how the streams flow and where the wa­ter drops. All this in­ter­ests you. You would be think­ing if it is pos­si­ble to de­sign ar­chi­tec­ture and show clearly where the rain comes from, where it flows, where it goes…each turn­ing and change

PHOTOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

A view of the roof of the Gong­wang Art Mu­seum. The build­ing is part of an arts com­plex that houses an arts archive and another mu­seum.

The ar­chi­tec­ture of the Gong­wang Art Mu­seum blends tra­di­tional Chi­nese el­e­ments with mod­ern aes­thet­ics.

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