Listening to Nature | The Plan
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Listening to Nature

Studio Pei Zhu

Zhu Pei studied architecture in the late 1980s when China’s architectural profession had just started opening up to the Western world. He therefore belongs to the generation for which the different dynamic of Chinese and Western cultures remains a perplexing and pressing issue. Unlike his peers who either neglect their own architectural tradition or simply copy the cultural images of the past, Zhu Pei tends to learn from China’s old environmental philosophy and treat nature as his inspirational design source. He believes that although our past can never be rebuilt, the reason why the new things we build echo the ways of our ancient master builders is not so much out of respect for form but rather for nature. 

Zhu Pei observes that nature does not always produce rational rectangular forms. Therefore when building on an open landform or natural terrain, he has introduced two kinds of form into his architectural language: the polygon and the curve. 

An example is his Shenzhen OCT Design Museum. The rounded corners of this irregular monolithic polygonal volume clad in glistening metal sheets make the museum look like a pebble on a sand beach or an UFO that has landed on the vast urban plaza. It could be seen as a continuity of his earlier (un-built) design for the Abu Dhabi Guggenheim Museum. 

In the OCT Design Museum, functions are masterfully organized within an organic yet unified form. A large, staircase-like spiral tunnel takes visitors from the main entryway to the upper exhibition space. Pure white walls set at tilted angles and numerous small triangular apertures for light along the spatial sequence give you the sensation of being sucked into a space-time continuum. 

The same idea of natural curves evolves in subsequent designs for the Yang Liping Performing Arts Center in Dali, and the Xiaoqinghe Wetland Museum, where the natural forms of mountain and wetland are the key design...

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