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building New Quality in China

Atelier Deshaus

building New Quality in China
By Li Xiangning -

Discussion of contemporary Chinese architecture typically often focuses on the issue of poor quality expedient construction. However, while rapid low-cost construction marked China’s extraordinary economic growth in the last two decades and a process of urbanism that the West never experienced, the new generation is now trying to achieve high building quality with details of excellence and a contemporary reinterpretation of Chinese building traditions. The works of Atelier Deshaus are examples of this recent trend. 

Atelier Deshaus appeared on the stage of contemporary Chinese architecture a decade ago in the Yangtze River delta region. Xiayu kindergarten in Qingpu district attracted applause for its spatial strategy of colorful boxes arranged in a meandering promenade. The concept based on a still-life painting of assorted fruits on a plate has been successfully translated into a unique architectural image, giving the kindergarten a playful atmosphere and a satisfying environment for young children. The common space and courtyards on the ground floor enclosed by a curved concrete wall form a perfect backdrop for the hovering boxes on the second floor. Here, the concept of a traditional Chinese garden is translated into modern architectural language. 

This same inspiration can be seen in many other Deshaus projects, like the office complex in Jishan, Nanjing and the Spiral Gallery in Jiading. The former combines Chinese courtyard typology with a modern office complex, while the latter translates the meandering promenade into a vertical spiral rising from the main entrance up to an open roof terrace. This special arrangement gives the tiny gallery/house a spatial complexity in the same way that traditional Chinese garden designers deal with tiny urban garden sites. 

The concept underpinning the Qingpu youth centre is that of treating the building as a miniature city. So each functional room becomes an individual...

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