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Report from THE Pearl River Delta Front

Node Architecture & Urbanism

Report from THE Pearl River Delta Front
By Li Xiangning -

I have known Doreen Liu, founder of NODE, for ten years. At that time, I was editing a special issue of an architectural magazine called Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and met Doreen in Guangzhou when her work was still mainly focused in the city of Nansha. In the last two decades, Doreen Liu’s work has concentrated on the Pearl River Delta (PRD). I will always remember how impressed I was by this area. It fits the description of Rem Koolhaas in his book Great Leap Forward: “chaotic, heterogeneous coexistent, and full of super power, developing a brand new chapter of the world’s history with a brutal speed and vitality”. Doreen’s work has both shaped and been shaped by this singular urban environment.

Her early works in Nansha - the De Pin bookstore and the Nansha science museum, for example - reflect the design language learned at the Californian architecture school she attended. There is hardly any difference between her style and that of the many other young architects - mostly from Hong Kong and Taiwan - who studied in the US. It was only subsequently with her involvement in the Pearl River Delta project, moving her practice from Guangzhou to Shenzhen, that she rid herself of her design technique shackles and developed her own distinctive contemporary language in response to the challenges thrown up by this city. 

However, Doreen has several remarkable works to her name in the other cities. A Folded House, an artist’s studio-house in Nanjing, as its name suggests, resembles a thin continuous strip of paper whose folds have created a multi-layered house immersed in its natural surroundings. Drunken Ink Hall in Chengdu shows how the traditional Chinese courtyard design can be given a modern slant. The interior design of the Upper Bookstore in Shanghai comprises a mezzanine floor that adds space and character to a multifunctional environment. The Guangzhou Times Art Museum, developed...

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