The (Re)discovery of MODERNISm | The Plan
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The (Re)discovery of MODERNISm

Vector Architects

Chinese architecture today shows a marked affinity with western Modernism. After escaping the clutches of Stalinist Formalism, we were engulfed by Postmodernism and Constructivism without, however, passing through the experience of Modernism. That discrepancy is now being remedied as China rediscovers this school in both study and practice. The result has been the rise of a Chinese brand of Modernism whose use of space, light and materials clearly harks back to the prototypes of Le Corbusier, Lewis Kahn and Carlo Scarpa. One of the key representatives of this movement is without doubt Gong Dong, founder of Vector Architects. After graduating in architecture in the United States, Gong Dong worked there in several firms, including the practices of Richard Meier and Steven Holl. He assimilated the luminous and classical modern style of the former and the use of light to better shape the space of the latter. The Chongqing Taoyuanju community center was one of his first projects on returning to China and is an exercise in developing an irregular program in keeping with site undulating morphology. Housing three different functions connected by a single roof, the program harks back to Chongqing building traditions with its covered “rain” arcades. For me, however, the architecture speaks more of Holl in the way it blends with the topography, and gives more than a passing nod to the visual impact of Le Corbusier’s Cap Martin promenade. Another early work is the Bayuquan Vanke exhibition center. This monolithic volume - a massive bulk alleviated by intricate slicing and hollowing out to create a visitor route - exhibits several themes Gong Dong would subsequently take up and explore. First, the dramatic contrast between overall bulk and lightweight transparent components. Second, the way in which architecture can control context, views and light. Third, attention to materials and how they can be manifactured simply and subtly. In their determination to propose the...

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