The Future is Today | The Plan
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The Future is Today

MAD

Of all contemporary Chinese architects, Ma Yansong stands out for his distinctive personality, clearly apparent since his earliest design work - the “Fish Tank”, “Ink Ice”, and “Hutong Bubble” - through to his most recent projects like Absolute Towers, the Ordos Museum, the Harbin Opera House and the very controversial project for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. Ma Yansong has been true to his original approach right from the outset and subsequently, when he founded MAD Architects. His relentless research into curved, nonlinear geometries continues today to produce uniquely symbolic built objects. He brings a heightened sensitivity to form conveyed in a highly specific expressive language, creating projects that engage with the pertinent themes and criticalities of China’s urbanisation process. His approach has always had a touch of the utopian. His proposals Rebuilt WTC, Beijing 2050 and S-MAP (Shanghai Modern Art Park) seem to hark back to the urban idea of firms like Superstudio and Archizoom, famous for introducing the concept of radical architecture in the 1960s. In recent years, Ma Yansong’s thought and practice have gradually become associated with the shan-shui concept: “urban design” that takes its cue from traditional Chinese painting of luxuriant mountain landscapes and picturesque streams. The approach signifies stepping away from “nature portrayed” to nature as a concrete object, in other words, architecture fashioned as nature: recreated natural landscapes. In this sense, Ma Yansong’s large-scale projects can be seen as an indictment of the unsatisfactory model and style of urban living in China today. Starting with Absolute Towers, built in Canada in 2012, we see the appearance of a building texture at odds with the surrounding urban fabric. Yet although the two towers are at odds with one another, and the geometry of the whole project is at odds with the existing...

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