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From Garden

to City Street

TM Studio

Observing five of Tong Ming’s recent works, I see a sort transition between two poles: from the closed introverted garden space to ordinary life in the city street. For Tong Ming, these two extreme types of spatial experience are parallel worlds. The garden is part of the Chinese literati tradition. Embodying the convenience of the city and the tranquility of seclusion, its independent undisturbed privacy is the essence of quality space. The architect’s long-standing architectural practice and academic research have constantly focused on Chinese gardens, developing ever new ways of making them part of contemporary architecture. The most typical garden space of the five projects is to be found in the Zhou Chunya Art Studio. Located beyond the suburbs of Shanghai, the building creates a strong tension with its environment, the unforgiving concrete block resembling a castle hermetically closed to the outside. In fact, the magic of the place is within. Courtyards, corridors, pavilions, steps and roof viewing platforms - all typical spatial elements of the Chinese garden - are here unified with this concrete fortress. As a result, all activities within - from family gatherings to art releases and receptions - take place far from the local context beyond the building. Although the Han Tianheng Art Museum has a similar monumentality, it is more naturally part of the urban fabric, being a renovated former factory, a landmark in its context. The imposing dark black shape, accentuated by a jagged tip, speaks clearly of strong industrial architecture. Yet, even here, there are the essential elements of the garden: an inner courtyard, cloister, bamboo forest, and white wall. Although the main entrance in the direction of the city is deliberately spectacular, opening outwards to embrace what is beyond, the façade and entrance facing the canal are in keeping with the more intimate waterside path and bridge. The building’s solid façade is...

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