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Complexity and Clarity

Studio Qi

For Shanshan Qi, “architecture is a way of thinking” and a bridge linking the world to its inhabitants.

A succession of guest houses, located on the far frontiers of China, combine indigenous features and materials with subtle geometries that respect and reinvigorate the built context. They offer guests varied spatial experiences and a strong sense of place as well as a window on spectacular landscapes.

Qi learned early on to be independent and make her mark in the world. Her parents sent her to school in the USA at age 14, where she graduated at the head of her class and went on to secure architectural degrees, summa cum laude, from Columbia and Harvard. She interned at the Renzo Piano Building Workshop in Genoa and with Foster + Partners in New York, where she supervised the firm’s projects in China. After founding Studio Qi in New York in 2012 she relocated to Hangzhou where she heads an office that is predominantly female. She is also a studio critic and thesis advisor at the China Academy of Art, where she is working on her doctorate with Pritzker Prize Laureate Wang Shu.

One of her first projects, completed in 2016, is Nine House: a boutique hotel and art gallery deftly inserted into the dense urban fabric of Xitang, one of the best-preserved water towns between Hangzhou and Shanghai. Though it charges visitors to enter, Xitang is still a vibrant community and additions to its historic core are tightly regulated. Nine House abstracts the local vernacular, fragmenting the conventional plan to create a three-dimensional composition of stairs, private courtyards for the six guest rooms, as well as an upper-level dining room, tea house and library. To stay within the height restrictions, the wine cellar and events space are located underground. Expansive glazing on the rooms and two gallery-bridges pull in abundant natural light, yet the guests enjoy a feeling of seclusion, set apart from those going upstairs to...

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