Wang Shu: Ningbo History Museum, 2008
Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio, Hangzhou, Zhejiang. When most of China seems to be the playground of capitalist architectural excess: an excess of ambition and money, the new China seemingly free of inhibiting content, we have Wang Shu, whose statement of intent on his website reads:
I design a house instead of a building. The house is the amateur architecture approach to the infinitely spontaneous order.
Built spontaneously, illegally and temporarily, amateur architecture is equal to professional architecture. But amateur architecture is just not significant.
One problem of professional architecture is, that it thinks too much of a building. A house, which is close to our simple and trivial life, is more fundamental than architecture. Before becoming an architect, I was only a literati. Architecture is part time work to me. For one place, humanity is more important than architecture while simple handicraft is more important than technology.
The attitude of amateur architecture, - though first of all being an attitude towards a critical experimental building process -, can have more entire and fundamental meaning than professional architecture. For me, any building activity without comprehensive thoughtfulness will be insignificant.
Ningbo History Museum is built from tiles, brick, concrete and stone, salvaged from other buildings, sites of collapse, rubble: each piece comes with a fragment of history and unrepeatable form, giving an elasticity to its use: fit is unpredictable but follows very old techniques. There is a patience both to assembly and to the concept as a whole: the building evolves from its materials.
When one thinks that the Great Leap Forward only happened in 1958, the Cultural Revolution in 1966 and the economic reforms in 1978, it is possible that Wang Shu is reclaiming China's deep past — not historicism, but a sophisticated historical thinking.