The city of the future development will be shifted from the pursuit of material civilisation to the pursuit of nature. This is what happens after human beings experience industrial civilisation at the expense of the natural environment.
— Ma Yansong
The architecture scene in China is the most open and free climate compared to many other places. You can find many opportunities.
When I was young and used to look at Chinese architecture, there was no clear definition between what was landscaping and what was architecture.
When you look at classical structures, they're often linked to literature, music, or a poem. They were constructed by master builders, which means it's not something standard that you can copy.
Chinese people need to be aware of their present and ask, 'What's our culture? What can we bring to the world?' I don't think there's anything wrong with that.
Architecture is about experience: not only visual but also what you can touch, what you can feel.
The difficulty with big cities does not lie in skyscrapers or high-rises per se; rather, it is the values concealed within those buildings which lead to the loss of our humanity and our sense of spiritual emptiness.
A pool at the edge of the ocean is the simplest geometry, yet you feel connected to the sea. In a forest with the mountains in the background, you also feel the connection to nature, yet it's a very complex geometry. I think architecture is about controlling these feelings.
If you look at ancient Chinese paintings, you see mountains, but they are not real mountains; it is something the artists imagined.
I'm trying to express nature in big cities.
I don't like to talk about sustainability, because sometimes I see green buildings that don't appear any different from those in the past.
People love to go closer to nature and other people, so we need to create environments that let people have these emotional connections.
I don't use tools to create things, but I use them to realize things.
When I started university, I didn't know much about architecture, so I flipped through a lot of magazines, looking at different and exciting images from all over the world. I thought that architecture could be interesting.
China has some cities, traditional cities, with a long history. They are so beautiful, and they were planned so smartly. I call them gardens on the city scale. For example, Beijing has mountains, waters, lakes, bridges, towers. It was a very poetic city.
Modern buildings have become memorials to power and capital. More and more, they're isolated from people.
We need to enter a new era to make nature and humans more emotionally connected in modern cities.
The world itself is already a great textbook.
Architects like to work in a problematic environment.
People can live in nature, and they won't necessarily destroy it.
I would say that many architects are very logical. They start their process from analysis and from rational processes to try and find the 'right' answer, like solving a mathematic equation.
Tiananmen Square is a sensitive topic because many things happened there. The idea of turning the plaza into a forest makes many people feel uncomfortable.
A door handle is very symbolic to me. It is the first object that one will interact with before entering a new space.
Since the Beijing Olympics in 2008, our office has been discussing how we can make architecture more human and at one with nature. We need to ask ourselves, what legacy do we want to leave behind on humankind's urban culture?
People think that buildings are permanent, but in China, this isn't true; we can always demolish and remake it better.
There must be a way to combine the high rise and high-density environment with nature. Maybe we can have our gardens in the sky.
I'm trying to create architecture as landscape. But I'm not copying nature.
What if we treat the high-rise like a mountain, or we have gardens in the sky, or waterfalls? I think that's the most challenging thing I want to try in my architecture.
I think, in our modern cities, there are a lot of boxes; there are a lot of straight lines. They often deal with efficiency, the function, the structure.
Early in my career, I tried to bring an artistic feeling to architecture. That's really the intent and impression of what I think about: context, space, shapes, and landscape.
In China, it's very easy to make architecture special because anything you design will look different, as most parts of the city are very similar. They make so many massive residential buildings.
Instead of making grand structures and beautiful buildings, we should focus on the environment and the urban space and how you encourage people to live.
I grew up in Beijing, and there weren't many modern buildings during my childhood. I was influenced by traditional culture - the courtyards, the hutongs, the old city, and all the art forms - so, very naturally, I brought this to my practice.
My first impression of Beverly Hills was that it had a landscape of small houses built by famous architects, so I didn't want to make a big block or sculpture here; I wanted to make a community rooted to the place.
Architecture is a special kind of career that showcases the accumulations of culture, time, and history.
Oscar Niemeyer really inspired me. He's from South America, where nature has meaning. And his architecture was not expensive or high tech but artistic and spiritual. I like that.
I treat my projects as art.
I think architecture should be a stage, not something too material - more of an environment, not a product.
The way we do our architecture is to show that we can come up with our own solutions. We don't just take orders.
Historically, sci-fi movies have played an important role in inspiring young people.
Architects think that beauty is a crime.
I actually feel like a very traditional architect.
I grew up in the old neighborhood of Beijing where you had a courtyard and trees. Actually, the whole of Beijing was a garden - the Forbidden City - and the lakes and gardens in the city center were all artificial.
The way a human can coexist with nature has to be at the spiritual level.
In traditional cities like Beijing, Nanjing, and Hangzhou, nature was a very important part of urban planning - not only as a landscape but a part of daily life.
Sometimes I sketch and then scan my sketch directly to make the curves more freehand. I don't want to make perfect industrial curves.
Ultimately, the artistic part of architecture has always interested me.
Chaoyang Park Plaza is about how to carry the traditional culture into a new format in modern architecture. Instead of building a boundary between the city and the park, I tried to design this building to emerge from the natural landscape.
I have never been to Mars. What will we discover when we get there? A red landscape, quiet horizon, frozen glaciers? Probably all is as beautiful, in its own way, as the Earth was thousands of years ago.
In our traditional culture, people have a very different view towards nature than in Western culture. We consider humans as part of nature. But in the West, they talk about protecting nature. That's a joke because nature doesn't care; it's humans who need to protect themselves.