A bosom friend afar brings distant land near. The Oversea album shares the lives of Chinese living abroad with all. The No.87 episode is about Mengjiao Zhang, who graduated from Columbia University and is now working for Handel Architects
Why going abroad?
Initially because I wanted to pursue a M.Arch program. Later because I wanted to challenge myself with a diverse culture and be open to more realities as well as possibilities. I was also curious about what’s more to come in the field of architecture.
What impressed you the most when you are abroad?
The emphasis on individuality and “no-judge.” How diverse and vibrant a city can be like New York City and Tokyo.
What do you miss the most about China?
Family & friends, food and places. Rainy afternoon on a hot summer day. Familymart.
Will you come back China? Why?
It depends. Likely yes.
Is it more distinct to view China in a different environment after going abroad? Any thought?
Yes. I do feel seeing from a different aspect I was finally able to understand the implications and understated complexities in Chinese culture. China’s cities has been rapidly changing and innovating, this is not easy to see or understand for someone who grew up only in the Western context, vice versa.
What makes the curriculum of your school different from other architecture schools?
GSAPP is a school that emphasizes very much on the theoretic and conceptual aspects of the projects, one has to make a strong argument in order to achieve a successful project. Critics are open to every kind of random thoughts and will push you in their own ways. School/studio is utterly an idealistic and optimistic place. Avery library is amazing. The emphasis of thinking, not just out of historic precedents but one that’s grounded in the contemporary narrative and socio-political context is critical to the school’s education. GSAPP does not have one style or pedagogy.
Curriculum wise GSAPP does not have a thesis studio either, because the process of making a statement and pushing the project based on it is imbued in every single studio. M.Arch program requires six history-theory courses and all of them are well curated and thought after. Tschumi’s seminar and Frampton’s history course are extremely poignant and thought-provoking. Rhetorically manifestos not only focus on “the spectacular” but also “the commonalities,” the emphasis on specificities rather than the generics.
What are the characteristics and interesting points of your firm?
Employee-established whiteboard groups that share interest and aim in professional developments.
Who is your favorite artist (in wider range such as art, music, movie)? What is the influence?
Christo和Jeanne-Claude, David Hockney, Sarah Oppenheimer。他们都或多或少体现了艺术中吸引我的“极致”和“瞬间”的部分，而一些空间艺术装置的做法也对建筑空间有很大启示。
Christo and Jeanne-Claude, David Hockney, Sarah Oppenheimer. The emphasize on extremeness and moments, manipulations through specific spatial techniques are fascinating. The way artists work are very much different from architects as they do not need the reasoning process. That’s why artworks are strikingly influential and touching in a certain way. I do appreciate the non-compromising aspects of artists.
What fascinates viewers the most in your portfolio in your opinion?
谈不上迷人，很多时候自己的想法是偶然而发的一些奇思异想，但能以这些小的看似不重要的想法作为出发点去一点点深入思考、推进设计，这个过程是我看重的罢了。作品集叫做 “In Experience,” 因为对空间的亲身经验与感受，空间所营造的关系还是我最看重的部分。
Many of my thoughts are rather random and whimsical, and the way the narrative was constructed and representations are made are in reflection of so. The portfolio is a collection of work for me to communicate my ideas through the process of thinking, making and iterating. The name of the portfolio is “in experience,” because I appreciate the moments, human experience and spatial relationship most in my design projects.
When did you start to follow gooood? Any suggestions?
Since sophomore year. It’s been a great platform that constantly share new works and stories. Thanks Gooood for accompanying me growing.
W O R K
A CRITIC ON SOLO HOUSE
这是我硕士第一学期时视觉表达课的作业，也是我在哥伦比亚大学建筑系求学期间最重要的图之一，课程作业要求选取先例、并通过绘图的方式对其进行评价论述。我选取的案例是一个当代的villa（Office KGDVS建于巴塞罗那郊外的Solo House），将其与villa的archetype（帕拉迪奥的Villa Rotunda）并置，并对功能空间进行解构呼应，从而剖析了自己对这一类型的认知。这种 “质疑 – 思考认知 – 表达 – 再质疑” 的反复推敲过程正是我所坚持的工作流程。
This is probably one of the most important drawings I’ve made during the course of study at Columbia GSAPP. It’s from an assignment during first year’s architectural drawing+representation class. The requirement of the class was to make a critic towards a selected precedent. I chose Soho House from Office KGDVS, which is a contemporary villa. By juxtaposing Soho House with Villa Rotunda, the archetype of villa, and by dissecting spaces with functions within, I expressed my critic through this representation drawing. This iterative process of questioning – impression – expression – requestioning is a workflow that I insist and continue to work with.
SILK NETWORK RE-IMAGINED
Critic: Momoyo Kaijima + Yoshiharu Tsukamoto, TA: Tamotsu Ito
Odaka, in Minamisoma, Fukushima, is one of the many vacated towns during the 2011 nuclear power plant meltdown accident in Fukushima. Recently a five-year ban of the town has been lifted as the town and adjacent area has been cleared for residents to move back. The studio looks at the actor network in Odaka, seeking to reconstruct part of the network that has been mostly destructed before and after the accident. Specifically I focused on the silk network in Odaka, looking to reconstruct this relational network for locals and visitors to work and live together.
小高市的丝绸制造业曾经非常发达，但这在产业化之后逐渐衰败，至2011年地震核电事故后已彻底消失。我注意到，由于地震核电事故的影响，该地区极其难以发展大规模的农业制造业；加上对于商店类型学的兴趣，我在设计这个项目的时候开始思考能否以丝绸装饰品这种易于制作且价值较高的手工艺品作为切入点来组织与纳入这样的网路。在重构网路的时候，“resilience / 韧性”是我考虑的主要因素。意欲使 “修复”后的关系网路比传统的模式更为坚固，我引入了更多“演员元素”：相较于传统单一产业的发展方式，引入更多与生活和生产并行共存的模式；通过实现产品多样化，进而使得新的关系网络对于变化更具防御能力和韧性 (resilience).
Odaka area has been historically rich in the production of silk and fabrics. But even before the nuclear disaster the economy has been decreasing and threatened. The culture around silk production in Odaka has been almost forgotten, the landscape of mulberry fields and the usage of silk farming rooms dramatically became unmanaged. After the 3-11 accident the industry has been decreased to its minimum. Through this re-design process, I seek to re-integrate more elements into the network to suit today’s scenario while introducing alternative products of the process, thus enabling a stronger and more resilient network to happen.
My site is located on the main street with a long history as an inn-town and two blocks from the Odaka Station, at the interlocking of two major transportation roads. It is the area where there was a street-scape of Machiya building types since centuries ago. The south side is facing the Main Street and north side more back of house space with a back street. The front street will be more pedestrian access and back street with car access and parking spaces. The plot is 18m x 50m, the typical two plots of Machiya typology side by side.
The first strategy is to elongate the machiya to be a through-block type, while the back of house is reserved for silk production and parking, it introduces a half-storefront scenario to the back street. The front street will be shops and playground space. In between there would be silkworm cocoonery, mulberry tea production space and atelier space. Because of the introduction of parking, privacy is reinterpreted by elevating the living sector to second floor.
The structure is envisioned as 2×4 construction. This type of construction utilizes wood joists as framing system and panels to form a column-free space. The wood dividing walls sustain the shearing force for both normal and seismic activities. The wood panels are easy to fabricate off-site, utilizing techniques of local carpenters and wood from Fukushima Prefecture, such as in the Aizu area.
SECRET VIEW BANK
Critic: Julian Rose
纽约皇后区的长岛市长期以来以其浓郁的艺术气息而闻名。长岛市内坐落着MoMA PS1、雕塑中心、野口勇博物馆等艺术场馆，并且有着众多艺术家的工作室。这个项目的场地也设置在长岛市的艺术集中发生区域—— Court Square附近，这里交通方便，文化氛围浓厚。
Situated in the hyper-active art community with MoMA / PS1, Sculpture Center, The Noguchi Museum, and many artists studios within touch, this project explores the possibility of an art bank in the Long Island City.
In this project, I took inspiration from discussions and precedents drawn from both architectural history and art events and precedents. The project analyzed an alternate experience of understanding art, in contrast with traditional museums which only provide a monotonous and indifferent experience. I explored an alternative spatial relationship to exhibiting and perceiving art while considering the artist’s perspective and the characteristics of space that would be most conducive for creating and showcasing art.
I started the project from the observation that the most valuable and exclusive experiences of art are the most private ones. This creates a fundamental problem for traditional museums, which must provide a public experience of art and so often unintentionally end up providing a low-value one. The project seeks to create a new type of museum that incorporates moments of high-value private experience into its program.
By utilizing strategies to create high-value key moments, the project provides architectural possibility of a new typology by proposing that museums could be not just about containing works of art but to play a much more active role in shaping the viewing of artworks. I set to manipulate such views through the utilization of underestimated storage space. By cutting through these storage volumes, which are conjunctive in between art galleries, I created a spatial frame to amplify and provide exclusive view to certain artworks. In this way, one single visitor would be able to occupy and enjoy artwork through his own private “frame”. I created 15 such framing volumes to amplify valuable artworks as well as the complexity of space.
I also utilized the strategy of volumetric displacement to further enrich/activate and differentiate this private experience. i.e. when you are standing in a level above and viewing artworks in the lower level below you would enjoy a more private experience than the people in the gallery below.
HOUSING FOR COMMUNITY
Critic: Robert Marino
在美国的城市场景下，并没有小区一说，所有住宅几乎都是从同一类型学的理论发展而来。这个项目旨在通过学习与改进两种美国常见的住宅类型 —— 中庭住宅与露台住宅——来创造出一个融合了以上两种风格的新型住宅类型。
The concept of typology s a powerful method of taxonomy used in the categorization of housing projects. After careful and thorough analysis of precedents based on one housing typology – the courtyard housing, we investigated a new type of courtyard housing and produced a building scheme upon research while combining atmospheric moments into both representational and design aspects. I led the team from the initial concept stage to the task assignments to advancing each phase of the project.
I started the project by rethinking two existing housing types – courtyard housing and terrace housing. While the courtyard housing provides no gradient between private rooms and public courtyard, the terrace housing tends to be exclusively private. The argument I seek to make is to combine the advantages of these two types and create a semi-private buffer zone between the shared courtyard and individual housing units, thus to encourage mutual communication and build a sense of community.
The sectional relationship is divided into two types – A and B. While A owns one side of courtyard-facing terraces, B has its both sides terraced. The sections are organized according to the logic of stacking, utilizing individual unit sizes to create either inward or outward-faced terraces. The distribution of A and B on different sides of three individual blocks are determined by street size, sunlight conditions and privacy considerations.
MAN MACHINE AND INDUSTRIAL LANDSCAPE
Collaborated with Mandy Yujing Han. Critic: Sean Gallagher
Currently in New York City, waste materials are going a one-way trip – they are produced, collected, only 20% recycled and most of them get transported to places as far as South Carolina to be dumped in landfills. The life-cycle of these materials is very short despite the long transportation.
Concurrently, a large number of inactive hard rock mines are no longer used as sites of material extractions. After these mines are decommissioned due to mines’ limited life-cycles, the sites are left with polluted water and soil, idle land and facilities, larger number of unemployed local labor, and also physically transformed landscape (excavated pits and tunnels, etc).
We challenge to take on the negative impacts of the two systems and turn them into more productive assets. We propose to transport recycled metal scraps in NYC to the decommissioned mines in tri-State area for further recovery Furthermore we introduce mushroom farming in vacant mining tunnels. Waste heat and exhaust from the furnace can be captured and monitored to create an optimal micro-climate for different types of mushrooms all year round. Mushrooms, a traditionally undervalued product in America, is becoming more popular and economically valuable, not just for food consumption, but also for medical and industrial uses. Recycled metal and mushrooms will then be transported back to NYC. As a result, instead of sending waste metal to destinations 600 miles away, we turn them into more valuable products at sites that are less than 150 miles away. The return trip also completes the cycle of the consumption of recycled products.
ADVANCED CURTAIN WALL
这个项目是在Daniel Vos和Robert Heintges指导下的进阶幕墙设计，是我在哥大技术选修课上完成的作品。
Critic: Daniel Vos, Robert Heintges
幕墙的设计基于Brice Maden的一副构成主义绘画。建筑本身的功能为宾馆。通过三个层次的横向与纵向铝制元素交错并置，我在设计时试图重绘出Brice Maden作品中的复杂性与层级关系。此外，我注意到绘画中纯平风格的白色背景，并通过在第一平面的陶瓷烤釉熔块图案及灯光投射效果创造了出相似的风格。这一设计也从外观上保护了宾馆入住者的隐私。
The curtain wall design is based on a Brice Maden abstract drawing. The program of the building is a hotel with location in New York City. Utilizing a custom unit system consisting of three layers of horizontals and verticals, the design aims to capture the complexity and hierarchy of the drawing. The extreme flatness in the drawing background was achieved by a layer of ceramic frit on the number one surface and a series of strategically placed lighting fixtures hidden under some of the horizontal members in the system. The frit and lighting system enhances the contrast of the curtain wall. It also helps protect the interior privacy of the hotel.