Monday, 7 February 2011

Book - Contemporary Green Buildings in China

China is going through massive changes at the moment ranging from economy and society to culture. The bilt environment is definitely also part of this. Was it just four years back only about bringing prestigious names and projects into the country has this evolved into a wide ranging ecology and sustainability trend. Probably fueled by the western input, Cina has leapfrogged directly into the sustainability discussion and this directly influences the project planing and delivery.

A lot of projects are now not only seeked for their architect's prestigious name or the avantgarde design, but marketed for its sustainable value. If this goes together even better.

Politically China has already implemented long term strategies on how to develop expected growth sustainable with the twelfth Five-Year Plan and in 2010 also proclaimed ambitious climate targets. Since buildings use about 40% of the total energy consumption the built environment is an obvious starting point to reach such standards.

A new DOM Pulishers publication 'Contemporary Green Buildings in China - Art and Architecture for Sustainability 2000-2010' is drawing a portray of the trend in sustainability architecture in China. The editors Christian Dubrau and Li Xiangning are not at all short of examples, on the contrary list is impressive.

The publication is largely informed by the project 'Germany - China moving ahead together' centers on modern and future oriented development plans. Part of this is the forum 'Urban Academy' which builds a platform for specialists focusing on social development and urban construction development in cities today. 40 architecture project are showcased, but integrates a series of art projects that challenge the same topic.

This partnership between the two countries is of course an interesting one. Germany with a far developed culture of sustainable discussion but also practice has a lot of expertise to export to China. Of course the challenge is to adapt the practice and technologies to the specific need and environment.

The projects discussed in this book cover a broad range. This starts with two Steven Holl projects (two of his books discussed earlier Urbanisms and Hansun) the fabulous Beijing Moma Apartment Complex and the massive Vanke-Centre. There are of course quite a few urban examples, together with a short discussion on sustainable urban planning approaches, but then there is also a range of refurbishment and revitalise as well as rural projects together with some community based projects.

One of the very interesting urban projects is the Ningbo Museum. A gigantic structure on an artificial hill. The area was cleared for an urban extension and dozens of rural villages were destroyed. On the site of formar rice fields, parts of the structure are bamboo concrete formworks and the rest ist built from bricks recycled fromt he former village houses.

Ningbo Historic Museum
Image taken from ArchDaily / Ningbo Historic Museum / Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio

Two of the more rural projects that are very fascinating are the 'Maosi Ecological Demonstration Primary School' (not sure what the name is pointing out) and the 'Namchabawa Visitor Centre' by Standardarchitecture.

The school project was developed by the Department of Architecture - The Chinese University and build together with local builders as a community project.

Maosi School
Image taken from / The project emphasizes a scientific and transferable methodology: condition analyses, computer simulation experiments and field construction.

THe visitor centre by Standardarchitecture is a project in Tibet about 2900 meters above sea level. It is located at the entrance to an important pilgrim destination. The project similar to the Maosi School seeks to blend in with the landscape, but especially with the local culture. This is realised quite successful in both projects and does show a new type of Chinese architecture, a much more engaged and interested attitude the architects show here.

Image taken from / The center is located in a small village called Pai Town in Linzhi area in the south-eastern Tibet.

One thing that this publication definitely achieves is for a change to document an show a more subtile side of Chinese building projects. What publications so far usually have focused on is the size, the speed, the change or the costs. Such and approach tends to overlook the quality and sells buildings as consumables. What can be learned from 'Contemporary Green Buildings in China' is that there are good quality buildings with a interesting architectural style being built in China today. This is finally moving reports about China's built environment beyond bilboard architecture towards a substantial development.

Debrau, C. & Xiangning, L., 2011. Contemporary Green Buildings in China: Art and Architecture 2000 bis 2020, Dom Publishers.

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