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Wang Shu, Rise of the Architect Scholar

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Photograph of Wang Shu in 2012

Wang Shu, Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate, 2012

Photo © Zhu Chenzhou / Amateur Architecture Studio courtesy pritzkerprize.com
Wang Shu sees himself first as a scholar, then a craftsman, and, lastly, as an architect. It's surprising, then, that at the young age of 48 Wang Shu was chosen as the 2012 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate.

The Pritzker jury chose the first Chinese architect for "the exceptional nature and quality of his executed work, and also for his ongoing commitment to pursuing an uncompromising, responsible architecture arising from a sense of specific culture and place."

Born:

November 4, 1963 in Urumqi, Xinjiang Province, The People's Republic of China

Education and Training:

  • B.S., Nanjing Institute of Technology, Department of Architecture, P. R. China, 1985
  • M.S., Nanjing Institute of Technology, Department of Architecture, P. R. China, 1988
  • Ph.D., Tongji University School of Architecture, 1995-2000
  • 1990–1998, training in urbanization, craftsmanship, and restoration. Shu worked as an entry-level construction worker, thoroughly learning the building trade from local craftsmen. Renovating old buildings strengthened Shu's respect for time, history, and culture. The government's demolition of many urban areas—and his building projects during this period—has greatly influenced his architectural philosophy and vision.

Important Projects:

The Amateur Spirit:

In 1997, Shu founded Amateur Architecture Studio with his architect wife, Lu Wenyu. "It should not be even referred to as an architect's office," Shu has said, "because design is an amateur activity and life is more important than design. Our work is constantly refreshed by various spontaneous things that occur. And, most important, we encourage independence and individualism to guarantee the experimental work of the studio."

Influences:

Wang Shu Design Process:

As a boy, Wang Shu became interested in drawing, painting, and calligraphy. In studying architecture, he combined that artistic love with his parents' wish for him to study engineering and science. His approach to architectural design is similar to that of a painter—that is, before he even picks up a pencil, sketch ideas must appear in his mind. After studying all aspects of the design problem—how the project will integrate with the environment—the design materializes in his mind. Shu's design process begins with thinking before drawing. The design evolves as construction considerations are discussed.

Awards:

  • 2004, China's First Architecture Arts Award
  • 2005, Holcim Award for Sustainable Construction in the Asia Pacific for Five Scattered Houses in Ningbo
  • 2007, First Global Award for Sustainable Architecture, Cité de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine, France
  • 2010, Schelling Architecture Prize to Weng Shu and Lu Wenyu for significant designs, realized buildings or profound contributions to architectural history and theory
  • 2010, Special Mention for the Decay of a Dome exhibit, 12th International Architecture Exhibit, Venice, Italy
  • 2011, Gold Medal from l'Academie d'Architecture of France
  • 2012, Pritzker Architecture Prize

Comments from other Architects:

"Wang Shu's work stands out for its combination of sculptural power and contextual sensitivity. His transformative use of ancient materials and motifs is highly original and stimulating."Zaha Hadid, 2004 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate

"To look at the state of the profession, it would seem that anything is possible, and more often than not, we get anything! Form for its own sake has become a superficial discipline. Wang Shu and Lu Wenyu, however, have avoided the sensational and the novel. In spite of what is still a short period in practice, they have delivered a modern, rational, poetic and mature body of varying scaled public work. Their work is already a modern cultural asset to the rich history or Chinese architecture and culture."Glenn Murcutt, 2002 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate

Related Books:

  • Imagining the House by Wang Shu, Lars Muller Publishers, 2012
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  • Illegal Architecture by Wang Shu and Hsieh Ying-Chun, Garden City, 2012
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