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A New Concept for Environment & City Life

Remember the New Millennium threat in 2000, the electricity failure that would take place and we’d starve to death? The dreaded Millennium bug that was supposed to cause computer meltdown around the world and our electric ovens and microwaves would prevent us from surviving? Then in 2012 or 2013 the world was supposed to end! There has been talk, for ages, of living on the moon or under water because we’re running out of space to produce food for the rapidly increasing population. Too many people, not enough food. Could it be that we simply no longer know how to survive with the basics that still exist? MAD Architects, founded in 2004 by Chinese architect Ma Yansong, supplies a solution to this ongoing threat caused by city life: the Shanshui city concept.

“Shan” “shui,” Yansong explains, can be translated as “mountain” and “water.” According to MAD, this method “emphasizes the perfect combination of urban density, functionality and the artistic conception of natural landscape.” Traditional values and ways of living are brought to high-rise architecture, using nature as inspiration to unite the environment with social life.

The heart of MAD Architects beats to the Eastern spirit of nature. They focus on developing futuristic, organic designs with sustainable methods to harmonize natural and urban environments. Their Shanshui city concept involves several projects in China, including the Nanjing Zendai Himalayas Center development, presented at this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale and due to be completed in 2017, and another in Beijing’s central business district with its 120,000-square-metre Chaoyang Park Plaza development, which is due to be completed a year earlier in 2016.

Yansong explains this environmental connection in an interview we held with him at this year’s Venice Biennale. He goes deeper into the idea and discusses past and potential projects, while touching the issue of today’s city. In his opinion, we are building upon the notion of high-rises for our cities, and considering the average “large” city layout, he may be right. “When you look at high-rise buildings, they’re too powerful. They’re lacking humanity.” It’s all about “modern image,” he explains.

Diving even further, he mentions how modern architecture sets codes and regulations that limit our imagination. In the Nanjing Zendai Himalayas Center project, he took the elevator core out of the building and has it stopping every three levels, instead of at each floor. Every three levels people walk across a bridge into this open space, an environmental atmosphere that offers them a moment to stretch their legs.

A Conversation With Ma Yansong Founder & Principal Partner of MAD Architects

ArchiExpo e-magazine Special- Ma Yansong Founder & Principal Partner of MAD Architects

Nanjing Zendai Himalayas Center, a MAD Architects project