Wang Shu - Amateur Architecture Studio

9.2.17 - 30.4.17

The Architect’s Studio was a new series of Louisiana exhibitions focusing on a new generation of pace-setting and prize-winning architects. The series intends to show developments among contemporary architects whose sustainable and socially aware practices take on the challenges of globalization.

The first exhibition of this series focused on Chinese architect Wang Shu (b. 1963), who in 2012 was awarded the Pritzker-Prize, dubbed the Nobel Prize for architecture. Wang Shu and his wife and partner Lu Wenyu stand at the head of the Amateur Architecture Studio. The name of the studio underscores the vision of letting spontaneity, the available materials and local culture and building traditions form the basis for architecture which in Wang Shu’s own words should be “a house rather than a building”.

The specific design of the exhibition was created in collaboration with Amateur Architecture, and besides presenting selected projects included a more general introduction to traditional Chinese culture and philo­sophy as declared sources of inspiration for Wang Shu. In addition Amateur Architecture’s installation At The Parallel Scene from the 2016 Venice Biennale formed part of the exhibition.

Realdania. Sponsor for Louisiana’s architectural exhibitions.

Reclaiming China

At a time when China’s explosive urbanization is making inroads into the rural areas and leaving the marks of cheap concrete construction everywhere, Wang Shu and Amateur Architecture are keen to work against this tendency by re-using materials from the buildings that the Chinese authorities are systematically tearing down and rebuilding after western models.

The practice that typifies Amateur Architecture thus emphasizes simple functionality over spectacular form, restoration over new construction, tradition over modernism.

With projects like the Ningbo History Museum and the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou, Amateur Architecture insists on directing attention towards Chinese history, philosophy, landscape and culture. This implies distancing themselves from the influence of western culture, which in China, too, is a clear consequence of globalization.

A virtuoso in full command

Wang Shu was awarded the most distinguished architectural honor, the Pritzker Prize, in 2012 for his ability to create architecture, “opens new horizons while at the same time resonates with place and memory.” The prize jury noted, that his buildings have the unique ability to evoke the past, without making direct references to history and that his architecture is exemplary in its strong sense of cultural continuity and re-invigorated tradition.

“He calls his office Amateur Architecture Studio,” the jury citation stated, “but the work is that of a virtuoso in full command of the instruments of architecture—form, scale, material, space and light. The 2012 Pritzker Architecture Prize is given to Wang Shu 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.”

From prestige projects to a new consciousness

For several years Louisiana has presented major thematic exhibitions on architecture, culture, identity such as LIVING, New Nordic and AFRICA. With The Architect’s Studio, a series of monographic exhibition, the musuem sets off from an earlier series shown 1998-2005. The focus then was on prestige projects of so-called ‘starchitects’ like Norman Foster, Frank Gehry and Jean Nouvel.

The aim of this new series is to trace the development in architecture since that time. How does a new generation of pace-setting architects work? What are their concerns, their challenges, what do they have in common? How do they respond to globalization, the environment, social problems? To be shown the next couple of years, this series will include among others Alejandro Aravena from Chile (winner of the 2016 Pritzker Prize) and Tatiana Bilbao from Mexico.