MAD Dinner

by | 23. Aug 2012



The first book by Beijing-based MAD, acclaimed for designs that embrace a new era in Chinese cities and lifestyle.
Dinner presents the firm’s use of high-tech visualizations and imaginary shapes with proposals for the sustainable future of the Chinese city, challenging Chinese
approaches to values, culture, and environment.

Like a dinner table conversation, this is a collection of ideas and opinions from politics to ecology to fame to the future.

“In China, we like to sit around a big round table for dinner. We place our dishes on a big spinning disk in the center of the table so that we can reach the food. Everyone, whether or not he has anything to say, and every discussion, whether it is important or not, has an equal place around the table. We hope to have such a dinner and to invite to our table those who don’t usually come together in real life to share their experiences, opinions, and observations. Their concerns are really also our concerns.”
Ma YanSong/MAD


The dinner “guests” are from all levels of Chinese society: a government official, hairdresser, migrant laborers, a doctor, a taxi driver, a developer, brought together to exchange views in an open atmosphere. The conversations work in tandem with MAD’s proposals on the architect’s freedoms and limitations inside China, the world’s fastest urbanizing nation.

Exerpts from the book:

MAD: What is your impression of life in China?

“I find that now everyone is striving hard to establish himself in the society, but few people have realized that it is also important to know how to live in the society.”
Wang BaoJu – Curator:

“Beijing is a great city with all kinds of bizarre and interesting people. Although we grouse about everything here – its transportation, prices, architecture, and life – all our complaints can never end our love for it, for fresh people turn up here all the time.”
Li MengXia – Fashion Magazine Editor

MAD: What do you think of the presence of foreign designed buildings in the city?

“One one hand, I hold a positive attitude towards their coming. On the other hand, I feel especially worried. For the former, at first we could only see some pictures and we were not satisfied with many traditional buildings in China and so we hoped that people would bring the latest knowledge of the western world to China. I am worried because, although there are quite a lot of foreign architects coming to China, there are few academic ones and most of them, even the overwhelming majority, are commercial ones. Compared with the worst buildings Chinese architects, more or less, have some conscience.”
Wang MingXian – Art Historian

MAD: In your opinion what is the most important element missing from Chinese cities?

“Nothing is missing from Chinese cities. We have everything we want. That’s partially due to the enormous adaptability and re-adaptability of the Chinese attitude. Land may have been privatized, but the sense of illegibility and entitlement has not.”
Ma QingYun – Architect

MAD: As a director, do you pay attention to the new architecture in the city? How would you evaluate it’s effect on our lives?

“I have the feeling that architecture in this city has never had the comprehensive, overall planning scheme; it was carried out by a kind of guerilla strategy, a little bit of this here and a little bit of that there. Ever since the establishment of New China, there have also been a lot of make-do measures, so this is the larger background.
I guess this is the remnants of Beijing and a long historical era. It is a phase in history that we must confront, it is our past and now, and you have to deal with it.”
Zhang YiMou – Filmmaker

MAD: Is the plan to let Beijing just keep spreading out and adding ring roads?

“We call it an urban sprawl, like in western cities. The urban growth depends on the urban population. The planners always say, “Oh we have got to control the population.” It cannot be controlled. How do you control it? People want to come here, because it is easy to find a job.”
Huang Yan – City Official

MAD: How do you see the effect of development on China’s environment?

“You can see only a few start at night in Beijing. I remember I could see many when I was young. The sky was really blue then. Now it is another story. The city is badly polluted.”
Tony – Hairdresser

“In the city, our eye muscles always strain, whereas all the eye muscles are released when we are looking at the plains. Thus, humans’ evolution has brought harm to our environment, including the environment we created for , through the warming of the climate, etc. Just as some called the ones who climbed the Himalayas heroes, otherscall them criminals, for they have tarnished the former sanctity.”
Hu LiZhong – Doctor

MAD: How do you imagine the future?

“Every generation resorts to some image to represent what they admire. The younger generation would rather abandon all the previous symbols. Such a replacement happens all the time. I understand this kind of abandonment.”
Cao Fei – Artist

Richly illustrated with MAD’s work around the world the book is another “Must” for your bookcase.

Most spectacular is MAD’s visionary “Beijing 2050,” where the studio has quite literally gone mad, with futuristic visions for a densely populated city in the year 2050.

“What will the densely populated future city in China look like? We think we need a literal connection rather than segregation or simply chasing the building height. Digital studios, multimedia business centers, theaters, restaurants, libraries, sightseeing, exhibitions, gyms, and even a man made lake are elevated above the Central Business District, and connect with each other horizontally. This proposal and the new city organization principle articulate our queries of “machine aesthetics” and “vertical city”, characterized by modernism.”



Are you human?
Are you fish?

As an experiment Mad tracked the movement trajectory of fish that lives in spatial organization. Different from human being’s living space, the fish’s world in the water is relatively freer of gravity restriction. This data of fish’s movement trajectory became the initial driving force for their design strategy in maximizing as well as optimizing the usage of limited space. At the metaphase of the morphogenesis design process, the analysis of the trajectory in 3-dimensional space shows a high frequency of fish’s moving around the edges. Hence smoothing edges becomes the experimental objective.

Basic vectors of the fish’s movement trajectory are transformed into initial space frame, and continuous fluid spatial organization is created to optimize cubical space. External surface is transfigured in the effort to diffuse the high frequency. In the meantime, the surface is strained inwardly to connect with other surfaces. Consequentially the internal and the external space are dynamically related and create an ambiguous space. At the phase, the Stereo lithography modeling method is employed to allow the fish to circulate in fluid space, displaying an innovative architectural form.



“People in large cities are similar to fish. The revolution of Modernism succeeded in making people live in cheap machines. People can talk, but don’t know what to say and how to make decisions on their living space. In the end, they loose freedom of self by living in the rules set down by others.”