Between (global) Modernity And (local) Tradition

by | 12. Nov 2012

Exhibitions and Events

Photo courtesy MAD

Retrospective, MAD
The cutting edge work of Chinese architect Ma Yansong.

Our work is an attitude, a posture towards architecture, towards society. Through our work we want people to be inspired by a place through local nature, time and space
/Ma Yansong

MAD architects was founded in 2004 by young Chinese architect Ma Yansong, one of the most influential voices of a new generation of architects whose work is already shaping the 21st century city.


Photo courtesy MAD


Photo courtesy MAD

Superstar a mobile China Town

The exhibition brings together a selection of Ma Yansong’s works in a way that expresses his ambition to make architecture inspired by Chinese landscape painting and poetry. The exhibition is a showcase of alternatives to an urban life with organic, humanistic spaces at a time that creates increasing urban similarity around the world.

Fish Tank (2004)


Photo courtesy MAD

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 becomes the initial driving force for our design strategy in maximizing as well as optimizing the usage of limited space.

Hutong Bubble 32 (2008)


Photo: Shu He

The Hutong Bubble 32 introduces a new element into a traditional courtyard-house in Beijing. The bubble provides a toilet and a staircase that extended useable space to the roof.

Fake Hills (2008)


Photo courtesy MAD

A long slab with an undulating roof and circular openings. This unique shape maximizes the views of the residents, but at the same time becomes a monolithic break between the waterfront and the land behind it.

Among the projects shown in the exhibition is the City & Art Museum in Ordos, a museum for a new-town in Inner Mongolia created for a population that only a few generations ago exerted their culture as nomads. Also Ma Yansong’s international breakthrough, the award winning “Absolute Towers,” two curvious towers located in a fast urbanising suburb of Toronto. A commission he landed by winning an international competition by both public and professional vote.

Art Museum in Ordos (2011)


Photo: Iwan Baan


Photo: Iwan Baan

An irregular nucleus for the new town, a building divided into several exhibition halls, with white curvilinear walls inspired by natural lava texture. The museum is enwrapped in reflective metal shutters that transforms and reflects the ugliness or whatever appeals of the reality from the surroundings.

Absolute Towers 2006


Photo: Tom Arban


Photo: Tom Arban

Modernism has a famous motto: A house is a machine for living in. However, as the machines and the society constructed upon it have experienced dramatic changes, how should we understand today’s architecture now? Not only does the tower manifest the power of design, it also serves as a statement to the surrounding area and the social context.

If architecture traditionally travelled from the Western World to the East, Ma Yansong became a pioneer when proposing an inverse path; the conquest of China and the West by an architect born in China and managing projects worldwide from his studio in Beijing.

I work with emotion and with the context. When I design a building, I close my eyes and feel as if I saw a virtual world which lays half way between the city, the nature and the land. It goes from large scale to small scale. Many things travel in front of my eyes; I feel them and try to find the way to express my feelings. The language I use is the least important of it all. It does not matter whether they are straight lines, curves… I only intend for people to feel the same or to find something unexpected.
/Ma Yansong

It may seem odd to hear an architect speaking about feelings because, in general, this collective is more at ease speaking about their work in theoretical terms. And it should be recalled that Ma Yansong has collaborated renowned architecture ideologists of the last decades, such as Peter Eisenman, Zaha Hadid. But the subjective explanation – sensibility, contemplation – is a recurrent theme when referring to Ma Yansong’s work.

Shan Shui City research


Photo courtesy MAD


Photo courtesy MAD. Beijing 2050 (2006)


Photo courtesy MAD

Beijing and politics are inseparable. Almost all the landmark architectures in Beijing were built within a short period at several stages of modern society development. Will these architectural creations reshape the city? The city we mean is not just its images, but the lives of the people living in it.

Beijing-born architect Ma Yansong is recognized as an important voice in a new generation of architects. He graduated from the Beijing Institute of Civil Engineering and Architecture, attended Yale University after receiving the American Institute of Architects Scholarship for Advanced Architecture Research in 2001, and holds a masters degree in Architecture from Yale. He has since taught architecture at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing.

Ma Yansong was awarded the 2006 Architecture League Young Architects Award. In 2008 he was selected as one of the twenty most influential Young Architects today by ICON magazine and Fast Company named him one of the ten most creative people in architecture in 2009. In 2010 he became the first architect from China to receive a RIBA fellowship.

A fully illustrated catalogue published by Actar will be available worldwide.


CITY Madrid