Qi Kang: Patriotism of an Architect
Updated: 2010-11-18 16:02:03
Originally published in 2008
An undated file photo of Qi Kang.[paper.edu.cn]
"Youngsters should not be insincere, middle-aged people should not be vulgar, and the elderly should not be rigid."
Editor's Note: Qi Kang is an architect born in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, in October 1931. Qi graduated from the architecture department of Nanjing Institute of Technology. In 1993, he was elected a member of Chinese Academy of Sciences. He is now the director of the Research Institute of Architecture at Southeast University. As an expert in architectural design and theory, urban planning, landscape and garden design, Qi has received a number of national prizes. Two of his architectural designs were included in the top 10 master designs of China in the 1980s. He was awarded the title of "Master Architect of China" in 1990.
Commenting on Hangzhou's scenic West Lake, Qi said, "It is all right to view the West Lake from east to west, but the scenery is not good the other way round." He said that many citizens in China have made a common mistake, which is to tear down old lanes and residences in the process of urbanization and replace them with modern skyscrapers. The cities' regional characteristics and uniqueness are vanishing, and their images are becoming monotonous. The cities are losing their history. They have got "amnesia," he said.
"A city has its own blood and organs," he said. "If you want to operate on it, make sure you know where the arteries and veins are; otherwise, the result will be a massive hemorrhage. Protection of historic, cultural cities and scenic spots is imperative."
Qi said an architect's works should be humane and implanted with emotions. The design of architecture should be popular and understandable to the majority of people.
Looking at pictures of Qi's works, I felt strongly the thoughts and emotions these structures express. Some are filled with grief and indignation, such as The Memorial Hall to the Victims of Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders. Some are spectacular (The Rain Flower Terrace), some are intimate (Meiyuan Garden), and some are joyous (Ji Gong Temple on Mount Tiantai).
Wuyi Villa, a simple but elegant villa designed by Qi, won a National Gold Award. One of his students said, "Mr. Qi often tells us that not to misplace a building, it has to be in harmony with the environment. This villa looks as if it is growing out of the hill. Harmony between nature and man is not a daydream."
An undated file photo of Wuyi Villa. [baidu.com]
Qi said architecture is not an art of perfection. "Once a building is erected, we can't simply tear it down and start again if we're not satisfied with it. So we have to take extra care when we're designing it," he said.
"Which of your designs is the best?" I asked him. "None," he answered. "The past is past. I am continually starting from square one."