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Sensual City, Rational Exploration

陈溪Cecilia Chan 2016-01-22 10:30

VANTAGE: You founded your design studio back in 1993 in France, and in 2012 your Shanghai office was established. You have worked on quite a number of architectural design projects in China. In your opinion, what are the differences between Western and Eastern designs in terms of their style and emphasis?

FERRIER: I think there are differences, but also commonalities between Western and Eastern designs. China’s overall design environment is different from that of Europe. One key difference comes from time. In China, a designer, in general, is given a very short timeframe to work on a project; clients always put pressure on us for completion. If it was Europe, more time would be given for research. The commonality is that we apply the same design concepts in both China and Europe. In recent years, there is an increasing number of foreign design studios being established in China. We aim for the best designs within the timeframe given. We maintain the same quality and standard for all our designs. For instance, the HuaXin Business Centre in Shanghai, its design concept and techniques are similar to what we used on the headquarters of Hachette Livre, the second largest publisher in France. If we were to compare the two, one of the most important features they share is that they are not only buildings, but also parks in the city. 

During the HuaXin Business Centre project in Shanghai, there was a river fenced off by walls, we decided to tear down the walls and build an overpass to connect the building with the river—a symbol of returning the river to its citizens while creating a feeling of a public park. It allowed nearby neighbours to come, visit, and rest. We also built a rooftop that blends the building in with its surrounding scenery—the second feature of our designs, is that a building is meant to connect with the environment it is in.


VANTAGE: How would you interpret your “Dong Zhang Xi Wang” architectural exhibit?
Exhibit Theme: Most European cities are fairly well developed, but China has much more room for new ar- chitecture. The Puxi district in Shanghai offers a good point of reference. While Shanghai is famous for its high population density, new buildings are still going up. China’s cities have large populations, which my exhibit theme tried to embrace: “Dong Zhang Xi Wang.” In French, it means “Ob- servation between the West and the East,” and it is also an expression of a mutual learning process. Western cities’ architecture styles are too compact for China, in comparison, China has much more room to play with different types of architecture. Take Shanghai’s Puxi District as an example, despite its high population density, new buildings are still being constructed, this phenomenon does not happen in Europe. My hope is to take the advanced designs for com- pact cities in Europe and use them towards China’s urban planning and building—this is something China can learn from Europe. In France, there are a lot of limitations; unlike China where many design possibilities and variations are allowed.


VANTAGE: When you were bidding for the design of the French Pavilion during the Shanghai Expo, where did you get your inspiration? Can you share with us some interesting stories during construction?

FERRIER: First, the French Pavilion adopted a very traditional Chinese architectural design shape. The inspiration came from China’s traditional courtyards. The pavilion is a square construction with an open courtyard in the middle. The thought was to include a round space inside a square building, or to have a round space encompassing a square building, similar to “round sky and square ground”. The design framework was entirely an inspiration drawn from traditional Chinese architectural design concepts. The second inspiration has something to do with landscape architectural elements. I think China is very good at land-scape architecture. Inspired by Chinese public parks and palaces, I did not wish to build an isolated building, rather make it connect with its landscape. That is why there was a garden on the top, and there were also gardens growing up the Pavilion. The gardens’ patterns were inspired by the Château de Versailles (Palace of Versailles). However, the combination of gardens and architecture was again another in uence of Chinese design thinking. In regards to the Pavilion’s sustainability, a new design concept was used. First, a new type of cement material wrapped around the Pavilion, which made it look like a suspended white palace. At the same time, the designs allowed the Pavilion itself to be able to release heat. During the Shanghai Expo, the weather was humid and hot, but through the plants, water and natural air owing in and out of the Pavilion, the building was able to cool itself down effectively; so when inside the Pavilion, one could feel nature and freshness. We designed the Pavilion’s exterior and interior separately, considering that it would be used for different purposes after the Expo., our design was also based on convenience and easy conversion. Today, the French Pavilion has been converted to the “Shanghai 21st Century MinSheng Art Museum..”


VANTAGE: In general, people have a very rational under- standing of architecture. But based on your humanistic view of future cities you proposed the concept of “Sensual City” and Sensual City Lab. Can you elaborate on your idea of “Sensual City?”

FERRIER: My wife, Pauline Marchetti and I are research- ing the concept of “Sensual City.” The idea originated from my understanding of modern technology’s applications in architecture, which are to separate human sensations from nature. For example, when you sit in a hotel with air condi- tioning, you will not be able to feel the outside temperature or wind or smell owers. If you do want to feel them, then you will have to open the windows; not surprisingly, the air conditioners will then lose their functional meaning and purpose. Take another example: if you would like to hear the sound of a city, of course you would not want to hear its noise. So the hope is that future technologies will be able to eliminate noise or minimise its impact; if you would like to smell owers, future technologies will then need to be able to get rid of pollution. Thus the concept of “Sensual City” is to use advanced technologies to connect humans with architecture and nature. So, Pauline and I founded “Sensual Studio” to conduct research on technol- ogies related to the “Sensual City” concept. Two years ago, we won the bid of “the Greater Paris Express Project”. My design rm was commissioned as the chief design consult- ant to plan and build 57 new subways. The opportunity allowed us to establish an industrial standard because all other designers had to consider the concept and the rules of “Sensual City.”


VANTAGE: You have been practicing in the architectural design industry for years, how would you define good projects?

FERRIER: A good project should not only answer one question, rather it should answer multiple questions. For example, the CAOHEJING project; when we won the bid, the client only requested a nice looking of ce, but besides a well-designed office, we were also able to create a park. Looking at the outside, the architecture has a very artistic exterior; you will notice that viewing from different angles gives you different colours. We hope we can challenge our- selves with a series of questions in all our designs and be a pioneer in a region. For instance, after the Huaxin Business Center project many developers expressed interest in designing projects with either rivers or gardens. Projects like this will provoke people’s thoughts and inspire neighbouring developers; it is only then that a project can be de ned as a good project.


About In Brief

Sensual City Studio was founded by Jacques Ferrier and Pauline Marchetti, in association with the philosopher Philippe Simay. Sensual City Studio represents a laboratory of ideas, creation and urban foresight. It brings together a network of professionals from the worlds of art, architecture and urban planning, as well as the social sciences.

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