Campus College Design
When 10,000 designers create an art structure, there will be 10,000 different approaches and means of expression, but outstanding designers will all share one common idea: to confidently convey the theme and function through their own creative power. When creating public works of art, especially those with applied and functional uses, one cannot be like “pure” artists, indulging in imaginative whims without regard for the era’s practical limitations or structural necessities. One can only lead within and creatively span the small scope of an era’s established modes of thought. At this stage, society can only identify with your work in this way, because the users of your works are the vast throngs of ordinary people, and in meeting functional requirements, the art takes a leap ahead, albeit a limited one.
Campus culture is booming in today's world. The world's campus cultures, especially world-renowned schools like Harvard, Cambridge, Stanford, Berkeley, and so forth, all have their own historical cultures, themes, and main functions of the campus. Each defines, strengthens and amplifies itself through tangible and intangible means, achieving influence throughout the world, educating humanity, and fostering a public role.
Since ancient times, China's education has had its own set of means and methods based on its geographical culture, ethnic characteristics and social processes, forming a stable agricultural nation. These means and methods have been comprehensive and stable in all aspects over nearly two thousand years. In the heavens, the earth, the sovereign, the kin, the teacher, the loyal, the filial, the sincere, the faithful, the righteous, the ceremonial rites, the wisdom, trust that under the control of the sages of the imperial universe there have been generation after generation of brilliant and splendid humanistic culture. The Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties have all taken this route. In this world we were continuously ahead of the United States. Our individualized mode of education in which a master passed on his teachings to a single disciple was, for a long time, actually at the forefront of the world. This pedagogical style lasted until nearly three hundred years after the first industrial revolution, when it gradually fell out of fashion in favor of the worldwide college system teaching model.
Thus, China’s university culture is not nearly as deep-rooted or historically-entrenched as the Athens Academy of ancient Rome. In this respect, ancient China seems relatively young and even undeveloped.
For these reasons, our university culture, especially with regards to the architectural and cultural landscape of our colleges and universities, seems to be relatively simplistic and lacking in historical context. There is rarely a campus building or model that can stand alone internationally. Even the top-ranking universities in China, such as Tsinghua University, Peking University, Tianjin University, Jiaotong University, and Zhejiang University, lack historical and artistic depth. Because of these problems, our country has recently made the cultural aspects of campus construction a priority. Each school has tried every means to come up with its own campus culture, even to the detriment of both art and functionality. They expropriate land indiscriminately, create vulgar designs and unrealistic glitz, and make other poor design choices. These are the same problems of the entire country’s architecture today - it’s stuck in a vulgar, rootless, stylistically incoherent, glitzy state. History cannot be repeated. Time is always testing what we are doing. We are not without concern that in thirty years, the whole country will be a giant architectural trash heap.
This is an inevitable process faced by the era of vigorous economic growth in a large agricultural country. This process is not controlled by any politicians or authorities. We are only trying to curtail this period within the limits of our ability. The ancient Romans considered architecture the foremost of the six great arts. Throughout the history of civilization, the radiance of the Renaissance has flowed through this artistic framework. We are fortunate to live in this era, and to have the responsibility and ability to revitalize the culture of this ancient land.
From this point of view, we are yet another darling of the times. Political and social turbulence gives rise to heroism. The times have given us an opportunity and endowed us with responsibility. In a true sense this era’s designer is great yet lowly, and so as long as there’s a bit of a gap, we ought to create, on the basis of our own efforts, a humanistic garden that belongs to our country. To this end, constructing campus culture, campus architecture and campus landscape is an important step.
Zhejiang Vocational and Technical College of Construction
This is a professional construction industry college located on the Qiantang River in Xiaoshan, Hangzhou - Zhejiang Vocational and Technical College of Construction. It's not a well-known college, but it is one of the older institutions in Zhejiang. The teaching objectives are to train students in basic construction site work, including practical aspects such as architecture, gardens, materials, and accounting. Because the basic resource allocation of talent has always been in short supply, in accord with the huge demand of the current domestic construction market, the college is very marketable.
The dean recognized me, as we are from the same town. As the saying goes, “it was fated.” Some years ago, he did graduate work at Sheffield, and I gave a lecture in Europe. After returning to China, he served as county magistrate on an island. I went back there to buy the island for construction purposes. He returned to the provincial bureau of public works to manage the construction of parks. I was the dean of the School of Landscape Architecture and Design at the China Academy of Art. He transferred to this college to serve as dean, I was hired as a visiting professor there. Anyway, wherever he serves as a leader, I end up working. I said: In this life, we’re always aboard the same ship. He said that’s because we both like architecture, and want to construct buildings that are both frugal and cultural. “Great minds think alike.” This market is most in need of designers who possess an international concept of domestic culture and who use the least amount of money to produce first-rate work. At his invitation, I assumed responsibility for the overall landscape design and manufacturing work of the campus.
The original architecture of the campus has already been basically completed. The school is already in use and the landscape design has been implemented. However, the “construction” of the college of construction has not yet been realized; besides the buildings, there is still an expanse of more than 500 mu (33.3 hectares) of land. My task is to beautify the campus and endow it with functional characteristics. I was originally a visiting professor at the school, and I have a basic understanding of all its aspects. I hope that my creative ideas will be able to meet the desired goals. I re-examined its surrounding environment, and learned in detail about the school's pedagogical content and the proprietor's intentions. Under the premise of the established architecture, the campus culture will be creatively enhanced through the shaping of landscape and artistic components, visually and perceptually orienting and strengthening the individual characteristics of the campus. This mitigates the mediocrity of the original buildings.
1. The spatial elements that can be utilized in the original architectural layout are subtly extended and accommodated in new creative structures and landscapes. The creative concept incorporates artistic culture into the campus, which greatly alters its original visual image and psychological experience. It’s like boiling an assortment of incompatible foods into a delicious soup. The public praises the way this reduces the original lack of coherence and achieves a sense of unity.
In the construction of the landscape, we reinforced its vertical orientation, and made other significant changes, transforming the original form of the broad tract of land, enhancing the richness of the campus's landscape and giving teachers and students a strong functioning sense of campus identity and school pride.
One, the outward appearance of the campus —— The main entrance to the school, in the form of a pile of three books:
1. The school did not have a south entrance gate or avenue so proceedings began from there. At the same time, the West Entrance, which was being used, was transformed and coordinated with the specific characteristics of the South Gate.
2. “Virtue, Wisdom, Physique” -- these three principles are the school’s fundamental subjects. As the front of the entrance and first impression of the school, I used three representative books as a triple gate. Straight lines, colors, and materials exhibiting a dignified and decorous quality are squeezed into the original architectural style, creating a dialogue with the original style of the school’s buildings, and striving for harmony.
3. The triple gate spanned 36 meters. It was a grand yet empty space, lacking the necessary structural support, rigid and harsh. I have set up three narrowed door frames that act as structural bearings and functionally divide vehicular traffic and pedestrian flow at the entrance and exit.
4. Then after that, are the details of the structural plans, which need to be concise, generous, but also informative and durable. I discarded the faddish stone relief sculptures and other such methods to make a “postmodern” point. Between the double doors I placed traditional Chinese bronze architectural symbols-- “dougong” (interlocking corbel brackets), which is also a symbol of the school. These not only function as structural supports, but also highlight the school’s logo in the center. It also symbolically restores the past historical function of “dougong.” The calligraphic inscriptions of the school name and the English name of the school are arranged so that they mitigate the stiffness of the design and functional demands of the door. There are no other patterns or details that could be included here; anything more would be superfluous. If the gate appears to be generous yet simple, and works in concert with the original structure in terms of materials and colors, it becomes a thematic feature of the entire campus.
Second, the transition between the gate and the teaching area-- the gallery of architectural history symbols:
After entering campus through the south gate, the wide, open space spreads out flat. The distance from the center of campus makes it a good place to create a vertical change in the campus and extend the site of the original buildings. “The vast sea allows fish to jump freely,” here this phrase establishes a cultural momentum with the main entrance, in dialogue with the original buildings of the campus. The original creative design is exactly what one would want. I will revise these a bit and make everything from the entrance to the wide road complement the entire landscape, and begin to implement this economical yet brilliant creation.
From Zhejiang's “Liangzhu” neolithic cultural symbol-- the “Jade Cong” (a long, hollow piece of jade with rectangular sides) to the Chinese architectural symbol-- “dougong” (corbel brackets), from the Ionic columns to the Corinthian and Doric ones, a sequence, a corridor, will symbolize the world. The carved granite columns, replete with architectural cultural elements, form a queue at the entrance to the boulevard, which both gives the college its cultural theme and provides a model for the teaching of architectural history. The grand and staid style of the entrance gate is both enduring and meets the vertical functional requirements of the site.
1. The column is a 21-ton granite original stone carving. Square arrangements of 18 are still rare in China. It is an unprecedentedly difficult yet not profitable project, from quarrying the stone, lifting it with a crane and transporting it, to putting the finishing touches on it and installing it. Each link must be designed with its feasibility in mind; is all of the transportation machinery in the quarry equipped for handling load-bearing tonnage? Transporting 21 tons, the design must take into account the loading and unloading of the flatbed truck, each and every turn, even entering the Hangzhou City traffic control zone, along with the fundamentals of dismantling and assembling the crane, reservations, and so on. In my mind, I saw the holistic nature of the scene after the work’s completion. I also felt the complexity of the matter, its allure and enormous pressure.
2. Is such a magnificent work of landscape art, placed at the entrance of a lesser-known college, commensurate with the school’s rank? Is the college one that is unworthy of historical permanence? Is such a main entrance organically integrated with the architectural style, form, dimensions, character, function, and spatial organization of the entire college? Based on data from a survey of the industry in China and abroad, I learned that the vocational teaching directions of the college and its social needs are in line with the basic requirements of people in this industry. The demand for vocational teaching has occupied a major share of the international market. Here is a major indicator that never falters. Presumably its historicity and appreciation will be relatively enduring. The main teaching area of the completed vocational construction college occupies 500 mu. Its architectural style, form and dimensions have been creatively emphasized in the entrance area, which will fully express the individual characteristics of the college. The conceptual design has won the support of leaders, teachers and students at all levels.
3. Of course, there is another important issue, and ultimately, it is most important. Is it economically feasible? Is the cost of building this for such a school a form of extravagance?
Various problems in the conceptual design must be resolved quickly and fixed in advance. With the approval and support of all parties, I have absolute confidence in the ability of the stone carving factory. Because I established this stone carving creation site myself. For its quality, speed, and ability, it is exceptional. During the installation of the work, the only worry was that it was not clear whether the maximum capacity of the city's crane would be sufficient to ensure the accuracy of the vertical reinforcement of the stone column while lifting the column vertically. Because even if there are only a few millimeters of misalignment, granite of this weight is extremely fragile and will crack if hit. Sure enough, this problem was confirmed during the installation. The senior engineer on site believed it could not be installed as scheduled with the province’s machinery. We considered a combination of commonly used “indigenous methods.” The director of the sculpture factory, a peasant, got into a red-faced argument with the senior engineer. As a result, the school authorities asked me to spend three days erecting one column, meaning the 18 columns would take about two months to install. So, we ended up erecting three columns a day. The project was completed well in advance. The working class is truly strong.
As for the funds, the proprietor knew in advance by bidding that the market price for columns was more than 100,000 a piece, which would make it impossible to complete this project. Even bold people would be concerned. Instead we spent 30,000 or 40,000 yuan per column -- about the price of an ordinary house in Hangzhou -- to create an eternal work of art. Like the stone columns of ancient Rome, it will tower above the campus avenue forever. A school's creative and cultural works are the representatives of its campus. Creating an eternal, thematic work for the campus is the most economical investment.
In the past few years, leaders, scholars, students, and visitors to the campus have all admired this work. I executed a creative work on campus that achieved the best results with the least amount of investment.
4. The installation and construction problems of the design concept were quickly resolved and fixed. I have absolute confidence in the abilities of the Fujian Stone Carving Factory, because I established it as the base for producing my own stone carvings 10 years ago. I have a good grasp of its quality, speed and abilities. The only concern was that in the installation of the work, I was not certain whether the maximum capacity of the city's crane would be sufficient to ensure the accuracy of the vertical reinforcement of the stone column while lifting the column vertically. Because even if there are only a few millimeters of misalignment, granite of this weight is extremely fragile and will crack if hit. Sure enough, this problem was confirmed during the installation. The senior engineer on site believed that the province’s machinery would not be able to accomplish this task. We considered a combination of commonly used “indigenous methods.” The director of the sculpture factory, a peasant, got into a red-faced argument with the senior engineer over technical issues. The school authorities said that no matter what, we had to have a column erected within three days, giving us about two months to finish installing all 18 columns. So, we combined indigenous methods and ended up erecting three columns a day. The project was completed well in advance. The working class is truly strong.
5. Of course, there is another very important question: Is it economically feasible? Given the school’s size, are such manufacturing costs overly extravagant? The proprietor found out by bidding that the market price for columns was more than 100,000 a piece, which would make it impossible to complete this project. Even bold people would be concerned. Instead we spent 30,000 or 40,000 yuan per column. We created an enduring work of art for about the price of a small apartment in Hangzhou. Like the stone columns of ancient Rome, it will tower above the campus avenue forever. A school's creative and cultural works are the representatives of its campus. With the most economical investment, we created an eternal thematic work on campus. Almost every student who enrolled and graduated left a lasting mark here.
Third, the public furnishings of the campus:
The wall of the campus is a few kilometers long. It merges simple and commonplace cement and iron into a “dougong corbel bracket” with its own cultural characteristics. This gives it an unique quality, making it a wall with soul and thought. On the same campus, the road signs, trash cans, signposts, landscape sculptures and other public furnishings all share a unified design that uses a "C I" style I made. This connects them to the calligraphy inscription on the school gate, for which my strong handwriting was also chosen. This series of cultural and creative ideas, produced for the functional facilities of the entire campus, enhance its essential characteristics. This created a strong cultural atmosphere and sense of professionalism on campus. In the past few years, leaders, scholars, students, and visitors to the campus have all admired this work. Here, I practiced a design concept that achieved the greatest results with the least amount of financial investment, giving the dean a satisfactory answer.