“The gem cannot be polished without friction nor man without trials.” - Confucius
Recently the Pritzker Prize was awarded to Hangzhou-based Wang Shu, a Chinese architect with a low-profile internationally. Wang has only designed buildings in China. But his clear, loud, architectural voice resonates globally.
Environment: His design approach is innovative and uses recycled materials salvaged from razed buildings. Although it does not mirror the sleek style of rapidly growing Chinese cities, Wang transforms salvaged materials into “powerful forms that are ruggedly contemporary and steer clear of saccharine readings of the past.”
Ningbo History Museum
One of the best examples of this inspiration is the Ningbo History Museum. The building looks like an ancient, carved geological form.
Ningbo History Museum
Wang Shu was inspired by the nearly mountains, and says, “In the Chinese tradition, whenever nature has been dramatically damaged, people tend to recreate it in artificial forms to satisfy their desire to be closer to nature.”
Wang Shu in front of Academy of Art Hangzhou
Urbanization: Wang Shu and his wife Lu Wenyu, who Wang feels also deserved the Pritzker honor, takes a critical view of the architecture profession’s part in the demolition and destruction of large urban areas.
To reflect this belief, Shu and Wenyu named their firm Amateur Architecture Studio. Wang wanted to emphasize the spontaneous and experimental aspects of his work instead of being official and monumental.
- Library, Wenzheng College
Freedom: And despite his acclaim, Wang intimately gets involved in all his projects but relenquishes absolute control to his craftsmen. In China, where architects are burning the candle at both ends trying to design everything and control the project, Wang wants his craftsmen to work freely.
“I find that when the craftsmen can’t follow my drawings exactly, that’s when amazing things happen,” says Wang. How does he know this? Wang himself worked for almost a decade on construction crews and learning the craft. As his career continue to flourish, I’m excited by his point of view.
Architecture’s Influence on Jewelry: As an art, jewelry can also take inspiration from architecture. Both art forms take direction from their surroundings, architecture from the location, jewelry from the human form. Barbara Maas, author of “Architecture in Jewelry,” says both arts require an eye for scale and proportion.
The architecture aesthetic that comes structure and fluidity is particularly beautiful in jewelry. Keeping an eye open for these, here are some pieces that I feature in my collection:
Gold and Hematite Disc Earrings ($25)
Gold Intertwined Oval and Disc Shaped Hoops ($30)
Black Crystal Bracelet ($58)