What’s the focus of your design practice in recent years? What have you thought about them?
We have seen in recent times a big demand in the development of mixed-use projects in China and abroad. Our opinion about this urban-development strategy is positive due to the understanding that it might increase our urban-life quality. For example, a less-car-dependant society will mean less pollution as a first consequence, but also a more consolidate social structure. However, these urban conglomerations are usually planned with no interference with local conditions. The repetition of this sort of mixed-use complexes without understanding local conditions usually generates a completely detachment from the surrounding-urban realm.

Due to the opportunity of having been involved in the development of some mixed-use projects during the last years, we have been working on how to combine local conditions with this sort of architecture strategies. The research in different levels about social, environmental, historical, and economical conditions has always been a crucial first step for us of how to make the new mixed-use complex to interact with the surrounding areas, and therefore being an integrated part of the pre-existing urban and social reality.

What difficulties have you encountered during your design work? Where did the inspiration and encouragement come from? How did you tackle with all these issues?
In the development of the mixed-use urban strategy, we are facing the concern from the client in the belief that the development of the mixed-use areas in the city is going to be more difficult to handle than that of a single use. Nevertheless, the sustainability of the city (not only environmental but also in terms of social and economical aspects) depends on recovering some basic lessons which have been forgotten: the traditional and sustainable city has always been that which is rich in terms of density, and diverse in programmatic conditions.

We can go back to the Mediterranean or medieval city in terms of sustainability. There, the walls played the role of containing the urban sprawl, making sure that the city achieved a high density before tearing, and reestablishing afterwards, the walls further.

In terms of the individual mixed-use buildings, we apply very similar concepts to those concepts that we apply for the big urban scale: making those different programs (habitation, working, and recreation spaces) to get at together. By doing so, we have usually found gaps of opportunities which have showed us new possibilities for the architectural experience.

What’s the influence of such deliberation that you have mentioned above have on your design work?
More a more, we can see endless number of cities which look almost the same: repetition has become the norm of the urban developments. Nevertheless, the general complain from inhabitants (social complain), public institutions (differentiation), and real estate developers (selling issue) is the difficulty of differentiate themselves from each other. On the other hand, we have seen how successful is when the urban or architecture designs achieve that identification, identity, or differentiation from each other, through understating of the local conditions (physical, historical, climatic…).

Please talk about your recent key projects. (Including design concepts and design methods)
Our latest first-prize-international-competition has been an urban design in the city of Zhengzhou, Henan province, P.R.China. It is a new-42km2-area which includes local administration; commercial and office space; residential; sport facilities; education and public facilities, and industry. A recent proof of how the combination of a client willing to listen, and a team of architects and urban planners with a clear aim, can start producing an indeed mixed-use urban development based on the creation of seven urban nodes (pre-existing settlements) that will become eventually a 500,000 inhabitant’s urban area.

Similar principles have been applied to the mixed-use project in Wangfujing Street, Beijing, for the private developer Hong Kong Land. In this case, the way of combining the hotel, residential, and commercial activities has produced unexpected ways of using the space.

Moreover, we have had the opportunity to work in Shanghai which comes to be the most developed city in China, as we can see in their architectural-and-urban-detail interventions. The area to explore its possibilities is situated in the French concession: six buildings and one element in common; their public realm, and also one question: how to transform it in a unique architectural experience? The combination of a hospitality facilities, commercial space, and diverse art-related-work environments, has been calculated in order to transform it into a harmonious mix of historic building fabric, modern architecture, lavish courtyard and unusual sophistication at its finest.

Our approach is based on two words; research and creativity. Although these two words have repetitive used until the moment we have forgotten their meaning, they are the base of how to integrate -as a cooker does in a kitchen- the different ingredients.

Please share with us your working plan and expectations for your future career. Which architectural concepts do you want to perform further in your practice?
The most successful experiments in the History of Architecture have been those which have been really connected to the social need –physical and emotional-. We have been working in line with that way of thinking and its architectural and urban implications. With our focus on emerging countries (emerging necessities) we will continue exploring the possibilities that architecture and urbanism have by learning from the creativity and determination of those developing countries.

If you have any other idea to express? Please write it down here.
The current emerging regions in the world are becoming challengeable for both local and western architects. Scale, lost of identity, endless necessity of one social and appropriate urban frame, and the unprecedented speed are the ultimate challenge for those involved in the creation of our urban frame.

1. 在您近期的设计实践中,何为您最关注的部分?您对此是怎样考虑的呢?
近年来,我们发现,无论是在中国国内或国外,对于综合体(多功能体)的开发需求日渐增多。虽然,我们这一城市发展策略的观点保持积极的态度,因为从某种意义上讲,它能够提高人民的都市生活质量(例如:车辆较少的社会不仅意味着污染度轻,也是一个坚固的城市结构的映射),然而,这些都市大型综合体并不影响当地布局条件。在未懂得当地现存条件的情况下进行大批量综合体的复制建设往往导致它们与大环境想脱离的后果。由于近几年来我们曾有机会参与了几个综合体项目的开发(如,北京一处综合体、及河南郑州新区规划项目),我们一直努力地思考怎样将当地条件(广义上理解)与我们理解的这类建筑设计策略相结合。我们的研究范围从社会条件、环境条件、历史条件到经济条件,研究深度也不等。这些研究工作对我们参与城市功能配置(综合体区)起着至关重要的第一步,使综合体与周围区域得到互动,从而成为先存都市一部分。 
2. 在您的设计创作过程中,您所遇到的最大的困难是什么?您的创作灵感和创作动机来自于哪里?您是怎样应付、处理这类问题的?
在我们开发城市综合体项目的过程中(无论是独立地块还是整体城市)我们通常遇到的问题来自于业主对综合体建筑开发的管理所带来的难度,其难度系数远大于单独体的管理。然而,一个城市的可持续性(不仅包括环境可持续性,而且还包括社会及经济的可持续性)有赖于那些已被遗忘了的历史教训:一座传统并可持续发展的城市拥有着一定的密度指数以及编制条件的多样性。让我们回顾地中海或中世纪时期人们对城市对可持续性的解读。那个时候,在城市螺旋线中,城墙起着至关重要的作用,它能够定义城市扩张的范围,保证范围内的密度之后再拆除、并继续向城市周边扩展。就单独综合体而言,我们也曾将类似的理念应用于大型的项目之中:将功能迥异项目如:居住、办公和休闲娱乐等)融为一体。通过这种方式,我们通常能够发现它所带来的新契机及应用在建筑设计创作之中的可能。 3. 以上您所谈到的想法对您的创作过程有何影响?
我们发现,当今越来越多的城市千城一面:复制式的城市战略手段已被为大多数城市采用。然而,来自于群众(即公众不满)、设计院校(漠然态度)、及房地产开发商(销售问题)的不满使得问题难以应付。另一方面,我们也发现,当一个建筑设计实现了它的特性功能的定义,或功能有别于其他的时候,它的成功来源于对当地条件,如:地理条件、历史文化、天气气候等深刻的理解。4. 请谈谈您最近的重点项目。(包括理念设计和设计手法)
我们近期的重点项目是在中国河南郑州的城市设计国际方案征集头奖中标项目。该项目占地42平方公里,为一处新区城市规划项目。新区用地构成为:行政区、商业办公区、居住区、运动场、教育及公共设施用地与工业用地。此项目恰好证明了一位乐于听取意见的业主与一组理念清晰的建筑师、城市规划师团队能够实现一座真正意义上的高度混合的城市。基于七处城市网点(已成形部落),扩大发展成为一处50万居住人口的城市。

我们曾将类似的设计原则应用在我们为私人业主Hong Kong Land设计的另外一个项目:北京王府井综合体。就这一案例来讲,这种综合整合酒店、居住及商业空间的策略为空间的分配使用带来了一线惊喜。

另外,在中国最发达的城市上海市我们曾有机会参与一处项目的开发,在这个项目中,我们能够发现它们建筑与城市细节的牵连。这处待开发的项目位于上海市法界区:六栋楼体共享同一建筑元素、同一公共区域。正因如此,它们同样面临同一个问题:怎样将它们转型成一处独一无二的建筑体验呢?我们曾就服务式公寓、商业空间、艺术工作室整合作出大量的运算,皆在将此处打造出一处充满历史气息、现代气息浓郁、奢华别致庭院,一处不凡之地。

我们的设计思路围绕着两个词:研究与创造。虽然这对辞藻曾反复被人们挂在嘴边,但它们真正的含义却被人们逐渐淡忘。研究与创造两个词正如在厨房中厨师手中的作料,它们是综合一切的元素。

5. 请与我们分享一下您的工作计划及您对未来的职业期待。将来,在您的建筑实践中,您更喜欢展示哪类的建筑理念呢?

历史上成功的建筑案例往往都是与社会需求最紧密相连的,即:实体与情感的交流。在过去的这几年中,我们曾将我们的设计理念沿着当地建筑与城市规划的贯彻方向一同发展。怀揣着我们对发展中国家的关注、我们将继续探索那里的建筑设计和城市设计潜力,同时向发达国家吸取经验,借鉴它们的创造力及坚韧的毅力,将我们认知与理解融入创作之中。

6.您的其他感言。

当今,世界上部分地区的建筑设计不仅为国内的建筑师带来更多挑战,而且西方建筑师也深有同感:挑战来自于尺度的悬殊、特性的流失、不计其数的客观社会矢量标准、及瞬息万变的城市节奏等,都是我们现代都市框架所带来的最终挑战。

现代建筑与传统建筑的扮演的角色差距越来越大(如建筑外立面配置、体量的组织),现代建筑师需清楚地懂得当今这个高度连接社会下人们的需求及渴望,并向人们展示生活在一个高度混合的都市给人们带来的无限可能。

Manuel N. Zornoza

Founder / Principal Architect