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.
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。
Manuel N. Zornoza
Founder / Principal Architect