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Proposal and Advice

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Everybody is gazing upon China's new image. The top Chinese business and government circles are carefully using this as an opportunity, not only to keep the China hype abroad alive (and fuel the economy) but also to brand China as a new and modern state for its inhabitants. Not only the Olympic Games and the Shanghai World Expo but also spectacular architecture projects in second and third tier cities are creating an image the whole country can relate to and be proud of.

BUILDING IN CHINA IS A COMPLEX PROCESS and much more complex as it seems at first sight, there is a tight regulation scheme to deal with, and collaborations with the local design institutes are a condition sine qua non.

On the other hand, CHINESE ARCHITECTURE NEEDS MORE TIME and better research conditions, both within and beyond the schools, in order to develop its own concepts and theories. Chinese theoretical architecture, in order words, is still very much work-in-process although some Chinese architects and developers are very skilled in playing the hype.

THE CHINESE CITIES REMAIN A HIGHLY INTERESTING SITE FOR RESEARCH and more and more international researchers and architecture scholars have understood this. Chinese professionals are slowly entering debate, but lack a context to build up discourse and seek interaction. Moreover, urban development is more often debated in artistic and non-architectural academic circles than among architects. This makes done research highly scattered, invisible, lacking a broader framework bringing it all together. When searching for Chinese counterparts, or setting up international collaborative events such as studio’s, seminars and/or exhibitions, EXPERIENCED MEDIATORS ARE ABLE TO IDENTIFY THE RIGHT PEOPLE TO CONNECT WITH.

The international community with an interest in the Chinese architecture market should be well informed and HAVE A SOLID LOCAL PARTNER, while international collaboration can be at its most useful in an educational context. Guest lectures, workshops and joint architecture studio’s are not easy to get together but can be very useful and interesting for both parties with the right partners involved and sufficient preparations done. Outside the architecture schools, there is a HUGE NEED FOR INTERACTION BETWEEN THE DIFFERENT PRACTICES AND RESEARCHERS; well-prepared, well-communicated and well-connected residencies, lectures, symposia and/or research projects could serve as a vehicle to accommodate more local exchange, while creating at the same time a point of reference for international scholars and architects. Exhibitions can be an addition to this. In general, as the Chinese architectural scene has hardly formed itself, try to go for the package deal: an exhibition with a series of discursive events, both in and outside the schools, COMPROMISING FORMAL AND INFORMAL ENCOUNTERS.

While most of the prominent building projects in China today grab attention with grand architectural gestures, INNOVATION AND ORIGINAL DESIGN REMAIN A KEY NEED IN CHINA. Even though some local architects are already exploring more sophisticated ways of connecting today’s construction to the Chinese cultural heritage such as in Xintiandi or Qinpu, foreign influence is perceived as a welcome potential to develop a new identity for Chinese design. Designing distinctive modern buildings, with all of the West's technical and material sophistication is considered new and as Chinese. Preserving historical Chinese traditions and working in local context is key.

The educational efforts cannot only focus on the cross-section of visual art and architecture but also on innovative designs and concepts, social issues, local context, fine-grain issues of sustainability and materiality, and low-budget constructions. There should also be more projects and campaigns to INSPIRE ECOLOGICAL SENSITIVITY AND COMMUNITY AWARENESS of the interdependent relationship between society and architecture.

There is a need to raise awareness, as Chinese developers need to learn from the knowledge of other countries and implement these in sustainable building projects. The industry is currently facing difficulties because of the economical and financial downturn, which affects not only China and its domestic companies, but also the foreign companies who are situated in China. How to move from demonstration projects to implementing real life projects? Move from commercial project to a feasible project that will eventually lead to 'payback'. The public has to be made more aware of sustainability. While there are clear signals that the market for sustainable building in China is getting more and more developed, it is also know that money is often considered more of a motivator than ideas. One suggestion from the market scans and mapping is to establish a socalled ‘’Dutch Taskforce’’, which can transfer, and FURTHER DEVELOP KNOWLEDGE IN THE FIELD OF SUSTAINABILITY by organizing a road show where a team of specialists is provided to demonstrate projects. This could eventually lead to the implementation of real life projects.

The public has to be made more aware of. With the market for sustainable building in China getting more and more developed the financial crisis in a way can also be perceived as a chance when focussing on this particular experience in architectural innovation and expertise. The goal lays in communicating the benefits of a long-term investment in these technologies, construction method and design strategies. Real-estate developers present a special challenge in this topic; they are the CLIENTS TO WHOM THESE CONCEPTS NEED TO BE COMMUNICATED AND BROUGHT TO ATTENTION.

Indeed there is interest and need for knowledge in sustainable building that comes from abroad. The objective of Dutch architects should be to demonstrate their knowledge by implementing this in real life projects.