Interview: Yunshi Chen and Ruichen Xu
Luca Curci talks with Yunshi Chen and Ruichen Xu during the 4th Edition of LONDON CONTEMPORARY 2022, at THE LINE Contemporary Art Space.
Yunshi Chen and Ruichen Xu, after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 2021 with an 8-year Architecture study, are working as Architectural Designers in the US. We are focusing on using traditional architectural ways to seek resolutions to social issues like post-pandemic architecture. We focus on pop-art installation, regional topics, adaptive use, and affordable housing development in megacities. Our studies in architecture grant a unique perspective along with experimental concept designs to explore possibilities and feasible resolutions for such topics. We hope architecture and illustrations could help designers express both their own understanding of the world and their expectation for a better world.
Luca Curci – What is art for you?
Yunshi Chen and Ruichen Xu – We always believe that Architecture is an extraordinary and eternal way of expressing Art. You can never separate art from a building, no matter if it is a small shelter or a magnificent skyscraper. All details live in architecture and evoke for itself the world with its own voice as architecture. Similarly, we architects translate our thinking and understanding of the world using the language of architecture. Trying to create a dialogue with the user and also the visitor of the building by inserting our vision and expectation of the world. After almost 8-year of Architecture study, Architecture and Art have become our new way of communication, not only between us two but also with other people in different fields. Especially, we are all working as an architect in different cities, creating art that almost penetrated every second of our life. And after doing practical architectural projects, we get to learn more about how Art and Architecture are powerful and how much we should be responsible. Architecture could not only serve as a functional shelter, a beautiful eye candy, or even a Rolex for someone’s inordinate vanity but more like a help offering to the client to improve their lives with our professional strategies. We have seen a building making effort for the regeneration of the whole community. We have also witnessed a museum helping the country recover from the post-industrial era and bringing billions of dollars only depending on a single museum. Art and Architecture is more like our entire life.
LC -How did you get to your current artistic practice?
YC & RX – Starting with an architecture major, we started our journey by interpreting this practical industry with continuous architectural tasks. 100% of the tasks are seeking solutions to real social issues and personal requirements for specific locations, programs, and functions according to the client. Since we are always considering feasible and practical solutions, we did not realize that Art has been instinctively integrated with Architecture. Unfortunately, we were believing that architectural products are to some extent different from other types of art productions. However, with the progress of our study in Architecture and keep learning more styles and possibilities in this field, we get to understand that Art and Architecture emerge simultaneously. And since then, we have focused more on designing spaces in a practical and aesthetic way. Eventually, our proud project, Breach As A Bridge, has been designed and selected to be exhibited in the LONDON CONTEMPORARY 2022 exhibition.
LC – Where do you find your inspiration?
YC & RX – Architecture has been a rigid demand for people for thousands of years. Therefore, the purpose of architectural productions, namely buildings, must be habitable as the most important aspect for architects to consider. During our professional training in schools, most of the tasks have specific locales and cultures. We will firstly be inspired by the local conditions including the contexts, local community, vernacular style and culture, and also the weather conditions, etc. We will mostly base on the research and combine it with the distinct requirements of the client. The other inspiration would be the future of the community, the city, or even the country we are envisioning after the commencement of our new building.
LC – How is being an artist nowadays?
YC & RX – Due to the basic principles in the architecture design field, almost all buildings and projects are driven by the client’s own aesthetic preferences and the capital market since we would not be the ones who pay to build the concrete monsters. So this fact somehow places restrictions on architects’ possibilities of representing themselves and applying enough thoughts and art expressions to it. Furthermore, more and more new techniques are being invented which are popular to be applied in the traditional architecture industry like the AR/VR experience applying for providing immersive experiences for both architects and clients, 3D printing, and other new model-making techniques gradually replacing the human model-makers and forcing architects to learn more and more software and modelling techniques. Also, the Metaverse is creating new challenges and possible futures for architecture to be ‘constructed’ on a virtual land or even in a vague space. Nowadays, Artists would have more choices when expressing ideas but also more difficult to utilize the technique in a suitable way. Just like the quote said by the famous Architect Louis Kahn, “You say to a brick, ‘What do you want, brick?’ And brick says to you, ‘I like an arch. ‘ And you say to brick, ‘Look, I want one, too, but arches are expensive and I can use a concrete lintel.”
LC -Do you use art to express something in particular? Is it your medium of expression?
YC & RX – At school, even though some projects and tasks are focusing on the real functions of the concrete box itself, we have experienced some other projects focusing more on the influence of the building on the context. After that, we got a chance to collaborate together in this project, and thanks to this opportunity we could express our concern about the urban space in the post-COVID period from an architect’s point of view. This is quite our medium of expression. Utilizing architecture as a unique tube to express and create positive influences on the world.
LC – In which way the artwork presented in our exhibition is connected with the exhibition’s theme?
YC & RX – Contemporary, which has a wide definition. People from any era could say they are living in the contemporary world, the same as us. We were envisioning the post-COVID life of London over the River Thames with the unique tool – Architecture – and exploring possible solutions to the possible changes in people’s behaviour and even mental barriers because of COVID. This project is a contemporary simulation of the changes happening with social distances and public activities when people are more open to enjoying the outside world again. We are more open to the programs on the bridge we designed, and the spaces created by the bridge are not acting as constraints to size people in particular areas but offer more freedom for them to explore the precious space on the bridge. In this way, we believe that we are respecting the users of the architecture in a contemporary way.
LC – Can you explain something about the artworks you have in our exhibition?
YC & RX – Our key takeaway from Rosalind Krauss’s Klein Diagram is to resist defining a domain. The tensions between the pair happen at the periphery where architecture, non-architecture, landscape, non-landscape, structure, and non-structure coexist. The ambiguity between each of the two terms generates the concept that a mixture of landscape, structure, and architecture can be in a formal expression. Habitable Topography, the artificial topos weaving and interacting create the space consisting of Architecture and Landscape. And the orientation of the bridge is to challenge the existing segregated districts in zoning and propose an idea of “breaching” the geological obstacles. The bridge has a large cross shape with two perpendicular wings. This tangential and far-reaching gesture hovers above the River Thames, introducing a pedestrian experience to the mixture of commercial, residential, recreational, and urban landscape programs. The bridge not only provides effortless circulation across the River Thames, which has been historically regarded as the main division between north and south demography but also provides a variety of open and flexible experiences of entertainment and sports. By creating an extension of the existing and proposed cycle routes, our bridge is an extended urban fabric of London.
LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
YC & RX – YES! Definitely. We are impressed by the ITSLIQUID GROUP which is extremely professional when organizing the exhibition. You broke tons of the barriers that we architects/artists would face when presenting our projects to people who may not be familiar with the industry. And the group also offers help to us when delivering our work to London. We are thankful and still feel honoured to be selected and exhibited in the LONDON CONTEMPORARY 2022 exhibition.
LC – Would you suggest a collaboration with us? What do you think about our services?
YC & RX – We would be glad to exhibit our works with ITSLIQUID GROUP in the future. Since architecture projects would be difficult to present with images and graphics, we would try to bring more 3D objects both physical and digital to showcase our perspectives on seeing the world. ITSLIQUID GROUP has been offering artists and architects great opportunities to express and introduce themselves to the public for more than 20 years. We all know only enthusiasm would not able to support the group to grow until today. Thank you for being professional and considerate.
LC – What is your idea about ITSLIQUID GROUP?
YC & RX – ITSLIQUID GROUP is always doing a good job. We would like to make our humble idea which is developing ITSLIQUID GROUP’s own community for artists to have dialogues with others from different sectors with fewer barriers.