Ma Yansong, one of the most influential architects credited for changing China’s architectural landscape, turns 44 today. The founder of Beijing-based MAD Architects has realised some of the most futuristic designs, such as the Absolute Towers in Ontario (2012), Harbin Opera House in the northern Chinese city of Harbin (2015), and Chaoyang Park Plaza in Beijing (2017). Yansong’s architecture, in addition to bringing bold aesthetics and utopian visions, creates emotional and spiritually inclined spaces for everyday life.
Context, space, shapes, and landscape become a single, unified entity in his projects. The works are often characterised by surreal, free-flowing forms where architecture blends with the neighbourhood and offers a seamless experience between the inside and outside.
A graduate from the Beijing Institute of Civil Engineering and Architecture, Yansong enjoys narrative storytelling. He developed an affinity towards contemporary art in his early practising years with the late Zaha Hadid, where she would often show him books that talked about works of artist Anish Kapoor and Olafur Eliasson. As his mentor at the architecture school at Yale where Yansong completed his master’s degree, and later as a colleague while creating projects for various competitions in China, Hadid was a huge influence and a guiding force for him.
Over the last 14 years of the firm’s inception, Yansong has been responsible for designing projects across various scales. These include large-scale commercial buildings, museums, mixed-use developments, theatres, cultural centres and residential complexes.
In recent years, many of Yansong’s designs follow the concept of ‘Shanshui City’, incepted by Chinese scientist Qian Xuesen. The concept aims to bring natural landscapes closer to built architecture. He emphasises on the need for architecture to be more relaxed, as nature is, and connect with human emotions rather than with capitalism and power.
Hutong Bubble 218, MAD’s newest project brings a network of metallic bubbles in the historic but dilapidated neighbourhood of Qianmen East area in Beijing. The project demonstrates how small-scale, artistic interventions can provide new spaces and programs for such places by weaving the old with the new. Reflecting on the design, Yansong says,“This is a micro-utopian ideal. I hope that these bubbles will serve as vital newborn cells, giving the traditional hutong new life, and revitalizing the community.”
MAD Architects, under his leadership, continues to get involved in numerous competitions and collaborations. A recent project with Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HyperloopTT) on the development of an elevated rapid transport system aims to transform the future of travel with nature-inspired infrastructure. On the other hand, the winning design for the Yiwu Grand Theater over China's Dongyang river envisions to connect people of the Yiwu city to the waterfront in a new perspective.
Yansong’s fearless style results in projects that challenge typical modern developments. His approach to design that connects the east with the west and create buildings that respond to people and their emotions, makes him stand apart on the global platform.
STIR wishes him a happy birthday and hopes he continues to manifest path-breaking concepts into built realities.