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MAD Architects’ founder Ma Yansong continues to inspire as he turns 44

The Beijing-based architect, whose free-flowing designs have turned around the architectural landscape of China, turns 44 today.

by Zohra Khan Nov 26, 2019

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.

Ma Yansong | STIRworld
Architect Ma Yansong Image Credit: Edoardo Giancola

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.

Interiors of the Harbin Opera House | Ma Yansong | STIRworld
Interiors of the Harbin Opera House Image Credit: Hufton + Crow

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 by MAD is conceived as a network of metallic bubbles in Beijing | Ma Yansong | STIRworld
    Hutong Bubble 218 by MAD is conceived as a network of metallic bubbles in BeijingImage Credit: Tian Fangfang
  • The project is a continuation of MAD’s exploration into urban renovations as a means of revitalizing the Chinese capital’s old neighborhoods | Ma Yansong | STIRworld
    The project is a continuation of MAD’s exploration into urban renovations as a means of revitalizing the Chinese capital’s old neighborhoods Image Credit: Tian Fangfang
  • The bubbles emerge onto the terrace and functions as an independent meeting room and shared work spaces | Ma Yansong | STIRworld
    The bubbles emerge onto the terrace and functions as an independent meeting room and shared work spaces Image Credit: Tian Fangfang
  • The scheme by MAD conserves and restores the authentic architectural aesthetic of the courtyard building to its original glory | Ma Yansong | STIRworld
    The scheme by MAD conserves and restores the authentic architectural aesthetic of the courtyard building to its original glory Image Credit: Tian Fangfang

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.”

  • Absolute Towers, Ontario | Ma Yan
song | STIRworld
    Absolute Towers, Ontario Image Credit: Iwan Baan
  • MAD's collaboration with HyperloopTT on the future of mobility| Ma Yan
song | STIRworld
    MAD's collaboration with HyperloopTT on the future of mobility Image Credit: MIR, Courtesy of MAD Architects
  • MAD's proposal for the Yiwu Grand Theater to soon float over China's Dongyang river | Ma Yansong | MAD Architects | STIRworld
    MAD's proposal for the Yiwu Grand Theater to soon float over China's Dongyang riverImage Credit: Courtesy of MAD Architects

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.

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About Author

Zohra Khan

Zohra Khan

A formal education in architecture combined with an avid interest in architecture journalism and design criticism led Khan to professionally venture into writing and research. She has worked in design communication for more than two years, generating content for mondo*arc india journal. When not writing, she kicks back by dabbling on social media for STIR.

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