Amateur Architecture Studio was founded in 1998 by Wang Shu and Lu Wenyu in Hangzhou, China. Their approach is based around a critique of the architectural profession which they view as complicit in the demolition of entire urban areas and the transformation of rural areas through excessive building. The practice first came to wider attention in Europe with their pavilion for the 10th Venice Architecture Biennale in 2006; a comment on the on-going demolitions, their installation 'Tiled Garden' was made from 66,000 recycled tiles salvaged from demolition sites.
Rather than looking towards the West for inspiration as many of their contemporaries do, the practice's work is embedded in the history and traditions of Chinese culture. In particular they reference everyday building tactics of ordinary people and the strong vernacular tradition of building in China. The name of their practice signals this commitment to learning from the 'amateur builder', focusing on craft skills and applying this to contemporary architecture. Wang Shu spent a number of years working on building sites with traditional craftsmen in order to learn from them. Combining this traditional knowledge with experimental building techniques and intensive research Amateur Architecture Studio respond to the ongoing challenges of the rapidly urbanising context of China. They do so with a site-specific architecture that valorises crafts and skill over professional knowledge and expertise.
'Local Hero: An Interview with Wang Shu (Amateur Architecture Studio)', movingcities.org, http://movingcities.org/interviews/local-hero-an-interview-with-wang-shu/ [accessed 2 February 2010], first published in Mark Magazine, 9, (July-August 07).
'Wang Shu Interview / Amateur Architecture Studio', 0300TV (2008) http://www.0300tv.com/2009/04/wang-shu-interview-amateur-architecture-studio/ [accessed 2 February 2010].
Wang Shu, 'The Narration and Geometry of Natural Appearance: Notes on the Design of Ningbo Historical Museum.', Shi dai jian zhu = Time + architecture, 107 (2009), 66-79.
Wang Shu and Fang Zhenning, 'The Outline of the Hills = Il profilo delle colline [Interview]', Abitare, (495) (2009): 64-73.
Michael Webb, 'Campus calligraphy: China Art Academy, Hangzhou', Architectural Review, 224 (2008), 54-57.
'Ningbo Historic Museum: Amateur Architecture Studio.', C3 Korea, 2009, 86-97.
'XiangShan Campus, China Academy of Art [HangZhou, China]: Amateur Architecture Studio.', C3 Korea, 2009, 66-81.
'China Academy of Arts by Amateur Architecture Studio', URB (2008), http://archurbanist.blogspot.com/2008/10/caa-phase-1-by-amateur-architecture.html
"I design a house instead of a building. The house is the
amateur architecture approach to the infinitely spontaneous order.
Built spontaneously, illegally and temporarily, amateur
architecture is equal to professional architecture. But amateur
architecture is just not significant."
- Wang Shu, see world-architects.com/amateurarchitecture
"This month I have to design three museums, so my studio stops
working for one month. Everybody goes home, so I can work on my
own. I send them to the countryside for research or give everybody
a list of books about traditional Chinese painting, French
philosophers, movies or any subject that might be helpful. This is
their homework. When they come back, we have a discussion, and then
we work again."
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