PechaKucha Night Dali 2 – Architecture with Intention happened last weekend, at September Bar in Dali Old Town. I was hoping we could do it outside in the courtyard with the beautiful traditional Bai projection wall. Unfortunately, the weather was surprisingly bad for autumn. We moved inside where we were all warm and cozy. Not everyone fitted inside – the turnout was great with about 120 people attending. Many of them were architects and ome came from as far afield as Kunming and even Shenzhen.
The Friday before the event some of the speakers met at the Linden Center in Xizhou. Brian and Jeanee had invited us for dinner so we could meet with Cici Wu 吴梦茜, the architect who is working on their new Shaxi site.
It was a great start to a weekend full of inspiration and exchange. Here is a snapshot video of the event:
PechaKucha is go! Part 1
We kicked off PechaKucha Night Dali 2 – Architecture with Intention at exactly 20.20 with an introduction of the PechaKucha concept. 20 slides, each 20 seconds, that’s it! We also highlighted the Netherlands Cultural Institute Online (NCIO). NCIO is a TenCent online art channel where Chinese audiences can enjoy Dutch art and culture. The new Consul General of the consulate of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Chongqing Huub Buise also spoke a few words before the speakers took to the stage. He emphasized the importance of cultural exchange – online, but also live such as at this PechaKucha event.
Gábor Szentpétery – Too much architecture can kill you
The first provocatively titled presentation was a very personal one. Studio Gase founder Gábor shared his journey as a successful international architect living, working and travelling in Europe and China. One interesting project he has done is an international design competition to source ideas for the 16 atriums of an empty skyscraper in Changsha. This he did until he suffered a bout of ill health. He reprioritized his life choices and went from spending hours in front of a computer to go back to the basics of building. He is currently renovating an old house in a village in Dali with his own hands.
François Trézin – Living the Dali dream: renovating a traditional courtyard home
Next up was another local international. French artist François Trézin spent years working as a photographer and creative director in Shanghai before choosing the simpler life in Dali. Like Gábor, he is a renovating a traditional Dali courtyard with his own hands, doing all the woodwork and welding himself. In the colourful details of his design his artistic background shines through. Since many people move to Dali looking for this dream it was nice to put these first two speakers on the stage and show some insights of the renovation process.
Alicia Lin 林璐 – The beauty in smallness and tactility
Alicia is a New Zealand architect of Chinese heritage who has studied and worked in New Zealand, Norway, Germany and the Netherlands. She currently runs her independent archticture practice from a studio in Xizhou in a small traditional wooden shop. She zoomed in further on the hands-on practice of building – to the tactility, history and emotion of working with repurposed wood, building pavilions that have been designed with great sensitivity for the surroundings.
Tjerk Reijenga – Go Green
We changed gears when Tjerk took to the stage – a veteran sustainable designer who has led his BEAR-iD company in Shanghai since 2011. With his extensive background in green building he has not just been an advisor for organizations such as WNF. He has also delivered large-scale projects for commercial clients – all over China as well as other countries. His talk focused on green building practices such as vertical farming. Interesting questions came from the audience. For instance, why it can take so long before insights and policy translate to the actual built environment.
PechaKucha part 2
After a short break Yang Xiong presented his vision and work. He is a Tibetan architect from Lugu Lake. His Mosuo background informed his thesis work. This centred around the Mosuo ‘walls of shyness’ concept – the Mosuo are the last surviving matrilineal minority in China. After graduating in Kunming he not only worked as a designer of poetic spaces to live, work and meet. Together with his architect wife he also founded the Elephant Bookstore and Elephant Event Space. These are both important cultural gathering places in Kunming.
Tanja Dubbelaar 荷安 – 2050 Carbon Transformation
MVRDV Asia architect Tanja Dubbelaar replaced Steven Smit who couldn’t join the event unfortunately. She has a Dutch-Chinese background and has study at TUDelft as well as Tsinghua University in Beijng. Her designs include the Shenzhen Terraces. A member of MVRDV’s Climate Expert Panel, she talked about sustainable building methodologies, illustrating how some materials will leave a lower carbon footprint than others.
Vincent de Graaf – Generation and RE-generation: sustainability from a pre- and post-industrial perspective in China
Our last speaker of PechaKucha Night Dali 2 – Architecture with Intention was Vincent de Graaf, the Dutch founder of AIM Architecture. AIM is an award-winning Shanghai office that has won accolades because of their work repurposing unloved properties – for instance transforming ‘ugly’ old shopping malls into beautiful light, airy and green spaces. They also design new buildings such as the F.X. Mayr Wenzhou resort.
After the talks were over many people stayed to mingle and meet with the speakers and with each other. I was happily surprised to hear just how many architects were in the audience.
Not all of them running or working for an architectural practice – some were moving from architecture to autonomous installation art for instance. All of them shared a strong background and interest in architecture and many expressed their appreciation at seeing so many high-level international speakers together at an event in Dali. On Sunday several of the speakers went on to visit local architecture offices, the new Yang Liping theatre and of course some of the tourist sights of Dali Old Town.
As I am leaving soon PechaKucha Night Dali 2 – Architecture with Intention was my last Dutch Culture Night in Yunnan. It’s been amazing to be able to do this – with support from the Dutch consulate in Chongqing. To facilitate a dialogue between cultures has been my dream since I arrived in China. I might leave, but I plan to maintain a connection with Yunnan. My company here will remain, I will continue to study Chinese language and culture and I hope to keep a close connection with my network. When possible, I would love to come back for a long visit and continue to do projects here.