Drinking tea wins Pritzker Prize

The plan for the Ningbo Historic Museum, for example, came to him one night when he could not sleep, he said. He got out of bed and started drawing in pencil: the structure, space sizes, entrance locations and other aspects.

“Then,” he said, “I drank tea.”

[full interview]

Of course, we already knew about the sleepness nights, but tea, as a post mythical-orgasmic-inspiration relaxant is a new one. Architects wanting to follow Chinese architect Wang Shu’s jump into the Pritzker Prize roll of honour will no doubt be stocking up large. Our own t-Leaf-T can be recommended, apparantly. I can’t see me dropping the Havana espresso fueled caffeine burst of nervous energy for a Pritzker Prize anytime soon though.

I guess the real news is the awarding of the prize to Wang Shu, but I find it hard to get excited by large projects in expanses of space, such as the Ningbo Historic Museum (which seems to be Wang’s signature building at this time), an accomplished work in the latest twist (literally in this case), of retro modernism. I do like his acknowledgement of ‘history’:

The museum, which includes recycled architectural materials from the area, “is one of those unique buildings that while striking in photos, is even more moving when experienced,” the jury said. “The museum is an urban icon, a well-tuned repository for history and a setting where the visitor comes first.”

In designing the Xingshan Campus of the China Academy of Art in his native Hangzhou, Mr. Wang also reused materials, covering the campus buildings with more than two million tiles from demolished traditional houses.

“Everywhere you can see, they don’t care about the materials,” Mr. Wang said in an interview. “They just want new buildings, they just want new things. I think the material is not just about materials. Inside it has the people’s experience, memory — many things inside. So I think it’s for an architect to do something about it.” [nytimes]

…but I don’t know, this does seem a bit trite given the finished ‘product, ala Ronchamp fenestration and City of Tomorrow siting, which will no doubt become car-parking in due course.


But the building, and Wang’s Library of Wenzheng College at the Suzhou University, does offer some nice moments (well… for the photographer at least…)


There are of course, many more interesting projects in Wang’s broader oeuvre, but they’re usually the ones that don’t get picked up upon in the glitzy press releases, such as the NYTimes (where the above quotes come from). I find this intriguing:

…and I’m not exactly sure what is going on here, but it seems interesting also:

So, what do you think?

Time for a cup of tea..?

Update: The material quoted above, drawn from a New York Times article, seems to have been lifted by NYTimes without attribution from a Mark Magazine (#19) interview (also publsihed at movingcities.org): Wang Shu: Local Hero [2008]. We have received notification from the author, Bert de Muynck, and have updated this post accordingly so that we are not party to dodgy NYTimes ethics – no not us! For more, see this movingcities.org explanation.
Incidentally – Mark Magazine magazine lloks like a useful publication, go check it out…


3 responses to “Drinking tea wins Pritzker Prize”

  1. Time for a cup of tea and a lie down, as Lange said…. Clearly, as they don’t give out Pritskers lightly, there is something wonderful going on that perhaps just isn’t coming across in the photos. Certainly even Wang Shu said he was surprised – as he is so (comparatively) young. But the outside doesn’t excite me at all. Perhaps it is all on the inside? After all, as ancient Chinese philosophers have observed, a cup of tea is all about what is inside. The cup, the outside, is not important.

    There is no cup. There is only tea…

  2. Wasn’t it time for a breather and a cup of tea…?

    Interior images of the Ningbo Historic Museum can be found here: http://www.archdaily.com/14623/ningbo-historic-museum-wang-shu-architect/

  3. The surface reminds me a lot of the formations created by sedimentary rock layers, such as http://www.docbrown.info/docspics/whitby/P4233733.jpg, which are a key source of evidence in the evaluation of historical periods of time… so for me it’s interesting seeing these layers formed from the ‘memory’ of previous architecture, with a form as if carved from these layers of history into a modern shape. Time to put the kettle on..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *