Jury members: Marianne Burkhalter, Regula Lüscher, Ulrich Müller
Xu Tiantian describes her work as a “strategy of pinpricks”. For almost 20 years now, she and her team have applied this way of working as a means to stimulate and inspire the successful revitalisation of rural regions in the Chinese province of Zhejiang. This success is based on an exemplary synthesis they have created, which fuses together the complexities of contemporary architecture.
Her precise interventions reveal a profound knowledge of the history of these sites in which historical, social, economic and cultural factors are of equal underlying significance. In parallel, the residents’ participation is of crucial importance. It is not just a matter of design questions but also, more significantly, about generating new sources of income based on local traditions and trades that are being forgotten. Success in moderating these very different individual aspects relies on an exceptional degree of staying power and social competence.
The insights gained from this are implemented in architectural terms with a superlative feel for creative solutions. Xu Tiantian achieves tremendous results with measured, often small-scale interventions. What is remarkable here is the way contemporary technologies and components are combined with traditional methods and materials – while the relationship between tradition and modernity is kept in perfect balance. It gives rise to buildings with a strong sense of identity that often provide a kind of stage for their users where they can express their new-found self-confidence. These buildings allow new life, with space for social interaction, to develop in places that had been abandoned. One feature they all have in common is a wonderfully concrete architectural language that is simultaneously sustainable.
Although Xu Tiantian’s projects are embedded in the local political conditions, they represent exemplary solutions in response to the challenges posed worldwide by urbanisation and social transformation processes. They embolden architects and non-experts alike in their vital commitment to finding a new balance between town and country. The appealing combination of social engagement and design quality constitutes a prototype for the future of contemporary architecture.