What were the biggest challenges of setting up and running a new practice in China?
The biggest challenge is, when you don’t have built work to show the client, you have to prove them your ability to design and realize the project. It might take at least 2-3 years before something is built. In other words, for a new firm, in the early stage, how to get jobs is very critical. The other thing is most of the clients tender to trust bigger and established firm. This is a conflict.
In what ways did studying at Yale and or working in the USA help prepare you for a career in Asia?
I think the study at Yale opened up my eyes. For instance, star architects are no more mysteries for me, which makes me more confident. The experience I had in the US, specifically at Pei Cobb Freed, make me think and work more rigorously, which is very essential for an architect.
耶鲁的学习开阔了我的眼界。比如，明星建筑师不再是那么神秘。在美国的工作经验，具体地说，在Pei Cobb Freed事务所的几年经验，让我思考和工作更加严谨，这点对建筑师来讲很基本。
Did you always plan on returning to China or Asia after studying/working in the US?
China has attacked not only the natives but also architects around the world to work here. While working in the US, I felt that as a person who grew up here, I probably could do something and it might make some changes. That was always in my mind.
What makes the younger generation of architects practicing in China distinct from the older generations?
In the years of planned economy, buildings were designed by architectural design institutes, which are the state/municipal/ministry-owned design cooperations. Individual architect is just part of that system. After the 1990s, firms with lead principals started to emerge and individual architects started to speak louder. I think architecture today have more personalities.
Has there been a shift in the way architecture is being practiced or taught in China?
The shift is the influence of western contemporary architecture. Chinese economy opened up the door to the west in early 80s, while Chinese architecture did that much later. At my years in college(from 1990 to 1995), Chinese architectural education still follows the system of Beaux-arts training. We spent a great deal of time studying the skill of drawings. After 1995, many architecture students went to graduate school in the US and Europe. In late 90s, some of them returned and started teaching or practicing, which brought in fresh air. Also, the communication with western universities has been increasing rapidly in last 10 years. But I think the fundamental change hasn’t happened yet. It might need another 5-10 years.
How has the role of the architect changed?
Comparing to 12 years ago when I graduated from college, the number of universities/schools with architectural program has increase 8 times.( about 170 now, 20 then). There are a lot more architects nowadays. Architects have started to take more social reasonability.
How has the perception of architects changed?
With many public buildings built, every family in the city has been at least looking for a apartment/house to buy, everybody has more or less had the experience of home-decorating, architects has entered the domain of everyone’s daily life. Which I think is good, it helps people to understand architecture and appreciate architects’ work..
How is your firm perceived by your clients?
Maybe I can tell you how we want our firm be perceived by the clients. As a very young firm, it is still to early to be put on any label. Our strategy is to try to do all kinds of projects, before we can choose project. In the process, we test our interest, design ability and limit. That is why you see different things in our portfolio, from master plan to small building entrance. Speaking of this, China is good place to work since you got many opportunities to work on various things.
What project are you most proud of and why?
Every project, no matter their types, sizes, whether or not completed, tests our idea and design feasibility, and give us lesson as well. In this sense, we learn from all the design process and it is hard to specify one project.