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  Chinese Way>Life

Lu Yaozu: Bringing Traditional Chinese Architecture to the World

2013-02-27 16:59:24


The principal materials used in the construction of the pavilion were wood and bricks. It was first built in China, disassembled, and then shipped to France, where it was reassembled. It is the first “portable” traditional Chinese building in the country.

Upon completion, the pavilion fulfilled not only a decorative function in Lille, but also served as the rostrum during the opening ceremony of the China-France Cultural Festival and a venue for Chinese performance and tea ceremonies.

According to the plan, the pavilion was to be dismantled on the conclusion of the cultural festival. However, locals fell in love with it, and the “temporary” pavilion has stayed on to become a permanent feature of Lille.

The 1999 Lan Su Chinese Garden is another international success story for Lu. Portland, Oregon is Suzhou’s sister city, and the local government invited Suzhou architects to build an authentic classical Chinese garden composed of pavilions, terraces, towers and rockery in the city. Lu’s company, Suzhou Garden Development Co., Ltd. was the contractor.

The project met with its fair share of problems; it took 11 years from the planning stage for the garden to its completion. “It never occurred to me one has to abide by a local statute when designing rockery stairways,” Lu recalled.

At one point, Lu was informed that he needed “to rebuild the steps on the rockery according to the U.S. building code.” The code stipulates that rockery stairs in the U.S. must be uniform in size. The difference in the width and height of stairs should not exceed two centimeters on any flight of stairs.

This was a problem for Lu. Stairways in Chinese classical gardens are designed on principles of uneven beauty. In order to solve the problem, Lu carefully studied the Chinese version of the code and offered a solution: uniformity would be maintained within one flight of the stairway, he reasoned, but not between different flights of the stairway. The U.S. partners agreed to this understanding and the project resumed.

Another issue arose shortly after. According to the U.S. engineering code, handrails on bridges should be at least 110-centimeters high. The handrails on the zigzag bridge in Lu’s garden were only 50 centimeters high. Lu argued that changing the height of the handrails would affect the overall architectural impression of the bridge. His U.S. co-workers reported the issue to Oregon Legislature, where lawmakers called in experts to discuss it. In the end they approved the lower handrails for the garden’s zigzag bridge. It was a one-time exception, made to respect the architectural style of the authentic Chinese classical garden.

Lu commented that through the project, his team gained a much deeper understanding of U.S. law, while U.S. architects gained insight into the elegant aesthetics and subtlety of Chinese gardens. The completed Lan Su Garden has received widespread praise in the U.S., and is undoubtedly Oregon’s most authentic classical Chinese garden. The local government expressed its appreciation of Lu’s efforts.

As custodian of Xiangshan Band architectural techniques, Lu has not only inherited and mastered the architectural techniques developed by his forefathers, but also been active in cultivating the next generation of Xiangshan architects. He established a studio that offers a challenging working and learning environment for promising draftsmen. Since the 1980s Lu has organized various training activities for workers in the field of ancient Chinese architecture in Suzhou. Several hundred workers have passed through the training program and now work for the preservation of Suzhou’s architectural traditions.

In order to formally codify the theory behind Xiangshan Band architectural techniques, Lu has also been instrumental in compiling a large number of books, such as the Standards for Accreditation of Classical Architecture Technicians and Architectural Techniques of Classical Gardens of Suzhou.

Nowadays, Lu is busy working with other experts to establish standards in the architectural industry. Together they have formulated a set of standards for the construction of traditional Chinese architecture and regulations for managing and preserving the classical gardens of Suzhou.

Source: China Today


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