1 / 2014 - house by a lake - wuxi, china

Over the years, China has become a major construction site for contemporary architecture. A large number of architects from all over the world have been engaged to renew Chinese cities. While many interesting buildings have been constructed, the functionality of these fast-growing cities in terms of urbanism remains to be seen. Of Finnish architects, most visibility in China has been achieved by Pekka Salminen. His office is involved in a range of projects, one of which the Wuxi Grand Theatre – their first landmark job in China – is presented in this issue. Ole Bouman, the Dutch Director of the Shenzhen Architecture Biennale, writes about the event that brought together international actors and made its own contribution to Shenzhen’s development. The Museum of Finnish Architecture also took part in the biennale with its ‘Re-creation’ installation.

Construction in China reflects the globalisation of architecture. Yet globalisation has many faces. Helena Sandman writes about the Laufen Manifesto drafted by architects from Europe, Africa and other parts of the world. The Manifesto aims at promoting a human design culture and advancing ecological, social and aesthetic equality on a global scale. Too many people are compelled to live in abject conditions. Architecture can help counter alienation.

The Wuxi Grand Theatre is located on the shore of a lake. To the Finns, it is a familiar concept, though mostly from the holiday home context. As well as the opera house, the current issue presents two different houses also built close to water in Finland.


architects Pekka Salminen, Tuomas Silvennoinen, Martin Lukasczyk
address North of Jinshi Road, North bank of Lake Li, Taihu New City, Wuxi, China
gross area 78 000 m2
completion 2012

review Juho Grönholm

It’s a Friday afternoon in October and I am travelling on a train from Munich to Salzburg. I am thinking about the role of an architect in the modern world where the population in big cities grows at a speed I cannot comprehend and where the shortage of energy is a real problem. I write some notes and admire the beautiful hilly landscape that looks a lot less autumnal than the Finnish landscape I left behind. In Salzburg I get on a local train that will take me to the town of Laufen, which is on the border of Germany and Austria. Once at the train station, I still have to walk ten minutes to my final destination, a Bavarian monastery. I cross a bridge and I am on the German side of the border again. When I reach the monastery which was built in the 1600s, I am directed to a room with high ceilings and that’s where I get a warm welcome from my friend, architect Anna Heringer.

Anna grew up in Laufen and she still lives and works there. She is known for the METI School in Rudrapur, Bangladesh, which received the Aga Kahn Award in 2007. I met her in 2009 at the Alvar Aalto Symposium where we both were lecturing on our projects in developing countries.

I was invited to Laufen as a representative of Ukumbi and our company, Hollmén Reuter Sandman Architects, to take part in the writing of an architectural manifesto. The project began in June last year at the opening of the “Think Global, Build Social! Architectures for a better world” exhibition in Frankfurt when Anna together with curator Andres Lepik, Hubert Klumpner, Dean of ETH Zürich, and architects Francis Kéré and Peter Rich and their colleagues decided to take the initiative and write a manifesto.

Now all twelve writers have finally found their way to our meeting place. The group includes designers, some of who live in a jungle and build houses together with the local people, as well as theorists who have never even been to a jungle. However, we all have a common goal: we all believe that the role of an architect should be developed in the changing world and architects must take responsibility.

The writing process is a mixture of deep thoughts and subtle nuances. Architects often design together, but they seldom write texts as a group. By the end of the weekend we have completed a draft version of the text and decide to continue working via Internet.

The Laufen Manifesto was released at the Metropolis Nonformal – Anticipation Symposium in Munich on 22 November. The manifesto can be read, listened to or watched as well as signed at laufenmanifesto.org. You can also like the manifesto on Facebook and share it with others.

We architects have the expertise, creativity and power to contribute more dynamically to the global quest for equality. We must join forces to improve the ecological, social and aesthetic quality of the built environment. The more I think about it, the more right it feels.

Helena Sandman is a Helsinki-based architect who works all over the world on projects run by the Finnish NGO Ukumbi and Hollmén Reuter Sandman Architects.


Näköislehti: Site Logic