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October 8, 2022

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Architect ventures into gaming to promote his trade among youngsters

Chinese-Canadian architect Peter Fu is the author of 10 books, four musicals and one modern dance piece, besides leaving his mark on countless architectural projects around the world.

Fu is the chief architect at KFS Architects Inc Canada, which has designed hundreds of projects in Shanghai. He used the city’s two-month lockdown earlier this year to work on two books, “My Experience with Architectural Design and Dramatic Arts” and “20 Architectural Design Projects in Zhuhai Hengqin.” They were published this month.

Fu has long been exploring ways to introduce architecture and architects’ stories to the general public. Last year, his fourth self-produced musical, “West East Park,” was staged at Shanghai Grand Theater. It is largely based on an actual architectural project on Hengqin Island in Zhuhai, south China’s Guangdong Province.

The playful architect’s next plan is to combine architecture with eSports and computer games to promote his profession and invite youngsters to experience how a city takes shape through gaming.

Fu, who studied architecture and urban planning at Shanghai’s Tongji University, got his doctorate from McGill University in Canada. He founded a design company in Shanghai more than two decades ago and was honored with a Magnolia award by the Shanghai government.

McGill University bestowed an honorary doctorate on him in June. The last Chinese to earn the accolade from McGill was renowned scholar Hu Shi about 80 years ago.

In an exclusive interview with Shanghai Daily, Fu shared his insights on architecture while introducing the planned gaming project.

Q: You have produced four architecture-themed musicals and one dance. Does theater fascinate you?

A: I enjoy going to the theater. When I’m designing a project for a strange city, I often go to the theaters there and try to borrow inspiration from its folk performances, because they are usually the essence of local art and culture.

Each of my four musicals is based on one of my designs. I have put the background story of the architectural projects, as well as some of my own attitudes toward the profession, into the musicals.

Musicals appeal to the younger generation. I intend to stimulate their interest in my profession.

Q: How do you understand “readable” buildings?

A: Architecture in a metropolis like Shanghai should have a “readable” history. A building should have a story to tell. But it would be superficial if you simply say something like “this building is the former residence of writer Eileen Chang ...”

To me, it is more meaningful to record how a building is designed and constructed because the designers and architects often merge a lot of local history and cultural elements into the project.

Some of my books have recorded the construction stories of some selected and signature buildings in Shanghai and China.

Q: You and KFS have done a lot of projects on Zhuhai’s Hengqin Island. Is it a hot spot for architects?

A: Hengqin is next to Macau, a young and active area known for its openness and vitality. It welcomes innovative and creative architectural designs, making it an ideal place for architects like me.

I was commissioned to design a landmark structure for Hengqin. Since the name of the island can be literally translated as “horizontal musical instrument,” I came up with the idea of giving the structure a shape of a lying pipa (a four-stringed Chinese musical instrument), and the result turned out to be satisfying.

Some of the new construction and architectural designs in Hengqin originated from sparks like this, and the daring ideas were realized with the support of the local government. That’s why I consider it a hot land.

Q: Your next project will combine architecture with eSports and computer games. Can you give us more details?

A: My purpose in producing architecture-themed musicals is to arouse people’s, especially youngsters’, interest in my industry. But theater performances can only reach a limited number of audiences. On the other hand, eSports and computer games appeal to youngsters, including my son.

My next project is to create an architecture-themed game. A player will be given the role of a boat owner who anchors at a strange dock. He builds a shelter for the boat and himself on the river bank. The river bank area is a busy hub in the early stages of development. Functional structures are slowly built with more people gathering in the area, and that is how a city expands and grows.

Through the game, players can take part in the construction of a city and understand the role architecture plays during the entire process. Not all computer games are about fighting and violence. It can be constructive too.

Q: Architecture is a demanding profession. Do you have any advice for architecture students?

A: It is a demanding occupation. One should not only master architectural skills but also have the ability to coordinate and integrate all kinds of resources. But it’s a rewarding occupation as well.

An architect might encounter a lot of challenges and restrictions during his work. There are requirements from different interested parties, and compromise is inevitable. I treat each of my projects as a puzzle and use my wits and courage to solve it.

Chances are that an architect can only reach his peak after the age of 40. I want to encourage students. The profession has a promising future.


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