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Prizes to Expo 'flying saucer' and Jiading preschool

A prestigious Taiwan-based architectural award honoring innovation in Shanghai has been handed to the Expo "flying saucer" Culture Center and a suburban kindergarten. Four of the five finalists were not mega structures. Michelle Qiao reports.

The flying saucer-shaped Expo Culture Center and a new kindergarten in Jiading District have won top "innovation" honors in the Taiwan-based 2010 Far Eastern Architectural Design Award.

The prize honors excellence in architecture in Shanghai and Taiwan.

Five "finalist" buildings in Shanghai, both in and outside the Expo site, were among 25 candidates around China for the award handed out Saturday night in Taipei.

First place went to the Expo Culture Center designed by Shanghai architect Wang Xiao'an, taking 250,000 yuan (US$34,000).

Second place went to the Jiading New Town Kindergarten designed by Shanghai architects Liu Yichun and Chen Yifeng, claiming 120,000 yuan.

The panel of judges narrowed the original field down to 25 buildings in Shanghai, including eight World Expo buildings, said Morton Maote Huang, special assistant to the chairman of Far Eastern Group, organizer of the award.

The award highlights "innovation" so the scale or the size of the building does not count, said Huang.

"To my surprise, some Expo signature buildings, like the China Pavilion and the Expo Axis have not impressed our panel. They chose two Expo buildings as well as three other much smaller works in the city's suburbs for the final review," he said.

The two Expo buildings are the UFO-shaped Expo Culture Center and the Ningbo Tengtou Pavilion in the Urban Best Practises Area.

The three other buildings are the Liantang Town Hall in Qingpu District, the Jiading kindergarten and the New Jiangwan Ecological Exhibition Center in Yangpu District.

The judges visited the five buildings in person and talked to the architects on site to fully understand their works.

"China has huge opportunities for architects but many works are designed in foreign collaboration. Chinese architects, especially those from small firms, have difficulty obtaining big projects," said judge Zheng Shiling, director of Institute of Architecture and Urban Space of Shanghai Tongji University and a consultant to the World Expo.

"In recent years some local governments in Shanghai suburbs, like Qingpu and Jiading districts, have offered great projects for Chinese architects, like two of the finalists," he said. "More and more Chinese officials and entrepreneurs are realizing that a well-designed building will surprisingly upgrade a region."

Zheng called the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai "a real Expo of architecture."

"No Expo has had so many creative buildings," said Zheng. "The scale of some pavilions has increased from the usual 4,000 or 5,000 square meters to more than 10,000 square meters. And despite some criticism, the China Pavilion is the first such pavilion designed solely by a Chinese architect, without foreign collaboration. That's a big progress."

The judging panel also included Santiago Calatrava from Spain (architect of the Athens Olympic Sports Complex), Japanese architect Taira Nishizawa and Wu Jiang, vice president of Tongji University.

The award has traditionally honored Taiwan-based architects only and started to include Shanghai in 2007. This year a Taiwan museum and suburban town were honored in the Taiwan section.

In the future the award may be expanded to cover other Chinese cities, such as Beijing or Chengdu as "Taiwan is too small and limited for great architecture," Huang said.The five finalist architecture in Shanghai

Expo Culture Center

Architect: Wang Xiao'an

Panelist Zheng Shiling says the building has a "stunningly complicated structure." It was first designed with only 4,000 seats for simple functions and later expanded to 18,000 seats for diverse events, including sports matches. "Imagine how difficult it was for the design work - it's a breakthrough."

Jiading New Town Kindergarten

Architect: Liu Yichun and Chen Yifeng

Liu Yichun says he wanted to impress parents when they collected their children. He and Chen Yifeng scattered square windows of different sizes all over the simple walls, allowing sunlight to enter in the daytime and presenting a beautiful facade at night when lights are on inside. They said it would create a "warm memory" for children and their parents.

Liantang Town Hall, Qingpu District

Architect: Zhang Bing

Panelist Zheng Shiling called this "the most innovative" Chinese governmental building of the many he has seen. "It's totally different from the usual serious-looking official buildings. It has a free inner space and beautiful garden."

Architect Zhang Bing said he worked hard to persuade local officials to drop the idea of building a traditional six-floor serious building with a big square in front. Instead he created an open, lively building conveying the feeling of local farmers' residences.

New Jiangwan Ecological Exhibition Center, Yangpu District

Architect: Miao Pu

Inspired by traditional Chinese gardens in Suzhou, this building merges and integrates with the wetland in New Jingwan area in northeastern Shanghai's Yangpu District. Architect Miao Pu says he wanted to bring visitors closer to nature. As they walk around the building, they encounter different scenes in different areas.

Ningbo Tengtou Pavilion

Architect: Wang Shu

Architect Wang Shu says he was inspired by a Chinese painting from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) that made it possible for him to create a new countryside building formed by holes and trees. The pavilion was made entirely from recycled materials from ruined old buildings.


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