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Joe C.
B. Architecture, 1973, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Royal Architectural Institute of Canada
Newfoundland Association of Architects

Project Record:
Beijing, China Academy of Drama, Campus Planning
Qinghuangdao, Hebei Province, Urban Design Competition, Haigang City Center
Xi Lin Gol, Inner Mongolia, Xanadu Experimental Sustainable Tourism Activity, 2000

Xing Fu San Cun: The Village, Beijing, 180,000 m2 housing development near the Canadian Embassy, 2003. Construction will begin late 2005.
Ningbo Beilun, Zhejiang Province, Duty Free Zone Design Competition, First Place, 2002. Construction completion in late 2005.
Xuzhou School for the Handicapped, Jiangsu Province, 2002. Construction completion in late 2005
New World Community, Beijing 2500 m2. Construction completion in late 2005
New World Commercial and Office Center, design competition entry, Chong Wen Men District, Beijing, 2001

Western Academy of Beijing, 14,000 m2 international school, Beijing, 2002-3.
Five Colours Earth Fashion Boutique, Beijing, 1996
  Teresa:Nowadays buildings are getting more and more huge, strange and un-humanity, is that a common progress of a developing city in the world?
Joe:Yes, it’s true this is happening in many places, including China. Project size and city block size are getting much bigger as developers control larger and larger projects. The change of scale lead to monotony and a lack of human scale and access. Formerly, cities were built with much smaller city blocks and smaller building lots. If you get on Google Earth and look at cities around the world you can see the building and block size getting larger and larger with time. The grain of the city gets coarser and coarser. Before the access by individuals on the street to each part of the buildings was easier. Now that distance is greater and access is reduced. The individual and the buildings parts are separated more and more by a reduction in the number of entrances, guards at entrances, elevators and locked doors. Greed, simplistic thinking, and valid conerns about safety are the reasons for the change in development pattern.
I think a community such as a city should be a social mutual-support system. In order to serve each others needs and benefit from each others talents, we need to observe each other and have easier access to each other. We need to find a balance between maximizing mutual access, on th eone hand, and safety, on the other.
I suggest we try a smaller block size (max 3 hectares) and building types that allow greater interaction with pedestrians.

Teresa:Many spaces in your design are compact and not open enough, is that because you are deeply influenced by Chinese traditional culture?
Joe:Perhaps, yes. I am interested in two kinds of space. Urban street and plaza space, and interior courtyard space.
First, urban space. Chinese cities now have higher density and it is expressed mainly by residential and office towers that are rarely used to create public urban space. You have to drive a car from one big office project to another or from one residential compound to another. Inside the residential projects you can find gardens to walk around, but they are private, for residents only. There are very few “public” urban streets in Beijing where the street is a defined space with street walls, with easy access to the separate properties. This perhaps is western idea. You see it in many European cites and in the more built-up parts of North American cities. In order to achieve a well-defined urban street space, the buiding can not be spread out too much. They have to be compacted together and line up to form the street and plaza edges.
Second, courtyard space. In oder to define street edges you should develop the edges of a site. For example, on a one hectare site with 5 meter setbacks, you could build a 15 meter deep building around the edge and create a 65 x 65 meter courtyard inside. Each floor would have an area of about 1400 m2. If the building was 5 floors high, then the total building area would be about 23,000 m2. Another way to build on the same site would be to have a 23 floor high tower wirth about1000 m2 per floor. The total building area is the same as the low-rise scheme, but the form is very different. The tower would have a lot of space around it, but there would only be one door to the tower. if I build a lower-rise building at the perimeter of the site, I get much more potential pedestrian access to the outside surface of the building, I get a well-defined street space, and a courtyard. Surely, in general, this is a better way. If there is great financial pressure on a piece of land, then it is possible to combine these two building types. Have a perimeter building and also place a tower or two at the corners of the site.
Although the courtyard is an essential Chinese space, European cities have used the idea more to create urban form.

Teresa: Why are these “axis” (main axis and sub axis) so important in your design, are they from east or from west? Is there any good example that is mixed with east and west culture?
Joe: I think orientation is an important characteristic of any spatial order. Contrasting axes is one way to achieve this. The north – south axis of Beijing, for example, is stronger than its east-west axis. Other ways are landmarks and public spaces linked with axial roads (Rome and Washington). I don't know of any good example of east and west mixed, but I hope my design for the China Academy of Drama could be. I was trying to combine the “contrasting axes” idea that I learned in China with the western European city street pattern with small blocks and buidings tight to the street edge.

Teresa: Now only very few people know about Fengshui theory, what is your solution about this issue?
Joe: I am not qualified to speak about Fengshui; I slowly, informally study it. One can see in China, especially in some small town and village design, especially in mountainous areas, a wonderful fit with the site. If Fengshui helped make this happen, then we should study those aspects of Fengshui that help achieve these beautilful results.

Teresa: How do you solve the problem when your design and the clients’ requirement is conflict?
Joe:The options are:
1. Walk away: If there is very deep conflict, then it is probably better not to work together.
2. Compromise: Accomplish as much as you can and don't fight about the rest.
3. Regard conflict as opportunity. Of course this is not always easily done, but if we leave our mind open, temporarily let go of what we think is the answer, and try to absorb the conflicting idea or information. Sometimes it happens that the new revised design is better than the previous one.
4. Consult: Both the client and the architect have valid concerns and insights. It is always worth trying to consult. By understanding better the alternate viewpoints and various requirements, a higher and broader awarenes usually emerges, which, in turn, should lead to a better solution. Sometimes different views clash. The spark from this clash can sometimes be a light that reveals the truth.
The options we use depend on our situatian and the maturity of the people involved.

Teresa: What is your idea about architecture creation, and how do you start a creating progress. Where do you think those architecture students should start?
Joe:Some ways:
1. Make your own story or poem. Let that guide the design.
2. Look at human needs. Observe people’s behavior. Put what you see into your design.
3. Think about sequences. Approach, enter, transition to inside, activity inside, separation and linkage of activities inside, relationship of circulation and activity spaces to each other and to the outside daylight, exiting.
4. Study and incorporate principles of sustainability. Try to implement China’s Agenda 21.
5. Travel and read. Draw pictures of existing buildings and spaces that you are attracted to.

Teresa: The H shape building in Xinfu Sancun is a concrete substance with feeling of strong and eternal. Why the building afterwards is made of glass and looks penetrating and without memorial building’s character.
Joe: I wanted some memorial gate feeling, but not too much. Also, the residents need windows and I am trying a passive solar heating idea, just like a Chinese farmer’s house. In addition to the south wall, I also open up the east wall with a lot of glass to let in the winter heat.

Teresa:How do you deal with the relationship between the building and the environment in Canadian harbour project? How do you solve the problems of the noise of ships and the water polution and the environment protection?
Joe: The idea of the Harbor Symphony was to increase awareness and appreciation of the natural ampitheater nature of the city’s form. It should not be destroyed. Commercial and office buildngs along the shore of the harbor should not be so tall that they block views from the upper levels. The harbor symphony made a big “noise” for about 10 minutes each day for about 10 days in the summer. The event was long enough to be interesting but not so long that it became a problem.


How about the present status and future development of subject of “environmental art” in Canada?
Joe: There is growing sense that all the environment is art. When civilizations reached their peaks, such as the China in theTang and Song dyansty, one of the signs of that maturity was an integrated physical world with beauty touching every part. Because the Chinese Dynastic cycle of civilization ended and a new international cycle is beginning we are in period of transition with a lack of strong cultural guidance for the built environment. We are in a period of search and some chaos.
See diagram, “Maturation of Humanity”.
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