Architecture students exhibit visionary drawings in Suzhou old town

June 30, 2021

Studios of Year 3 Architecture students are exhibiting publicly 70 visionary drawings in Shuangta Twin Pagoda Shadow Garden, Suzhou, each a conceptual expression of new ‘type-based’ mixed-use housing.

In the exhibition named ‘Caravanserai; Transforming the Suzhou Courtyard Type’, each of the drawings is created by students, presented and discussed through virtual-education and in new virtual spaces, and exhibited here in printed form for the first time, says David Vardy, director of Design Research Centre and Assistant Professor in Department of Architecture at XJTLU.

“Each image is an exploration of the continued art and skill of the architectural drawing. Some are made by hand, some by software, and some through processes that combine the two,” he says, “Each is at once a conceptualisation and a visualisation, communicating and translating an architectural future by way of lines and surface.”

According to Vardy, students worked by way of a method of ‘design-by-type’— starting first at the small-scale, designing apartment-types, roof-types, circulation-types, window-types, etc, through a mini-project set in two neighbouring sites of Fulangzhong Alley, no.32 neighbourhood of Suzhou Old Town. In the second step, students transferred these ‘types’ to the larger site along the Jing–Hang Grand Canal.

“Through acts of translation, repetition, and differentiation, students continued building through a generative process of design - producing new courtyard housing as a context and type-based ‘carpet’ or ‘mosaic’,” Vardy says.

The cardboard exhibition sculpture - housing the drawings - is a custom-made expression of this design method also, of “small to big”. Individual particles - in this case rectangular “tiles” - are amassed to form a larger combined whole, explains Vardy.

“The pattern of combination and jointing is inspired by the architecture of the roof of the exhibition space itself and more generally by the traditions of Suzhou wood craftsmanship,” Vardy says.

The exhibition is curated, designed and installed by David Vardy, Juan Yruela Castillo and Bryan Yan Chut Hang from Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University Design Research Centre [DRC], together with the Critical Histories and Cultural Innovation Lab from Department of Architecture + Design.

By Yi Qian

Photos provided by Department of Architecture

June 30, 2021