“We Want to Enjoy the Work, Enjoy the Fight”: In Conversation with Qing Fei and Frank Fu of Renhe Architecture


Quake Projects, Minle Houses, Mianzh. Image © Renhe Architecture

Quake Projects, Minle Houses, Mianzh. Image © Renhe Architecture

Last year I was invited to teach design studio for the first time by Tsinghua University in Beijing, home to the top architecture school in China and one of the strongest in the world, according to the latest international ratings. There, I met husband-and-wife teaching practitioners Qing Fei and Frank Fu. As soon as I witnessed their unorthodox way of teaching by challenging students with rigorous questioning, I wanted to interview them. Their innovative approach did not fit my impression of how architecture is tackled in China. Fei and Fu are Tsinghua graduates; they moved to America in the late 1980s where they studied, worked, and researched both art and architecture for almost two decades. They opened their experimental practice after coming back to Beijing in 2005. Since then they produced urban masterplans, design guidelines for public spaces in Beijing’s 798 Art Zone, and exhibited their work in galleries. We met before their class where they oversaw students’ designs for a new architecture school in place of the current one, articulating what works, what doesn’t, and how to make it a more exciting place to explore architectural possibilities. We discussed their teaching, the impossibility of solving a problem without questioning it first, why they see every one of their projects as a fight, and the importance of fun. They said, “Architecture is a game and we want to play it seriously.”

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