Crossing Landscape and Architecture: Embodiment of A-Perspectival Space in Wang Shu’s Oblique Drawings

Jin, Xin

Ngā Pūtahitanga / Crossings: A Joint Conference of SAHANZ and the Australasian UHPH Group

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Over the past two decades, Pritzker Architecture Prize laureate Wang Shu has experimented with renewing vernacular architectural vocabularies by reinterpreting traditional Chinese landscape paintings and gardens. However, the role of Wang’s design drawings in his architectural undertakings remains largely underexplored. By analysing Wang’s handmade design drawings, this paper examines how the architect bridges the gap between traditional landscape painting, which is often considered to be the epitome of Chinese modes of spatial perception, and the modern oblique projection method, which is a technique that is based on the Cartesian coordinate system.

First, through a literature review, this paper frames a salient aspect of Wang’s appreciation of the traditional Chinese landscape painting, namely the genre’s a-perspectival treatment of pictorial space. For Wang, the landscape painting embodies a culture-bound mode of “seeing,” which resorts to neither the illusionary perspective nor Cartesian metric space. Second, through case studies, this paper analyses the key aspects of Wang’s landscape painting-informed a-perspectival oblique drawings and his drawings’ critical implications. In his design for the Tengtou Pavilion (Shanghai, 2009-10), Wang creates nonrepresentational, immeasurable spaces with inconsistent projection fragments to evoke intended phenomenally boundless depth and transforms the technique into a collage device to prompt an architecture-landscape parallelism. In his sketch for the Lingyin Temple teahouse complex (Hangzhou, 2008-20), Wang doubles the modes of oblique drawing to attune the landscape painting and architectural projection and transform nature into built forms.

By drawing on Wang’s case, this paper offers insights into how the standardised oblique drawing method can afford culturally grounded a-perspectival uses and how such critical adaptations could assist the architect to move across the ontological border between architecture and landscape.