Matchmaking China - Photo: NAi
The NAI launched the Matchmaking Programme in China at the end of 2009, aiming initially at housing in metropolises like Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzhen. After exhaustive preliminary research carried out by the think-tank Movingcities the NAI concluded that there is a serious lack of good quality housing for large low-income population groups. Furthermore, Chinese architects are also under pressure to develop and produce buildings at a brisk pace that allows little time for reflection.
Dutch architecture has something to contribute to both areas: a decades-long tradition of building quality social housing and the distinctly analytical, reflective and conceptual approach of Dutch architects. In response to this particular scenario, the NAI Matchmaking Programme in China has picked a number of experts to work alongside VANKE, a Chinese project developer and a key partner in the project. VANKE asked a group of five Dutch and five Chinese firms of architects to develop a plan for a housing development it was intending to build. The Chinese bureaus were picked based on three round table sessions organised by the NAI in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. The five Chinese bureaus are:
• Standard architecture
• NODE architecture and design
• Amature architecture, replaced at a later state by CAFA university
The five Dutch firms were chosen on the basis of an affinity with the theme of the brief (housing), experience working in China and a good combination of young and ambitious firm and respected and diverse bureaus. This resulted in the following selection:
• NL Architects
• Arons and Gelauff architecten
• Next architecten
• KCAP architects and planners
• Barcode architects
The ten firms of architects joined forces to work on the VANKE brief, a proposal for a residential complex in North Beijing for first-time buyers (known as ‘ants’) in the Chinese housing market. The jointly developed master plan contains ten different blocks. Each firm design one of the separate blocks. Construction is scheduled to commence in 2012. The complete project, including the designs and models can be seen in the NAI exhibition Housing with a Mission.