We’d like to take the opportunity to introduce you to the 3rd and Archhive Student prize winners of our "MICROHOME #4" competition –  Zhi Zheng from United States!

Zhi Zheng from United States

Senior student at Syracuse University, School of Architecture. Undergraduate majoring in architecture and minoring in construction management. Currently working at Gensler Seattle office as a professional architecture intern. I am keen on housing and urban planning projects and believe that architecture today is not about “adding” more spaces into the city, but about “changing” and “using” the space that is constructed but abandoned and not used efficiently. I am also a fan of the decentralization theory and believe it’s the key to solving the growing gap of wealth issues and will be the base of future architecture and urban design.

Brief information about the projects that you/your company have been involved with. For instance, what scale have you focused on/preferred, any significant projects where the company/ individuals have been involved?

I am currently doing a remote working space project with Microsoft about the using of VR/MR devices associated with physical space. I find this to be a great starting point of decomposing the overwhelming city scale. Through virtual spaces, we are about to release people from the restriction of the distance between their working and living areas, and therefore liberate the creativity and productivity of the social class. I am focusing on both the urban and architecture scale, as well as the design of social order. By creating multiple small to medium-scaled communities, it creates the chance to decompose the cumbersome functions gathered in large cities. It lowers the living pressure on Gen-Z and other younger generations, creating more space physically and mentally for younger generations to express themselves.

What does architecture mean to you and what is the role of an architect in your society?

In my opinion, the development of society is periodical. The development of technology brings opportunities of creating a new era through changing the mode of production. For example, the invention of steam power liberated people from the agriculture era to the industrial era. However, new ways of production mean new types of social order. Classical republicanism boosts the productivity of agricultural societies and leads the success of Roman empire. But it also causes the doom of Rome with the continued expansion of the empire. Therefore, a new social order needs to be established in order to associate the new ways of production. And architecture is the best tool to construct such an order, because no matter in which era, the special arrangement is what gathers and distributes people into groups and individuals. And the duty of architects is to find out what are the new ways of production, and what is the new social order, and people seek to have and give an answer to these questions using their new design strategies.

Why do you participate in architecture competitions?

To find out the answers I mentioned above, architects need to challenge themselves, to experiment with new strategies. Architecture competitions provide a platform for architects like me to show their understanding of these questions and discuss the durability of these experiments. That’s something practical architecture can never have.

What advice would you give to individuals who struggle to decide whether it would be beneficial for them to participate in architecture competitions?

For individuals who struggle to decide whether it would be beneficial for them to participate in architecture competitions, I will say it’s a pity to lose an opportunity that can release you from the restraints of project handbooks and budgets. Architecture is never only about creating something solid; it’s about thinking bigger and sharing these ideas with the world. You will never know if your design principles and the things you believed in are valuable or not until you express them to the world. And architecture competitions provide you with the best and lowest-cost place to do so. So just try it out!

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