Architecture Competition Modular Home Design Challenge 2021 Honorable mention – Ruo Shen and Yihan Zhou

We’d like to take the opportunity to introduce you to one of our Honorable mention winners for our “Modular Home Design Challenge 2021” competition – Ruo Shen and Yihan Zhou from Germany!

Ruo Shen and Yihan Zhou from Germany

Ruo Shen: I graduated from Leibniz University Hannover in Germany with my masters’ degree. Before I came to Germany, I already got the primary architecture education in China, as well as 2 years of experience as an architect. After graduating, I worked in a German office S+S, and at the moment I am still working in Germany. We are still a team of two, and maybe later we will try to create our own office. We have worked as a team since we studied together in Leibniz University Hannover. In this time, we have found that we usually have similar ideas, and we could always work together harmoniously, so we decided to keep working together as a team.

Yihan Zhou: I received my first architecture education in China. After graduation, I went to Europe to seek further understanding of architecture. I completed my master’s degree at Leibniz University Hannover in Germany in 2018. After that, I returned to my homeland China and have worked in an architecture office until now.

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?

Ruo Shen: My individual experience is little unusual. I switched from study to practice and from practice to study, and I also used to work as a cultural researcher. After studying, I am now concentrating on practice projects, such as low-cost housing, modular building, and prefabrication, which can solve the social problems facing us now and in the future. At the moment I am working on a social low-cost residential building in Frankfurt, which includes about 140 apartments.

Yihan Zhou: The projects of my current office are quite comprehensive. During 3 years of working, I have participated in several typical residential projects, as well as some cultural projects. Relatively speaking, the scale of the projects is quite large. For instance, the total area of the residential community project that I did recently in southeast China is over 258,000 m2.

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

Ruo Shen: This is quite a big question for me, to be honest, I must recognize that I am just on my way to finding the answer. But maybe some points we can't avoid: the process of creating the building is huge social work, and the architect should take the primary responsibility for cost, function, and stability.

Yihan Zhou: Architecture for me is a practical way of turning one’s imagination of the world into reality. As I have studied and worked in both Europe and China, I found the work process is quite different. The working pace is obviously faster in China. To my understanding, architects in Europe are more dominant and expressive in projects, while Chinese architects have to spend more time balancing personal ideas and client opinions. Luckily, the situation is becoming better thanks to those who have completed more and more outstanding projects.

Why do you participate in architecture competitions?

Ruo Shen: I think the most important reason for me for participating in architecture competitions is that we want to spread and showcase our ideas for possibly better solutions of the modern social problems.

Yihan Zhou: I sometimes lose my passion in such high-intensity work. I could feel that the theoretical knowledge I learned for so many years had no use. Participating in competitions for me is a chance to jump out of the design cliché of the market and to really think about what I want to design.

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

Ruo Shen: Maybe it won't be easy for you, but it is still a good way to present yourself and practice. Just try to get through it to improve yourself.

Yihan Zhou: My teammate and I are both working for architecture offices. We do competitions in our free time, which means we need to give up our weekends and holidays. But it’s the only way to express our own design ideas, instead of our bosses, and test out our professional abilities in the larger world. Our daily work is like chopping wood, and doing competitions is like sharpening the axe.

Work for yourself, even if for a weekend!

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