Some time fragmentation is wholly predictable until Wednesday, in Ningbo (Zhejiang), due to an end of summer family break with berserk offspring. That was to have been compounded by computer crisis until the excellent IT guy at the hotel here sorted out what had seemed an insoluble connectivity problem. We’re at a beautiful Park Hyatt out at the edge of the town, done out in an aesthetic that mixes Jiangnan elements with the company’s cosmopolitan minimalism (rough textures, earth tones, and intricate landscaping seem to be consistent themes.) Our explorations of the city isn’t likely to amount to much, but there are a couple of cool things to report on over the next couple of days. My expectation is something like the Hong Kong activity slump, but on heavy tranquillizers, so I’m throwing in a Chaos Patch to keep the wolves at the door.
ADDED (August 27): Besides the hotel itself, the main object of our neo-traditionalist excursion is the Ningbo Museum, which won a Pritzker prize for architect Wang Shu last year. Wang was the architect behind Ningbo’s pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo (2010), a building I raved about at the time (in obscure places). His most distinctive design characteristic is monumental facades of brick and tile, recycled from demolished villages, and tessellated into endlessly absorbing surfaces, minimally punctuated by irregularly oriented and distributed windows. These walls look truly fantastic, each being an intricate composition, subtly incorporating drifts of texture and color from the non-uniform component elements. Exactly how the construction process works remains a mystery to me at this point, since it relies upon an astonishing degree of craft attention at the smallest scale of assembly — and therefore seems to make economies of standardization and scale impossible. In any case, somehow it’s done.
The second aspect of the Ningbo Museum is a hybrid structure, marrying the intricate recycled facades with colossal brutalist structures, consisting of comparatively homogeneous roughened concrete. The geometric language of massive angled planes comes straight off the Atlantic Wall 1944, and has an undeniable military-totalitarian edge. (Whatever one thinks about the alternative neo-traditionalist aesthetic expressed in our hotel, it doesn’t seem adamant about engaging in a conversation about death camps.)
Conclusion? Not yet.