Rendering of Pekka Salminen's Grand Theater in Wuxi, China
This week, the Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat has an interesting profile of the Chinese architect Fang Hai, who has spent the last 16 years living and working in Helsinki, becoming in the process a bridge linking architects in his homeland and adopted country. Initially attracted by a desire to meet Yrjö Kukkapuro, the designer of the iconic Karuselli lounge chair, whose work Fang had come across when researching architects Alvar Aalto and Eliel Saarinen, Fang Hai traveled by train to Finland in the mid-90s, ultimately settling down in the country and writing more than 20 books about Finnish design and architecture. Soon after arriving in Helsinki, Fang was able to meet Kukkapuro, with the two becoming fast friends.
Over the last decade and a half, Fang and Kukkapuro have worked as a team, and are currently readying a bamboo furniture line for the China market.
From the article:
In China [Fang Hai] has helped local universities to develop their design programmes. While doing so he has written more than 20 books about Finnish design and architecture for the Chinese market. Apart from Kukkapuro, his books have introduced for example Eero Aarnio (creator among other things of the famous acrylic-framed "ball chair") to Chinese readers.
Fang has also helped Finnish architects to find employment in China. He has acted as a consultant for example for Pekka Salminen, whose architectural office PES Architects has designed the Grand Theater for the Wuxi Opera [a.k.a. the Xiwen Opera], soon to be completed in Wuxi, a city of 6 million in the southeast of China.
“Fang Hai’s importance as the forger of these Chinese links cannot be overemphasised. I believe that without him Finnish design and architecture would still be virtually unknown in China”, Salminen praises his friend in an email to Helsingin Sanomat.
Fang also has a joint office in Beijing with Vesa Honkonen, who acted as the project architect for Kiasma, Helsinki’s Museum of Contemporary Art, designed by the American Stephen Holl.
Fang has big plans for the cooperation between Finnish and Chinese designers and industries.
At the beginning of September he will start as a rector of the Guangdong University of Technology in Guangzhou, which is one of the largest cities in China. Nokia also has a large production plant in the area.
The university has around 50,000 students enrolled, and Fang will start heading its School of Arts Design. Fang has already hired Vesa Honkonen as a professor for the university. He plans to bring in Finnish designers as teachers and to create an exchange programme for students.