Architect Luoyi Yin

Interview by Eva Xie, based in Beijing

Luoyi Yin graduated from Columbia University with a Masters of Architecture. He also furthered his studies with a Ph.D in Architecture at Cambridge University. Now he is running his own studio, MIC in Beijing.

Luoyi Yin, 29, is an unconventional architect.

He turned down a job at a top design studio in Manhattan after completing his Masters degree in the U.S. Instead, he chose to return to China.

But it upsets Luoyi that China has become a laboratory for foreignarchitects, with all sorts of buildings rising across the country. Luoyi says, “we attract attention from prominent international architects but we also eliminate opportunities for local architects to advance.”

Now Luoyi is his own boss at his 80 square metre studio in Beijing. He says it was not so difficult to leave the world-renowned Michael Sorkin Studio, “Beijing is where things are really happening for architects. ”

Luoyi has been running his studio for two years from Jianwai Soho, Beijing’s busy commerce hub. This has earned him the label of “Blue Collar Worker” among his architect friends. Unlike Luoyi, they have chosen to run their studios from Beijing’s Hutong area or 798 Art Zone, home to many Chinese artists and designers.

But Luoyi insists on staying in the busiest area of Beijing where he can observe and study the busy traffic, energy and water consumption of Beijing’s high-rise buildings. “You can smell industrialisation here,” Luoyi says, pointing at the busy traffic outside on Beijing’s Third Ring Road. The fluorescent advertisements on the metropolitan buildings across the street seem to be the perfect backdrop for his comment. “This is what a megacity looks like, but is it the future?” Luoyi questions.

Luoyi chats to Art Zeen in his studio about the meaning behind architecture and the intriguing relationship between people and space.

Art Zeen: You studied architecture for about ten years, does it take that long to be an architect?

Luoyi: Well architecture is difficult enough. One has to be a thinker, an observer and even a philosopher to some extent, although many people define it as an applied science. The first couple of years of training is more about learning the techniques, but when it gets to a PhD, it’s about everything other than technique. We just call this education process “research” which makes it sound more academic I guess.

Art Zeen: What do you research about?

Luoyi: My research is about the city, everyday activities in the city and possible urban systems of the future. I want to come up with persuasive strategies to turn environmental crisises into opportunities. We can accomplish this through innovation and sustainable designs. Sustainability is the global future. And it does not rule out commercial benefits. It’s a scientific process and could be quite political.

Art Zeen: Why political?

Luoyi: The design proposals, especially those related to urban planning, are subject to government policies.

Art Zeen: Why do you prefer to design buildings for the central business district (CBD) area?

Luoyi: Not many places in the world can compete on an equal footing with Beijing’s CBD when it comes to density and complex structures. If we can come up with a solution to tackle the environmental problems confronting the complex CBD area, then the same solution could easily be applied to areas with simpler structures.

Art Zeen: What is your vision for a city of the future?

Luoyi: It should be energy self-sufficient. The overall urban design should serve our personal needs but still allow enough public space for our communities.

Art Zeen: What are the challenges of being a young architect?

Luoyi: Practising without losing your vision! Usually when you’re young, you have a great imagination but can’t do much about it. But when you become established, you might have forgotten what you wanted.

Art Zeen: Was being an architect your dream job when you were young?

Luoyi: I thought an architect was someone who builds a house. haha. People still see architects this way today. As a child, I once dreamed about designing a building in the shape of a teapot and people had cool ways of navigating in it. After I woke up, I felt that I just had to put the idea down on paper, and I did. Although this dream has yet to be realised, I still believe that I should work on some heartfelt design ideas.