Designer Ziyu Xu joined Finegold Alexander Architects this past summer, following her graduation from MIT’s Master of Architecture program. Prior to MIT, Ziyu earned her B. Engineering in Urban Planning at South China University of Technology. During her studies, Ziyu had multiple internships in different countries such as Denmark and Russia, along with the United States including an internship in New York City. Since joining the firm, Ziyu has been involved in several projects, creating conceptual and schematic designs, involving 3D modeling, visualization and analysis. As a valuable new member of our Finegold Alexander team, we wanted to sit down with Ziyu to learn more about her.
Q: What inspired you to go into architecture?
Z: I liked watching cartoons and reading comic strips when I was young. I knew that my career would be related to creativity. I didn’t have much concept about architecture until I started to draw my first plan for a pavilion design in my first-year studio. The plan was in a diamond shape with a meandering path. I felt good about my design, but the instructor didn’t find it intriguing. This led me to dive into the subject to figure out how architects measure the world and see things differently.
"This led me to dive into the subject to figure out how architects measure the world and see things differently."
Q: If you could give advice to an aspiring designer what would you say?
Z: My advice would be to learn the rules that define well-designed spaces before anything else. For example, in urban planning, certain street proportions give a better pedestrian walking experience than other. Rules help to identify the relations between design elements and control the outcome of the design. When I was in my first year of school, I tried to imitate Zaha Hadid’s building but failed to understand the logistics behind it. After I started to learn parametric design in Grasshopper, some design logics behind those forms became more self-explanatory.
Q: Do you have any guiding design principles in your process?
Z: Guiding design principles may vary on different projects. The context, the users, the programs, or a powerful image could all be the starting points of a project.
Q: Do you have a favorite city to visit for architecture?
Z: From my previous internship experience, I would say Copenhagen because you can always find playful new architecture and classic Scandinavian design projects (like furniture). Playfulness and human-centered spirit is rooted in its culture. The designers have a tradition of creating spaces through light, color and well-crafted furniture. How people interact with buildings is an important design question. For example, I visited the Bagsværd Church which opens up into a cloud-like skylight that stirs your imagination when you enter. Another example is the CopenHill which extends a spiral landscape on top of the new energy plant - as making you feel “hygge” (a quality of coziness) within their designs is one of the core values they hold.
Q: Do you have a favorite building or perhaps a favorite architect?
Z: I have many favorite architects, but I would like to share one architect who has been recently inspiring to me. Smiljan Radić is a Chilean architect, who is known for integrating obscure geometries and local materials into powerful architectural gestures. I first learned about this architect through a project called House for the Poem of the Right Angle. The design was inspired by Le Corbusier painting series. Smiljan Radić translated the painting’s spirit into a building form that tells the story about life, through an organism. The dwellers inside see things from the building’s eyes and sleep in its belly. I believe this building creates a bond between human and itself.
Stay tuned for more Staff Spotlight features to come in 2022!