Design Thesis Project 2016 - 2017
Liu center image

“手与思” (Thinking with Hands):
A Centre for Traditional and Contemporary Chinese Crafts


Mingpeng Liu
Advisor: Edward Epp

This thesis explores craftsman’s head, eyes, hands, and technology, together with their relation to architecture and space. Using Traditional Chinese craftsmanship as a point of departure for re-understanding handicrafts in 21st century, this thesis will explore how architecture as a craft, a form of art, a place for activities participate in craftsman’s life. The project will be sited in Jinan, Shandong, China, which both has an ancient city with long history of craftsmanship and old traditional Chinese courtyards.

China has a very long history of being famous of its craftsmanship, and these crafts were exported to many eastern and western countries. However, after People’s Republic of China founded in 1949, especially in cultural revolution between 1966 to 1976, red guards destroyed most of those crafts, and their makers were persecuted very badly, even to death. In the last two decades of 20th century, machines replaced hands, western culture impacted Chinese culture very much, traditional Chinese craftsmanship was declining. Now, in 21st century, some of the traditional Chinese craftsmanship is disappearing or has disappeared. As a Chinese, I think it is time to recall our own tradition and culture.

Not only a cultural recall, but also a spatial recall, this thesis will approach architecture and the process of making a craft as a craftsman, to discover what the craftsman’s role in architecture, and how to apply traditional Chinese crafts and technology into architecture. Instead of being simply a craft to be looked at, the project will explore how architecture can please and engage craftsmen, learners, and visitors visually, physically, and spiritually. These questions will be proposed by studying on one to three traditional crafts in Jinan to identify how they are made, how their technology and form can create an enriched experience of space, and how to transform them for both traditional and contemporary Chinese architecture.

Central Image: A model is showing how the city was expanded.

1. Site Plan
2. Two Sections
3. Bird View
4. Perspective View of Fabric Making Studio
5. Image of The Site Model
6. Elevation Detail of the Building Model

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