Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Profile: MAD

After training at Yale, Beijing-born Ma Yansong spent time in London honing his theatrical, formal tendencies with Zaha Hadid before returning to China to found MAD in 2004. His aim was to “embrace the advent of a new era” and begin constructing a brave new world of undulating surfaces and twisting towers.

MAD made waves in 2006 as the first Chinese office to win a major competition outside China with its 56-storey “Marilyn Monroe” tower for Mississauga, Canada. This was followed by several high-profile projects back home, including the mega-blob Erdos Museum in Inner Mongolia. “Maybe Chinese tradition is invention,” says Ma, “to change the old conventions, to do something bold and new.”

Although he clearly welcomes the commercial potentials of this new era, it is possible to read a critical political agenda beneath all the gloss. The compelling Beijing 2050 project, for example, reconfigures Tiananmen Square as a “People’s Park” with vast cultural facilities buried beneath a landscaped mountain, while the Central Business District receives a floating, multimedia business-leisure land, hovering ominously over CCTV and other imminent Western interventions.

Originally published in Icon, April 2008