Pro. Design “Youth Career Development Center”, “Lake Shore Artist Studio”, page 72-83, Guangzhou China
PRO. DESIGN INTERVIEWS SHAOHUA DI, founder of Praxis d’ Architecture
PRO. DESIGN: Praxis d’ Architecture (‘Praxis d’) was founded in 2009, could you tell us about how it happened and what were your expectations then ?
SHAOHUA DI: I had the idea of starting my own studio when I was doing my master’s in the U.S.. It had taken six years since having finished graduate school to Praxis d’s establishment. During that time, I took independent projects as both first and second parties. And most importantly, I got married, had children and started my own family. It was 2009 then. I think family and kids gave me a great sense of security, and finally the courage to work on the start-up. Having an independent studio helped me think and make decisions more freely. And I needed that, spiritually.
PRO. DESIGN: What’s the philosophy and main idea that Praxis d holds onto from the very beginning ? Why do you focus especially on projects that’s culturally relevant?
SHAOHUA DI: No matter how a project is designed functionally, you cannot completely take culture off the table. Instead of saying that we focus on cultural projects, you might as well say that we pay special attention to the cultural aspects of the building. We believe that when an architecture is designed in a particular context using the local resources and techniques, it will convey meaning of its culture in the next decades. We look for inspirations from the site, feel and analyze its innate cultural and physical context to get an idea of the design and it is then represented by the basic media, space, material and light of architecture.
PRO. DESIGN: Throughout the years, what obstacles did Praxis d face and how did you lead your team to overcome them?
SHAOHUA DI: Managing and controlling details during the implementation of the project to achieve high quality finishing is the most difficult of all. It has something to do with the current state of our industry. The client, scheme architect, design institute, manufacture and contractor need to all work together to avoid poor communication which would directly impact the quality of the project. Generally, we are the first to be hired by our client, and we usually coordinate and follow up all the way through the construction process, but still at the beginning we found many construction details uncontrollable. However, as we became more experienced as a team, we gained the respect and trust from the client and things are improving greatly.
PRO. DESIGN: Members at Praxis d are all quite young. Please tell us what’s special about your team and what’s the culture of the studio?
SHAOHUA DI: I was born in the 70s, but I have so much fun working with the 80s team. A lot of people have told me that I looked just as old as they were. I was thrilled. Age is not a main factor when I choose my collaborators. Younger people are more energetic, more well-informed. Design is for the future and the future are in the hands of the young people.
PRO. DESIGN: Do you have anything special to share with us on managing such a young team ?
SHAOHUA DI: Architecture and design infiltrate into every aspect of our lives. Being an architect is not just a job, but a way of living. We work with educational institutions and when time allows, we go to see art exhibitions, movies or visit places and have discussions. Every member is learning work skills as well as generating deeper thoughts on designing. I think it is important for an architect to find a way of living and thinking that can make us creative.
PRO. DESIGN: So, what’s your next step for Praxis d ? Any new plans?
SHAOHUA DI: We are taking on some bolder projects. They require us to be more efficient and work under more strict standards. We hope to develop more efficient teamwork with the client, co-designers and the construction team to ensure higher quality during the implementation of a project.