10 Most Famous Chinese Architects
Chinese architecture is distinguished by features such as bilateral symmetry, the use of enclosed open spaces, the incorporation of feng shui concepts, a horizontal emphasis, and allusions to various cosmological, mythological, or symbolic elements.
Over the centuries, this architectural style has evolved in Asia. Except for decorative details, the structural principles of Chinese architecture have remained largely unchanged for thousands of years, influenced by environmental conditions and social concepts.
The following individuals are regarded as the most legendary Chinese architects of all time, with one of the most revered Chinese architects of all time receiving the prestigious Pritzker Prize.
Let’s take a look at the top ten Chinese architects.
1. I. M. Pei
Ieoh Ming Pei was a Chinese-American architect raised in Shanghai who was inspired by the garden villas of Suzhou, the traditional retreat of the scholar-gentry to which his family belonged, at a young age.
He began his long career designing buildings for a New York real estate developer with the Mesa Laboratory gaining him his first major recognition.
His newfound prominence led to his appointment as chief architect for the John F. Kennedy Library in Massachusetts, and he went on to design several other structures before returning to China.
He returned to China for the first time in 1975 to design a hotel in Fragrant Hills, and fifteen years later designed the Bank of China Tower, Hong Kong, a skyscraper in Hong Kong for the Bank of China.
The most well-known projects in Pei’s project portfolio are the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong, and the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
2. Yan Liben
During the early Tang Dynasty, Yan Liben, formally Baron Wenzhen of Boling, was a Chinese architect, painter, and politician.
Yan Liben, well-known for his painting and calligraphy abilities, was also a skilled architect.
Yan Liben was the imperial architect during Emperor Taizong’s son Emperor Gaozong’s reign during the Xianqing era (656–661).
The Tang dynasty advanced rapidly under the watchful eye of Emperor Gaozong, who commissioned court architect Yan Liben to design the palace, and construction began in 662 and commenced in 663.
The Daming Palace, as it is commonly known, was the Tang dynasty’s imperial palace complex designed by Yan Liben.
3. Lin Huiyin
Lin Huiyin, also known in the United States as Phyllis Lin or Lin Whei-yin, was a Chinese architect and writer. She is regarded as the first female architect in modern China, and her husband is regarded as the renowned “Father of Modern Chinese Architecture,” Liang Sicheng.
After finishing her studies in ancient Chinese architecture in Beijing, Lin Huiyin returned to Shenyang and helped to establish the Architectural Department at Northeastern University, where she briefly taught architecture.
In the post-imperial Republican Era of China, Liang and Lin began restoration work on cultural heritage sites. They brought a distinct version of western modernism to China, balancing their western education with a deep understanding of ancient Chinese architecture.
She persisted in following her architectural passion, which she would do until the end of her life.
4. Wang Shu
Wang Shu, the first Chinese citizen to win the prestigious Pritzker Prize in 2012, is widely regarded as one of the most influential Chinese architects of all time.
Wang Shu is a Chinese architect who lives and works in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province. He is the dean of the China Academy of Art’s School of Architecture. He co-founded Amateur Architecture Studio with his practice partner and wife, Lu Wenyu.
What makes him famous is his style, which includes the reuse of materials salvaged from demolition sites and a thoughtful approach that challenges the norms of current Chinese architectural practices.
Wang’s five major projects are all in China, with many of them in his home region of Zhejiang near Shanghai, such as the Ningbo Museum of Art, Ceramic House, Ningbo Tengtou Pavilion, Xiangshan Campus and Ningbo Museum.
5. Ai Weiwei
Ai Weiwei is a contemporary Chinese artist, documentarian, and activist who grew up in China’s far northwest.
He rose to prominence as a key figure in Chinese cultural development, one of the country’s most outspoken political commentators, and an architect of Chinese modernism better known as the artist who couldn’t wait to get out of architecture.
In 1999, he built a studio house in Caochangdi, Beijing – his first architectural project – and in 2003, with his growing interest in architecture, he founded the architecture studio FAKE Design.
His most notable architectural work is the Beijing National Stadium, on which he collaborated with the firm Herzog & de Meuron. Despite distancing himself from the project, you can thank his artistic eye for the layout of ‘The Bird’s Nest.’
When asked why he was involved in its design in the first place, he simply stated, “I did it because I love design.”
6. Ken Yeang
Ken Yeang is a Malaysian architect, planner, author, and ecologist best known for green architecture and masterplans driven by an ecology-based approach, as well as design work with a distinct green aesthetic that outperforms conventional rating systems.
His most notable structures include the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital Extension (UK), Solaris (Singapore), National Library (Singapore), Mesiniaga Tower (Malaysia), Spire Edge Tower (India), Genome Research Building (Hong Kong), and
Suasana Putrajaya (Singapore) (Malaysia).
He is famed for his bioclimatic towers, which have had a global impact by fusing high-tech and organic principles.
7. Ma Yansong
Ma Yansong is the founder of MAD architects and a Chinese architect. He is an adjunct professor at Tsinghua University’s School of Architecture and a visiting professor at Beijing University of Civil Engineering and Architecture.
The architect is well known for his designs that reflected his “Shanshui City” concept, which called for new ways of balancing the natural environment, urban landscape, and society through architecture.
He also won the competition to choose the architect for Absolute World’s fourth tower, which was dubbed the “Marilyn Monroe” tower due to its curvaceous, hourglass figure reminiscent of actress Marilyn Monroe.
8. Yu Hao
During the Song Dynasty, Yu Hao was a Chinese architect, structural engineer, and writer. Yu Hao was given the title of Master-Carpenter in recognition of his architectural abilities.
He is best known for his architectural design and structural engineering work, which culminated in the construction of the Kai-Bao Pagoda, a medieval Kaifeng wooden Chinese pagoda.
The first version was destroyed in a lightning conflagration in 1040, and it was later rebuilt in 1049 on the same site out of brick and stone to withstand arson and lightning fires.
9. Liang Sicheng
Liang Sicheng, known as the “Father of Modern Chinese Architecture,” was a Chinese architect and architectural historian.
Liang wrote the first modern history of Chinese architecture and founded Northeastern University’s Architecture Department in 1928.
Some of his most well-known works include the China Fine Arts Gallery (1959), the National Library of China (1987), and the Beijing West Railway Station (1996), all of which have large roofs.
He was also a member of the team that created the People’s Republic of China’s National Emblem, which is still in use today.
10. Naihan Li
Naihan Li, born 5 January 1981, is a Chinese designer architect currently living and working in Beijing in the Caochangdi Art District.
Naihan Li studied design and architecture at London’s Bartlett School of Architecture, and she worked on a design project with the renowned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei early in her career.
Naihan Li is a furniture designer-turned-architect whose works reflect “the moody impracticality of globe-trotting.” Her most well-known work is The Crates Series furniture, for which she was nominated for the Design of the Year Award 2012 by the Design Museum in London.