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Checking Out: Li Xiang

The Shanghai architecture and design groundbreaker experiments with styles, experiences, materials and themes that make you “hold your breath”.

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Li Xiang

Do you remember what first sparked your interest in design and architecture?

I have been learning about painting ever since I was a kid in Harbin, China, one of the largest cities in far Northeast China. The experience cultivated my interest in beautiful things and aesthetic consciousness. So, I dreamed of doing something related to this as I grew up. But it was not until college– at Birmingham City College in the U.K. – that I began to realize the beauty of architecture.

Any early mentors or influences?

In 2008, during my study trip in Germany, I encountered the work of Anish Kapoor, the British-Indian sculptor. The appearance of a space that is different from reality indicates infinite inspiration and possibilities. Even when I went from being an architect to an interior designer, I still hoped to create designs that are not often seen and [make people hold their] breath, create curiosity, even doubts, but mostly bring subtle feelings that rise in your chest and make you forget depression and sadness, embracing unknown surprises.

Do you recall that first project that gave you pride and convinced you you’d be rewarded for your work?

Yangzhou Zhongshuge, an antique bookstore and library, would probably be my pick (featured in VMSD’s April 2017 issue). It referenced the Yangtze River, which runs through Yangzhou, and the city’s history of culture and ethereal beauty. It brought me a different sense of pride, as this project helped people from different nationalities get to know more about this city and its culture.

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When did you start X+Living? What were the challenges?

I founded my own design studio in 2011. Creating a business is always challenging. For me, management is the hardest part, since I am no longer just an architect, but also an employer, the head of my company. There is plenty of other business I need to attend to, rather than simply immersing myself in the world of design.

You’re known for work that is progressive, bold, abstract and modern, even fantastical. Is that part of today’s Chinese design aesthetic?

Chinese design has been flourishing in the last couple of years, and the design style is very diversified, ranging from Eastern classical to modern artistic. Personally, I feel very lucky to be in this free and creative environment, as it allows me to express my different voice in the pursuit of great design.

A Club for All Seasons

Talk a little about Meland Club Shenzhen, one of your most recent successes (featured on p. 24 of this issue). Meland Club is an indoor parent-child playground. Since the project is located in Southeast China, where there are not four distinctive seasons, we decided to create a themed garden that enables the local children to experience four beautiful seasons in a world of fairytales. The elements of flowers, plant stems, butterflies, bees and other relative plants and living things are collected in the deconstructive design, and then reorganized into an unexpected natural landscape, rendering deep-seated, mysterious hints and stimulating wild imagination.

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