Co-presented by Hennessey + Ingalls, the A+D Museum and the Cal Poly LA Metro Program, Ma Yansong lectured last night on MAD's history and the trials of Chinese architecture. Now with offices in Los Angeles and Beijing, MAD is poised to fulfill the high expectations bestowed on it as a Chinese firm cultivating a style unique from any western exceptionalism, while also building outside of Asia. Yansong's talk took place at Space 15 Twenty in Hollywood -- a public, outdoor courtyard surrounded by hip storefronts and eateries. Free to people wandering through, the venue was refreshingly informal for an event type usually restricted to hallowed academic halls.
Yansong presented works from throughout MAD's existence, focusing particularly on each project's context and relationship to nature -- whether or not it was ever built. Considering that many of MAD's projects in China are located in new, developing cities, where the urban context can run quite thin, the building's relationship to nature becomes the prime consideration. This is partially due to Ma's distaste for verticality as a sign of power and humanity -- in MAD's Beijing, impressive high-rises dominate the skyline and allow for dense development, but compromise the city's humanity. MAD's alternative designs hope to maintain that humanity by mediating a connection with nature -- the buildings are not formally naturalistic or biophilic, but their systems and program integrate green spaces and landscape elements, holding a distorting mirror up to the surroundings.