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Ai Weiwei and His Home
2004-7-8 11:20:13     CRIENGLISH.com
Avant-garde artist's Ai Weiwei's home is located near a crossover between capital airport road and the fifth ring road. The building takes up 400 square meters, and the courtyard, over 1,300 square meters. The immense compound is no different from houses of local residents: grey iron gates and brick walls, except for its impressive scale. For an artist and architect, the house is too simply decorated, or rather, it is too crude.

The house, according to Ai Weiwei, son of famous writer Ai Qing, is just a place for work°™he needs a spacious place for his creation. In short, Ai Weiwei is a teleologist. What he does is subject to what he needs, which defines his style as simple and straightforward. People who are familiar with Ai Weiwei like to trace his simple style back to 12 years ago when he was an adamant artist against any "emotive" decoration of modern architecture.

"The best way of decoration is making reasonable use of a space without endowing it with any cultural significance. As for me, I've been careful to avoid various dominating design styles. "

Here's what Ai Weiwei had when building his house: 130,000 bricks, 180 tons cement, 7.5 tons reinforcing steel bars, 34 prefabricated planks, 45 cubes of sand and some wood scraps. Construction took 60 days and wall-painting 40 days.
One of Ai Weiwei's principles of design is being economical. "The best design is also the most money-saving design", said Ai. His home undoubtedly best reflects this idea. In his home the established concept of walls, doors and a roof has been abandoned. As long as practicability is concerned, all other irrelevant factors in design and decoration are considered unnecessary triviality and repetition, and were given up by Ai without any hesitation.

The most appalling and noteworthy part of his home is the washroom on the second floor. It is completely open. The toilet and the wash bowl are much like pieces of furniture, casually positioned around. Now in China many families use a ground glass wall to separate the washroom from other sections. However, none is as bold as Ai Weiwei who challenges traditional definition of privacy by exposing it to visitors. Ai Weiwei holds that the second floor is already a relatively private sector and there is no need to place another wall here.

"We are susceptible to established concepts without asking why and how, for example the door, window, wall and privacy. A good designer shouldn't present what he was taught, but seek to present his original look."

As a result, elements of a home are simplified to the maximum. The walls are crude bricks and the windows are made of frosted glass. As the walls are for display of his works, heating caliducts are embedded in the ground. Staircases are no more than fabricated cement planks.

When the house is completed, it also surprised the construction workers: there's no roof. Certainly you can't call the lid a roof. "A house is like a box. It is merely a container. When a certain roof is applied, the building is easily changed into a stylish thing. What I need are just some basic components for the house." That explains why Ai Weiwei just put a lid to the box.


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