Design Legends ("DL") had the distinct honour to interview legendary designer Jian'an Zhou ("JZ") for their original perspective and innovative approach to design as well as their creative lifestyle, we are very pleased to share our interview with our distinguished readers.

DL: Could you please tell us a bit about your design background and education?

JZ : I graduated from Guilin University of Technology, majoring in environmental design. After graduation, I worked as a landscape designer first in a real estate company and afterwards in a design company. During my 17-year career I participated in many good projects.

DL: What motivates you to design in general, why did you become a designer?

JZ : Privately, I am very quiet. I like to observe the details of our everyday life and find out the rules and problems of our living environment, which enables me to become a capable designer and to find solutions to these problems.

DL: Did you choose to become a designer, or you were forced to become one?

JZ : I choose to become a designer.

DL: What do you design, what type of designs do you wish to design more of?

JZ : I have participated in many commercial, municipal and residential landscape design projects. Currently, I mainly work on residential landscape design projects.

DL: What should young designers do to become a design legend like you?

JZ : The essence of design should focus on people so we need to spent a great deal of time observing and studying their lives.

DL: What distinguishes between a good designer and a great designer?

JZ : Your observation of life, understanding of a project and approaches to address issues encountered in the project are essential for you to become a good designer.

DL: What makes a good design a really good design, how do you evaluate good design?

JZ : Actually resolves the essential problems through our design, inspirational and have certain aesthetic values.

DL: What is the value of good design? Why should everyone invest in good design?

JZ : Good design is able to improve people’s quality of life and resolve many problems they encounter in life. If I were an investor, I would think it is worthwhile to invest in a design proposal that can actually address people’s needs.

DL: What would you design and who would you design for if you had the time?

JZ : I hope I could have the opportunity to devote to landscape projects that preserve our traditional culture and improve the sustainable development of cities and work with environmentalists and preservationist to improve our living environment.

DL: What is the dream project you haven’t yet had time to realize?

JZ : BIOPHILIC urban design; I believe that staying close to nature could to a large extent improve people’s physical and mental health and the urban environment. If time allows I hope I could have the opportunity to work on this type of project.

DL: What is your secret recipe of success in design, what is your secret ingredient?

JZ : Design should focus on the needs of people. We must find out ways to understand users’ actual needs. What kind of lifestyle do they prefer and what kind of environment they prefer to conduct social interactivity.

DL: Who are some other design masters and legends you get inspired from?

JZ : Landscape designer guru Zhu Yufan and architecture expert Wang Shu have been inspirational to me in terms of space layout and oriental landscape design.

DL: What are your favorite designs by other designers, why do you like them?

JZ : The HOSHINOYA Luxury Hotels in Karuizawa is a hot spring resort in a valley, with its landscape designed by Hiroki Hasegawa based on Japan’s traditional culture.

DL: What is your greatest design, which aspects of that design makes you think it is great?

JZ : Currently I feel satisfied with the design effects of Guobin No. 1 Central Mansion. It aims to create a unique and serene place among the bustling city.

DL: How could people improve themselves to be better designers, what did you do?

JZ : Firstly, you have to be interested in design; and you should be a keen observer in life and lastly it’s your reflections on the problems you have detected.

DL: If you hadn’t become a designer, what would you have done?

JZ : I might become a concept artist because I once had deep interest in painting.

DL: How do you define design, what is design for you?

JZ : I think design refers to the orderly arrangements of the elements of life. By taking apart our living environment into sperate parts and reorganizing them in a certain way, it aims for optimizing our living space and quality of life.

DL: Who helped you to reach these heights, who was your biggest supporter?

JZ : In fact, my family, colleagues and clients have given me great support and we are also willing to work together to produce exquisite landscape design.

DL: What helped you to become a great designer?

JZ : Both my family and I are quiet people and it is my family driving my interest in our living environment and enable me to settle down and observe the details of our everyday life.

DL: What were the obstacles you faced before becoming a design master?

JZ : Experience in landscape design; landscape design requires a comprehensible skill set and to be a good designer you have to accumulate a lot of experience by dealing with many projects.

DL: How do you think designers should present their work?

JZ : Designers need to produce sophisticated works that at the same time are also easy to understand so that even laymen can easily see the purpose and aim of a project.

DL: What’s your next design project, what should we expect from you in future?

JZ : The next project is to design a roof garden, which is very futuristic. I hope people would like it after it is completed.

DL: What’s your ultimate goal as a designer?

JZ : I hope I could be inspirational to other designers and they would benefit and improve themselves by working with me.

DL: What people expect from an esteemed designer such as yourself?

JZ : More or less, people would have problems and difficulties in life. If designers could resolve these problems ingeniously and at a small cost, they would surely win people’s respect.

DL: How does design help create a better society?

JZ : Many problems in our lives and with our living environment can be resolved through elaborate design. A good design could be inspirational to people like artworks. All of which play a positive role in our society, both physically and spiritually.

DL: What are you currently working on that you are especially excited about?

JZ : Currently I am working on a roof garden, which will be a very futuristic design. I feel very excited, although it is a great challenge to me.

DL: Which design projects gave you the most satisfaction, why?

JZ : Previously, we designed a pocket garden in Chongqing, China and its high quality attracted many people from surrounding areas; in addition, the design improved the problems of insufficient green space and poor wetland environment facing the city.

DL: What would you like to see changed in design industry in the coming years?

JZ : In the future, the landscape industry will develop towards the direction of producing sophisticated and elaborate designs. More and more design projects would focus on improvement and renovation of the existing environment to save cost and protect the environment.

DL: Where do you think the design field is headed next?

JZ : Gradually trending toward pursuing high-quality design and focus on the fundamentals rather than having aesthetics as the benchmark of the field.

DL: How long does it take you to finalize a design project?

JZ : This would depend on the difficulties and scale of a project. Generally, It would at least take three months or even longer from six months to a year in case of a difficult project needing repeated study and authentication.

DL: When you have a new design project, where do you start?

JZ : Firstly, I would analyze the target users of the project and its surrounding environment so that problems can be identified and solved.

DL: What is your life motto as a designer?

JZ : The essence of design is to bring spiritual joy to people.

DL: Do you think design sets the trends or trends set the designs?

JZ : I have always held the idea that design is affected by social trends and need to adjust according to the evolution of people’s material and spiritual needs.

DL: What is the role of technology when you design?

JZ : It is indispensable. Many design ideas have to be combined with technologies to address problems more efficiently and safely; sometimes, they even promote each other.

DL: What kind of design software and equipment do you use in your work?

JZ : A lot of software are used, among which AutoCAD and Sketch Up are the most important design software.

DL: What is the role of the color, materials and ambient in design?

JZ : All these are essential conditions needing to be considered during the early period to ensure the success of a project.

DL: What do you wish people to ask about your design?

JZ : What is the design about? What problems it resolves and how they are resolved?

DL: When you see a new great design or product what comes into your mind?

JZ : Imagine you were the designer who drafted this design, what would be your ideas behind it?

DL: Who is your ideal design partner? Do you believe in co-design?

JZ : My colleague Zhou Yanhong is an excellent interior designer. We often work together on high-end and high-quality residential landscape design projects.

DL: Which people you interacted had the most influence on your design?

JZ : They are also my colleagues. We are a team and they inspire me a lot on many projects.

DL: Which books you read had the most effect on your design?

JZ : Less is More and Japan’s New Middle Class have a deep impact on my design career.

DL: How did you develop your skills as a master designer?

JZ : To be a keen observer of life and spend more time thinking about the ideas behind high-quality projects and communicating with designers in different fields.

DL: Irrelative of time and space, who you would want to meet, talk and discuss with?

JZ : I have always feel attracted to Peter Walker’s minimalist landscape style.

DL: How do you feel about all the awards and recognition you had, is it hard to be famous?

JZ : There would still be a long way to go. There are many outstanding landscape design companies and we need to keep going and commit to produce more good projects.

DL: What is your favorite color, place, food, season, thing and brand?

JZ : I don’t have any special preference for colors and brands. I just like to stay near a lake during autumn and tastes fruits freshly picked from trees.

DL: Please tell us a little memoir, a funny thing you had experienced as a designer?

JZ : After becoming a designer, I’ve improved a lot. But now I am also bald so a healthy lifestyle is very important.

DL: What makes your day great as a designer, how do you motivate yourself?

JZ : It is my interest and I have a great liking for landscape design.

DL: When you were a little child, was it obvious that you would become a great designer?

JZ : A that time, not at all. It’s not until college that I gradually developed a deep interest in landscape design.

DL: What do you think about future; what do you see will happen in thousand years from now?

JZ : In the future, human development may still exert impact on the environment and with the development going slower, it can eventually co-exist with the natural environment.

DL: Please tell us anything you wish your fans to know about you, your design and anything else?

JZ : Any suggestions from any person seeing my project are welcomed and it would be very helpful for us to become better in the future.



Nine Court Mansion Residential Landscape

Nine Court Mansion Residential Landscape by Jian'an Zhou

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