Design Legends ("DL") had the distinct honour to interview legendary designer Sun Hu ("SH") 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?

SH : I learned landscape major from Nanjing Forestry University and earned my bachelor’s degree in 1998. Landscape architecture, this professional training includes five critical aspects: landscape formulation, painting and poetry, ecological knowledge, construction, in which various background benefit me. In the following 20 years, my skills have been dramatically improved by virtue of practical experiences.

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

SH : Innovation leads the poetic dwelling.

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

SH : I work in customizing systematic and integrative solutions in the fields of community environment, commercial, culture & tourism, theme towns, urban design and regional planning.

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

SH : I don’t think I am a design legend at this moment. Learning is an endless process.

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

SH : Bringing that subtle difference into our designs and paying close attention to human being’s requirement is what separates a great designer from a good designer.

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

SH : I believe that only time and users can define good design. Because good design is classic, eternal and touching. In other words, good design is impressive rather than disposable. To give an improper example, the good design seems classic in the clothing industry, rather than the popular and short-lived shows. Take Yujingshan project which I designed in 2007 as an example, we did a customer satisfaction survey in 2017 and gained a lot of praise from it. Interviewees told us that this project is a good design by satisficing using experience during the past decade. Next, the classic, eternal and touching design need designer thinking a lot. As we all know, design cannot be only created by imagining. Don Norman said that design should start at understanding people’s demands. So, users pay an important role in landscape design. Among them, participation is a good method to achieve this goal. Recently, I am applying this method in the "Jianye 27 Bamboo Garden" project. I propose four important principles on this project: understanding, co-design, co-contribute and sharing. The developer, designers, shareholders and third party organizations were invited into the whole project. Change the situation in which the design only dominated by developers and designers in the past. It is worth spending more time on understanding the demands of people to build fascinates designs.

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

SH : The good design represents the accumulation of many professionals during decades. All efforts are creating a better life. I think that no one can refuse a better life.

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

SH : I believe that success is contributed by 99% hard work and 1% luck. It is normal for me to work until the early hours. You know, no one can get everything easily. At the same time, I am appreciated for my supportive family, good teachers, hardworking term and nice customers.

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

SH : Le Corbusier, Álvaro Siza, Louis Kahn, Geoffrey Bawa, Kengo Kuma

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

SH : Studying, observation and thinking. Studying(reading or studying from life) is a very good method to improve self-competitiveness. It makes me continue to accumulate and apply in my design. At the same time, observation and thinking are also very important. At the very beginning, I always observe good designs and thinking about the reasons for touching points in this design. After that,I always summarizing, accumulating and absorbing from my observation and thinking. Finding touching points helps us understand the essence of design and help young designers make rapid progress.

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

SH : The constant support from my family and work in harmony with my colleagues and clients help me a lot.

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

SH : Recently, we have a culture and tourism project in Guizhou, China in process, which worked with Pritzker award’s winner, Mr Shigeru Ban.

DL: How does design help create a better society?

SH : Landscape design has a profound impact on our daily lives. Good landscapes help to make healthy and happy communities. One of the most important aspects of landscape design is its influence on quality of life and social interaction. Well-designed green spaces improve social connection and safety, they can support people to exercise more and they can even help to moderate temperature. Integrated landscape-led design has the power to transform a place into somewhere which is highly functional and has strong character and beauty.

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

SH : I don’t think anyone can predict what will happen in the coming years in landscape design. The field changes too quickly. In the next five years, though, there are a few emerging threads that will continue to grow stronger: much more money and people flowing into the industry; tools and skillsets merging; emerging technologies, etc…

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

SH : It depends on clients’ expectation and marketing requirement. Generally speaking, 1-2 years at least.

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

SH : Understand the character of the site, the demands of inhabitants and customers.

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

SH : First, the design is the product of the times. For example, Jane Jacob's theory of the city's eye and Corbusier's glorious city seem contradictory, but they are reasonable existences in the context of their respective times. So, the design is based on characteristics, demands and technology of the times. However, only the distinctive and outstanding design can set the trends. Recently, there is a very popular word called influencers. It means something people always discuss on the internet. Those influencers are the embodiment of design leading the trend, in the design world. Having the value of being discussed means that it is outstanding and attractive in at least respects. However, those influencers might not be praised for a good design. As we all know, trend changes frequently. Only designs based on users might become a classical design. Personally, I am more focused on creating classics, rather than simply leading the trend.

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

SH : Technology can only help me think and express my thinking. The most important thing is understanding and thinking through my brain.

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

SH : I always use paper or iPad to draw in my work. Technology can never inspire me like hand-drawing.

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

SH : Color is part of the material. Materials create different ambience. Each material has unique characteristic. Every designer has their own a distinct language to expressing design and create atmosphere by those indispensable methods.

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

SH : I hope that people ask me questions related to the New Shanshui theory. New Shanshui, the golden rule in my landscape design is a theoretical system about the development of Chinese landscape. That is, utilizes the natural spirit and cultural value rooted in the landscape, uses the emotional communication between people and nature as the medium, reshapes the aesthetics of urban life, innovates the way of current life through new technologies, new processes and new materials to achieve product updates, endow a high premium for the region, and construct a poetic space for the information flow of all life evolution. I hope that people can have more discussion about the content of New Shanshui with me and tell me their feeling of landscape architecture. I expect that the development of Chinese landscape can have a great promotion through more communication.

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

SH : First of all,I think of the reason of greatness. Why I am so touching from this design? Secondly, I habitually record those touching parts by drawing or taking photos, as an accumulation. And then, I always share those photos or printings with my team. Because, I hope that we can learn and progress together.

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

SH : My ideal partner is someone who has the same design dreams and strives to make progress with me. I am lucky because I have such an excellent team as my expectation. Many of my schemes were designed and completed by my team. Without them, many of my ideas cannot be realized.

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

SH : Learning from masters has a huge influence in my life. During cooperation and chatting, I learned a lot from it. Of course, it is also important for me to observation and thinking during communication with them.

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

SH : The Craft of Gardens by Chinese author Ji Cheng

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

SH : I prefers to travel learning and designing exercise.

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

SH : When I was a kid, I dreamt to be a famous singer. The place where I grew up is such a beautiful and irreplaceable small town, with a crowded vista of hills and rooftops. Maybe that is the subtle influence in my later landscape designer career.

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

SH : Future is changing. I cannot predict what will happen after 1000 years. But I hope Chinese landscape designers can also pay an important role in the world.

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

SH : I hope my fans can pay more attention to my design, Sun Hu Studio and Guangzhou S.P.I Design Co., Ltd. We are creating a new design world.


CIFI Donut Kindergarten

CIFI Donut Kindergarten by Sun Hu

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