Macau: Back to the Ground

by Chengzhang Zhang, Xianming Sang from Graduate School of Design, Harvard University

Chengzhang Zhang has an MLA degree from Harvard Graduate School of Design and an MArch+BArch degree from Tsinghua University, Beijing. He’s currently working for Perkins & Will. While studying in Beijing, he spent two years doing projects and research on traditional/urban villages in South China. Thanks to the diverse educational design background, he enjoys the complexity and contradictions that could be revealed at all scales.

Xianming Sang is pursuing his MArch degree in Harvard Graduate School of Design and is currently doing an internship in OMA Rotterdam. Before studying in Harvard, he received a BEng degree in Structural Engineering from The University of Edinburgh. He’s interested in creating inspiring spatial experiences for the public, and believes that the physical experience is the ultimate testimony of architecture.


What inspired the design idea(s):

The idea started as an attempt to challenge the existing typology of casino architecture. Today the ground floor of Macau is a battle field between citizen and gambling industry. So, the building volumes took the form of lotus flowers, which taper towards the bottom and liberate the ground. By doing so, we flipped the conventional casino building upside-down and created an open ground floor for the public. The abstracted lotus flowers near the waterfront as a symbol also enhance the city’s identity.


Favourite field(s) of study/research/design and future goals:

Chengzhang believes that design is the synthesis of different elements, origins, and pursuits. To him, every situation has a specific design that best answers the question. He considers every person/voice potentially involved in design as stepping stones that push design forward. Thus he believes that architecture is not autonomous, it is instead a pathway to “somewhere”, differing from project to project. By revealing complexity and contradiction through the design process, he believes that “precision” would be the best reward for a good design.

Xianming is interested in searching for archetypes in architecture and translating them into powerful spaces. He travels to a lot of places to compare and understand the diverse built environment in different cultures. He also believes design is for people and by people. In his future career he wants to become an architect practicing thoughtful projects that both benefit local community and inspire everyone.


Any further comment on / suggestion for the future of Macau:

The balance between tourism industry and other industries is crucial for Macau’s sustainable future. Tourism and especially short-term tourists can bring good money but can also destroy a city. From the perspective of urban spaces, gambling industry is invading into public spaces that once belong to everyone. As a result, the city is becoming less inhabitable. To address this conflict, the new type of casino architecture in our proposal can be suggested to new developments. So that public spaces can be integrated into the new developments without compromising the profitable area of the developments.


For more of his work, please visit:

and their instagrams: @chengzhang_zhang | @x.m.sang

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