Assistant Architect by Xi He Qing Ling
Chapter 155: Osaka Part I
Not long after, the flight attendant walked through the cabin and started distributing meals. Since Tao Fei was napping, Lu Qiao gave him a few nudges to wake him and eventually, Tao Fei raised the corner of his blindfold to see what was the matter. He said: “I’m not hungry, you can eat mine.”
Lu Qiao: “…”
In order to have enough extra money to send home each month to his family, Lu Qiao often ate very simply. The only opportunity he had to eat well balanced meals with meat were at the department dinners the company had each month. Seated in economy class, Lu Qiao didn’t think the food selection would be so luxurious. Seeing the tray of food before him, Lu Qiao was very surprised. There was a dish of cold Japanese-style noodles, sushi, fried chicken and a small cup of yogurt. Being able to eat two meals, Lu Qiao thought he won the lottery. Finally, his mood started to improve just a bit.
After eating, the flight attendant walked through the cabin to pick up the lunch trays and other garbage. As their destination approached, the flight attendants once again walked through the cabin and gave each passenger an immigration card and baggage declaration form. The total voyage was less then three hours. The two countries were really quite close to one another.
The island that was the Kansai International Airport** was the work of the internationally renowned architect Renzo piano. The people at the window seats watched the small island in the distance become a thriving airport as the plane got ready on its approach to land.
Before leaving China, Gu Yu gave each group member a simplified version of Zhang Siyi’s itinerary that included all the names of the buildings that they expected to visit and Kansai Airport was the first.
Almost everyone in attendance was familiar with the airport as it was a building that architectural students would learn about in their coursework. Even so, seeing the island from above first hand was a totally different experience then learning about it in school and as a result, the group members couldn’t contain their excitement. The volume inside the cabin slowly rose as delighted gasps could be heard throughout the large group of passengers. The other passengers and staff members weren’t sure what all the ruckus was about.
Even though Zhang Siyi has traveled abroad many times, he was influenced by his peers and like a contagion, he also let out a few ‘AHs and OHs’ in his excitement.
Walking out of the plane and into the airport after a smooth landing, the group surveyed their surroundings and thought the Japanese environment felt both modern and strange.
Built in 1994, utilizing new materials and construction techniques, the Kansai Airport was deemed a technological masterpiece of the time. Twenty years later, although the steel structure and large glass panes have lost its innovation and uniqueness, the airport continues to be an impressive site.
Now that everyone at Borderless has arrived, the members were eager to express themselves:
“Renzo Piano is like a God!”
“I’ve read about this airport in university and finally I’m able to see the master’s work in my lifetime!”
“Great! I’m in Japan!”
“To be honest, I was upset at hearing our business tour this time was to visit Japan.”
No one knew who voiced their opinion, but once the remark was made, suddenly everyone quieted down in remembrance of the dreadful war of the past.
“I feel the same. I don’t like Japan very much.”
“Damn Japs, they bullied us so badly……”
“For the Nanjing people! We are all family!”
“The country can’t forget!”
The more the group taunted and ridiculed, the worse the mood and attitudes of the people were becoming. Gu Yu stopped them and said: “We are here visiting Japan to look at various architectural sites for the purpose of education, not because of politics. Everyone should be mindful of history but also think about it rationally.”
Tong Heyi echoed Gu Yu and advised everyone: “I agree with Director Gu. If architecture is regarded as pure art, then art has no national boundaries. If you don’t like Japan, don’t buy Japanese goods, especially the Japanese toilet. By all means, you can return to China right now.”
As the crowd laughed Child Labor’s joke, the moment of resentment passed as bother group leaders redirected the group’s emotions. The gloom that enveloped them had lifted.
“We came to “little Japan” with the mindset that it would be a bad place, but reality proved contradictory. Since no one had the heart to admit it, instead we mocked and made up reasons to convince ourselves otherwise. Heh.”
All sorts of chuckles, snorts, and laughter could be heard from the large group. Someone raised their voice above the commotion: “If that’s the case, what’s the difference between fake news in the media and self-deception? Let’s be realistic and seek the truth. What is good, is good. What is not good, is bad.”
“Yes. That’s right. We have to be tolerant Chinese.”
“To be an enlightened architect!”
Gu Yu laughed and interrupted everyone: “Ok, stop thinking about it. We only need to look at the buildings. Let’s take a picture. Where is Zhang Siyi?”
Everyone in the group looked around and realized that Zhang Siyi wasn’t with them.
Frowning in worry, Gu Yu looked beyond the group of company members and easily saw Zhang Siyi wearing the company’s red T-shirt not far away. He was holding out a measuring tape up to the large glass pane.
Gu Yu thought the predicament was rather ironic. He left the group to themselves and went over to him.
A colleague lamented: “Auntie Four really works hard.”
Grabbing the strap of his bag, Zhu Hongzhen lifted his bag onto his shoulder and said: “I have never seen him work so hard before!”
Yuan Zhicheng: “Is that the tape measure Director Gu gave him?”
Bi Lele: “Yeah, I remember Ji Feiyu spoke about it briefly. It was a tape measure that Gu Yu used as a student for many years.”
Zhu Hongzhen: “Aunt Four mentioned it once. He said the Boss gave it to him for his birthday.”
In fact, what everyone found surprising wasn’t the tape measure itself as it held no value, but the key point was because it was given as a birthday present. They couldn’t imagine Gu Yu would ever give a birthday present to a subordinate. Zhang Siyi’s special treatment strikes again!
Many in the group expressed feelings of jealousy and envy. Du Rui suddenly spoke out: “Is it just me, or does it seem like Aunt Four has been greatly influenced by Gu Yu’s shadow at work?”
Deep in contemplation, the group remained silent. Yes. From when was it? Zhang Siyi has improved tremendously, especially in these last few months when he and Tao Fei worked together on the resort project. His temperament has also matured and calmed down as compared to when he first started working at the company last year.
Even now, when everyone else was still thinking about having fun in Japan, Zhang Siyi was already invested in the real task of the business trip; to learn.
In order to gain Zhang Siyi’s attention to come back to the group, Gu Yu walked closer and signaled to him. When he rejoined the group, he took a photograph of them and then continued walking alongside Gu Yu.
Zhang Siyi opened a discussion: “After graduation last year, I went to France with Heartless Han and visited the Pompidou Center**. Renzo Piano also had a part in its design. With all of the exposed steel tubing, when I first saw the building, I thought it was really ugly. It’s no wonder why some critics called it a steel monster or a refinery. Contrary to its exterior, the building is actually a famous museum. I also told Heartless Han that Renzo Piano is definitely a non-mainstream pioneer. Heh.”
Smiling, Gu Yu pointed to him: “You can’t evaluate a building from the outside alone. You also have to consider the time frame it was built. In 1969 when the Pompidou Center was conceptualized, what was going on during that time? Europe was still recovering from World War II when the world was still in a state of doubt. The architectural style of Paris was the same gothic and rococo styles. Why did the decision-makers pick the design from Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers out of the seven hundred from all over he globe? In my opinion, it is not so much a design maverick flaunting an alternative, but a design that represents the future development of Paris. By leaving the past behind and moving forward, the decision-makers wanted to make a statement that brings hope to the people with a symbol of inclusion. Therefore, it is certainly unreasonable to say that architecture is completely separate from politics and history.”
Listening thoughtfully, Zhang Siyi realized in school, he hadn’t normally considered the time frame in which buildings were built. Mostly, he simply memorized things for his exams. Now with Gu Yu’s explanation, he became aware of the need to consider the relevant politics and events during the period that something was built.
It was no wonder that Tao Fei and Gu Yu read so many books during their undergraduate studies. Even if the reason behind reading those topics weren’t understood at the time, it was necessary to read a variety of philosophy and history books in order to gain insight about the different views and ideas that people had across the world. With maturity, one could break through boundaries and surpass ordinary people. There are those on the internet that say the best architects were either crazy or Zen Masters.
At this time in the Kansai International Airport, Zhang Siyi looked up at the masterpiece from twenty years ago and felt his own lack of ability and knowledge.
T/N: Kansai Int Airport: https://www.avionews.it/resources/800×800/dc899b6cc53e2dd71fd70eadea61a292.jpg.jpg