Assistant Architect by Xi He Qing Ling
Chapter 236: Extra 9
In the second year of his work at Richard Rogers, both Zhang Siyi’s and Gu Yu’s company made a bid for the same project. It was for a new elementary school being built in central England. Being both assigned as lead designers for their respective Firms, Zhang Siyi was very excited about this once-in-a-lifetime competitive opportunity.
At that time, Zhang Siyi had a considerable grasp of his own skill level. Being fully immersed in the fun of architectural design, he was eager for the challenge. While hanging up his tie, Zhang Siyi held his chin up confidently and declared: “You are not allowed to peek. No cheating!”
Lying on the bed, Gu Yu crossed his feet, set down his book and looked up at him: “Ok” The two men discussed the household rules over the course of the project and decided that they would not mention the project at home and not exchange ideas. The winner will be decided by their own skills.
In the face of such a strong enemy as Gu Yu, Zhang Siyi actually didn’t have much confidence in winning. After all, Gu Yu has left a deep impression on him not just because they were lovers, but also because he had guided and taught Zhang Siyi so much about architecture. After so many years of hard work, Zhang Siyi wanted to take the opportunity to see just how much he had caught up to Gu Yu professionally. For this reason, he must do his best.
The bidding period lasted a month long. Even though Zhang Siyi had two undergraduate interns working with him, he only handed over simple tasks for them to finish. Whether it was on-site research, understanding the project background, or talking to Party A directly, he did almost all of the work by himself.
During the past thirty days, Zhang Siyi left home early in the morning and returned late. He rode the trains several times to the project site to interview families around the area. He wanted to understand the needs of the people who would attend the school and what requirements the school board had for their new building.
Although the statistical and background information about the site could be shared, in order to achieve absolute independent designs, they wanted to adhere to their agreement so Gu Yu never asked Zhang Siyi about what he learned.
Now that the time has come, in the conference room, along with other firms, the two with their respective teams, presented their works. Since they lived together and looked at the same reference books, Zhang Siyi was worried their design ideas would end up being similar. At this point, they were more interested in what each other created rather than who ‘won’ the bid!
Since the British evaluated proposals and prepared documents differently than in China, the results of the bid weren’t awarded by the end of the day. Having several different firms present plans, it wasn’t until a week later that they were informed of the decision.
When they got home after their presentations, Zhang Siyi couldn’t wait to see the plan Gu Yu created. Fortunately, Gu Yu plans weren’t similar to Zhang Siyi’s at all. Like he had in the past, Gu Yu’s style reflected the Bauhaus movement of the early twentieth century. The forms are classic, the space is compact and the materials are simple. It was conservative to a certain extent and it often meant that new construction innovations couldn’t be implemented.
Zhang Siyi’s design is much more free form. He proposed a hemispherical design. Although it is not easy to construct as compared to Gu Yu’s design, the vision was very distinctive and unique. With large and small rounded shapes and a playful interior, the whole building looked like bubbles emerging from the ground. Moreover, he introduced environmentally friendly materials and implemented windows at specific locations to utilized natural light to create spectacular shadow effects.
Both of them appreciated each other’s plans. Zhang Siyi felt that Gu Yu’s design was superb and worthy of being realized. Gu Yu secretly marveled at Zhang Siyi’s design talent. This time, the plans were mature and very spiritual without any sacrifice. Although it is just a simple bubble shape, the plans give evidence to something greater; a glimpse into the works by a master’s hand.
A few days later, Zhang Siyi’s plan was selected. Holding Gu Yu, he excitedly hugged and kissed him and said: “Not bad, right?”
“Awesome and brilliant.” Gu Yu wasn’t disappointed that he lost the bid. In fact, he gained a sense of gratification because Zhang Siyi finally caught up. He couldn’t restrain his broad smile.
Zhang Siyi’s design was selected by Richard Rogers as the company’s best work of the year, and won the award for Outstanding Young Architects in 2021.
As an Asian living in London, to be awarded a mainstream architectural award that the industry recognized in the United Kingdom, was like a like a pie in the sky; completely unbelievable!
Giving Zhang Siyi some popularity, this good news had spread to the industry in China. Old friends who were still connected to the industry sent their blessings after hearing about it. Although it was the smallest award for architects in England, it was a huge stepping stone for Zhang Siyi’s career.
In the RIBA exam six months later, Zhang Siyi successfully passed the examination and final interview. He achieved his lifelong dream and obtained a Royal Registered Architect’s license.
Since then, Zhang Siyi has been like a person possessed of divine light; bold and full of confidence!
After working in England for another half a year, with a total of five years living together in London, Zhang Siyi and Gu Yu felt homesick and wanted to return to China. Shortly thereafter, they resigned from their respective jobs and moved back home.
While Yuanshan Garden remained their home and Haicheng was still Haicheng, Borderless was no more.
With the ups and downs of the domestic construction industry, when the former director retired, Borderless was merged with Firm X four years ago. Since the design philosophy of Firm X wasn’t like Borderless, Tao Fei couldn’t come to an agreement. As a result, he left the company to pursue his own ambition.
Fortunately, they live in the era of the internet and the distance between people was irrelevant. For a long time, they chatted through their old group chat that Zhang Siyi originally established from Borderless.
It took Zhang Siyi and Gu Yu several months to find the whereabouts of their old colleagues including the ballpoint-pen-combo, Yuan Zhicheng, Zhu Hongzhen, and Bi Lele, as well as Xu jia, and three members from design group B.
Over the last six years, they all have been married. Be Lele’s baby was two years old. Zhu Hongzhen even started his own small architect business. Even so, when they learned that Gu Yu and Zhang Siyi were going to create a new architectural company, they did not hesitate to resign and return to working under Gu Yu.
It was a pity that not everyone could join them. The chicken-wing-couple, Ji Feiyu and Du Ruixuan, as well as Qiao Mai were abducted by the Fat Peach. Together they have established a small firm that specialized in Feng Shui. Although Gu Yu was unwilling to apply pressure and uproot them, he wanted to keep in touch.
The new company’s name was called “GSY architectural design firm” written with the three English letters, GSY, that reflect their names. They might not be able to bare children, but GSY was their baby.
In August of 2022, three months before Zhang Siyi’s 30th birthday, they opened the new office.
In the blazing sun of summer, GSY’s floor-to-ceiling windows, radiated warmth. The spacious office space was dotted with organic-shaped design tables.
On all the walls, there were many display boards with various drawings and random diagrams pinned up. There were pruned plants on each desktop. Architects gathered together in the conference room to discuss the interior in whispers. Sometimes, a loud dispute was heard.
“The columns of the interior space need to be removed.”
“All of them? Are you fucking kidding me?”
“The roof beams can be adjusted to span eight meters and they can be covered with synthetic resin tiles. Doing so will expand the space and save costs.”
“But after adjusting the span, the lower structure will have to be redone …”
Not far away, Gu Yu came out of the office and called Zhang Siyi’s name.
Hearing his name, Zhang Siyi looked in that direction. Before going over to Gu Yu, he turned his head back to the person and said: “Since it’s not feasible, then redo it. Why not try to meet the function of the space?”
Struggling structural engineer: “% ￥ # ……”
“What’s the matter?” Zhang Siyi asked and smiled happily as if to counter Gu Yu’s strict attitude towards the engineer.
Gu Yu flipped through the two pages of information on the clipboard then handed it to Zhang Siyi: “A recent undergraduate is applying for the position of assistant architect. Here, he is waiting in the reception room now. Go interview him.”
Zhang Siyi took it, glanced at the photo at the top of the application and laughed: “Oh, you like the applicants to be handsome, huh?”
Gu Yu glared at him and said in a deep voice: “Go. Be serious.”
Zhang Siyi smirked at him then walked to the meeting room. Wearing a thin T-shirt, the candidate was sitting upright at the small table, looking nervous. Although the air conditioner was turned on, there was a thin sheen of sweat on his forehead.
Zhang Siyi coughed lightly and the man immediately looked up and respectfully said: “Hello.”
“Hello.” Zhang Siyi smiled and took out his business card from the shirt pocket and handed it to him. The card was printed with:
Royal Registered Architect (member of RIBA Association)
GSY Design Director
The young man looked completely surprised. He glanced at Zhang Siyi several times to compared his face with the business card. He couldn’t believe someone so young had such grand titles.
Glancing at the applicant’s information once again, Zhang Siyi sat down at the table and looked at him in the eye. He calmly asked: “Li Donghe, right? Come and tell me why did you study architecture and why did you apply to GSY? What goals do you have for the future?”