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Dutch architects design low cost houses in China

The Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAI) and the Chinese project developer VANKE signed an agreement on 29 August in Beijing to cooperate in the field of social housing.

The agreement also provides scope for cooperation in other fields. Ole Bouman, director of the NAI, and Mao Daqing, vice-president of VANKE, signed the agreement in the presence of the Dutch State Secretary Halbe Zijlstra. The first specific joint project is the development of a large number of low cost housing units near Beijing by a group of Dutch and Chinese architects.

The cooperation between the NAI and VANKE began in June 2010 and is part of the NAI Matchmaking programme. This programme deploys Dutch architectural expertise to tackle urgent spatial challenges all over the world. China is facing problems in the field of housing. Production is under severe pressure, but so are the sustainability of housing and the quality of residential districts.

The NAI Matchmaking programme links Dutch experts to talented Chinese architects and a project developer. This results in profounder cultural awareness and encourages employment. In these respects the programme also matches the cultural policy of the State Secretary Zijlstra that promotes the link between the cultural and the economic dimension. ‘The NAI hereby shows that the creative industry is justly called a top sector’, Zijlstra remarks. ‘Dutch architects are among the best in the world, but they are having a hard time in the Netherlands at the moment because of the crisis. Partly thanks to the NAI, they can now put their creativity to good use in China – a textbook example of how to turn a problem into an opportunity.’

Besides being a museum with a library, large archive and platform activities, the NAI is also a sector institute for Dutch architecture. The NAI has close ties with China. Until January 2012 it is presenting the work of eight critical Dutch and Chinese designers in the exhibition daringdesign, and in December 2011 the NAI will be responsible for one of the four main pavilions at the Shenzhen Biennial.

VANKE is the largest real estate developer in China. The company was founded in 1988 by the successful businessman and adventurer Wang Sui and became the second largest enterprise to be listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. VANKE develops, manages and sells real estate throughout the whole of China and works with well-known Chinese and Western architects such as URBANUS and Steven Holl Architects. The head office is located in Shenzhen.