Scott Allen, AIA, couldn't resist the chance to work on the Zhongkai Sheshan Villas, an on-the-boards residential development in the suburbs of Shanghai, China. “If you didn't do it, you'd kick yourself later,” he says. Allen wasn't alone. In addition to his Seattle firm, Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects, the project's design team included Baylis Architects, Stuart Silk Architects, and Living Architecture Inc., all based in the Seattle area; Taylor Lombardo Architects and Hunt Hale Jones Architects, both of San Francisco; Boston's CBT Architects and ICON architecture (Zhongkai Sheshan Villas' master planner); Atlanta-based Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects; and Architectus of Auckland, New Zealand. Each firm independently designed several one-of-a-kind houses for the high-end, 79-villa community.
The developer, Shanghai-based ZK Group, deliberately chose a wide geographic and stylistic range of architects to allow for a variety of design approaches. “The client wants 79 totally different houses,” says Chinese architect Jessie Yan, a consultant on the project. Each firm was asked to integrate feng shui principles and a Chinese-influenced emphasis on water features into its own Western sensibilities. “It was an opportunity to do a contemporary house that related to the culture and traditions of China,” says Richard Bertman, FAIA, a founding principal of CBT. Because the U.S. and New Zealand firms were signed on only through the design phase, local Shanghai architects handled the construction drawings. But ZK Group is currently considering bringing the design architects into the construction process, which should start at the end of this year.