top of page

The Suburbs of Perfect Brightness

De He 


University Of Greenwich, London, UK. 

In the retrospective depictions of Beijing's Summer Palace (the forty views of Yuan Ming Yuan produced during the 17th century), the structures of recently imported western perspective are distorted and re-configured to closer-fit contemporary Chinese (and Buddhist) ideology.  The use of multiple vanishing points, horizons and projection provide complex and curious spatial readings of the palace's narrative function as a fantastical microcosm of a Chinese utopia. 


This project questions the current proliferation in use (and miss-use) of (overly) simplified cultural motifs by western architects in Beijing. By examining the compositional and curatorial systems of Beijing’s ancient Summer Palace - along with the drawings and paintings that depict it - the project endeavours to develop a relevant spatial, material and representational approach for a new suburb for Beijing. 


The design of the suburb evolves through a series of digitally controlled, multi-projective drawings with composition in ‘Jing’. The subsequent structure of the master plan acts as a sort-of digital literary device where components are arranged and re-arranged according to their compositional and narrative function. This fluid approach to planning acts as a generative system for describing scenes in the Suburb in the manner of the Yuan Ming Yuan.

园 yuán = Garden, Courtyard

圆 yuán = Circle, Perfect, Circular Shaped

城 chéng = City, Town, Wall

To start Harry could you give us an introduction about yourself, where you have studied, what stage you are in your architectural career/degree and also any of your interests or specialities?


My name is De He (Harry), I studied Part 1 at Newcastle University in 2009 and Part 2 at Greenwich University London in 2015.


I am now working at Foster + Partners as Part 2 Assistant since graduation, I worked as Part 1 at Make Architects.  


Outside of academic and professional life, I really enjoy travelling, and cooking, I love to mix recipes and ingredients, making fusions, I guess that really helped me with my design ideas, like my fifth year design project was example of fusion of Chinese motif and Western architectural elements.       


Your project explores the use (and miss-use) of (overly) simplified cultural motifs by western architects in Beijing, what inspired you to explore this topic?



When was a kid, I visited the old Summer Palace in Beijing, the memory of the place became the inspiration of the Garden City I created.  It was built in 17th Century, designed by Italian, built by Chinese, which later burned down by British and French soldiers during opium war, my inspiration was taken from how westerners transfer originalism and sino-culture into architecture, and my take was the reverse.  

In your description of the project you explain “the structures of recently imported western perspective are distorted and re-configured to closer-fit contemporary Chinese (and Buddhist) ideology.” Why do you think this is occurring within current design in Beijing?


That's a really good question actually! I wrote my entire thesis to investigate: what is the future of Chinese architecture? When western star firms like OMA, ZAHA and Herzog & de Meuron first entering China, they created a phenomenon where China become "test" ground for their creativity and innovative design "invasion", more and more Western architects saw the opportunity to get "famous", and massive profit in Chinese Market, hence, lots of different and "wired" buildings erected rapidly in the last 10 years? Intimidating the 5000 years old ancient landscape. In my thesis I questioned how can China "cope" with current Architectural Phenomenon, and started to experiment with Chinese "style" Architecture integrating the goods from western and turn it into, like I proposed in my thesis, perhaps the future of architecture in China.   



The presentation of your work involves multiple perspectives combined to form one larger composition, this is something that is becoming ever popular within architectural representation. What is your opinion on drawing from multiple perspectives in this way? 


Another amazing question, it is like you can read my mind, thanks for reading my project description so in depth! The presentation of my design project is the ultimate core of my study on how to integrate current architecture representation with Chinese style. we are so used to read drawings as two-point perspectives, isometric and renders. I wanted to create drawings that presented through a parallel projection (Chinese Perspective) to give a narrative to the reader and wonder in the world I created but not just a section or a plan. Multiple perspective was the proposed conclusion of my study of integrating western and oriental perspective of modern drawing. 

In describing these drawings, you use the term ‘multi-projective drawings with composition in Jing’, could you explain the ideology of Jing?



Jing is a word in Chinese meant scene, but in an architectural setting, it describes a story through a framed view of anything can be described by the author via his mind or imagination. Another saying can be understood as painting. I was trying to propose that when we creating architectural renders, often we are telling a story to the reader, but a Jing in Chinese terms, it meant it is live and vivid and it makes you want to step in and explore.......   



Your project was nominated for an RIBA Presidents Medal Award, what was it like to be nominated for such a prestigious competition for UK Architecture Students?


I was really honoured, as we know only two students can be selected from their year to represent the school, I knew then all those countless nights were worthy it. 

The way you present your drawings is incredibly unique has anybody or anything in particular influenced your graphic style?


My drawings were inspired by Chinese paintings drawn by a 17th Century Jesuit Giuseppe Castiglione. 


Could you provide our readers with an insight into your drawing process, do you use a particular software to produce your drawings?


I use rhino to modelling, then VRAY for renders, then I hand sketch and scan it in to hybrid with photoshop effects.

Your final crit was presented to Norman Foster himself, please tell us about the experience of presenting your work to one of the most formidable architects in the world?


It was at the graduate show for Norman Foster, every year newly hired graduates are selected to showcase their final year project, I was lucky to be chosen, and it was an amazing experience to be honest, he was very kind and wise, he said he enjoyed my way of presenting the drawings, and encouraged me to try this with our Chinese clients, I was shocked by it, haha.   


You now work at Foster + Partners as an architectural assistant, what has the transition been like from university to working in a global practice?


Honestly speaking, it is like back in university, unlike any other firms I have worked, with more than 1100 people at London office, it is a campus with many other talented designers. I was nominee for RIBA, but I am working with the actual president medal winners, haha. we are famous for "million" options just for one design idea, constantly have "crits" internally with senior designers before client presentation. we speak more than 80 languages at office, it is very international, for me it was very challenging, as I thought I was one of the best from my uni, now I am like just a fish in the sea, haha, I have work really really hard to catch up with others every day.     

If you could offer one piece of advice to our architecture student followers what would it be?


If you are at part 2, I would tell you this is really the last chance to design something amazing, fantastical, imaginative, just for yourself. Because when you at work, it is driven by the client and compromise of other designers. While you at the end of second part of RIBA at University, it is 100% freedom to design something speaks who you really are as a designer, tutors are there to be "used" to assist you to produce that something entirely from your imagination to "reality".   


Finally, where can people find out more about you and your projects?


My instagram : @teddyhe

issuu (portfolios):

bottom of page