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Alumnus interview

Martijn de Geus 1986, the Netherlands

Residence Beijing, China

Year of graduation 2011

Current job Lecturer, architect PhD candidate

What was the most important thing you learned at Tsinghua?

This programme taught me that we cannot always be in full control. China is a very complex environment, in which all issues have an overwhelming scale. You have to be careful when analysing the overall system before knowing where to intervene. I guess we could call that ‘archi-puncture’: a holistic approach coming from the entire body of context.

What subject do you wish you paid more attention to?

In the end I didn’t have or make enough time to improve my Chinese language skills as much as I should. Everyone should combine the architecture studies with learning the language during their first year at Tsinghua, your life will be so much richer!

Any challenging aspects about the course?

The programme is very flexible and tailored to individual qualities and aspirations, so the challenge is within yourself, to know what you want to focus on.

What was your graduation project?

My project was based on an international competition entry for the Architects In Mission, regarding the transformation of a former steel factory in Beijing. Relating to an issue in China of contemporary urbanisation, I proposed to see this area as a catalyst for creating a new type of urbanity and my proposal won the competition.

What do you like most about the city?

Beijing is a hard city to get started: it’s huge, crowded, congested and, from time to time, polluted. But it really grows on you, and after a couple of months, you won’t want to leave. The university campus itself is beautiful, green and quiet – a real oasis. The city is becoming a real avant-garde, creative hub, where people from all continents and various professions meet and experiment together. Modern bars and restaurants, art galleries and music festivals are set within an amazing historic context of palaces, temples, courtyard houses and gardens.

What neighbourhood did you live in?

I lived around the university campus. This way I enjoyed the proximity of all the school’s facilities (sport, library, supermarkets, etc.) and the campus’s oasis-like atmosphere, but I could also easily take a taxi or subway to go downtown.

Was the transformation from graduation to working life a smooth one?

Yes, there’s plenty to do here in any direction. For me, Tsinghua asked me to stay around and I became part of the teaching staff. I combine teaching and PhD research with architectural practice, with independent projects and collaborations.

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