After years of delays, the China International Practical Exhibition of Architecture (CIPEA) is mostly built, according to its owner. The ambitious complex is located in Laoshan National Forest Park, across the Yangtze River from downtown Nanjing. It was conceived in 2003 by Lu Jun, president of Sifang Cultural Group, to showcase projects by 24 architects—11 from China and 13 from abroad. The buildings include 20 unique houses as well as an art museum by Steven Holl, a conference center by Arata Isozaki, a recreation center by Ettore Sottsass, and a hotel by Liu Jiakun. Lu says he is currently in discussion with Rem Koolhaas about OMA adding another building to CIPEA.
While most upscale residential communities in China are neoclassical in design, CIPEA is decidedly contemporary. Under Lu’s direction, Liu and Isozaki invited like-minded designers to build on the site. Hiring foreign architects was important to Lu. “We want to bring an international spirit to our site,” he says. Some Chinese netizens have criticized foreign firms for using China as a playground for architectural experimentation. “If CCTV and the Olympic stadium are playgrounds, we want to become a playground as well,” says Lu. An avid collector of contemporary art, he wants CIPEA to be a center for art as well as architecture. Lu has enticed Zhu Tong, the director of the Nanjing 4Cube Museum of Contemporary Art, to move that institution into the Sifang museum designed by Holl, which stands at the entrance to the complex. Lu says, “The whole site is a museum, and the rest of the buildings will also display art.” Even the houses are essentially museums, meant to be visited but not inhabited.