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Haiwei Xie lands GAGA 2012 prize

RCA graduate Haiwei Xie has won the 2012 Global Architecture Graduate Awards, run by sister title The Architectural Review

Her B.R.I.C. House scheme for the controversial Chelsea Barracks site combines the traditional English picture of domesticity with the acronym for the emerging economic nations − Brazil, Russia, India and China.

‘The intention is to create a high-quality but low-price, high-density but low-rise housing development aimed at a diverse and multi-cultural society,’ says its designer.

The architecture is shaped for the emerging groups of single parents, single persons and immigrants, and accordingly prioritises public space over private provision. Everything but personal bedrooms is shared, and Xie develops what she calls ‘public living rooms’, using development patterns borrowed from the four B.R.I.C. nations.

According to the AR, the project convincingly positions itself, not only in the global political and economic landscape, but also, architecturally, as a proposal for one of the capital city’s most contested sites.

The dexterity and bravura of the presentation’s sampling of recognisable elements from many different places in order to make something new and distinctive neatly marries Xie’s visual rhetoric with her intellectual intent. It is also, in its more-or-less happy collision of cultures, a perfect metaphor for how the story of London is evolving; and − as the tale of a Chinese student coming to a London institution, thriving, and winning a global award − a small parable of that larger 21st-century story: East meets West.

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