The recipient of the SOM Foundation’s 2007 China Prize for Architecture, Haohao Zhu, grew up in Qidong, a “country city” on the Yangtse River, opposite Shanghai. Haohao studied Architecture at Southeast University in Nanjing, where he received his Bachelor’s degree in Architecture in June 2004 and a Master's Degree in Architectural Design and Theory in June 2007. Following receipt of the SOM China Prize in 2007, Haohao enrolled at Harvard Graduate School of Design. At Harvard, he received a Master in Architecture (a post- professional degree) in May 2010. Upon graduation, he was recognized by the GSD with the “ Faculty Design Award” for 2010. Haohao’s Travel Research in connection with his China Prize was carried out during his summer break in 2009 while studying at Harvard. His travel took him to Rome to experience a city with many layers of history, which, as Haohao notes, "...meets the challenges from the conflicts between urban development and protection of its historical sites.” Haohao observed similarities between Rome and cities in China in terms of how historic cities balance protecting the old while embracing the forces of modernization.
Roman City is always full of mystery to me, not only for its long history, but also for its splendid cultural heritages. No doubt, the city is doomed to relate its magnificent splendor with numerous talented artists and engineers in the past thousands of years. Based upon the layering of sources in successive historical periods from antiquity to modernity, the city becomes an enormous museum, about politics, religion, art, and architecture. In the summer of 2009, I decided to visit the city to carefully experience its actual sense of history. When I stood on the historical sites, the sunlight, the wind, the scent constantly reminded me that this was Rome, with its cultural and social aspirations spanning thousands of years. In general, the city comes through several important historical stages: the growth and decline of the ancient Roman Empire; the creation of new architectural forms and urban meanings in response to the Christianization of Empire; the practice of pilgrimage as urban experience; and Bramante’s big design for New St. Peter’s. Except for the history, what else does Rome hold? I compare the actual Roman city consciously and unconsciously with the one I imagined before and find the city also displays a vivid urban life of present age. I think even contemporary urban life is an essential part of the city. Roman city is a pastiche, in which ancient, medieval, renaissance, baroque and modern times coexist. Medieval buildings grow on the Roman structures; automobiles run across the old lanes; under the church bells, people enjoy their wonderful dinner with their families or friends… The old-new opposition shapes a physical tension within the city’s urban life. History is alive. It is not a delicate antique kept safe in the museum, but a dynamic river full of life. Nolli’s Map teaches me how to recognize and understand the spatial relationship within the urban fabric; but it never tells me how people live within the city. Probably, this is the amazing point that I enjoy Rome, though it also meets the challenges from the conflicts between urban development and protection of its historical sites. Similar situations also happen in China, especially in old cities with hundreds or thousands of years. But for China, it meets extra unique problems. Large amount of population flood into urban area without productive infrastructure systems of transportation, supply and refuse. In such circumstances, the sense of historical protection usually becomes so fragile that sudden and tremendous modernization could devour anything. Anyway, this trip gives me the opportunities to think about such issues.