The exhibition is held in a Qing dynasty courtyard garden at Wu Hao in Beijing. More than twenty architectural models and artworks are scattered around the ancient courtyard. Among rocks, screen walls, bamboo groves, pools of water and beneath the sky, the scale of each piece varies and collectively they form a futuristic utopian urban landscape. The pieces on display range from a fish tank to the conceptual model of the "Shanshui City" which represents a proposal of hundreds of thousands of square meters in size. All the pieces exhibited express the sentiment of humans towards nature and depict the "Shanshui City" as the social ideal of the future. The newly issued book "Shanshui City" - released simultaneously with the exhibition - is an important turning point for Ma Yansong's ten years of architectural practice and theory.
In the book, he says: "The city of the future development will be shifted from the pursuit of material civilization to the pursuit of nature. This is what happens after human beings experience industrial civilization at the expense of the natural environment. The emotional harmonious relationship between nature and man will be rebuilt upon the 'Shanshui City.'" This brochure illustrates the young Chinese architect's ideals concerning futuristic habitation. "It would be a great pity if the vigorous urbanization could not breed new urban civilization and ideal."
The famous Chinese scientist Qian Xuesen proposed the concept of "Shanshui City" in the 1980s. In view of the emerging large-scale cement construction, he put forward a new model of urban development based on Chinese Shanshui spirit, which was meant to allow people to "stay out of nature and return to nature." However, this idealistic urban concept was not put into practice. As the world's largest manufacturing base, a large number of soulless "shelf cities" appeared in contemporary China due to the lack of cultural spirit. Qian Xuesen pointed out that modern cities' worship of power and capital leads to maximization and utilitarianism. "Buildings in cities should not become living machines. Even the most powerful technology and tools can never endow the city with a soul."
To Ma Yansong, Shanshui does not just refer to nature; it is also the individual's emotional response to the surrounding world. "Shanshui City" is a combination of city density, functionality and the artistic conception of natural landscape. It aims at composing a future city that takes human spirit and emotion at their cores.
In the opening forum of "Shanshui City," a round-table dialogue was held with the participation of Liu Xiaochun, Li Xianting, Bao Pao, Wang Mingxian, Jin Qiuye and Ma Yansong, leading to be, undoubtedly, a historic moment. Perhaps the “Shanshui City” ideology is the very progress that China’s urbanization can contribute to the world.