Ma Yansong's 'Great Buildings'

Published 12:14 PM ET, Tue September 25, 2012
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Beijing architect Ma Yansong designed the Absolute Towers that have enlivened the city of Mississauga in Canada. A continual balcony spirals up the building's sinuous exterior, and every floor is different. Tom Arban Photography Inc
The "Marilyn Monroe" nickname surprised Ma. "My wish was to make a building against modern towers ... I thought I should do something not so powerful ... more natural and irregular. In China, maybe they'd refer the building to some beautiful vase. People link this building to something artistic or human." Tom Arban Photography Inc
Ma has also proposed a plan for Beijing 2050, which involves returning Tiananmen Square to forest. "Planting that many trees, that is not difficult for China," he says. "What takes time is how people change their minds. If that space changes into something green and human, that means big changes in China." TEH ENG KOON/AFP/Getty Images
"When people look at the proposal they always say that's beautiful -- even the government. Nobody will say no to trees. But nobody thinks it's going to happen because nobody thinks anybody will make that decision. That's exactly why we should propose it." MAD
The building Ma most wishes he'd designed is the Salk Institute in California, designed by Louis Khan. Courtesy Adrian Torkington
"Historically, you have something in the center that people can talk about, but in this case, the center is infinite," Ma says. "That's the beauty of the project: you see the sky in infinite space." Courtesy of Adrian Torkington
"I went there two or three years ago for the first time. I arrived there at midnight so I had to climb into the place, and was guided out by security," he said. Courtesy of Adrian Torkington
"It's so different in the evening," he says. "It was very touching ... when you sit there in the plaza, you just think that it's not about architecture, it's about you and the environment." Courtesy of Adrian Torkington