Dialogue | Architect JIE LEE: Present the Beauty of Wood Construction with Modern Crafts

By: Travis Joern

Director, Asia Market Communications, Forestry Innovation Investment


Delving into the wood construction world, to understand the essence of modern wood construction to see how wood, this ancient and historic building material, is being re-interpreted in this modern society

Mr. JIE LEE graduated from the School of Civil Engineering & Architecture of Nanchang University in 1995. Holding national and industry certifications such as National Class 1 Registered Architects, National Certified Planner and as an International Certified Senior Green Engineer, WACA Senior fellow, and Member of Shanghai Expert Database, he has served as the architect of Anhui Institute of Building Research & Design, and became a partner of Lacime Architectural Design Co., Ltd, Shanghai from 2002 to 2013. In April 2013, he founded the design office “Challenge Design Pte Ltd “, and serves as the chief architect. 

During a career of more than 20 years, he has been awarded many titles, including New Media Prize for Designer of the Year in 2015, and Tencent Annual Elite Designer in 2017 and 2018-2019 China Real Estate & Design Award. At the same time, he has won many domestic and international awards: Italian Platinum A’ Design Award, American IDA International Design Award, Business Architecture Gold Award, Canadian International Wood Design Awards, German Iconic Awards, German Design Awards, WAF World Architecture Festival Award, Aesthetics Vogue Golden Award, REA Design, REARD Global Design Award Gold Award and IAI Global Design Award. 

Main Achievements: 

Canada Wood China (CW China): When did you have your first exposure to wood construction? 

JIE LEE: I have been obsessed with the beauty of Chinese traditional wood construction since I was a child, but my first exposure to modern wood construction can be traced back to more than ten years ago when I saw the Scottish Parliament Building; the roof was made of stretched TEEL metal material and oak beams. The long span of the wood structure fully shows the beauty of the structure, expresses flexibility and the spirit of democracy and freedom in an abstract way, which inspired me a lot on wood construction. 

Canada Wood China: When designing a project, what makes you consider wood construction? 

JIE LEE: Now, we have many opportunities to design wood construction. During the design stage of the project, we first consider the functions of wood construction, such as fire prevention and story height. We will encourage the owners to use wood construction if the condition allows. Of course, factors such as specifications, market and acceptance of ordinary households need to be considered comprehensively. 

Canada Wood China: Comparing with other architectural forms, what do you think is special about wood construction? 

JIE LEE: Wood is a natural, green and environment-friendly material with warm and comfortable texture, which makes it beloved by architects. Especially laminated wood construction, as a form of modern wood construction, stands out from other architectural styles, and its structural performance and natural property have unique advantages over concrete construction and steel construction. Meanwhile, wood construction is a natural prefabricated building solution, which is also in line with the trend of developing prefabricated buildings advocated by the government. Moreover, the wood construction is light in weight and convenient to install; this makes it especially suitable in relatively remote areas with high demand for development. 

Canada Wood China: Which of your projects impressed you most in your career?

JIE LEE: That will be Chongqing Yuanlu Community Center; this was our first large scale wood construction project, each stage of the project was memorable, and the final result was outstanding. This project inspired domestic real estate developers and introduced the public to entirely different aspects of wood construction. What makes it different from other projects is that our project is market-oriented, with controllable cost and wide application, rather than just a test project based on lofty ideals. 

Canada Wood China: The Chongqing Yuanlu Community Center you mentioned, did the owner consider wood construction at the early stage of the project?

JIE LEE: At the beginning, the owner hesitated, but our design achieved the following two points and won the owner’s recognition of the wood construction.

First, cultural compatibility, this project is located beside Longxing Ancient Town, and the wood construction is integrated with the natural and cultural environment in architectural style.

Second, the feasibility of the project, we carried out cost estimation and construction difficulty analysis, and reach a consensus with the owner that it is feasible.

Canada Wood China: What is your greatest challenge in wood construction design?

JIE LEE: The challenge is that not just the requirements of specifications and structural durability mentioned before, but also factors such as the feasibility and cost of wood construction should also be considered. With the development of wood construction, many owners already have a certain understanding of wood construction. We hope to make wood construction a popular architectural style. 

Canada Wood China: How do you see the current development of the wood construction industry chain in China? What is the essential link? How will you see the future development trend of wood construction in China? 

JIE LEE: I am optimistic about the future development of the wood construction industry chain in China. I think it will have a bright future both at home and abroad. A large number of studies have proven that the application scope of wood construction is getting wider, and it has its unique advantages over steel construction and concrete construction. 

At present, China’s wood construction industry chain is in the primary stage of development, and there are few design companies specializing in wood construction; the technology and corresponding specifications are less developed. Few companies have a complete industrial chain that can complete the whole process from the front-end planning and design to the back-end construction of the project. However, with people’s in-depth understanding of wood construction, market promotion and research on wood material technology, the future of modern wood construction is promising.

If a breakthrough is made in the specifications, the hybrid structure will also be a development trend. Meanwhile, light wood construction is suitable for the “beautiful countryside” plan currently advocated by the government. However, the “house renovation” is not as competitive as small temporary buildings due to the limitation of building spacing, and the roof renovation project of “slope roof modification from the flat roof” is rarely applied in cities.

Canada Wood China: What chemistry do you think can happen between modern wood construction system and Chinese oriental aesthetics?

JIE LEE: The inheritance of thousands of years of culture has created a natural bond between Chinese people and wood. At present, the wood construction in China is still at the exploratory development stage. With the improvement of construction technology, more people will choose wood construction. Wood construction has a strong correlation with Chinese traditional culture, and we have always dedicated to the integration of eastern and western cultures. Under the strong Chinese cultural background, we should find our own root and combine it with modern wood construction technology to present the beauty of wood construction with Chinese characteristics. 


CHALLENGE DESIGN PTE LTD has always taken “fine design and professional service” as its tenet. Its design works cover “commercial complex,” “resort hotel,” “urban high-end residence,” “cultural building,” and other projects, which have won unanimous praise from owners and the industry. It has now become a group company integrating architectural design, urban planning, interior design, wood construction design and construction, and business operation, and strives to cover the whole life cycle of the project. With the increasing specialization in the design industry, Challenge Design, starting from “design itself,” explores an underlying sense of experience and authenticity inside the space, and create the possibility of multi-development for space, with rich cultural connotation and spirit of contemporary context. The team has kept close cooperation with well-known national real estate groups for a long time, and an accomplished large number of domestic architectural design projects, won many awards at home and abroad, and established a good reputation in the industry. For more information, please visit our official website: Http://www.challenge-design.com/index/index/index.html。


JAZ BUILD is a building technology enterprise with architectural design as the primary business, wood construction prefabricated building as the feature and design and construction integration as the core competition. It pays special attention to the relationship among “climate, site, residence and construction,” regards every building as a carrier of good life, and hopes to provide users with a lifestyle close to nature through the design wisdom and construction technology. 

Led by the architectural design-oriented concept, JAZ BUILD cooperates with its affiliated companies to complete the architectural design and construction drawing of wood construction, to fully show the architectural charm of modern wood construction; it controls the whole design process to ensure the perfect balance between design, budget and construction. JAZ BUILD maintains long-term close cooperation with famous universities, overseas technology companies and Canada Wood Association, and with the strong support of design and technology, it delivers the complete architectural design integrating North America mature light wood structure and laminated structure construction technique. For more information, please visit our official website: http://www.jazbuild.cn/index/index/index.html.

The following cases are the integration project designed and built by Challenge Design & JAZ BUILD.