Gaudi and China - Global Times interview with Shelley Tsang
Updated: Jun 11, 2020
Zhang-Ni, Reporter from Global Times
Shelley Tsang, Co-founder of Gaudi Digital Museum and Founder of Gaudi Asia Pacific Research Institute
What are the reasons for the launch of the Gaudi Digital Museum?
The world's first Gaudi Digital Museum jointly built by the Gaudi Asia-Pacific Research Institute, Gaudi World Congress and Baidu Encyclopedia, displays the life of Anthony Gaudi, innovative thinking and architectural works diversely through the Internet. We hope people can learn from the magical world of Gaudi through the Internet by breaking time and geographical restrictions. To build an international high-quality online museum, Gaudi Asia-Pacific Research Institute and Gaudi World Congress integrated our Gaudi-related resources in more than 20 countries for the first time. The Spanish government, universities and research institutes, the Gaudi Museum in Barcelona, the owners of Gaudi architectures, international scholars studying Gaudi and architects inspired by Gaudi's works were invited to contribute to the contents of our Gaudi Digital Museum. We have also invited international authoritative Gaudi scholars to explain Gaudí's innovative thinking methods and the essence of Gaudi's architectural works. The Gaudi Digital Museum project has been appreciated and recognised by many scholars and prominent leaders of the Spanish government. Both Chinese and foreign scholars believe that Gaudi Digital Museum is not only an essential channel for cultural exchange between China and Spain but also a global Gaudi knowledge network. This critical knowledge network will be of great significance.
Why do you choose to cooperate with Chinese companies? What are the advantages and special features of China in building a digital museum?
Most people do not know that Gaudi has a deep relationship with China. Gaudi has a close friend named Eduard Toda i Güell, who grew up together. Toda became a diplomat at the Spanish embassy in China at the end of the Qing Dynasty and lived in China for six years. During this time, Toda collected many coins, cultural relics, materials and photos in China. After Toda returned to Spain, he shared his knowledge and collections with Gaudi and wrote many essays and books on China. Gaudi was influenced by Toda and was very obsessed with Chinese culture. From the earliest Gaudi architecture, you can see that Gaudi used many elements of Chinese architecture and naturalistic architectural philosophy. I think Gaudi and China is an exciting direction and a worth discussing topic. Therefore, we suggest connecting with Chinese scholars and institutions to discover and study the history and stories of cultural exchanges between China and the West and spread our research through cooperation with Chinese companies.
We chose to conduct in-depth international cooperation with Baidu, mainly considering several advantages and special features of Baidu: 1. Baidu is well-known in China and the world. Baidu is the most popular Chinese search engine. Through Baidu platform, we can access most of the Chinese Internet users in the world. 2. Baidu is an excellent and forward-looking company in Internet development and technology applications. Baidu has brought us a lot of modern content display methods in a high-tech way, and to promote the development of Gaudi Digital Museum. Baidu generously provided Gaudi Digital Museum with its latest technology and internal resources, which is very valuable. 3. Baidu has been developing the platform of Baidu Baike Museums Project since 2012. Now it has included more than 1,600 Chinese museums and launched more than 220 Chinese museums. They are committed to doing great things for the benefit of the country and the people, and they are all aware of their contribution to cultural communication, which is consistent with our philosophy and vision. We believe that through cooperation between the two sides, we can achieve larger international cultural projects linking China and the world.
Unlike on-site visits, what different experiences will Gaudi Digital Museum bring to the audience?
The Gaudi Digital Museum will use artificial intelligence, short videos, panoramic pictures, VR and other technologies to present online the architectural works, precious manuscripts, photographs of the times and related cultural research results of Antoni Gaudi. As the world's first Gaudi Digital Museum, with the support of Baidu Encyclopaedia's online authoritative platform, Chinese audiences can enjoy precious exhibits in various forms through audio explanations, reality simulations, and stereoscopic presentations. Besides, the Gaudi Digital Museum specially invited authoritative international experts to explain the versatility of the genius Gaudi, including Gaudi's thinking, his concepts on innovation, the technological breakthroughs, creative inventions and decisive actions to promote social development. You can feel the historical and cultural accumulation and the cultural connotation behind it at any time. You can be inspired by the genius thinking and apply the spirit of innovation to your daily work life.
Will the digital museum be a big trend in the future? Why? Will it replace the on-site visit?
I believe that digital museums are a big trend. The Internet and "Internet+" are already an indispensable part of contemporary life. High-quality content will become a huge demand for the development of the global Internet, and the digital museum happens to be a unique and effective form to spread knowledge and promote cultural development. However, I don't think digital museums will replace on-site visits. The on-site visits give the audience a personal experience that is irreplaceable. To be precise, the digital museum is a shared network of human knowledge system. Each digital museum is more like a door linking different content, attracting different people to open the door to explore the knowledge content where they have the interest. With the help of the Internet, everyone can break the limits of space and time, and achieve their targets on in-depth research and development. I believe the future is an era in which science and technology promote the spread of knowledge and enhance the development of culture. The development of science and technology and the human knowledge system will be tightly bound together. At present, it is valuable and forward-looking to build a global knowledge network in the form of a digital museum.
What kind of institution is the Gaudi Asia-Pacific Research Institute? What is its background, attributes and primary responsibilities?
Our Gaudi global projects are a group of large-scale, long-term plans for over ten years. It is a worldwide collaboration platform linking hundreds of organizations in more than 20 countries around the world, in-depth research topics from social, ideological, innovative, aesthetic and other aspects the genius of Gaudi. Through Gaudi Asia-Pacific Research Institutes and other partners, we integrate these resources and research to publish and share the latest scientific research results to promote science and technology and cultural developments. The Gaudi World Congress was established in 2012 to disseminate all scientific literature on Anthony Gaudi accumulated by The Gaudi Research Institute and the world's most prestigious universities over the past 40 years. Gaudi World Congress is the only platform in the world where Gaudí's authoritative experts can gather to share Gaudí's research results. The main projects of the Gaudi Asia-Pacific Research Institute focus on organizing conferences and exhibitions, teaching Gaudi's working methods, participating in museum content planning, and consulting in the fields of engineering, architecture, and sustainable urban planning.
In addition to the current Gaudi projects, what practical measures have the Spanish government and institutes adopted to protect, inherit and spread the ideas of Gaudi? What are the problems and obstacles of the spread of Gaudi culture around the world? What relevant measures does Spain hope to take in the future?
Rather than saying we are spreading Gaudi's ideas around the world, it is better to say we are "rediscovering" how we live today from the origins. Gaudi's influence on future generations is very far-reaching. Gaudi inspires many innovative ideas, architectural philosophy, thinking methods, mathematical discoveries, mechanical innovations, environmental protection concepts and working methods. These ideas and techniques are widely used in our lives, but we know very little about how they come to us. Therefore, this is a rediscovery process for us to discover ourselves and explore the future through understanding Gaudi.
The main challenge for the promotion of Gaudi ideas around the world is the language, but this is not "problems and obstacles." Spanish is one of the three major language systems in the world. Gaudi has extensive recognition in the Spanish region. After leaving the Spanish-speaking area, due to the language and cultural differences, communication between Spain and the Chinese-speaking area is relatively weak. Therefore, the materials and contents accessible to the public in the Chinese-speaking area are inadequate, and there is a lack of professional international cultural institution to promote Gaudi and Spanish culture. I feel sad for the current status of cultural exchanges between China and Spain, so I established the "Gaudi Asia-Pacific Research Institute" in Asia. Starting from Gaudi, I believe we will break the restrictions between the two languages and promote in-depth communication and cooperation between Spain and China.
My ideas and actions have been recognized and strongly supported by prestigious cooperative institutions such as the Spanish Central Government, Provincial Government, Local Government, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Tourism, and major museums. At this stage, the primary goal of Gaudi Asia-Pacific Research Institute is to collect and translate authoritative information of Gaudi and Spanish culture through the platforms and support of various partners. We will be providing high-quality content and making sure these contents are effectively disseminated in Chinese-speaking regions.
In your opinion, what are the most prominent feature and contribution of Gaudi? What particularity does it reflect in Spanish culture?
Antoni Gaudi is a Spanish national treasure and the originator of modern Western architecture. At present, of the works of Gaudi, 17 are listed as national cultural heritage in Spain, and seven are listed as World Cultural Heritage by the UNESCO. Spanish culture is a culture with diversification. In addition to the local Spanish culture, you can also see the influence of Arab, African, European and South American cultures on Spanish culture. These different cultures fuse to form a splendid and passionate Spanish culture. In Gaudi's works, this multicultural fusion can also be seen everywhere. It is not only the characteristics of Gaudi but also the features of Spanish culture. Gaudi's art has a far-reaching influence. For the 20th century, many innovative ideas, architectural philosophy, thinking methods, mathematical discoveries, mechanical innovations, environmental protection concepts and working methods were inspired by Gaudi. The three major modern art giants of the 20th century, Picasso, Dali and Miro, are all deeply influenced by Gaudi as well. Dali, especially, has repeatedly expressed his love and respect for Gaudi. In the future, after sorting out the influence of Gaudí's impact on future generations, we will put the information to update the Gaudi Digital Museum and gradually show the discoveries of the unknown Gaudi.
More information on:
Spain uses an online museum to tell Gaudi stories and build a global sharing network:
Gaudí Digital Museum:
Gaudi Digital Museum - Sagrada Familia: