According to Heller the concept of mainstream vs underground is an interesting one when coming to contemporary design. He believes that there is a never ending cycle, where the mainstream design is always going to be influenced by the underground design. When this happens the underground gets bumped up into mainstream industry; taking it to a new level. This can be good for the world, for instance; a designer created a chair to prevent spine curving, now the world is able to have it available to them. On the other hand, bad; think about the underground image of a new york or chicago drill rapper in contemporary music today, displaying automatic rifles. The way the mainstream industry has incorporated and advertised this underground image into the mainstream world it is doing more harm than good. Currently having young children growing up thinking it is cool to have and shoot guns. Most of the time the industry takes small aspects of the underground and merges it with the mainstream; this new combination when created is the next new style. Then the cycle of life continues, there will be a new underground design soon developed, and the mainstream will  be right there waiting to buy into it once again. One can say the mainstream gets inspired by the underground designers, wanting to stay “cool” and relevant in the contemporary world.

The designer I am going to address is named Ma Yansong. I believe he fits into this dichotomy as an underground artist. Solely, because his work is not standardized or considered the norm in the industry as yet. Over the years, his recent work around the world has begun to get recognition, raising some eyes in the mainstream world. With this recognition he was able to get investors to fund some of his projects he was contracted for. As recently as 2020, he worked on his first project on American soil. This is to show that his work is still in the process from underground to mainstream.

I believe the work in question is currently in the underground category. Ideally, Ma Yansong’s new contemporary style of architecture is mainly influenced by three designers/ architects/engineers named; Zaha Hadid, Bao Pao and Antonio Gaudi. Yansong’s love for the free sensational curve is the reason we get to witness these magnificent round shaped buildings. He believes it’s not just him that has a love for curves but the world does, but for him it is the; curves of the rivers in his country, the curves of the  clouds in the sky and the curves of his favorite parts on a woman’s body. Yansong mentioned this himself in an interview he did with Architects Not Architecture. He also mentioned some of his influence for creating round shaped buildings comes from the design of an “old liquid yogurt bottle” he used to drink as a child; the design always stood out to him. 

In my opinion, the work in question is touching the borders of the mainstream at the moment, I also think it is inspiring the young architects to come to think differently. The impact it is going to have on the industry is huge, seeing that society is astonished and responding to this new contemporary style of architecture in a positive light. Lastly, the design is said to help society move forward in terms of better buildings and housing architecture.

Most of Ma Yansong’s work can be viewed as futuristic designs. Similarly to Le Corbusier, a Swiss French architect/ designer, who was responsible for what we know as modern architecture today influenced the world and helped standardized architecture. “A radical reconstruction of the cities would solve not only the urban crisis of their time, but the social crisis as well”, mentioned in an article about Le Corbusier’s futuristic ideals by Peter Fitting. I believe that Ma Yansong’s futuristic designs have the same influence and trajectory to do the same for our future especially since his architectural designs are making housing more efficient.


“Livestream: Ma Yansong x Thomas Heatherwick.” Architects, Not Architecture., 11 Dec. 2020,

Pier Alessio Rizzardi & Zhang Hankun (TCA Think Tank). “An Interview with MAD Architects’ Ma Yansong: Constructing Icons, Identity & China’s Future Cities.” ArchDaily, ArchDaily, 3 Apr. 2014,

FITTING, PETER. “Urban Planning/Utopian Dreaming: Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh Today.” Utopian Studies, vol. 13, no. 1, 2002, pp. 69–93. JSTOR, Accessed 11 May 2021. 

Hee, Limin, et al., editors. Future Asian Space: Projecting the Urban Space of New East Asia. NUS Press, 2012. JSTOR, Accessed 12 May 2021.