ASHBURNHAM — Aspirations to “transform the landscape of the world” first drew 17-year-old Haoran “Simba” Xu to both art and architecture. Now, he is being recognized for his passion with a 2019 Scholastic Art and Writing Award, which includes a $10,000 scholarship.
Xu, a senior at Cushing Academy, is one of 16 students from across the country selected to receive a top honor from Scholastic: the Gold Medal Portfolio. This year, there were over 340,000 works submitted for consideration.
“I was very surprised when I received the news that I was a gold portfolio recipient,” said Xu.
“Evolution of Humanity,” the piece that Xu submitted, is a portfolio of eight pieces of work created at different times during his high school career. According to Xu, each of the works investigate the future and the past, which gives the portfolio its’ name. It is an architectural proposal and imaging of the future of urban housing in East Asia.
“I have an appreciation for the differences in culture and I really wanted to use that as an inspiration to provide a local solution to a global problem, which in this case is what’s going to happen to cities in the future,” he said.
Xu moved to Ashburnham for school about four years ago. Originally from Shenzhen, China, he says that his interest in architecture began around the age of six.
“I’ve been working on art and architecture since I started traveling as a kid,” he said.
“These opportunities to visit these different countries, regions, and different museums made me aware of a new world in art and architecture and the possibility it provides.
Xu said that he started to take his work more seriously during his last year of elementary school.
He eventually worked on projects such as an urban complex and a community center, which he says were different than what he had done previously.
This project, he said, was “focused on application and practicality” rather than “explorations of form and aesthetics.”
Following his first year of high school, Simba met a teacher who recommended him for a position at an architecture firm. That summer, he was able to work on a 22,000-square-foot office building being built in Shenzen.
With college on the horizon now, Xu said that he plans on majoring in architecture and possibly getting a minor in technology. Though he is still deciding between school, he says that he will continue his work.
“I do plan on continuing my work,” Xu said. “I think I will focus on looking at how to approach architecture in a way that’s not superficial and not just replicating what’s already been done.”