Leonardo da Vinci was his childhood idol. At 17, a meeting with an English engineer in the Himalayas determined his future: Nicolas Godelet would become an engineer and architect.

Meeting Nicolas Godelet, head of a large Beijing architectural firm since 2008, is like embarking on an amazing journey to discover China in unexpected ways.

That’s because Nicolas doesn’t just talk about China as he experiences it on a daily basis. He ‘explains’ China and the dazzling development – sparked by hosting the 2008 Olympics – of this ‘giant workshop of the world’, where tomorrow’s cities are invented, in which he himself participates, working especially on new construction materials, such as wood-bamboo assemblies. Nicolas ‘draws’ today’s China, as his architecture studio participates in major urban development projects.

But he also knows how to ‘draw’ China’s ancient identity. During our conversation, he drew some ideograms on a piece of paper: a field, a well, a house ... demonstrating the almost architectural relationship between writing and space and beyond that his incredible and perfect knowledge of Chinese culture, acquired especially through his learning Mandarin at the Language Institute (ILV) during his studies in Louvain-la-Neuve. Then, in a corner of the page, he sketches a small wooden ladder. This is a powerful symbol for our architect, who works in a totally unconventional country with which he likes above all to build bridges, such as the work he is finishing at the gates of Beijing, which will be one of the symbols of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

Benoît Van Oost
UCLouvain Alumni Network (Alumni Louvain) Coordinator


Nicolas Godelet, master’s degree in civil and architectural engineering, 2012.

Article published in the September-October-November 2019 issue of Louvain[s]