Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Architects in Gwangju Biennale

TL: Why architects are involved in the Gwangju Biennale?

C: When the people from the IT PARK people asked me to be the architect for the exhibition, I wasn’t sure about about my role in this.

Later, I found my task was to catch the moment of IT PARK as people gathering in, rather to bring the physical space of this altered street-house with illegal additions, and manage to acquire eight installation works of the participating artists within a tight budget and given conditions.

The size of space we proposed was asked to be reduced several times, which was a drama to us as each reduction unveiled a new idea and new dimension of our work, or a trauma at the same time as we had to keep the communications, negotiations and drawings through emails and faxes with the Gwangju side. The situation was close to working in constraint projects at norm for we also flew to the site for further clarification and supervision two weeks before the opening.

TL: How do you see the show as a whole?

C: The show was a mess.

I like their attempt to push the alternative further to include architectonic aspect with the milieu for genuine art production, or to present the genius loci of contemporary art with context.

One could find that the layout of the exhibition space was followed after the orthogonal grid in the earlier drawing and another set of drawing showed how these bulky boxes were scattered to simulate a spontaneous and chaotic condition to make the mock up seem more interesting with gesturesque and image-making stuff buzzing around.

TL: Which art piece you like most and why ?

C: I must say that I like works that are least about cultural heritage but culturally dense and clever. Yoshiharu Tsukamoto’s shrine of comic books quickly came to my mind, a funny and nice piece.

I think culture prevails when unprecedented novelty and mutation occur. Established legacy will collapse at times. Architects and artists are key persons to pick up by instinct and knowledge. It is by no means a creation in a conventional sense, which is the culture product leading the society.

TL: Would you consider yourself an“artist”? why and why not?

C: Sure, but speaking of it does not do me any good as an architect in Asia.

Architects have to appropriate the world and open up the world as if were in the position of artists in an epistemological sense. I think we Asians need some time to recollect this awareness and appreciation buried under our utilitarian mindsets.

On the other hand, artists and architects are already taking different roles in the society. It is not a question of an architect being an artist or vise and versa. Architects need to identify themselves once in a while and fight their way through the social-cultural complexity of today.

TL: When and How did you get involved in the first art show?

C: I did graphic works and experimental films back in my college years, but never given serious considerations to exhibiting them. I think it was after my study with Frank Gehry in 1986 when we held an exhibition in the A&A gallery at Yale had I gained a sense of being a cultural creator.

TL: How does the art scene react to architect’s work ?

C: I feel that artists today are kind of spoiled by being treasured as “artists” and being tied up to their history. Architects are often obliged to confront the reality and somehow are not satisfied with the status quo. Courageous works do not necessarily seem bold and are sometimes about subversive act taken in the daily life as architects might do.

For my project in Gwangju, I think artists were more receptive to the designed space than to tempering with it, as the Tate Modern, an overwhelming space for the art scene to stage to which artists are being tamed.

TL: How do you see public art as an architect?

C: Public art is really problematic. I saw quite a few bad works produced in the city, regardless in Europe or Asia.

The division of public art and public architecture since 60’s was a tragedy. The system today is even more hopeless and domed to failure as the definition of public and the mechanism behind it is rapidly changed.

There was time that architect could work coherently with artists or as an artist at the same time to tailor the public space. I always like to remind myself of the city design of less known cities before Modern planning such as those in Eastern Europe. I think we need to find a new equilibrium for the future public realm in which all elements are active in the plasmordial whole.

TL: What projects you are working on right now ?

C: Europe is reaching a crucial point of change. It is not unexpected that Europeans are looking for remedies for their problems from the outside world. I have been recently approached by a number of European urban projects which seek new proposals and new tactics for city centers.

I'm also working with members of the Urban Flashes on a global boogazine of architecture and urbanism which is intended to be a truly transnational investigation on the dirty reality of our environment.

( Interview with Ti-Nan Chi by Tim Li, Hinge, Hong Kong, 2002)

Monday, November 15, 2004


不 久前见《读书》杂志上顾孟潮先生所写的“从‘建筑之树’说起”,言及扬鸿勋先生提出要求纠正西方学者对中国建筑的误解,而这种误解被认为是以那棵弗莱切尔 (Sir. Banister Fletcher) 的“建筑之树”(Tree of Architecture) 为典型意义的。关于“建筑之树”与《弗莱切尔建筑史》( Sir. Banister Fletcher’s A History of Architecture),在我国的不少有关建筑著述中有所提及,但是或多或少地存在一些误解。而这种误解则从一个侧面反映了我们的建 筑文化观念的落后。笔者希望在此澄清这些误解,并对有关问题进行讨论。


《弗 莱切尔建筑史》是一本首版至今已有一百多年历史的巨著,是世界最重要的建筑史书之一。由英国人弗莱切尔 (Banister Fletcher) 及其儿子小弗莱 切尔 (Banister F. Fletcher)于一八九六年首次出版的。但是,所谓的“建筑之树”以及对非西方建筑文化的论述,并没有如我们的大部分学者认为的出现在 首版里。(此错误所见于许多学者的著述之中,吴良镛先生的《广义建筑学》 也未能幸免)首版的佛莱切尔“建筑史”并没有涉及西方以外的建筑文化,而仅仅将正统的西方建筑文化主线,以“历史性风格” (The Historical Styles) 为主题, 从埃及、希腊、罗马,到中世纪、文艺复兴等一一描述。该书出版后,在当年再版了两次。这巨大的成功给了弗莱切尔父子极大的鼓舞,同时也由于西方学者对东方 文化视野的扩大,他们准备将当时已经成为热点的印度、中国、日本、中美洲及撒拉逊尼(伊斯兰)等非欧洲建筑文化列入他们的“建筑史”,并将之定为“非历史 性风格” (The Non-Historical Styles)。这就是我们后来所看到的, 在一九零一年由小弗莱切尔出版的第四版《弗莱切尔建筑史》, “历史性风格”与“非历史性风格”成了该版 《弗莱切尔建史》的基本两大部分 (Volumn) 。那棵著名的“建筑之树”也是第一次出现在这版之中,可以说是小弗莱切尔的所为。当然,这 一版的体列一直延续到了第十六版,也成为在世界上流行最广的版本 。我国建筑师所了解的《弗莱切尔建筑史》基本上都是这版的情况。然而,这种情况并没有一直不变。一九六一年,由考定雷教授 (Prof. R. A. Cordingley) 主编的第十七版《弗莱切尔建史》,在体例上虽然仍然保留原来的两大部分,但是以“东方建筑” (Architecture in the East) 替代了“非历史性风格” (The Non-Historical Styles),以“古代建筑和西方的继承发展” (Ancient Architecture and the Western Succession) 替代了“历史性风格” (Historical Styles)。考定雷教授明确地指出:“以往版本第二部分的总题目(非历史性风格)是不合适的;东方的建筑应该和西方的建筑同样是历史性的。”与之相应 的,“建筑之树”也被取消了。这充分说明了一种观念上的变革已经在《弗莱切尔建筑史》的后继编者中产生。随后一九七五年的第十八版和一九八七年的第十九 版,都在体例上有了进一步的改进;取消了东、西方两大部分的布局,以全球性的眼光,将各个建筑文化体系按时间分为章节来论述。并请各个国家的有关专家撰写 相应的章节,如中国清华大学的郭黛恒教授和同济大学的吴光祖教授。在内容上则大量增加了民居和市政工程等方面的实例。一九九六年又出版了庆祝该书一百周年 的第二十版,在第十九版的体例基础上更进一步地扩充了内容。

《弗莱切尔建筑史》历经一百年来的世界建筑文化大发展,而西方建筑理论上的观 念之变革,尤其是二战之后对经典建筑 (Classic Architecture) 一统建筑理论之局面被打破,在该书的体例上起着重要的指导作用。我们如果不以发展的眼光来看待西方的建筑理论,而以孤立和静止的眼光将该书看成某种固定的 西方观念与模式,就会导致不可避免的误解和偏见。

从《弗莱切尔建筑史》的再版变更,我们可以看到西方的建筑历史学家对非西方的建筑文化有 一个认识过程,从无知和偏见到客观和全面。而如果我们现在提出要求纠正的,实际上是人家在几十年前就已经开始纠正的错误,这似乎显得有点可笑和无知。这说 明我们对西方建筑历史与理论变革的了解之匮乏,理解之浅薄。而事实上,我们又都在盲目地、不自觉地服从于这种变革,这正意味着一种理论上的落后。笔者以 为,我们没有必要去过多地去指责别人变革之前的错误,但很有必要去了解这种变革的由来。


我 们似乎过多地在乎了自己的成就对西方建筑理论家的影响了,以为没有我们的贡献,西方建筑理论就难以突破对非西方建筑文化的认识。在顾孟潮先生的文中,将 《弗莱切尔建筑史》版本更替中对东方建筑的认识改变归结为中国建筑师或东方建筑师的努力。我们应该认识到,西方建筑理论界对非西方建筑文化的认识之提高, 固然有非西方的建筑工作者的巨大贡献之作用,例如我国的梁思成、刘敦桢等先生的研究和介绍工作,然而更重要的是,西方建筑文化自身的观念之变革所带来的对 全球建筑文化的重新认识,这种重新认识自然包括了非西方的建筑文化,也当然包含了中国建筑文化。

总体而论,自上世纪至今,西方建筑文化的 观念是从相对单一、狭窄的“艺术风格”大大扩展其外延并深化其内涵。其中在二战之后,将建筑学的领域扩大到“无名氏建筑”(Anonymous Architecture)是突破性的进展。最具轰 动效应的即《没有建筑师的建筑》(Architecture without Architects),由鲁道夫斯基(B. Ludofsky)主持在纽约现代艺术博物馆举行的同名展览并出版该书。与之相应的在其他学科,如考古学、文化地理学、文化人类学、博物馆学等领域都出现 这种变革,开始将历史的眼光更多地落在文明体系的具体形态,而不若以往的过多地偏向了政治统治者和强权者。那种偏重政治和强权的历史观,在建筑学领域就反 映为表现古代强权的经典主义(Classic),而偏废人类居住文明之整个发展史。正如鲁道夫斯基的所批判的,将建筑历史仅仅局限在经典建筑部分,就如同 将音乐的历史描述成自古典交响乐的诞生而开始那样可笑。新兴的研究领域大量涌现在民居、聚落、人居环境等方面。这种建筑观念的变化,必然而然地导致对其他 建筑文化的从新认识和重新评价。事实上,从人类居住文明的观念出发,不同文化的建筑更具有研究意义和价值。五、六十年代不少英、美研究项目都是选择非欧洲 文明体系为对象的。如著名的莱普珀特(A. Rapoport)的《居住形态与文化》就是主要针对非洲、亚洲及澳洲土著人的居住形态研究的成果。

一 九六一年第十七版的《弗莱切尔建筑史》,部分地反映了这种变革的开始。这一版的主编考定雷教授,正是主导英国建筑学术界研究方向和观念转变的一个先驱者。 考定雷教授曾于1948年向“英国科学进步协会”(the British Association for the Advancement of Science)建议对英国本土的民间建筑进行系统地收集、调查,为此以他所在的曼切斯特大学为基础而首次建立了“曼 切斯特项目”(Manchester Project),在五、六十年代曾有大量成果出现。使 英国在这方面的研究走在各国之前列,并对建筑观念的变革有重大的推动作用。

值得说明的是,五、六十年代西方兴起的这场建筑观念上的变革, 在西方建筑理论的发展过程里是承上启下的;对之前的现代主义(Modernism)是一种深化,并使之具有更大的包容性。因为这种新观念在现代主义的赖特 ( F. L. Wright)和勒·可布西埃(Le Corbusier)那里已经被提出。同时,这种新观 念对后来的“后现代”(Post-Modern)主张“多元”的思潮也并无矛盾,因 为这种变革的本身是走向多元的开始。而七、八十年代兴起的对聚落、城市设计、 环境设计、 人居环境研究、生态理论,乃至九十年代发展起来的“可持续性发展”理论等,则更是与之一脉相承的。


关 于对《弗莱切尔建筑史》、尤其是有关“建筑之树”的不满和批评,虽然几十年前就已有日本人伊东忠太、中国人梁思成等提出过,但多数中国建筑学者是通过香港 建筑师李允鉌先生的《华夏意匠》首次了解的。这本作为在八十年代初期出版、以全新观点论述中国建筑设计问题的著作,在中国建筑界的影响是十分巨大的。在中 国建筑的研究领域里,随之出现相当多的研究受之引导和启发,受益者甚多。然而,《华夏意匠》在给予我们相当启发的同时,也提供给我们相当的误解和误导。

究 其根源,《华夏意匠》在研究中国建筑方面的新意,主要来自于李允鉌大量应用了当时还不为中国建筑师所熟知的西方学者对中国建筑文化的研究,其中李约瑟 (Sir. J. Needham)的《中国科学技术史》(Science and Civilization in China)就是其最重要的学术基础。纵览李允鉌的《华夏意匠》,其基本观点、思路和写作方法都参照了李约瑟的《中国科学技术史》之建筑分册(第四卷、第 三分册)。另外,与李约瑟思想基本一致的英国建筑学者博伊德(A. Boyd )也是李允鉌《华夏意匠》的重要参照。对中国建筑的科学性和高度文明,李约瑟在成书时是抱着既不满西方学者的无知和偏见,又痛惜中国学者对自身科学成就认 识不足的遗憾。当然,对西方建筑史学者的无知、偏见则表示了强烈的指责,并明确指出了《弗莱切尔建筑史》为首当其冲者。李允鉌的《华夏意匠》显然是接受了 李约瑟的这种思想而对“欧洲中心论”的西方建筑史论提出批评的。从思想方法的意义上看,《华夏意匠》实际上可以说是李约瑟思想体系的中文、中国建筑版,只 是我们大部分中国建筑学者没有同时对照二书,而将许多观点权当李允鉌的贡献了。在笔者看来,李允鉌先生的贡献,正如同他所处的时空条件(七、八十年代的香 港),提供了中国大陆与西方之间的建筑学术中介作用。我们的误解正是在于将中介当作为本源了。



建 筑发展史在世界文明体系中扮演的角色,显然是十分重要的。但是,长期以来,人们过多地看重政治因素在文明史中的作用,以致于各个文明的发展史成了国际地缘 政治的基本依据,各建筑文明史也是为之服务的。第四至第十六版的《弗莱切尔建筑史》,显然在意识形态上是服务于殖民文化之盛期的“欧洲中心论”。然而,时 至冷战之后,“后殖民”、“后工业”盛行的今日世界,强调对抗性的地缘政治理论依然有如亨廷顿以西方为立场的“三大文明对抗论”,相对应的有赛义德等以东 方为立场的“东方主义”和“亚洲价值论”。对《弗莱切尔建筑史》以及“建筑之树”的批判,再次显示了建筑理论对国际地缘政治的一种符合。如果我们更进一步 深究其背后的心态问题,可以看到“中国中心论”的影子。我们不会忘记,中国在上世纪被西方列强轰开国门之前,是数千年一贯的“中国中心论”。然而,经过一 个世纪以来的历程,今天我们应该不难认识到;不论是在广义的文明体系,还是狭义的建筑体系,以“中国中心论”去对抗“欧洲中心论”是不可能有好结果的。

其 实这种将建筑文化过多地联系、服从于国际地缘政治,是一种太狭隘的建筑文化观念,只有在仅仅注重建筑单体样式的时代流行。当今天世界建筑文化的内涵已加深 到了人居环境为其核心,以各个文明体系的建筑构成世界共有的人居文明,建筑理论应更注重发现与开发各个建筑文明体系中的合理成分,来为今天和未来的人类服 务。

对“欧洲中心论”发出最强有力冲击和有效突破的西方学者李约瑟,曾经阐述过他的关于世界文明发展史之重要观点,笔者在此称之为“文化 之河”。他认为:世界各个文明体系在她们的历史进程中相互交流、影响,远比我们的历史学家所想象的要更积极。他强调了西方人用之开发全球的重要工具,源自 于中国的“四大发明”这一事实。他描绘了人类的文明发展史是如同河流的形态,由各个支流汇至主流再奔向大海。笔者非常欣赏这一描述,因为李约瑟的“河”是 与弗莱切尔的“树”相对应的。“河”与“树”可以是相同的抽象的图形,但相反的发展方向。然而这相反的发展方向则表示出了二种完全不同的世界文明史观念, “树”形是强调了分立和对抗,而“河”形则强调的是交流与共享。


时 至中国的经济、文化大力发展,国力渐壮的今日,来看待中国建筑的过去、现在与未来,应该有一种宽广和坦然的心态。不然极易因曾经不被了解和“受压”而进入 一种不平衡的对抗心理,不自觉地在以一个“中心论”去抗衡另一个“中心论”。笔者以为:李约瑟的“文化之河”给我们展示的是一种合理的发展模式。如果我们 实事求是地、心平气和地来回顾与展望一个世纪以来的中国建筑文化之发展,应该能认识到:中国建筑文化作为具备其悠久历史的一个独特文明体系之“河”,与其 他建筑文化体系一样,她已经并正在不可抗拒地汇流于世界建筑文明之“大海”。


Wednesday, September 15, 2004

That Preceding Cultural Identification

It was said to be superficial, yet, I find, directional on the future of Asian architecture through IAA. On the whole, IAA symposium was never too bold an attempt to push architects of this part of the world to be aware of their role at the threshold of a new era. It fully reminds me of the collective effort behind CIAM in the early 20's. Those European architects, facing the transition to new society, decided to build in a different manner by expanding social responsibilities, elevating autonomy, and proposing design strategies under new production method for the better­ment of human life. Within those signed the La Sarraz Declaration, there were apparent conceptual conflicts, and their works were not with one accord. However, Modern architec­ture emerged onto the ground when action taken. And, I would say that Asian architecture became a meaningful category after IAA.

As anticipated, we discovered things beyond "function xeconomy" bio‑formula, that is, reworking on the vernacular, transformation of cultural form and object, combination of locality and modern design and construction, oriental aesthetics of space, and more idiosyn­cratic approaches. In general, it appeared that the innovative endeavor was mostly prconceived around the issue of the continuation of cultural identity, and lesser attention to new technology and social-behavioral change.

Since many countries in Asia were colonies of other race and power, Asian history was not a simple story to tell, in which people are constantly seeking their authenticities in conjunction with bewilderment within culturalpolitical dominance. Hong Kong, for example, is a place being cut off cultural ties for operational efficiency in which architects used to look more to their dynamic physicalities rather than racial issues. Place like Taiwan and Singapore are more conditioned by Chinese culture, at the same time, consisting of determinant Japanese, British or American and native cultural facets, where some architects want to redefine themselves through selected cultural symbols, often from Chinese tradition as in C.Y.Lee's case. Continental countries like China, India and Korea seem to have no problem of cultural orientations. However, architects from China showed seriours concern about the manifestation of their racial-cultural legacy, for the fact that inland cultural diversities coexisting in China aroused the cry for national unification policy.

Being culturally composite in reality, quite a few architects had expressed anxieties on how to elongate their tradition perse, While, from their works, we could see vivid British influences coming out of AA graduates, and American and Japanese precedency leading the way of other architects with such connections. The semantic configuration was one of the main topic, and few designers went beyond imageries into structural analysis as in Y.H. Chang's pictographical study and K.N.Tan's calligraphical simulation. Gerard da Cunha, on the other hand, took the pass leading to the persistence of the essential of local constructioti. However, there won't be simple solutions for better representations of culture when the problem at hand is of changing and complex nature.

Unlike CIAM, we saw comparatively less thoughts put on urbanism, though the prescribed topics were about city. Asian cities are now mostly under late 19 century modes of planning, in which architects are vulnerably impotent or just blindly optimistic. In order to avoid former mistakes and to iginite creative explosion, Asian architects should move gallantly to the shaping of the future environment. For people in Mongolia, the decison to embrace urbanization means to abandon normadic living once for all. This is a crucial point of departure for us to reconsider our unban life. When railroad in Bangkok could also be the pedestrian route for the market along each side, we really need much greater imaginations to cope with any easy and habitual judgement. As Rocco Yim commented that architecture is related to what we are and shall be, Asian identities could be more reflected in its living settlements rather than found cultural motifs.

At the last section, Shin Muramatsu mentioned about the new model for Asian architecture, which sets this symposium on the teleological racetrack. My quick response is that we need a much more sophisticate and genuine approaches to respond to many levels of our consciousness, to the frail nature, and to chaotic cities. The innovative model might exist in the process of production, therefore, a sort of methodological theory then leads the way to the end product. Cultural identity is something to be generated simultaneously during rapid societal growth by architectonic talents. It is certainly not a frozen composition, not necessarily a genealogical fetishism, and not the objective set beforehand for the design task.

Fumihiko Maki began his lecture with indication of the possiblities of 100 kinds of modernism and ended with his youth dream of making a vessel, which is illuminating in term of the innovative direction for Asian architecture. I believe we, Asian architects, will testify the alternative modernities and share the spiritual pursuit of space and time in grasping our fantasy within each defferent local condition. As Otto Wagner stated in his writing of late 19 century: "The question 'how should we build?' can not really be answered in a strict sense. Yet today our senses must already tell us that...", in deed, we have to ask ourselves the same question over and over again!

Ti-Nan Chi
( SD 9702, Kajima Publication, 1997, pp 97-98 )

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Taipei Operations…

The Asian city defies most conventional (western) urban analysis – identifiable structures and street patterns, or an easily traceable historical lineage – which often prompts generalist descriptions such as ‘dense’, ‘rapidly developing’, ‘chaotic’ and ‘ad hoc’. Taipei Operations provides an alternative model for examination, speculation, and projection, which is based upon an intimate connection to the material at hand, the city, as opposed to the imposition of a formalist overlay from above or afar. This is not a language of hyperbolic qualifiers: extra-large or mega-Dutch; it is an opportunity to question our methods of engagement and provide an alternative to the master plan.

The book charts the research of thirty-three architecture students from Tamkang University in Taipei and RMIT University in Melbourne. Observation is the operative process; all responses to the city are considered valid. The mapping of these individual preoccupations is rigorous, often obsessive – a type of forensic study in the search for clues that reveal hidden phenomena. The studies flip between small and large, from a personal reading to a universal understanding. A specificity of time and place is required in order to avoid generalisation and simplification. Issues become identified, and patterns are revealed from within the system.

Whilst it is often considered a problem to work outside one’s cultural milieu, for fear of a lack of understanding, or misinterpretation, we use this as an opportunity for discourse. The work strives to find common pleasures within the city and to accommodate different readings; what some regard as strengths, others may consider weaknesses. The seemingly banal is reconsidered. This dialogue becomes a paradigm for the city; the issue is that of negotiation, for different voices to be heard and to allow for multiple narratives and complexity. The architect and urban designer can assist in this act of curation.

I fell in love with Taipei on my first visit. It reminded me a little of Paris with its hierarchy of streets: magnificent tree-lined boulevards protecting the smaller grain of the interior of the blocks. The buildings decrease in height as the streets narrow to a network of lanes. What the plan doesn’t tell you is how the city is used – of the quantities of motorbikes loaded with all sorts of goods, or the time when the car got wedged in the lane. 7-11’s are ubiquitous - globalisation at work – but where else would you find fairy lights 24-hours a day? Taipei has adopted the chain as its own (town hall); you can pay your parking tickets and bills there as well as buy snacks. It’s when you get up close that the city is really revealed: the way they stack goods, the smell of the food (delicious). How does one reconcile these two extreme scales? And how does one avoid becoming seduced by the image.

The plan of Taipei produced by the Department of Urban design is an extraordinary document. Building lines and city blocks are delineated; streets and pavements are drawn. However this is where convention stops. Only the hatched buildings exist legally, with approvals from the statutory authorities and in accordance with the master plan. All crossed-hatched structures are illegal in this context, and have been constructed according to the rules of some other system. Laneways are filled in, or become internal courtyards; the footpath disappears completely at times. New typologies are created: arcade kitchens, doughnut buildings, and wrap-around commerce. Any open bit of land is up for grabs. The authority of the map is challenged by the entrepreneurship of the inhabitants. The planners recognise (and draw) this dilemma; they are both rule-makers and citizens who, too, delight in great food available any time and everywhere - the spirit of street-life Taipei.

Urban diary: ‘The World Famous Mango Ice Store’. A 24-hour ‘stake-out’ reveals not only the entrepreneurial spirit in the (illegal) appropriation of the public space of the street, but also a social code in the system of negotiation with adjacent businesses. The structure opens at 11am and begins to gradually unfold onto the adjacent lot and footpaths: tables and chairs, service stations, the overflow from the kitchen. The popularity of this fruit and ice treat grows throughout the day; the crowds build, and illegally parked cars and service vehicles expand deep into the neighbourhood. By 6pm an employee from the ice store arrives to establish an unobstructed frontage to the Japanese restaurant next door when the queues get long. This grass-roots response appears to provide a viable alternative to the systems of legislation and planning.

The diary is a summary of our methods. We start small. An object, event or a district is selected and located specifically in time and place. From there we ‘zoom out’ to locate the investigation within a larger space and longer time frame to determine the site or context of the work, and how ‘big’ the idea is - the issues arising. (My views about the architectural project is that it exists somewhere between the scales of 1:1 and 1:100,000 and should be considered within the time frames of a moment and a minimum of 100 years.) All observations start from the personal reading, and rely upon our ‘being there’. We make catalogues, stay in one spot (over time), trace routes, see things in motion, compare them to where we have come from, and position them within the map of the world. The data is broken down, edited, analysed, - compiled as a list, arranged by colour, categorised, and seen over time in order to reveal the particularities of Taipei.

The process of depiction or making the map is undertaken consciously; it is not a neutral activity. All maps lie, to paraphrase Robert Smithson, and reflect the bias of the mapmaker: one set of data is privileged over another; the means of representation selected offer some possibilities for interpretation and exclude others. The construction of the map is the construction of the city - the design of the site of speculation – and the initial intervention. Propositions thus flow seamlessly from the analysis of what is already there.

The position of the author is reflected in the bias of the map, and it is only through a considered social and political agenda that meaningful contributions can be made within the built environment. This is demonstrated in the work of an Australian woman who was uncomfortable with the lack of clear distinctions between the public and private realms. What could she photograph? How does one determine the (public) space of the street where on one hand a shop’s merchandise blocks the footpath while next door domestic rituals take place (in full view)? How could she reasonably operate in an environment without a full understanding of the culture? A series of drawn delineations of her perceptions reveal the nuances of occupation she discovers - alternative plans and sections to those indifferent documents issued by the city, which register property ownership and buildings.

Through representation and critique, the observations of the existing conditions are evaluated; the particular becomes general as the (larger) issues are raised, allowing others to engage in dialogue. All opinions are acknowledged and respected. In some instances phenomena can be considered both positively and negatively. I, personally, remain charmed by the garbage truck that heralds its arrival in my neighbourhood on Monday evenings with a digitised version of Mozart’s A Little Night Music. The neighbourhood congregates to load their rubbish in the ‘village’ square.

The authors of an alternative proposal to rubbish collection in the Yong Kong District are less romantic than me, realising that this ‘ritual’ poses a nuisance to those with large families, during a monsoon, and for the elderly or handicapped. They pose questions that avoid an over-simplification of the problem(s) and thus an expedient response. (They are not seduced by the image.) Their strategy to create neighbourhood recycling centres instead of dumping waste on the city’s periphery not only maintains the community spirit, but also ensures a continuing economic mix with the introduction of additional local employment. Abandoned historic Japanese houses are co-opted and recycled in the process; urban typologies such as the shop house and the light-industrial unit maintain their relevance in the face of impending high-rise development. This is far from preservationist position, yet it enables the urban fabric to remain intact. By dealing with the complexity of the site phenomena at both the local and city scales, and over a period of time, they create a truly sustainable project with its requisite breadth of concerns.

It becomes apparent that starting with the particular does not preclude the scale of the proposal. A fascination with traffic flows and motorcycle culture (the scale of a pedestrian with the speed of a car) starts with time-lapse photography from a bedroom window and concludes with the redevelopment of the movement systems within an entire district. The coexistence between these scales – ‘being there’ and the master plan - becomes the issue as does the varying and often contradictory needs of the population. Zoning and pedestrianisation are deemed to be oversimplified solutions in this context. By using the language of the ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ appropriation of public space a physical system of negotiation is established by reordering the existing; nothing is qualified or removed – only rearranged. Surgical incisions and the subtle addition and subtraction of hawker stalls, kiosks, small structures, stairways, balconies, and roofscapes provide an alternative to the heavy demolition and construction of most infrastructure projects. An evolutionary process is set in place, over a much larger time frame, much like the way one might design a landscape.

The explorations by the individual authors (as outlined above and graphically throughout the book) become part of a larger body of work on the city – and a composite map of Taipei. The specificity of these fragments becomes abstracted into patterns when the work is seen as a whole. The 1:1 scale is read simultaneously with the map at 1:10,000; the phenomenological coexists with the physical. Taipei is perceived as a series of specifically located moments with strong identities and character. These observations build up, as does the work, to reveal a complexity of issues, attitudes and responses that range in scale and types of strategic intervention.

An installation of the work in Taipei and Melbourne disseminates the outcomes of the workshop, and summarises its spirit. A series of identically-sized folio plates are placed on an ‘examination table’ in the centre of the gallery. They can be read as a series of individual projects, by negotiating the piles. The loose plates by their nature have no hierarchy; they become rearranged, reconfigured, added to, or deleted. Velcro installations on the gallery wall invite the visitors, as well as the authors, to ‘curate’ the city by affixing the plates by issue, by location, by program, by project, by media, by accident, and by desire. Overlaps, adjacencies, comparisons, contradictions and tensions amongst the plates underscore the fact that there are many readings of a good city and that anyone can and should be encouraged to contribute.

Curation best describes our activities in Taipei. Who needs a designer in the face of such inventive entrepreneurs? And what is the role of the planner when neighbours can negotiate? And who are we (whether foreign or local) to swan in from high with our bird’s-eye views? Our traditional spheres of operation as architects, at 1:200 scale in plan and section, for instance, are of little use to the growing complexity that practitioners in the built environment are faced with today, such as the scale of a highway or the time frame of a sustainable agenda. When working at a larger scale we are often distanced from our subject matter and create the sorts of disenfranchisement that are addressed by ‘urban agitators’ such as the Situationists in Paris and the Stalker group in Italy. Questions of authorship, and the responsibility that this entails, remains clear in our practice, but we need to remember the common pleasures we share as citizens. It is our responsibility to enable and empower our constituents in the curation of their cities.

Sand Helsel
(Taipei Operations, Human Environment Group, Taipei, 2004, pp4-9)

Saturday, May 15, 2004




如 同诺伯休兹(C. Norbert-Schulz)在《场所精神》中描述的布拉格(Prague)、卡潼(Khartoum)与罗马(Rome)等存在特色截然不同的城市, 被安放在特定基地(site specific)的装置艺术作品系以各种混成的方式聚合地点、地方、空间、时间、天与地、人与灵,每一个作品或人造环境所打开的世界是经过制作者重新组 装后的结果,因此分析图示仅为简略的分析,并不能切入真实作品的复杂状态,这也是评论与创作之间基本的隔阂。

自 上世纪末,当非空间与非地方现象逐渐占据了我们的生活世界,以海德格思想为本的住居理论与艺术论和当代时空的关联强度快速下降,现象学存有论对于世界的解 释与所采取的角度显得十分保守,而胡赛尔的认识论则被视为研究传统课题的学院典籍;严格说来,此两种现象学进路的运用有待打开新的向度与补充批判性的申论 内容。




Monday, March 15, 2004


上一期《非台北观点》一篇〈东海建筑的出路〉发了点议论,朋友打电话来关心、讨论。加上编辑部又告知,半年的专栏已告终,心里一则喜一则忧,喜的是结束了每两周缴一次稿的压力,忧的是发牢骚的地方没有了“东海建筑”当然不是我真正关心的唯一专业科系,但它因有强烈的示范作用,所以不得不讨论。其实今天所有的建筑系早就已经碰到教学瓶颈,学生大部份时间都投掷 在形式操作的囿限里,一周两次改图耗掉所有建筑系学生的精力,就像所有的填鸭式教育一般,只能训练出形式的“工匠”,而无法造就堪与国际比拟的“巨匠”。 原因很多,首先是我们这里缺乏引领建筑界前进的典范,当然碍于历史时空的限制,无法强求。少数像王大闳这样的建筑师又过于低调,不投身教育,以致亦缺乏该有 的影响力。再者是建筑系毕业后出国深造,大多数以美国为主(尤其是想从事实务设计的人),匆匆几个月或两三年的学程就回国,美国在西方文化本就是个弱势 国家,我们又匆匆路过,结果自然想当然尔。 再来就是我们的职业环境恶劣,先是公部门的制度问题丛丛,黑箱竞图、设计费、发包制度……;其次是建筑师公会的不事生产与利益共生;最后就是资本主义市场的商品化运作,让文化品味不高的大众市场更加沉沦,政府的公共建设(包括国宅)似乎不想扮演引领品味前进的角色,一昧地上下交相贼,最终导致九二一的验收惨状,建筑师、营造厂该付出代价,不知那些曾收受百分之十至百分之二十回馈的政治人物或公务人 员是否也应该接受惩罚。时至今日,还有许多“封闭”的“国营”机构,像国防部、自来水公司、电信局、电力公司、中国石油、邮局、高速公路管理局……,它们动辄在城市或乡村地景上兴起庞然大物,但制度的局限或不透明,让这些部门的硬体建筑“了无生趣”、无法扮演引领的角色。 当然问题我们还可以直陈下去,像台湾这几年的住宅(由宜兰厝扩散)、老建筑再利用或都市更新议题,这些都会涉及到更复杂的都市设计议题,如果拿季铁男的论述就叫“微观都市”,而我称之“都市缝补”。建筑系准备好面对这一切了没有,别以为会揉捏形式就会处理以上问题,经验告诉我们,每一件事情都需要深刻的知识与不断的研究,因为住宅议题的了解得重回二十世纪初德国、荷兰,乃至奥地利等现代主义现场,而再利用涉及东西方建筑史,都市更新则更宽广,除前面提到的东西方建筑史外,还包括城市史。当然不是说建筑系基础性的美学操作不重要,但没有宏观的视野、没有社会的批判力,美学只能是自慰式的语言,最终将流于矫情、呓语。别以为我说的是未来,台湾几乎所有的室内设计已是如此(包括许多已得大奖的建筑师),翻开杂志,一片呜呼,语言虚假、一致的不像话。这些建筑师就拿着同样的方式盖建筑、教学生。真奇怪,台湾用英雄主义式教学教了四十几年,也没教出半个国际级的英雄,却把台湾的城乡风貌搞砸了,好,建筑师没那个能耐,是帮凶不可否认吧!我们的建筑系到底是没办法回应外面的问题?东海建筑的出路算是个指标吧。 徐明松,台湾日报副刊非台北观点专栏 2005

Thursday, January 15, 2004