Living with Sky, Water and Mountain: Making Places in Yilan
In response to the theme of “Freespace” in 2018 Venice Biennale, Taiwan proposes that architecture could transform a place, which can be achieved by every architect. With such belief, Fieldoffice endeavors to write stories about seeking freedom via architecture. As far as Fieldoffice is concerned, “freedom” is not an intangible nonsense, but actually leading a daily life that they are willing to stay within a 30-min drive sphere to dedicate their architecture work to helping people lead a better life and reconnect the bodies with sky, water, and mountain.
Fieldoffice’s Yilan experiences remind us about an important, yet often neglected dimension, which is how to create a better living place. Yilan is situate on the south-east on Taipei Metropolis, a typical semi-urban, semi-rural city in Taiwan. Such an urban life is the consequence of lasting interaction between the Nature and people, created especially after decades of urbanization brought by capitalism. In the meantime, place are being eroded; community collapse; people are no longer connected to each other; their qualities of experiences decrease; and eventually lose the sense of belonging. Making places therefore becomes one of the critical issues for Yilan.
Places are the result of the interactions between people and their living environment. Making places is more than building a physical space, but also establishing linkage between people and people as well as people and environment.
Fieldoffice considers itself as a combination of residents and professionals, they are in charge of envisioning, initiating, programming, negotiating, and coordinating of these place-making projects. These projects are materialized dreams through their tireless persuasion. Fieldoffice did not only introduce new urban activities, but also intensified current ones, clarified existing urban structure, improved pedestrian safety, unveiled forgotten historical fragments of Yilan, and brought back urban elements that echo historic circumstances of the area. The projects often resemble the careful restoration of an old carpet or textile by weaving new fibers into the worn-out or damaged tissue, carefully maintaining its initial overall scale, pattern and coloration. Fieldoffice’s ‘countryside urbanism’ will be exhibited in three parts:
a.Condensing social memories: interventions via time
b.Setting a datum: canopy as the new reference line;
c.Returning to the land: continuum in suspension of time.
Fieldoffice’s design is an example of ´fragile´ or ´weak´ form, which does not aspire to impress by a domineering, pure and forceful form. The edges and boundaries of the designed projects are impossible to identify, as the new is completely fused with what existed and what is a result of spontaneous tradition. As the Slovenian architect Jože Plečnik (1872-1957) made in his hometown Ljubljana, and through these projects altered the reading and experience of the city’s urban structure. Many of Plečnik’s projects are also minute in size, but their impact is unexpectedly strong. Plečnik, like Fieldoffice a few decades later, used recycled materials and architectural fragments for economical reasons and to strengthen the experience of time and historical layering. This is urban patch-work and renovation based on a subtle understanding of historical and experiential meanings of architecture.
Fieldoffice work at the outskirts of Yilan in a house surrounded by rice fields and distant outlines of mountains. The office venue is a creative chaos of spaces full of furniture, drafting boards, computers, books, samples, drawings and models. The atmosphere is collaborative, casual and friendly, as in an extended family. Many of the assistants live in a nearby house which has been converted into a dormitory, which is a commendable exercise in tightest-packing of individual spaces for sleeping and personal life, on two levels. It is an intriguing fact that the majority of the commissions of the office, characterized by the presence of the rice fields, are in tight urban contexts in Yilan. This makes one realize that the most important reality for an architect is always his/her imaginative reality, and his/her most important skill is the gift of empathy.
In today’s Consumerist world, the autonomy of architecture is threatened by two opposite forces: total functionalization and total aestheticization. The first force turns architecture into utilitarian, rationalized and functionalized problem solving, the second makes architecture a fabrication of shallow visual attractions. As a consequence, architecture as an autonomous, poetic and artistic endeavor is lost. In a sound and sane culture, architecture is not expected to produce fantasies or dreams, as the task of architecture is to reinforce our sense of the real, the poetics of reality itself, and consequently, to give us our existential foothold in space, time and the continuum of culture. Fieldoffice’s architecture expands the realm of the new, while reinforcing the presence of not only the Taiwanese traditions, but the timeless qualities of building at large.