Sun, Nov 14, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Chinese architecture rethought

'Rumor of China Towns' is an interestingly presented look the past, present and future of building and design

By Susan Kendzulak  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

Wang Wei-ho's What is Architecture?

Anew exhibition that examines Chinese architecture via history and literature Rumor of China Towns: Chinese Architecture 2004 curated by Ann Yu-Chien (安郁茜) and Roan Ching-yueh (阮慶岳) opens Nov. 12 at the Museum of Contemporary Art and runs to Jan. 16. Both curators are licensed architects and are the dean and lecturer, respectively, in the Architecture Department at Shih Chien University.

This is not a typically boring architectural exhibition filled with white foam-core models and framed Computer Aided Design (CAD) drawings. Instead, the work is innovatively presented like contemporary art: fun installations to look at while being thoroughly engaging and provocative.

An exhibition that deals specifically with Chinese architecture automatically brings to mind some of the research led by Rem Koolhaus. In his book Project of the City , an interesting statistic emerges: "There is one-tenth the number of architects in China compared with the US, designing five times the volume of projects. This implies an efficiency of 2,500 times that of an American architect."

This exhibition not only alludes to the present frenzy of urbanization in the Chinese world, but refers back to historical events such as the nomadic raids on cities during Genghis Khan's 13th century reign and to the classic novel Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin (曹雪芹).

The first part of the exhibition relates to the novel's idyllic garden. Hong Kong-based Gary Chang (張智強) shows us that the way we design our living spaces, live our lives and even how we spend our time can be managed most effectively if we approach it as product design. His work is presented on spinning lampshades and he shows that design is best when in flux.

Taipei-based Chien Hsueh-yi's (簡學義) Meta-architecture is a smartly installed presentation of small black-and-white slides of his projects, along with floor-to-ceiling projections. The projections themselves become a part of the room's architecture. Not only is the image a picture of his work, the image becomes a wall of the room, thus the work is continuously referring to itself as art, architecture, memory and structure.

Ilan-based Huang Sheng-Yuan's (黃聲遠) walk-through installations of plastic-covered wooden planks, net-enmeshed TV sets and a mish-mash of building detritus gives the effect of both a construction site and a disaster zone. The incredible ambiguous mess makes us question whether this is a "before" or "after" site and it is that uncertainty that gives this work such a seductive quality, as it has a sense of being lived in.

Also included are architects from China: Chang Yung Ho (張永和) (who's also in the concurrent Taipei Biennial), Cui Kai (崔愷), Liu Jia Kun (劉家琨). Also, Singapore's Tan Kay Ngee (陳家毅) and Taiwan's Liao Wei-li (廖偉立) and Wang Wei-ho (王為河). Kung Shu-chang (龔書章) and Wu Chien-te's (吳建德). Yoga room wryly shows that the human body is also a type of architecture.

The more perilous works embody the "Yellow Peril" section: Lin Sheng-feng's (林聖峰) collapsible structure, a building that can be folded away; Liu Kuo-chan's (劉國滄) burnt furniture armatures look like ink drawings in space; Tseng-wei's (曾瑋) dangerously moving walls, and Pao Pei-yu's(包佩玉) odiferous rawhide structure, collectively form an urgent question about the future of architecture.

However, the duo of Grace Chang(張淑征) and Royce Hong try to humorously deal with the future in their BOT Nation: 2010, which speculates if the build-operate-transfer model that allows for private investment is the way to go.

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