Thu, Sep 28, 2006 - Page 15 News List

Local architectsbuild a reputation at Venice Biennale

Though the work of Taiwanese architects has drawn much praise, a planned panel discussion was shelved because of political considerations


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If you expect architecture biennales to be filled with lots of boring wall texts and models, think again. The Taiwan Pavilion (housed in the prison near the famous Bridge of Sighs) at this year’s Venice Biennale, curated by Roan Ching-yueh (阮慶岳), the assembled installations show that the world of architecture is rapidly changing with people realizing we must tend to our small gardens rather than impose heroic monoliths in city centers. So instead of showing grandiose architectural schemes, Roan gathered a variety of voices that show the strength of small-scale, humanizing architecture in Taiwan.

Upon entering the Taiwan Pavilion, one encounters You Yuan (遊園), a beautiful simulation of a Chinese rock garden whose ground consists of glittery pieces of crushed glass and large stones made from recycled glass. A swing set in the corner transforms this interior prison space into a meditative garden that is entirely created from urban waste.

This installation by Helsinki-based Marco Casagrande who had taught at Tamkang University stirred some local controversy. Newspapers such as the Minsheng Daily had a field day in criticizing the choice of non-Taiwanese (ie. foreigners) to display their work in the coveted main exhibition room while Taiwanese architects were relegated to smaller rooms. It is to Roan’s credit that he recognizes that architecture in Taiwan is not limited to those with Taiwanese blood coursing through their veins. This strategy paid off as hordes of visitors including European TV crews were fascinated by this exhibition.

Norway-based 3RW Architects showed several videos titled Urban Farmers that included interviews of people in Taiwan and Norway who are trying to eek out a living as farmers in a rapidly industrializing world.

Exhibition notes:

What: Taiwan Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale

Where: Palazzo Delle Prigioni (S. Zaccaria), Castello 4209, San Marco, 30122 Venice, Italy.

When: Through Nov. 12

What: Artists Today @ MOCA 2006

Where: MOCA (台北當代藝術館), 1F, 39 Changan W Rd, Taipei, (台北市長安西路39號1樓)

When: Through Nov. 19

Huang Sheng-yuan’s (黃聲遠) Field Office, a team of architects, work only 15 minutes driving distance from their office in Ilan, preferring to tend to their own backyard. For their participation in Venice, they set up benches that seem to have been plunked down in a rice paddy, so that viewers can contemplate life in a small town agricultural society.

Socially-minded architect Hsieh Ying-chun (謝英俊) lives and works in Nantou, Taiwan and China. His new project called Sustainable Construction links society with the economy and the environment. As he was in China helping farmers build their own homes, he was discussed his ongoing project with visitors via a video link.

In Timescapes, young Tainan-based architect Liu Kuo-Chang (劉國滄) uses suspended hand-made rocks to convey the sense of drifting in the ocean. If you are not able to make it to Venice, the exhibition will come to Taiwan next year.

Unfortunately politics reared its ugly head in this innocuous gathering of architects. When Roan tried to organize a panel discussion between East Asian architects, the Chinese architects said they were unfortunately unable to set foot in the Taiwan Pavilion, so when he proposed to rent out a hotel room with his own money the Taiwanese organizers threatened to pull the plug on his budget, so the discussion took place without the participation of the Chinese architects.

Politics are definitely not on view at Taipei’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Artists Today@MOCA 2006, the current exhibition of three Taiwanese artists provides a chance to see lighthearted whimsical works that please the eye and tickle the fancies.

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