Sun, Sep 30, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Caught in a net of 7-Elevens

A project by staff and students of the Shih Chien University School of Design has created some unexpected adornments on Taipei's busy streets

BY Ian Bartholomew  /  STAFF REPORTER

7-Eleven acquires a softer exterior in Infiltration with Tenderness off Roosevelt Road.

PHOTOS: COURTESY OF SHIH CHIEN UNIVERSITY

Walking around the Mingde (明德) MRT station or National Taiwan University campus (國立台灣大學), you might notice a strange trend in unused, public spaces near 7-Elevens. Along Dingzhou Road (汀州路), there is a posterized image of baseball hero Wang Jian-ming (王建明), for example. It is made from paper cups inserted in a wire fence; further down, motorcycle parking spaces have been blocked off with milk crates and contraptions made from disused bicycles adorn the sidewalk.

"You're not really meant to see them until you come upon them," said Tseng Wei (曾瑋), an architect from Taichung who also teaches at the College of Design at the Shih Chien University (實踐大學). "It is supposed to inspire a new way of looking at how urban space can be used." There is a handbook hanging from a nearby signpost describing how the sculptures, which look like dangerous gym equipment, can be used.

This installation is one of eight that is part of a project called 7-Eleven City: Poetry, Architecture, New Communities, funded in part by the President Chain Store Corp (統一超商) - parent company of 7-Eleven. The project teamed four foreign and four local architects with eight poets to create eight installations. Part of the challenge was that although the individual 7-Eleven stores which serve as markers for the installations were all participants, architects had to liaise with the community as well.

Information about the location of the eight projects can be found in participating 7-Eleven stores. Installations are meant to remain in place until next weekend, but some are likely to fall victim to the elements or local residents.

Circle of Hope, just outside Mingde MRT station, created from massive blocks of ice by Taipei architect Lien Hao-yen (連浩延), unsurprisingly did not survive the first day.

Marco Casagrande, a Helsinki-based architect who is currently a visiting professor at Tamkang University (淡江大學), found that his Finnish sauna was not uniformly appreciated by local residents. There were complaints about the smoke from the wood fire.

"The project raised issues of how we perceive public space," said Ruan Ching-yue (阮慶岳), one of the project's organizers. An army of scarecrows that stand half-hidden on Wenzhou Street (溫州街) required permission from local shop owners. "People here are always willing to go for it," Casagrande said. "I think there would be much more resistance in the US or Europe to a project like this."

For Beijing-based architect Wang Yun (王昀), it is the multiplicity of networks in which we now live that gave interest to the project. "7-Elevens are everywhere, and form a network which we negotiate when moving through the community. Mobile phones are another. Internet another. There are layers of networks which we are negotiating constantly. A project like this helps architecture students and the public become more aware of the networks in which they are enmeshed."

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