Top architects’ school work on display

DESIGN MASTERS::Among National Cheng Kung University’s graduates are Taipei 101 designer Lee Tsu-yuan and the nation’s first female architect, Wang Hsiu-lien

By Jake Chung  /  Staff writer, with CNA

Wed, Sep 18, 2013 - Page 5

National Cheng Kung University’s architecture department is holding an exhibition in Taipei featuring the original drawings of famed architects made when they were still in school.

The department was established 70 years ago during the Japanese colonial era at the then-Tainan Advanced Engineering School and is the oldest in the nation.

The exhibition, which runs until Sunday at the Taipei Huashan 1914 Creative Park, is divided into three sections highlighting the works of students from different periods.

The university said it hopes to show through the exposition not only how society has changed, but also how architectural education has changed with the times.

Famed architect Kao San-chin (高山青), an 80-year-old alumnus of the university, was very moved when he spoke at the opening of the exhibition on Saturday, saying one has to live long to be able to witness such a grand event as the department’s 70th anniversary.

He asked all who were present to join him in observing a minute of silence in honor of those who were not able to be present at the occasion and encouraged the school’s young alumni to “work harder to achieve more than they did.”

Another alumnus, Lee Chi-huang (李濟湟), flew in from the US to attend the event. Lee said that despite the variety of styles showcased at the exhibition, all architectural students had one thing in common, and that was the experience of spending countless nights huddled over a desk trying to finish their draft.

Among the works on display are drawings by Han Pao-teh (漢寶德), a renowned architecture teacher, and Lee Tsu-yuan (李祖原), the designer of skyscrapers including the Taipei 101 and the 85 Skytower in Greater Kaohsiung, which drew special attention as visitors pored over their detailed sketches.

Fu Chao-ching (傅朝卿), a professor in the architecture department, highlighted a drawing of an apartment complex by Lee Tsu-yuan, saying it was drawn at a time when the government was promoting public housing.

Many architectural students had used such housing complexes for practice, with the trend then moving toward modernism with an emphasis on simplicity, practicality and asymmetry, Fu said.

Adornments or decorations were not encouraged and some even viewed them as sinful, Fu said, laughing.

Looking at Lee Tsu-yuan’s designs today, Fu said many would consider the apartments too small, with each unit measuring only about 10 ping (33.1m2).

However, one has to bear in mind that when the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government first came to Taiwan, only big families lived in a house measuring 20 ping or more, he said.

Aside from showing how the great masters had started small, the drawings show how design trends in Taiwan changed over the years, Fu said.

One of the works on exhibit is a design for a hospital made by Wang Hsiu-lien (王秀蓮), whom many consider to be the nation’s first female architect.

Wang talked about the difficulties of looking for work as an architect at a time when gender rather than ability and skill counted more.

“Nobody wanted to, or dared to, use a female architect,” Wang said.

After being repeatedly rejected, Wang went back to university and worked as an assistant while preparing for the civil servants’ examination. Upon passing the examination, Wang started her own business.

Fu said that the major difference between architecture students now and before is that students today rely too much on technology, while those in the past had nothing but pen, paper and brains.

The works on display show the intricate and exquisite details painstakingly drawn by hand, Fu said, warning that an overreliance on computers can sometimes have the adverse effect of technology leading the student’s hand.

Fu said that many US universities forbid freshman students from using computer-generated graphics for their works, while Cheng Kung has continued its sketching classes and course on Song Dynasty calligraphy to help train students.

Aside from the exposition, the school has also setup a cross-generational platform on which it hopes architects of all ages can converse with each other, give tips, or learn a few new tricks.