City, architecture and people

People’s dwelling environment is based on cities; urban conditions, such as geography, climate and economy, affect architectural styles, and architecture builds urban appearance, which reflects local cultural atmosphere and living attitudes of inhabitants, thus they have an inseparable close relation. A “residence” is the most common type among urban architecture as they account for approximately 90%~95% of the entire urban buildings, so residential buildings (types of promotional projects of construction companies) are the material elements for constructing a city, elevating housing quality, which is equal to improving urban environment.

Man’s feelings toward sceneries and buildings gradually settle into spatial experience and memories, in which beautiful spatial experience is the motivation that elevates architectural civilization. Urban civilization and cultural behavior form a rapid circulation, thus the relation between architecture, land and man is constantly changing. For example, domestic and foreign economic and political factors can influence directly the development and scale of architecture.

In fact, the relation between man, architecture and land is a constant reason. Architecture is a regional industry and cannot be positioned as industrialized products Note 1; if development scale and positioning are not set based on “land suitability”, they will lose the proper “compatibility”. Once the subtle relation between land, architecture and man goes off balance, it can lead to a developer’s investment failure and even, more severely, sacrifice land resource as well as hinder urban development.

Note 1: Industrialized products refer to cars, appliances and computers that are produced in large quantities by using standardized production models, and are sold worldwide through channels.

Imbalanced land policies in Taiwan

Taiwan has island climate and is located on a plate. The life cycle of buildings in Taiwan is rather short compared to continental countries, leading to an active housing market and making the construction industry into the “leading industry” of economic development; the vigorous growth has stimulated relevant trades, such as steel, cement, electromechanical products, furniture, decoration and banks, as well as become a representative of business indicative evaluation. However, if only economic and political considerations are given to industrial development, instead of being based on national sustainable policies and following the spirit of urban planning, the cities in Taiwan may face abnormal phenomenon, and land policies may also be seriously imbalanced. For instance, while promoting policies on “urban renewal” and “dangerous and old buildings”, the Government is also releasing large amounts of land in redevelopment zones as real estate development projects; “agricultural land protection” and “development permit” are quite different, thus local governments of every city and county have land consolidation zones; farmland policies are also often “untied”, from national spatial plan and regional plan to urban plan and zoning of lands, the flexible land policies have given rise to particular industrial cultures in Taiwan.

Take Hong Kong, which has rigorous dwelling demands, as an example, its problems in urban land, housing demand and housing price are more severe than Taiwan, but its land area is approximately 1,108 km2, and only 25% of the land is developed, while the remaining 75% retains a more natural appearance. These undeveloped spaces have been planned as country parks or further protected by law in other manners.

Return to the legislative purpose of Building Act of Taiwan: This Act is enacted to maintain the public security, traffic and health, and to improve the appearance of cities… We believe urban reformation is the strong reason for building houses. After fifty years of urban development, reformation of dangerous and old buildings is imperative, and it conforms to government policies and market principles, allowing house-building behavior to find reasonable purpose and social meaning.

Architecture is a comprehensive science

Architecture is a comprehensive multidisciplinary field; it falls under natural science, e.g. environmental physics, materials science; it falls under engineering science, e.g. structural stress, electro-mechanics and mechanics; it falls under artistic aesthetics, e.g. architectural colors, proportion and style… In addition to fulfilling purposes of science, engineering, artistic viewpoint and practical use, a building must blend in the environment for harmonious and natural growth on this land, and physiological and psychological demands of inhabitants must also be considered to create a comfortable, healthy and pleasant artificial environment.

Being such a complex industry has made the purpose of building construction to be more than just a behavior; a huge building volume built on the ground can last for hundreds of years; though it stands still with unchanged appearance, there will be diversified dialectics during the production process from industrial, governmental and academic circles related to architecture and even the general public.

Blurred architectural vision:

Obscurity 1 – formalism?

Construction companies imitate meaninglessly the sense of deluxe (extreme archaizing or fake technology); without considering regional climate conditions, they use glass curtain walls of the so called classic Baroque style or with a sense of modern technology, which are excessive non-functional decorations, and this will cause the floor plan to be abducted by the appearance. For instance, Roman columns without mechanical function block the flexibility of window opening, so lightweight RC structures are required, which greatly increases complex decorations; it is like an European castle is suddenly built in a natural environment; a building with glass curtain walls and has no sun shades is built in a region that has subtropical climate… The “mansion culture” of real estate runs counter to the “vernacular architecture” trend of “global green energy”.

Obscurity 2 – data-oriented?

General market rules position land with data, land is used for building houses, and houses are treated as investment tools; consideration is completely given to data, while the relative relation of landform geometry and plane configuration is neglected; construction and advertising companies rely on market data excessively, leading to neglect of the fact that design must create environmental advantage; though disadvantages are avoided, architecture positioning with the idea of “adaptation to local conditions” cannot be achieved.

Obscurity 3 – environmental physics VS fengshui?

An architectural design should consider the base’s physical conditions, which are scientifically referred to as “physical factors”. However, “scientific fengshui” and “superstitious fengshui” often generate conflicts and contradictions; the sayings of fengshui by “masters” often run counter to reasonable architectural layouts, and the spatial behavior and logic discussed in regulations or academics are also sacrificed frequently. Therefore, Chinese “fengshui masters” often play the” role of floor planners”.

Obscurity 4 – masters of architecture?

Buildings cannot be exported, but “masters of architecture” can be imported… Many large scale construction companies in Taiwan like to work with foreign architects in appearance design, and then hand the planning to domestic architects to apply for building permits and handle other design works, such as lobby design, lighting design, scenery design, interior design of model house, etc. The construction teams constituted are like “self-assembled vehicles”, because building trends in overseas construction industries are also often guided by local construction companies, and the “masters” usually just design public buildings. However, residential buildings pay particular attention to precise spatial organization. From the inside to the outside, a good building should start with the relation between plan thinking and land (shape, area, position, roads, laws and regulations), and evolve to appearance lexicon for the elevation to be “generated with function”, because only an architectural vocabulary with both interior and exterior cultivation can be “timeless”, and people’s love for it will not change with popular trends of time. Let the people living in the building to be healthy, happy and safe, as well as add a beautiful picture to urban scenery.

Obscurity 5 – product packaging?

The “representation” of public buildings has its reasons, because the purpose of design is to allow people to admire it, hold events or social cohesion, such as going to church for religious service, chanting in a Buddhist temple, worshiping in a temple… These religious architectures value the representation of spiritual dimensions as an art museum is the representation of a palace of art and the presidential office is the symbol of power. Through the presentation of “beauty” of these public buildings, we can use them for admiration, leisure, entertainment, work or remembrance…; however, if one is seeking listening, protection, purification of the body and soul…; it can only be done through a “residence”, that is, our “home”!

We face the same life when we arrive at home, a life without packaging, without differentiation in socioeconomic status… everyone is the same vulnerable body, and the dwelling space is just for “living”; simply and joyfully, just like drinking a glass of natural and pure water, so natural…

In the case that the dwelling space is not like a glass of simple water, and sugar or spice is added because you are afraid of being bland and lack of richness… Well, how do we use water to cook or make soup, coffee or tea in our daily life? Think about the importance of water cleanness. “Clean water” and “pure space” are both equipped with tolerance, plasticity and health, and they are both elements that bring richness to life.

“A blank in space is to be filled with life”; functional decorations are adopted for storage by using false and real cabinets to hide the disorder in life. An orderly plan can create spatial efficiency, allow smooth rhythm of living, and open windows cleverly to let sunlight and breeze into the house. Extend the interior to the outdoors to enlarge space, and allow a vision of the outdoor greens… Therefore, “design” is used to create a feeling of happiness, instead of generate stunning vision; the value of a space is not its size, but rather the returning to purity, cleanness, comfort, efficacy and healthy. When a residential space is full of functions, simple and warm, richness would come naturally. Thus, the “space of home” does not require packaging.