I attended a guest lecture recently by Doojin Hwang over at the National University of Singapore. This lecture, The Old Giving Birth to the New, was interesting and one that I enjoyed. With the focus for this lecture being the meaning and role of traditional architecture in a flat (globalizing) world; he elucidates on the relationship between modernity and cultural identity through some of his projects.
There are several takeaways from this lecture for me and one of them is the whole idea about the integrity of traditional architecture in the 21st century. There is the notion of synthesis between mechanization and traditional architecture. Mr Hwang carried out a renovation project in Yangdong Village, a UNESCO world heritage site, to renovate some of the heritage houses into guest houses. The design's highlight is how it exudes a traditional ambience, while providing for contemporary conveniences within the house.
Heritage Houses Renovation in Yangdong Village
Image taken from: http://www.djharch.com/09/project/view/149#prev
In the course of the lecture, Mr Hwang mentioned that technology has advanced to the point that we are able to squeeze in little gadgets into the cavity of the structure of the house. Which was carried out in the above mentioned project to provide for modern facilities. To me, the overall experience of a traditional architecture now becomes very conflicting. While it is true that these 21st century influences remain largely invisible, and the traditional ambience is retained through the way that the spaces and form are crafted; one still cannot help but feel the subtleties of technology behind the scenes. Hence, is the traditional experience still authentic? How much "tradition" has been lost in the development of the house? None? All? Nevertheless, This is definitely one of the places I would love to visit to learn more about.
Another takeaway was the critical reinterpretation of traditional architecture in the course of designing a new building that hopes to manifest such qualities. To do so is a daunting task as it requires intensive research into the subject. Even after doing so, the end result might not seem to reflect the traditional qualities that you hope to achieve. However, it is fine. To reflect traditional architecture does not necessarily mean the use of materials that traditional houses have or to readopt the form. In fact, the most important factor is that the design process is done with the spirit of traditional architecture in mind. There are endless forms and ways to come up with a design that speaks of traditional architecture. Perhaps, the more successful designs are those that have undergone a thorough design process. In which the ideas are constantly evolving to meet the needs of contemporary standards but also at the same time stemming from traditional architecture.
Regardless, it was a very enlightening session for me as I got to know more about traditional architecture in Korea. I also got to learn about the different viewpoints surrounding the 2 ends of the spectrum of architecture - traditional, modern and the synthesis of both.
Hanoks, Traditional Houses in Korea
Image taken from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanok#/media/File:Korea-Gangneung-Ojukheon-01.jpg
Waterway Terraces is located along Punggol walk and situated rather close to Punggol MRT Station. The undulating white balustrades that were layered over one another to form the dense facade caught my attention as I emerged out of Waterway Point, a relatively new mall in Punggol. As I approached to get a closer view, I noticed the cascades of garden on the roof of the building. Intrigued, I went up.
The idea of a roof garden is a great one. It creates communal spaces within the blocks and creates interaction among the residents. However, I do not really see the effectiveness in the roof gardens of Waterway terraces.
The only prestige of a roof garden are the views. However the promenade and the boardwalk on the ground floor extends into gardens and parks which are greener, and lakes which offer incredible views, thus diminishing the impact of the roof garden. Next, the people who would be using the roof gardens most would be the residents who have easy access to the garden; those that live in the upper floors. However, the numbers are limited. Is the garden attractive enough to continuously invite people to visit it? If not, would the garden just become useless?
What about the residents living on the lower floors? Would they come all the way up here to water the plants in the garden and exercise? Perhaps. Can the cascade of gardens be furthered to continue to the ground floor? Such that it forms a connection of green spaces that tie the whole building together?
All in all, it was a great experience for me. It was interesting to see how ideas are manifested onto a residential complex in different ways. I also learned how communal spaces can be crafted to facilitate certain activities and how it can bring people together.
My biggest takeaway from this lecture was how he defined sustainability in the 21st century, and how it will affect Architecture. Sanjay Prakash, the speaker, illustrated how sustainability in Architecture was evolving to address several issues. These include: resilience, sufficiency, identity and equity.
I remember him talking about how a building has to respond to a context - the site, the people, the culture. A building must fulfill the needs and expectations of the people who will be living or working there. It is what allows them to absorb the building, to make it theirs. This forms the "soul" of the building.
We cannot fool our taste buds to like the food we dislike. We cannot fool our minds and ears to enjoy the music we despise. Similarly in Architecture, we cannot force ourselves into liking the designs we do not like. Yet, in our world, we are progressing towards an international style of architecture. One that attempts to satisfy everyone. Should that be the case? What I feel is that the act of doing so might render buildings in certain places, that could be rich in culture and experiences to lose their identity. This may then evolve into a form of neglect and destroys the inherent value of the buildings. Is this the "sustainability" that we are trying to achieve?
Different people have different perception towards architecture. In social architecture and participatory design, people design their own building. In the Baran district, Rajasthan, India, architects acted as catalysts to community led construction. The Lok Jumbish School School Buildings Development was part of a state-wide Schools Development Programme to improve existing village schools and build new ones at low cost, using a participatory, community lead, sustainable approach and vernacular construction techniques. It was through such programmes that one can realise the importance of identity and people's needs. How the spaces are crafted, and what kind of programme is associated to each space. To me, this kind of programmes can provide for useful insights and ideas about the architecture that belongs to a certain place. By allowing the community to partake in the design process, it unravels the identity and type of architecture that belongs to the place.
Lok Jumbish School Buildings Development
Sanjay Prakash concludes,
We should all be interested in the future, because that is where we plan to spend the rest of our lives!
Image: The Sri Aurobindo Ashram, http://shift.org.in/sri-aurobindo-ashram.php
A few days ago, I was at a residential building near Dawson Road. In fact, I have been here before but I was unable to access the Sky Terrace then as it wasn't open. What intrigued me most about this residential block was the use concrete.
I particularly liked the use of colouring admixtures on some of the columns, which turned it an earthy brown colour. Visually, it appears dull and does not scream for attention. Sitting quietly in the background, it subtly enhances the atmosphere of the space. The colored column also pairs well with the grey, off-form concrete textures.
Another interesting thing about this building was the introduction of Sky Terraces on different floors. On the facade, this breaks up the monotony of sight through the introduction of greenery. Furthermore, the sky terrace is a long horizontal strip that cuts across the building, which sub-divides the building into smaller chunks, making the building appear lighter.
Columns extend above the roof to form shelters for the sky terrace.
Layering of columns with vertical off-form concrete louvres to create interesting patterns.
Implementation of blue tinted glass between columns and louvres creates visual tension, highlighting the columns. The dark blue colour evokes a certain sense of calmness, which goes well with the program of the space.
|View as you emerge from the lift|
The composition of columns, louvres and glass manifests itself in a form of a rectangular mini-pavilion. It frames up certain views and provides generous amount of headroom for the users to experience the sky terrace comfortably
The place offered some of the best views. Everything just seems so small from up here.
|View from the sky terrace|
Overall, it was a fun and great experience. I thoroughly enjoyed sketching out some of the views while munching on a pancake from Mr Bean for a good half an hour.