The Old Giving Birth to the New

8:17 AM

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
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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
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