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Half-Architecture Master Thesis


Half-Architecture Master Thesis


Content

Acknowledgement

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Abstract Introduction Chapter 1 Background

Fangting Li Department of Art MA in Environmental Art Master Thesis 2014 School of Art, Design and Architecture Aalto University

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1. 1 Global Urbanization 1. 2 Housing Problems 1. 3 Contemporary trends of Architecture

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Chapter 2 Concept—new languages of space

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2. 1 The Need for exploring space 2. 2 Architecture in Comparison 2. 2. 1 The Language of Architecture 2. 2. 2 The Language Problem 2. 3 To Begin Small and Develop Big

Chapter 3 Half-architecture 3. 1 Half-architecture 3. 2 Half-architecture Space — a collective spatial languages 3. 2. 1 Material Formation 3. 2. 2 Interaction 3. 2. 3 Sensation Formation 3. 3 A Place and A Story 3. 4 Environmental Aesthetics 3. 5 Significance

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Chapter 4 Diploma work

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4. 1 Background 4. 2 Process 4. 3 Effect

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Chapter 5 Conclusion

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Bibliography

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Recourses of Figures

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Acknowledgment

I wish to express my gratitude to Professor Markku Hakuri, Professor Pia Lindman, Scott Andrew Elliott, Tanja Koponen, Kaisa Johanna Salmi, Inka Finell and other kind people for helping my study in Aalto University. My appreciation also goes to my friends: Gabriel Wong, Siyang Li, Donglin Wang and Boyang Xia for supporting my thesis in many ways. Last but not the least, I am grateful to my family for their love and sharing all these years. It is the greatest gift.


Abstract

This thesis focuses on the subject of half-architecture, which is a vital form of both art and architecture. It elaborates various spatial languages, material and tacit, returning us to a primordial experience, framing and re-illustrating our sense of living as well as adapting current architectural practices. With a gradually diminishing scope, the discussed content is logically unfolded through the paper. Starting from the background of urban issues (mostly in China), to the crucial perspective of spatial attributes and language, this paper theoretically outlines adequate context for developing the concept of half-architecture with clear definitions. With a more concentrated sphere, the following content analyzes the idea of half-architecture from the aspect of typology, formations of spatial language, narrative story-telling figure and aesthetic appeal. To summarize, half-architecture’s significance, from social impact to the influence in today’s standard architecture industry, is elucidated. The discussion ends with the clarification of my final project in Guangzhou. The paper has been completed on a relatively integrated level, with sufficient social, architectural and personal meanings. Half-architecture reflects upon urban reality in many senses with our cares and concerns. This thesis offers critical and affecting spatial experiences throughout and I hope the readers of this paper and viewers of half-architecture practices can think of their lives, dreams, and living environments in a more constructive way.


Introduction

One of the various categories of environmental art works, are the spatial experience-based temporary works of architecture and shelters built with unconventional materials, which offer a critical experience of space. This intermediate zone between architecture and art cultivates myriad possibilities not only to engage designers and artists, but most importantly to remind the majority of people of a sense of living in their surrounding environment. One might want a more simple, primitive and at the same time theatrical experience in such a complicated multimedia and explosive information generation. These spaces could be metaphorically pure, epic, massive or direct, yet emphasize the specialness of place. However, from a perspective of human living and working environments today, an increasingly similar picture could be directly shown. People spend nearly all their times in spaces surrounded by reinforced concrete structures, with perfectly painted walls, decent windows with solid frames, wooden doors surely with handles on both sides, etc. Everything in the space is formal, settled down and leaves no space for change. They get in touch with outside world through layers of glass or even by mere images on magazines and Internet and stop imagining what else a space could be, feeling comfortable and safe enough to stay in this settled environment. Modern man, influenced by heredity and environment, can hardly imagine constructing a building in any other way than producing small or medium sized components, and putting together at the site. This is a fundamental reason why we are still building so irrationally around the world.1 What is discussed in this thesis might remind people of the basic desire of space, to pursue the original pleasure of interacting with nature and surroundings, creating variety and flexibility within a half-architectural context. This to some extent means that architects are losing their traditional sovereign right to the formal design of buildings and space; everybody could have 1. Göran Ervin Schömer, “The Theory of The Production of Architectural Space,” Abstract of the Report of Building Research, Stockholm The Royal Institute of Technology, accessed February 18, 2014, http://biphome.spray.se/esch/theory.html

his own “pattern language” in his mind.2 It is precisely in the overthrow of established etiquette in built surroundings that the unique chance arises to discover new and fascinating uses of space. By analyzing the social and architectural background, researching the theories of space and sensorial issues, this thesis unfold the possibilities of space in a relatively vivid and time-effective manner to support architecture and environmental art practices. As an environmental artist, I regard art as a tool to form a better awareness of the world. At the moment, especially in China, people seemingly pay most of their attention to chasing material wealth, unnecessary luxury products and excessive exquisite life styles, which in my viewpoint is socially problematic. In this case art could not solve the actual problems that people have in their lives, but it provides a chance to look at these problems in a more constructive way. Half-architecture implements an interdisciplinary creative practice focused on the discussion and mediation of architecture, art and contemporary culture in the urban realm. This attempt creates spatial languages and activates viewers’ multiple sensory perceptions in experiencing space, more significantly, reflects and transforms the social issues that occur in our society. My diploma work is a half-architecture project located in my hometown, Guangzhou, which supports the theoretical discourse of this thesis. This work aims to emphasize a moment of solitude, dreaming and the humblest beauty of communicating with nature. Simultaneously, in a rational way, half-architecture practice could be effectively applied to the actual architecture industry with its broader ranges of spatial languages.

2. Christopher Alexander, The Timeless Way of Building (Oxford University Press, 1979), 202


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Half-Architecture Chapter One Backgroud


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1.1 Global Urbanization

Chapter 1 Background Located the research background mostly in China where I have been living for more than 20 years, I highlight some problems and social phenomena that trigger this topic. The tumultuous process of urbanization enables big cities in China to become even more reputable on an international basis; however, the consequential issues such as missing locale heterogeneity, weakening architectural variety and the intensive urban living deteriorate the current social and cultural environment. Within the negative consequences of urbanization, the excessive price of housing in China makes city life lack quality and exacerbates people’s anxiety towards an imagining “city dream”. On the other hand, the trends of contemporary architecture are trying to validate the research to be practical. These described factors in this chapter necessitate a study of how to generate a more communicable and humane space by adequate spatial language, as long as we remain unsure of what are the situations we are facing to and in what ways we are dealing with the problems, all talk about the subject of half-architecture remains too vague to be of use.

The urbanization of the developed world began in the Industrial Revolution in the middle of the 18th century. After World War II, because of the developed countries’ economic restoration, economic dynamics changed from industrialization to informatization. The result of rapid urbanization leads to architecture with modern features. Especially after the 1980s, urbanization had become the main body of global evolution. Another important character of contemporary urbanization is the trend towards large cities. The number of large cities in both developing and developed countries has sharply increased, engendering urban agglomeration areas that require a new form of urban planning. In this background, maniacal architectural forms such as super skyscrapers, heteromorphous buildings and exotic establishments have become a part of the process of rapid urbanization. The city’s intention to display their material wealth and capitalist desire and to also form a global and cultural signature can bring about negative effects. Additionally, some of these dazzling new urban landmarks lack any connections with the cityscape, its citizens, and the human scale. They are splendid gifts for tourists, but not for local citizens. While the accelerated speed, access, and exchange of information, images, commodities, and even bodies is being celebrated in one circle, the concomitant breakdown of traditional temporal-spatial experiences and the accompanying homogenization of places and erasure of cultural differences is being decried in another. The intensifying conditions of spatial indifferentiation and departicularization—that is, the increasing in- stances of locational unspecificity—are seen to exacerbate the sense of alienation and fragmentation in contemporary life.1 Take China as an example, speed and magnitude of urban construction have become prominent characters of its new rise. As a result, China is facing challenges in urban planning due to the emerging mega-structured city 1. Miwon Kwon, One Place After Another (The MIT Press, 2004), 8


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environments. Chinese historical buildings and towns have suffered from devastating demolition during the past ten years while the high-density construction, high-rise building and the copy-paste superblocks have negatively assimilated previously varied cityscapes and cultural output, causing placeless and unpromising city development. The countryside is merged into the cities and cities are passively becoming similar. This was to meet the need for quick housing construction after 1978 by arranging homes for the new pop up population in China, but the massive and rapid construction has come with negative effects on urban life. With such mega-structured environments, people in big cities are inevitably losing contact with nature, neighbors and their communities. Large amounts of these copy-paste super blocks have made cityscapes extremely tedious and lack local specialty. The need for more locality-enhancing and small-scale community supporting solutions is becoming urgent. (Figure 1&2) Perhaps most crucially, the encroachment of an indifferent sameness-of place on a global scale- to the point where at times you cannot be sure which city you are in, given the overwhelming architectural and commercial uniformity of many cities—makes the human subject long for diversity of places, that is, difference-of-place, that has been lost in a worldwide monoculture based on Western (and, more specifically, American) economic and political paradigms. This is not just a matter of nostalgia. An active desire for the particularity of place- for what is truly “local” and “regional” – is aroused by such increasingly common experiences. Place brings with it the very elements shared off in the planiformity of site: identity, character, nuance, history.2 In conclusion, it is more problematic for developing regions such as Africa and Asia as they are confronting the dominating cultural and economic patterns from developed countries and also attempting to turn themselves

2. Edward Casey, The Fate of Place: A Philosophical History (University of California Press, 1998), xiii 3. “These Unbelievable Photos Make Hong Kong Look Like Abstract Art,” New Republic, Accessed February 18, 2014, http://www.newrepublic.com/article/115209/michael-wolf-photography-hong-kongs-architecture-density

Figure 1-2. Michael Wolf, “The Architecture of Density”, 2003-2014, Flowers Gallery, London Michael Wolf has developed the topic of Architecture in density, which involves a whole series of different themes that all have the large umbrella of “life in cities.” In these suffocating photographs, there is no sky, no horizon, only images of an overpopulated city with hardly any signs of human life. In Asia, everything is in constant flux, everywhere there is something being built or a neighborhood being torn down and it is very unpredictable because there are different rules here. In the 20 years I have been in Hong Kong; it has changed dramatically. A large part of my work is also just documenting these older neighborhoods, the older architecture, because within ten years it is all gone. So there is an aspect in my work that is not only “wow,” but it is also “what are you doing to your cities, and what is the quality of life here, and then do we really want this?” —Michael Wolf in his interview.3


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into either a member of the global village or a key point on the networks of global cities. This desire becomes drastically intensified and even more urgent. At this point the fascinating high-tech architecture has become a marketing tool for these cities to catch people’s eyes, to demonstrate their political ambitions and to measure up to the incredible speed and scope of urbanization. Paradoxically, according to Miwon Kwon’s One Place After Another, while shadow the importance of the city, they also express the dissipation of the city, caught up in the “deterritorialization”4—a lack of cultural and historical specificity.

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the arena of power. To be “Without a house” is one of the evils in capitalist society. The bourgeoisie maintained their ruling power through the exploitation of the proletariat and through the possession of space. After the reform and opening-up policy in 1979, social fortune is controlled by small amount of people (the “new bourgeoisie” in China), widening the gap between the rich and the poor. While the rich owning huge assets and several real estates as investments to roll more money, the poor can only buy one square meter with 3 months’ salary or more. (Figure. 3) Moreover, the problems do not merely end with the issue of being unable to afford a house. The question of quality of life should also be raised. Bachelard writes in The Poetics of Space,

1.2 Housing Problems In Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space, he claims that all shelters, all refuges and bedrooms have a common dream value and the house protects the dreamers, the house allows us to dream in peace. With the development of societies and urbanization mentioned above, without a house, one becomes a member of the proletariat with no fixed abode. “For our house is our corner of the world. As have often been said, it is our first universe, a real cosmos in every sense of the world. If we look at it intimately, the humblest dwelling has beauty.”5 However, for Chinese young people today, it is often too difficult to own a corner of the world. More low-income laborers rush from the countryside to cities and become new inhabitants, increasing real estate bubbles. Most young Chinese people turn into slaves to their house rather than daydreamers in the house. An extreme example shows that it would take a young Chinese man a total of 43.8 years (without eating and drinking) to buy a 90 square meters house (with the salary 22469 Yuan per year and a cost of 10937.3 Yuan per square meter) in Guangzhou. In this case a house is apparently not a place for dreaming, but a dream which is too difficult to achieve. Henri Lefebvre emphasizes that space is political and is a social product; any space is in power network, and almost all space has become 4. Kwon, One Place After Another, 57 Kwon has mentioned “deterritorialization” three times, mostly describes as“dynamics of deterritorialization” 5. Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space (Beacon Press, 1994), 4

In Paris there are no houses, and the inhabitants of the big city live in superimposed boxes… They have no roots and, what is quite unthinkable for a dreamer of houses, sky-scrapes have no cellars. From the street to the roof, the rooms pile up one on top of the other, while the tent of a horizonless sky encloses the entire city. But the height of city buildings is a purely exterior one. Elevators do away with the heroism of stair climbing so that there is no longer any virtue in living up near the sky. Home has become mere horizontality. The different rooms that compose living quarters jammed into one floor all lack one of the fundamental principles for distinguishing and classifying the values of intimacy.”6 Bachelard also lists what other scholars have described as being problematic in the housing environment in big cities: “One’s Paris Room, inside its four walls, is a sort of geometrical site, a conventional hole, which we furnish with pictures, objects and wardrobe.”7 “The houses are fastened to the ground with asphalt, in order not to sink into the earth.”8 Like Paris and other big cities in Europe, in the subconscious of Chinese people, a house is no longer a cradle full of pleasure and memories like the time of childhood, but a symbol of occupation in the power society. 6. Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, 26-27 7. Paul Claudel, L’Oiseau noir dans le Soleil levant, 144 8. Max Picard, La fuite devant Dieu, trans, 121


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ronments due to rapid urbanization (Indemnificatory Apartments10). In this case, people should have realistic conversations about the way their houses should be used. The houses first allow its inhabitants to survive within the city, but it also acts as an investment of material wealth; the house becomes a functional tool rather than an emotive place. The unity and relationship between a person and his home is lost in contemporary urban living.

1.3 Contemporary Trends of Architecture

Figure 3. Caricature Showing the Housing Stress in China Dong Fan, director of Real Estate Research Center of Beijing Normal University boasted that, “After 25 years, the average national house price will reach 90,000 Yuan per m 2 (10923 euro in current currency), among which, Beijing will reach 800,000 Yuan per m 2 (97096 euro in current currency)” This saying implied that even though the house price is extremely high already, if you are not buying now, you will not be able to afford it in anyway in the future. The so-called real estate research experts’ predictions constantly exacerbate people’s anxiety towards massive urban living.9

Inevitably, this trend causes isolation with the nature, surroundings and community. Generally, the quality of the living environment is the key to estimate whether the process of urbanization is successful or not. While more people rush to become citizens, they seemingly start to forget the nature of happiness in life. Simultaneously, people are facing the problems of intensive living: high density, less personal space and worse (low-quality) living envi9. “What do people do with such high housing price?” Accessed February 18, 2014, http://house.0311.com.cn/201302/06_52885.html 10. Indemnificatory Apartments: China has allocated more than 60 billion Yuan ($8.85 billion) to build 5.8 million indemnificatory apartments to curb the skyrocketing housing prices, including low-rent housing, affordable housing, price-fixed housing, public rental housing and rebuild shanty areas. “Indemnificatory Housing,” China Daily, Accessed February 18, 2014, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/language_tips/news/2010-07/21/content_11028913.htm

Architecture is a social art - a necessity and not a luxury. It is generated by the needs of people, both spiritual and physical. It has much to do with optimism, joy and reassurance - of order in a disordered world, of privacy in the midst of many, of light on a dull day. It is about quality - the beauty of a space and the poetry of the light that models it. —Norman

Forster

Even the urban and architectural situation is problematic, one cannot deny the fact that the development of modern architecture still crucially reflects the degree of social civilization. Currently modern architecture is experiencing the process of assimilating, restructuring, and integrating with traditional local culture. Architects are defining new conversation that architecture creates. When discussing contemporary trends in architecture today, it is obvious that their values focus mainly on social impact, attempting to form a better relation with nature and the sustainability issues. Primarily, as modern architecture such as urban complexes and super blocks of residential area engage more human activities and social functions, it should also create a harmonious dialogue between people and society. Since architecture is the bridge for communication and the center of community, it should play the role of a magnet (a necessity), connecting all surrounding relationships instead of creating an isolation (a luxury) located on the spot. On the other hand, social impact should be related to respecting its location. Modern architecture is a combination of local and national styles


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of building. It contains modern elements such as structure and function, while its facades, spatial arrangement and decorative details incorporate the local tradition and culture, integrating its related environment including the history, people’s living habits, and religious beliefs with the architecture. To consider the local specificity is to respect social culture and social needs of the inhabitants. Architects who apply an inclusive manner of design can gain a wider recognition. Secondly, due to global urbanization, the limited lands must accommodate a much larger residential population; the housing changed from bungalows into multi-story buildings. People have to sacrifice their previous lifestyle with larger living space (more available space for per person) and their connection with the natural environment. The fusion of architecture and the natural environment widely refers to coordinating lighting, the use of natural air ventilation, plants, water and the natural charm of the original terrain. The leading Finnish architect Alvar Aalto constantly insists that the trees on building sites are to be protected against damage throughout the projects as a way to allow nature to be a part of the building’s yard areas. Besides protecting the existing nature, Japanese architect Tadao Ando has the opinion that location is merely an objective existence and can be spiritually enriched by human experience. No matter what kinds of building that architects design, they are consciously and unconsciously creating a new landscape on the spot. People should not only transform nature, the nature can be “brought in” or even “created” in the artificial environment through architecture and urban design. Eventually nature could be naturally adapted to artificial surroundings. Last but not the least, with the continuous development of new technologies, more contemporary buildings are designed from ecological, environmental and sustainable perspectives. Architects have begun to re-examine traditional natural materials such as brick, wood and earth into the design of modern architecture. Green Building as the main trend today creates new “sustainable communities” that emphasizes the use of land, energy, watercourses, air quality and its surrounding environment. By optimizing the design of energy-saving building and the building’s energy consumption, green building can achieve an economical and reasonable state. For no doubt, sustainable thinking is beneficial for a city’s long-term development which is worth social concerns.

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To conclude, when discussing half-architecture, there are more practical and reliable reasons for doing this research. These trends might somehow lead to new forms and possibilities in half-architecture. With this background, the results of this research could be less conceptual and unrealistic; instead, they should be real and with social meanings. This background motivates the research and inspires my diploma project. I would like to discuss the above-mentioned issues in my artwork in a transformative and reflective way. Obviously a work of art could not solve the actual problems such as global urbanization and our weakening idea of house or home, but it could provide a moment outside the intensive urban living, offering a different experience and an opportunity to think in another way.

Figure 4-5. Shanghai 2010 and Shanghai 1950 Shanghai has experienced its fastest rate of urbanization in the past 60 years and has become one of the most notable modern megacities in China. Until October 2013, the resident population in Shanghai has reached 25 million. With rapid urbanization and economic development, as shown in figures 4-5, a large amount of cultivated lands have been replaced with building lands which ultimately contributed to its high architectural density (3632 persons per square kilometer, the most densely populated city in China) and environmental problems such as air pollution, climatic change and negative ecological effects. In this regard, new architectural trends and urban strategies should be implemented to support its sustainability, which might signify Shanghai to be a transitional paradigm among megacities in China for long-term development.11 11. Data from Shanghai Sixth National Census


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Half-Architecture Chapter Two Concept — New Languages of Space


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2.1 The Need for Exploring Space For what you speak of as several places are only parts of the same boundless space related to one another by a fixed position. —Immanuel

Chapter 2 Concept—new languages of space Half-architecture presents as a unique part of architectural practice; hence, it is beneficial to first study the problems that lie in current architecture industry. To bring out the concept of new languages of space, a clear spatial attribute must be defined in this thesis’ context. Within the large scope of spatial theories, Kant and Gassendi’s interpretations would be utilized as the adequate precondition for applying spatial languages in space. As long as we understand the boundless void of space, it might crucially enable architects, artists and people less familiar with the issues to activate the space in their own way. By convincing people the need to explore space and the idea of designing the space with languages, we can come to understand the emergence of language problem in architectural criticism as a response to the language crisis of modern architecture.1 With a neutral attitude towards architecture industry today, which is getting its high point especially in the developing countries, we could still see the chance to adapt and to optimize its inner and outer relationships with human and environment. This journey could be long, but the philosophical and inventive thinking through this process, can ideologically and practically reconstruct the meaning of space.

Kant, Inaugural Dissertation

Kant believes that space is a way of how human beings perceive the world, and not merely the material world itself, thus, the space becomes a thinking lens for understanding the world.2 Hence, the concept of creating new languages in space might be a kernel of half-architecture. Before talking about new spatial languages that half-architecture could bring in being, one must first recognize the long-neglected character of space. If we search for theories and philosophies discussing the topic of space, various opinions and arguments could be found. Henri Lefebvre dedicates a great deal of his philosophical writings in terms of social relations and the production of space; Michel Foucault believes that people live inside a set of relations that depicts the site instead of a void. Also, De Certeau, Jules Henri Poincaré and Pierre Bourdieu all have significant contributions towards this issue. Among which, I would like to stand on Kant’s side to discuss, first the void of the space. People are surrounded by all kinds of space in every motion, but often they only consider them different places with given names, and fail to recognize that space is a boundless void. This is somehow understandable, as our eyes are inevitably attracted to tangible figures at the first place such as door, window, chair...while the spatial impression is abstract and impalpable. Moreover, unlike common recognitions of shape, scale, color and other parameters, and concrete setting such as door, window, chair, the impression of space is different to every person and hard to be clearly defined as people’s previous experience and cultural background, for instance, social class, living habit, cultural behavior, and personality vary from one to another. To define the concept, Pierre Gassendi, a proponent of a revived Epicurean atomism who advocates for the priority of space over matter, once made 1. Karsten Harries, The Ethical Function of Architecture (The MIT Press, 1998), 84 2. Leirah Wang, “Experience of Scales: Residential Behavior and Housing Interior” (PhD diss., Aalto University, School of Arts, Design and Architecture, 2013), 19


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a fateful distinction between spatiality and corporeality in discussing the dimensions of length, width and depth. He defines the two distinguished kinds of dimensions, the corporeal and the spatial. For instance, the length, width, and depth of some water contained in a vase would be corporeal; but the length, width, and depth that we would conceive as existing between the walls of the vase if the water and every other body were excluded from it would be spatial.3 Gassendi is attempting to liberate space from matter; space has a pure dimensionality separated from the concrete corporal dimensionality of matter. According to the definitions above, in my opinion, architects pay too much attention on corporeal issues, in other words, on the concrete level. Starting with (or restrained by) basic architectural regulations, architects (with or without the intervention of structural designers) constantly deal with the concrete elements such as pillars, beams, façades, stairs, windows, or even ornamental details. The spatial issues, however, as they are basically invisible and difficult to be sensed and precisely measured are therefore neglected. Paul Wesis discusses this phenomenon in his book Nine Basic Arts. He claims that architects experience too few significant adventures today because they are so overwhelmed by judges, critics, clients, and problems relating to concrete issues such as engineering, city planning, and scales. What architecture truly needs today is to experiment with building all sorts of spaces, in all possible ways, with all available materials. Architects should accept the fact that there exist periods in which they do not care that their work not being of interest to a client or it may never be built or it does not fit in with contemporary trends. Not until they take seriously the need to explore the possibilities of bounding spaces in multiple ways will they become alert to architecture as an art, as respectable and revelatory.4 Hence, architects/artists who work between architecture and art need to explore more on a spatial level, which is somehow trying to work against being absorbed in the world of virtual images and through their intense preoccupation with the physical presence. In perspective of changes in all areas of contemporary life brought by increased social and cultural mobility and by ubiquitous networking via communication and information technologies, 3. Casey, The Fate of Place, 139 4. Paul Wesis, Nine Basic Arts (Southern Illinois Univ., 1966), 84

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people could sense spatial specificity and identity through identical architectural forms resulted from these changes. For instance, flexible architecture, transformable spaces and interactive spatial experience might meet our growing curiosity of space. Furthermore, Gassendi is maintaining not just that people can think of space independently of matter but that, when they do, space presents itself to them as having its own dimensionality and homogeneity and its own infinity, as people realize that there is no effective limit to a void. For if they can imagine the sublunar sphere as empty, why can they not imagine every other celestial region as empty too?5 Besides the recognition of exploring uncertain possibilities in space, another important issue is the application of this attribute of space. As long as people realize the significance of empty spaces, most of which are hidden, neglected and unapprehended, they could find the world a much larger canvas to paint and a much more open playground to create. People are continually surrounded by empty spaces. They can see trees, ground, sky made into concrete functions such as parks, streets or buildings, but they cannot precisely describe the air they breathe, the shape of a gap among trees in a forest, the leaks within bricks on a wall...they walk over and through them. Philoponus conceived of space as “pure dimensionally void of all corporeality,” a formula that continues to haunt the early modern period. Once space is dissociated from the particular bodies that occupy it, it is bound to be emptied of the peculiarities and properties that these same bodies (beginning with their outer surfaces) lend to the places they inhabit—or that they take away from places by internationalization or reflection. The inward partitioning of space, its incarceration in bodies-in-places, gives way to space as “the infinite theatre of movement”: an essentially empty theater.6 In searching for this vitality, the core content of thesis is intended to be a compendium of spatial languages that distinctively inspires peculiar possi-

5. Casey, The Fate of Place, 140 6. Ibid, 197


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bilities, since space, as mentioned at the beginning, represents a prominent aspect of man’s existential nature. The research results should not merely reach out to architects alone but also create a source of inspiration for creativity across all disciplines to encourage the individual meditation of space as a fruitful and rewarding field of activities. In recognition of the remarkable perspectives that contemporary spatial practices have opened up, there are views of totally unexpected zones of actions and possibilities which invite a large majority of people to take flight on a tour through new spatial and conceptual worlds. But as things are, we have so far beset ourselves with rules, and concepts, and ideas of what must be done to make a building or a town alive, what we have become afraid of what will happen naturally, and convinced what we must work within a “system” and with “methods” since without them our surroundings will come tumbling down in chaos.7 To conclude, the concept of spatial language is a method that could free us from all the ways of creating space. The main meaning in such idea lies in a social context. These spatial languages break the common structural/functional rules of architecture that prevent the majority of people’s participation in the process of transforming space. Christopher Alexander also says: “I want it possible for us—all of us—to make buildings, benches, windows, which have that simple comfort in them, so that everyone feels at home, so that they support us in our everyday life.”8 Moreover, it was human’s instinct to build shelters and temporary architecture with natural materials to survive in a primitive society. Without high-tech materials and mega-structures, how they fulfilled their basic desire of building a space by simple yet functional means still makes sense today in the domain of architectural and artistic thinking. Certainly, what people used for reference could lead to the unearthing of repressed histories, provide support for greater visibility of marginalized groups and issues, and initiate the rediscovery of minor places and images of primitiveness so far ignored by the dominant culture.9 7. Alexander, The Timeless Way of building, 14 8. Christopher Alexander, The Nature of Order: An Essay on the Art of Building and the Nature of the Universe, Book 1—The Phenomenon of Life (Routledge, 2004), 60 9. Kwon, Ones Place After Another, 53

Figure 6-7. Some Ways to Occupy the Space “We have to recognize the rights of both body and spirits. Our building must acknowledge both the sheltering power of place and the indefinite promise of open space.”10 If we keep eyes and minds open, our world is a huge void to be occupied. 10. Harries, The Ethical Function of Architecture, 175


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2.2 Architecture in Comparison 2.2.1 The Language of Architecture In last section we got to understand how half-architecture can generate multiple spatial languages to activate the void of space, the word “language” should be explained here. Karsten Harries discusses the language problem in architecture in his The Ethical Function of Architecture where he analyzes the interpretations by various philosophers towards the idea of “language”. He describes, for instance, the saying of architecture is a “sign” that possesses a language; the illuminating analogy between architecture and language such as a sentence is made up of words with certain grammar; the denotation and connotations of a building (the theories of primary and secondary functions).11 Harries lists these ideas and argues with sufficient examples. Generally, I would distill the main concept from his multiple claims that the language of architecture refers to the collective physical elements that compose and represent a building. More specifically, the form, style and configuration employed by the architecture, build up the language. Take modern architecture as an example, in terms of form, the asymmetric paradigm replaced the static and symmetric layout of classical architecture, and has become a distinguished language of modern architecture. From the perspective of configuration, instead of natural materials such as wood, brick, tile, ash, sand, stone that have been used for thousands of years in the past, the change in the construction industry, for instance, large production of iron, steel and concrete structure has created modern architectural language. On the other hand, each reputable architect has his own unique language. Mies van der Rohe has brought us a new architectural era using steel, iron and glass from his very piece of The Crystal Palace; Zaha Hadid has become the leading figure of parameterized design modality; Tadao Ando, informed by the typical Japanese way of building, addresses architecture with the sincere respect of nature. Moreover, even the same language carries different meaning within various architectural dialogues. Kazuyo Sejima and Mies van der Rohe both have accomplished masterpieces by the broad use of glass, but the architectural significance and the ultimate spatial effect obviously vary. 11. Harries, The Ethical Function of Architecture, 84-96

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Another aspect is that these elements and the results of them such as style and form of architecture, harmoniously supplement each other. They function as a whole, like a word could not get its whole meaning without being in the context, and a sentence could not be called a “sentence” without words. The grammar in between is regarded as a tacit criteria to practically and aesthetically measure the degree of a building’s completion. For instance, the language of architecture presents the code, principle and order of the space, and the elements that are being presented, denote the character of a building. This discourse is in a relationship of presenting and representing. This representation signifies the whole “language” idea. Hermann Bauer suggests that this understanding of architecture as an art of representation offers us a key to the architectural sensibility.12 Goethe claims that architecture in its highest sense is an art of representation in his notable three stages of the art of building: “Building is said to become an art only when it is also concerned to create objects that present themselves to the eye as a harmonious whole.13

2.2.2 The Language Problem So far we had the basic understanding of architectural language. In fact, when we are talking about the semantics of architecture, we already presuppose that architecture intends to communicate some meaning rather than just to be meaningful in some sense, if, it does possess a language.14 And now architecture and architectural theories have been so fascinated by language and linguistics. It invites questioning and reflection.15 However, as architecture is governed by conventional rules, which are controlled by a few people, there also causes a language problem. To speak of this essence, Manfredo Tafuri emphasizes,

12. Hermann Bauer, Rocaille (Walter de Gruyter, 1962), 72 13. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “Baukunst” (fragment, 1795), in Gesamtausgabe, ed. Wolfgang Freiherr von Löhneysen (Stuttgart: Cotta, 1961), 16:670 14. Harries, The Ethical Function of Architecture, 86 15. Heinrich Klotz, The History of Postmodern Architecture (Cambridge: MIT press, 1988), 5


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The emergence, within architectural criticism, of the language problem is, then a precise answer to the language crisis of modern architecture. The proliferation of studies on the semantics and semiology of architecture is due not only to a snobbish keeping up with the current linguistic vogue: every snobbism, anyway, derives its reasons from historical evens, and the snobbisms of architectural culture do not escape this rule. The attempt to bring the “science of man” under the unifying sign of linguistics is rooted also in the current historical situation. One looks for what has been lost, and the need for more and more complex reflex actions in order to discover the meaning of events and things, derives from the discovery that we are among signs, conventions, myths, that offer us artificial processes as natural, that manifest themselves as innocent images or rites just where they are least disinterested, and that carefully hide their meanings. From this comes semiology’s frantic search for meanings; and it is up to us to make it a new science with formidable capacity for demystification, or to let it become another transient fashion under the flag of evasion.16 In Alexander’s The Timeless Way of Building, he describes the reasons for this phenomenon that the architects and planners now make three kinds of efforts to gain “total design” control of the environment because of the failure of natural process of designing buildings. These limited “professionals” try to control larger pieces of the environment (urban design) and more pieces of the environment (mass production or system building), and by passing laws, they get total control of the environment more firmly.17 In this background, the artificial forms of architectural language are fully controlled by a small group of people such as architects, engineers and city planners who have less connection with people that have real needs; this situation forces demands and problems. As a result, city life has become more fragmented rather than unified. The problem is inevitable as in the modern world, a building is built for many, architects can only deal with general issues which are common 16. Manfredo Tafuri, Theories and History of Architecture, trans. Giorgio Verrecchia (New York: Harper and Row, 1980), 174 17. Alexander, The Timeless Way of building, 238-239

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to all men, but never with a particular issue that makes one particular man unique and exceptional. In this sense, the abuse of one single architectural language and the lacking of spatial languages are two main causes that account for the immutability in architectural space, as the adaption of building might involve many side effects once the building is completed. Even though architectural space is not the kernel, I would outline the three main issues and characters of architecture for a clearer comparison with half-architecture. Christopher Alexander claims that one of the most prevalent characters of buildings being built today is the fact that they are “modular” (lacking communicable languages). If people consider the characters of nature, they could see that nature is never modular: no two leaves are ever alike, each ocean wave has its own identity and no absolute straight lines exist (Antoni Gaudi says straight lines belong to human while curve lines belong to God). But in modern/ postmodern architecture, one could find identical concrete blocks, identical rooms, identical houses and identical apartments in identical apartment buildings.18 Structural immutability, functional immutability and sensory Immutability cause such “modular” situation. Structural Immutability According to Göran Ervin Schömer’s The Theory of The Production of Architectural Space, generally, architectural space is formed by concrete physical and technical constructions, by which the first invisible space becomes partitioned and sensible. The history of architecture follows the development of the constructional capacity of mankind, from the primitive architectural forms such as hut, shelter and slum which are mainly built from wood and straw and could contain only 2 or 3 people, to the conventional modern architecture structures-based high-rise buildings with reinforced concrete and steel bars, architecture has become a more capable container and functioning mechanism for a larger amount of users at a time with solid construction. The discovery of various geometrical structures like the beam, the arch and the vault made possible various architectural epochs and became the symbol of architectural evolution.19 18. Alexander, The Timeless Way of building, 144 19. Schömer, “The Theory of The Production of Architectural Space”


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These structures become important symbols in terms of how people define space. For instance, a room cannot exist unless bounded by structures which enclose the space; a playground makes sense by its surrounding structural buildings otherwise it is only a meaningless void. More specifically, in buildings, people see walls, columns and beams and apprehend them into various definitions: rooms, corridors, stairs, etc. In this sense, architectural space is not flexible and ambiguous; it is too neutral and basically unchangeable. Without necessary decorations and ornaments, the structure itself might be hard to communicate with. Would you ever want to feel the walls, to touch the floors or the frames of windows? You probably do not think it preferable firstly because all these walls, floors and windows are too similar in different buildings, and secondly, they are cold, unshakable and without any emotions that one could feel. Nowadays, architects pursue a more vivid and flexible spatial experience by creating different orders: more curves (the new trend of parametric architecture design) and some transparency (especially Japanese architects), in order to generate a more humane dialogue between the users and the architecture. But as long as the architecture is meant to include certain amount of users and to serve certain functions, it is still, literally, an unchangeable structural-based machine, which has little to do with engendering intimate relationship with people. Functional Immutability Architectural space creates a stable, linear and logical story inside for its strong functional attribute. People’s everyday behaviors and movements are injected in space mostly according to the architect’s pre-sets (how functions are structured and architectural elements are located), which would stay long after first being used. If the way people interact with architecture is a tacit realm of architectural language, the functional immutability would passively restrain the degree of interaction. Elsewhere we are forever hearing of architectural, plastic or literary spaces; the term is used much as one might speak of a particular writer’s or artist’s world. Specialized works keep their audience abreast of all sorts of equally specialized spaces: leisure, work, play, transportation, public facilities—all are

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spoken of in spatial terms.20 In regard to the point of functional immutability, two issues should be discussed. On one hand, these spaces are named for specific functions: a space for leisure, a space for work, a space for play, which are relatively settled for a long period time and such definitions are unconsciously but naturally understood by people. People can rely on their intuition in dealing with architectural space and they are able to find their way through buildings by following natural mechanisms of intuition and perception. For example, a staircase is for walking up and down, so it is inappropriate to sleep in a staircase; an office place is meant for working, so it is unsuitable to play there. As these definitions are too deeply embedded in the users’ mind, they are probably forgetting their priority of being the actual users (dominators) of the building. Instead, the people themselves are dominated by the architectural machine once they are used to every settings and definitions. On the other hand, speaking of definitions, Alexander describes the building’s functions as a shopping list of “goals” which are defined by the architect or engineer, then achieved. But there exists the unsolved puzzles, for instance, people who list these functions are inherently arbitrary. The architects or engineers do the design according to their experience and the requirements offered by their clients, but still, there is an intuitive sense that this list might be wrong, might be missing some items, and might be profound or shallow. This situation might happen in an essential way and cannot be mended. Additionally, he also mentions that even though this list of goals is carefully stated and elaborated, it is only in the physical form of a building. The beauty, ornament, and the gracefulness are elusive as they are in a different category.21 Sensory Immutability Besides the common five senses: sight, taste, touch, smell and hearing, there exist more tentative and tacit senses such as proprioception, kinaesthesis, vestibular, intuition and many other subconscious social senses. It is exactly when these sensations mutually work together, people truly start to expe-

20. Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space (Wiley-Blackwell, 1992), 8 21. Alexander, The Nature of Order Book 1, 404-405


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rience. However, now when people review the motions that happen in a building, and think about how many senses that might be involved, the answer could be obviously limited. Certainly, it is unfair to judge a building by how many sensations it has addressed, but a rational expectation is never too excessive. Sight, as an inevitable sense, first guides the user to the line, shape, texture, color and space in a building. Then what else could happen? Thanks to the qualified industrial architecture of today, people get a completed solid barrier from the inside to the outside space; it is never again a primitive and crude image. Actually, people treasure the sound of falling leaves, the softness of sand when they run upon it to embrace liberty of childhood, the cool feeling in summer when they touch a stonewall; people can almost taste the architecture by the mixed scent in a primal wooden sauna house. Besides the five common senses, the whole bodies, including motion, flesh and the inner neural system, all have same opportunity to experience space. In modern architecture, every space is designed with highest comfort to meet the criteria of “a humane building”. Actually “humane” does not end up meaning stableness in comparison to times of turmoil, but it should be entitled the right to experience. When there is no looking up with salute in a grand Gothic church, no bowing down in a traditional Japanese teahouse, no long and silent walking in front of Maya Lin’s notable memorial, architect would lose the intention of leading viewers’ emotions and feelings by its total sense and body motion.22 In this industrial era, people stand straight up through the whole process of “experiencing” a modern building. They walk following the certain flow lines, fast and concisely to their destination; they work in an exquisite office with dignity, sometimes with some plants; they keep a moderate distance from others to be polite with good manners. What they breathe is cleaned quality air controlled by a central air conditioner with certain temperature, what they hear are the sounds produced by artificial products. The subtle collection of spatial languages is neglected. That is probably why people enjoy experiencing notable architecture through images in magazines or on

22. Victor Papanek, The Green imperative: Ecology and Ethics in Design and Architecture, trans. Bo Zhou, Jia Liu (Citic Press Group, 2013), 91-92

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the Internet, as if there is no profound difference in visiting an authentic space, because there is no sense existing anyway in a virtual and realistic architectural space.

2.3 To Begin Small and Develop Big Winston Churchill had a notable speech in the House of Commons, saying “we shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us”.23 However, the disjunction of controllers, the end-users of a building and the characters of modern architecture weaken this chain of producing active and mutual relationship between human and architecture. In the old days, people built their own houses and huts that they needed throughout the entire human history, usually in collaborative groups. Most people had the personal experience of building at that time, such as being an assistant in building the dwelling house from childhood. People got the materials from the neighborhood, and their ways to construct have been proved for valid in hundreds of years. The relationship between designer/constructor and user was direct. In the course of construction, anything that was inappropriate would be immediately fixed and reformed. Now this relationship becomes more complex.24 The designers (in most cases) cannot control the constructors; the constructors have nothing to do with the users after completing the building process; the users, however, have to accept everything that was built there and nearly impossible for them to change any single detail. So far, there is no doubt that people have mastered the way to build extraordinary architecture rather than just a shelter, but one cannot deny that only when buildings, users, nature and culture reach a harmonious status, can architecture find its crucial way to develop a language. In terms of the understanding of space, it is not a new point that open spaces have long been linked to freedom25; a spacious horizon is an image of Liberty.26 As long as people find the lost possession of space, they 23. This sentence comes from a speech Churchill made in the House of Commons on October 28, 1944 24. Papanek, The Green imperative, 110-111


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would therefore find the connection between space and freedom (Kant also analyses the connection between sublime and liberty). The freedom includes our body, spirit, soul as well as sense; it is an ability and a desire to appreciate, to construct and to experience. Speaking of freedom is to pick up our forgotten fine image of life and dream. Even though the technology-based material facts are dominating the fast developing world in many aspects, it is important for individual to return to their central position in both architectural process and the perception of space. The commitment to objectivity27 that is a precondition of science and technology has to transform our sense of space, which leads to a characteristically modern sense of homelessness.28 Space can only function with its language when people recognize its void and make a constructive use of it. Space ceases to speak, but only to those who have lost touch with their being. To be sure, we live in a technological world, a world shape by science and its pursuit of objectivity, but not all the dimensions of the world we live in and circumscribed by technology. Technology must be affirmed and put in its place. That means to recognize its liberating potential as well as the treat it poses. To recognize the latter is to perceive also how important it is to recover what has been lost: a sense of place. We still need architecture, we moderns especially.29 But this is a long period. Chinese writer Yutang Lin says that: “Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials. ” Half-architecture starts the journey of artistic pursuit with a small focus and ambition, a relatively diminutive size and with unique spatial languages. In comparison with the modern large-scale urban planning and architecture industry (especially in China), such attempt might seem to have limit power to enhance people’s daily living quality or to make actual sense to change their behaviors. They only regard it as a piece of art or a fancy experience, but still have distance in solving actual problems. As far as I am concerned, what is needed in current stage is an inner intention. Hopefully by noticing the new available possibilities, people can go further towards inspiring more potential actions. Even if we start small, large changes are always cultivated by small steps.

Figure 8. Frank Gehry, Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain Figure 9. Frank Lloyd Wright, Kaufmann house above waterfall, America Figure 10. Zaha Hadid Wins New National Stadium Japan Competition Figure 11. I. M. Pei, Glas Pyramid, the Louvre, Paris Neutrally speaking, no one could deny the fact that human has reached a high point in industrial modern architecture. Some of the leading figures paved the way for ingenious design, cutting edge innovation and have become pioneers of our built environment. These notable pieces have changed the way in which the world presents itself with eternal honorable reputation. But as time never stops moving forward, it is never too excessive to expect more and different. When people can often see grand landmark buildings as the dominant symbol of culture, which are too heavy, too far away from life, the lighter forms, more active languages could give people a break from the intensive being of oneself. 25. Harries, The Ethical Function of Architecture, 170 26. Joseph Addison, Spectator, no. 412 (23 June, 1712); reprinted in Joseph Addison and Richard Steele, Selected Essays from “The Tatler,” “The Spectator,” and “The Guardian,” ed. Daniel McDonald (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1973), 464-465 27. Harries defines “objectivity” in opposition to our usual way of understanding things. The way we experience the world is inseparably tied to the activities in which we are engaged. Our encounter with things is also subject to a point of view that is ours because of whatever place we happen to occupy. Our experience of things is mediated by our body, and therefore depends on its makeup and subject to the accident of its location in space and time, The Ethical Function of Architecture, 173 28. Ibid, 173 29. Ibid, 178


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Half-Architecture Chapter Three Half-architecture


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3.1 Half-architecture

Chapter 3 Half-architecture Last two chapters have provided a framework of the conception of urban environment and spatial cognition. Now that we have an idea that space is a huge void with a myriad of possibilities and these possibilities can be actualized with different spatial languages besides the concrete structural forms of architecture. To specifically illustrate the meaning of half-architecture, we need to unfold it first by typology, which classifies the three main categories contributing to its full concept. Besides, last chapter has listed three immutabilities, which may cause the language problem in architecture. In comparison to architectural language, the spatial languages of half-architecture have three corresponding aspects: material formation, interaction, and sensation formation. Following the chain of language thinking, half-architecture has distinctive story telling and locale-spirit inherent features within these unique spatial languages, which would signify urban animation. Additionally, half-architecture, with collective languages, functions as a particular form of art, as it is a complete form of representation. Its aesthetic appeal greatly constructs its artistic value. With all these specialties, we could summarize the significance of such practice by its social impact and its active adaptation in the architecture industry, echoing the questions that arose at the beginning.

Half-architecture is a general idea including temporary architecture, fleeting architecture, shelters, hideouts, and many other forms standing in between art and architecture. These architectural forms could be understood as half-architecture, as they to some extent contain architectural attributes (construction, function, placeness, inclusiveness, etc.) and simultaneously, they implement active and particular spatial languages within the art world, especially in the realm of environmental art (to be described in Chapter 4). In a way, half-architecture is more vivid, easily accessed, in human scale and interestingly interactive with its viewers. Although people usually apprehend architecture to be a statically fixed discipline where objects are generally built to last, the process-like nature of many of these projects are united and signified by their impermanence. Thus the poetic paradox contained in such discourse covers the inspiring variation and neglected possibilities while focusing clearly on the ephemeral nature of architectural and artistic practice, even though the human world is evolving to a more stable status than ever before and people are paying more attention to fairly settled places to acquire a sense of security. Beyond the usual categorization of modern/postmodern/contemporary architectural spaces, those with flexible occupations and time-limit usages, and those that can be used temporarily or seasonally present a process of subtraction which would allow for unconventional usage with variations.1 Categories Before classifying half-architecture, I would like to clarify that all these cases I list and study, and the main issues that I analyze, are works that happened outside the gallery space, namely works in natural and public space. This is, to some extent, the most crucial character of half-architecture practices that differs from other common works of art. The following three categories: a box for living, a shelter and a connection to architecture, with their architectural properties gradually decrease, the degree of contrast to standardly built architecture/environment increases. Together they express the variety of half-architecture works and how they constructively function. 1. Robert Klanten and Lukas Feireiss, ed., Space Craft: Fleeting Architecture and Hideouts (Die Gestalten Verlag; Auflage: 1., Aufl., 2007), 4


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A box for living In Space Craft, the editors define this kind of works as living in a box, which means a box or chest for valuables and reveals a radical principle of space that serves as a prototype for basic, stand-alone and context-free protection. The box here contains most architecture attributes among the three categories of half-architecture such as function, lighting, electricity, etc. It could provide actual functions for living or a short time of experiencing outside of massive urban life (but the involvement of “actual functions” is not the central necessity), which also entail dreams of utopian house with minimal material and desire. To be sure, houses serve the requirements of dwelling. But do we know what it is to dwell and what its requirements are? They certainly cannot be reduced to being protected from a threatening outside: we need to be sheltered not only physically but psychologically. The soul, too, needs a house.2 Space concerns all of us and the space that we use and live in is always an expression of ourselves. The box is a symbol of a smaller living space, acting as the opposition to the rapid development of societies and urbanization. It is not a simple form of architecture/half-architecture, but more importantly, a manifesto demonstrating one’s attitude towards the social and natural environment, raising the questions of life—Where can we live? What exactly do we need? What kind of house can accommodate and comfort the soul? With reference to the “dwelling”, the living boxes clearly reflect conflicting patterns in human experience, which is a challenge to the conventional understanding of house—an immobile, stable and constant place. On the one hand there is an apparent dialectic between man’s need for stability and his compulsion for change and modifying his surroundings. This static desire for security seems directly opposed to the longing for dynamic progress. But when the historically anchored nomadic nature of man is taken into account, then the discrepancy is only apparent since, in terms of human history, living in statistically fixed environments tends to be the exception rather than the rule. The creation of flexible, mobile architecture/half-archi2. Harries, The Ethical Function of Architecture, 95 3. Klanten and Feireiss, Space Craft, 5

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tecture manages to unite mankind’s primitive, conflicting basic needs.3 Like what is mentioned in the previous chapters, the content of half-architecture always contains a spirit of retrospect, showing the respect to a more primeval and simplified lifestyle. The hermit is alone before God. His hut, therefore, is the opposite of a monastery. And there radiates around this centralized solitude a universe of meditation and prayer, a universe outside the universe. The hut cannot receive none of the riches “of this world.” It possesses the felicity of intense poverty; indeed, it is one of the glories of poverty; as destitution increases it gives us access to absolute solitude. —Gaston Bachelard These boxes might contain all that is necessary to sustain life, with minimalist features, functioning more in a symbolic way, especially in the domain of human intimacy and solitude. The purpose of building such forms of half-architecture is different to formal architecture. This kind of works calls for precious human emotions which are unfortunately losing their significance today such as memory, imagination and the ability to dream. For instance, Gaston Bachelard, in his The Poetics of Space, writes, “...There exists for each one of us an oneiric house, a house of dream-memory, that is lost in the shadow of a beyond of the real past.”4 Comparing to the mainstream postmodern patterns of living structure, such as high-rise buildings and high density dwellings, the living box might serve as an original and fresh material that can be constantly mobilized, manipulated and transformed. In this case, realistic talking about form, function, structure and ornament makes less sense to criticize, all that truly matters is the emotional engagement and self-return. With the simplest form, the living box delivers the spirit of utopia, an enjoyment of seclusion and the beauty of quietness. This spirit is a precious phenomenon in today’s modern and rapid society that values the pursuit of economic interests. In this regard the form of a box is just a manner to talk, the reconstructed relationship presented in the work between human and human, human and nature, architecture and environment, is the real content. 4. Gaston Bachelard, la terre et les rêveries du repos (Librairie Jose Corti, 2004), 98


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A Shelter

Figure 12. Kivik Art Center, Perceptual Displacements, Sweden “Kivik Start” is a series exploring the spatial and temporal relationships between photography, architecture and the landscape. It is the first phase in the establishment of a new contemporary art center in Kivik. The solid concrete boxes attempt to capture the ghost of the timeless photographic image of the here-and-now of the construction. The site on Sweden’s southeast coast is a mix of cleared pictures, wooded glades, rolling hills, and steep drop-offs. The strategic placement of the five concrete interventions invites the visitor to explore four discrete landscapes, while sharing a moment of solitude and utopia.

In a formal explanation, shelter is a basic architectural structure (especially as the protective building) and a temporary residence for homeless people. Significantly, various understanding and descriptions of shelter can be traced in many scholars’ theories; it is an physically and ideologically important concept for architectural and psychological thinking. For instance, in Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space, he has a vivid understanding of shelter in a relatively small scale, nests and shells, and in an abstract angle, corners and miniature. These are various refuges with powers: people live in them. In terms of nests and shells, the angle is interesting because he elaborates the issues in animals’ perspective, as shelter, has always been related to a sense of primal desire, a simplest appeal and animals’ as well as human’s instinct. He also uses an empathetic metaphor to show the striking connection between a well-being in a home with warm light and animals in their shelters.5 In Karen A. Franck and R. Bianca Lepori’s Architecture Inside Out, they describes that a shelter in its most fundamental form is a physical demarcation of an inside from an outside. In the earliest times a circle of stones could build an inside space, under a tent or thatched roof. The dark interior of a shelter made from adobe protected people from the sun and wind. The stones carried from long distances, formed the inside spaces of fortresses, castles, and walled cities where the inside could be secured from danger. However, in today’s architecture industry, architects use glass, steel and translucent plastic, the density and materiality between interior and exterior are decreased, while the degree of separation between inside and outside reduced.6 This theory comes along with Bachelard’s as they both emphasize the security ambience that a shelter can bring to its inhabitants. In modern buildings, people are in a more solid and concrete environment, yet there is a lessened sense of security and belonging. As discussed in the previous chapter, the commitment to objectivity that is a precondition of science and technology today has to transform our sense of space, which leads to a characteristically modern sense of homelessness. The more people rely on material and technological objects, the less inner belongingness they can get. 5. Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, 91 6. Karen A. Franck and R. Bianca Lepori, Architecture Inside Out (Academy Press, 2000), 10


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Actually, besides the realm of architecture and space, there already exist some social and cultural problems obviously changing our lifestyle and living patterns—lacking actual communication among people besides virtual contact; enjoying the huge convenience that technology has brought about while losing the ability to control the real life; staying in indoor space for most of the time with narrow horizon—all build up to the sense of homelessness. In the perspective of half-architecture works that this thesis addresses, to be distinguished from the living box, a shelter is comprehended as an empty container which is without any concrete settings (function, emotion, audience). It is so neutral that it could be entitled with many possibilities, namely it is an interesting and vagabond void without definitions. What is significant about shelters, is its psychological meaning to people. Henri Bosco has given an excellent description: “When the shelter is sure, the storm is good.” It deals with the sense of security and belonging which sometimes cannot be offered by a concrete home (especially the “home” in one of the “copy and paste” apartments in the huge machine-like buildings in a bustling city). Furthermore, as a particular volume, the psychological side of function that works of shelter focus on, involves the issues of dimensions. The ceiling, in this regard, is therefore an essential part to form a sense of security. In Chinese old sayings, people metaphorically referred the tails of roof to the image of a warm house. A shelter is touched and comforting not because it has walls, but most importantly because it has a celling that protects people from wind and rain, and provides a sense of safety. Shelters provide people with a space where they can feel that they are at the center and well protected in the corner of the world. They are not far from the ground, they can touch the trees and the grass, they can see the stars and they are close to each other because the space is not that big. Bachelard says: “Already, a tree that has the honor of sheltering a nest participates in its mystery. For a bird, a tree is already a refuge.”7 Specifically, shelters can also be utilized as temporary sites for events and happenings. Many architects and artists today are making refuge shelters to accommodate pop-up activities and adapting the forms of the shelter into pavilions, sculptures and installations. Some of these temporary structures might be applied in formal architectural practices, which vague the boundary of shelter and architecture, such as Japanese architect Kengo Kuma’s series of works with splendid arrangement of bamboos and woods, calling “defeated architecture”.

Figure 13. Marco Casagrande, Sandworm, 2012 Sandworm is an organic semi-shelter which moves freely in-between architecture and environmental art and is constructed entirely out of willow branches. It follows the artistic intention of continuing interaction between the work and the environment. The Finnish artist Marco Casagrande describes his work as “weak architecture” —a human made structure that wishes to become part of nature through flexibility and organic presence.

7. Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, 96


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A connection to architecture Recently more architects and artists are taking architecture as the raw material for recreation, for instance, Chinese architect Yansong Ma and his project Bubble Hutong 32, Tadashi Kawamata and his series of works using abandoned woods, and Arne Quinze’s notable works connecting installation to architecture. Commonly, architecture itself has a complete context, while the additional recreation provides new (corresponding or contrasting) dialogues delivering new meanings and values. It is a more flexible and transformable form of half-architecture, which activates the urban environment and explains architecture as a new totality and visual identity. Architecture is the basic unit that forms a city and the urban landscape, and it always plays an independent and solid role in common sense. Visually, every building has its separate exterior (façade design), which is different to each other. Especially in many modern planned cities (such as most Chinese cities), totally different “styles” of architecture can be seen along the same street. Structurally, architecture is solid for no doubt, most of which have a neat edge and are mostly enclosed. Systematically, each building has its own highly completed system and also has a fixed functional outline. It should be a highly operating machine to meet every need of the users. These factors form the characters of architecture while leave considerable room for a second thought of art, suggesting a type of new urban lifestyle. Such half-architecture practice can be understood as an intervention and site-specific installation. People could see in these works, art serves as a tool, to visually soften the sharp and tough edges of a building to make it more inviting, and to ideologically raise the social concerns, to critically reflect the author’s attitude of social life. In some cases such forms might also be practical solutions to existing architectural problems such as lighting, limit space and functional adaptation. In Hutong Bubble 32, Yansong Ma used a different material language to construct a modern bathroom as extension space of a traditional house in a Hutong (alleys of communal courtyard homes) in Beijing. Southern Chinese city Dongguan is inviting Arne Quinze to rebuild its urban identity with art. This inserting way of connecting art and architecture has direct impact on cityscape and the variety of spatial languages.

Figure 14. Pop Up Canopy in Dashilar, People’s Architecture Office, China, 2013 The pop-up canopy acts as an connection to architecture (traditional Chinese courtyard), which returns the courtyard to its original function as a primary social space. Due to China’s tumultuous urban development, the tress, which used to provide shade in summer and allow sunlight to filter through in winter, disappeared from many courtyards as these single family houses were divided into multi-family dwellings. As the structure can be assembled to fit various courtyards, it can also be folded into a convenient storage space, it rationally functions with minimal effort and also presents a new material language that reflects traditional Chinese courtyards.


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3.2 Half-architecture Space —A Collection of Spatial Languages Like any other language, architectural language is a system; the physical elements are constructed by assembling, connection and constitution. In comparison with standard architectural space, half-architecture engenders a closer relationship with the inside space and the outside environment, since space represents a prominent aspect of man’s existential nature. Half-architectural space is a collection of spatial languages, intriguing particular and vivid hybrids with an emphasis on the interactive impact of space. New language means a new means to communicate. Currently people’s habitats have turned into spaces of consumption in which an unlimited number of products satisfy a series of needs created by complex systems and relationships that are difficult to control. Cultures that maintain a more direct interaction with their environment show us that the idea of a habitat can be understood in more essential and reasonable terms. Thus it concerns the artists and architects who challenge and go beyond the boundaries of their disciplines, from purely artistic space interventions to media-inspired urban space performances as well as active participatory practices in alternative space locations. To a certain extent, the space-generating practices are taken both to and beyond their artistic limits. Steven Holl points out, When we move through space with a twist and turn of the head, mysteries gradually unfolding, fields of overlapping perspectives are charged with a range of light from the steep shadows of bright sun to the translucence of dusk. A range of smell, sound, and material from hard stone to and steel to the free billowing of silk return us to primordial experience framing and penetrating our everyday lives.8 Besides the conventional structural dimensions of an architectural space, there are some distinct figures that include material and tacit aspects of spatial languages which show how a half-architectural space can generate positive spatial impact. This metaphorical expression makes sense from a standpoint of philosophy (from literature and poetry) to say that we “write a room,” “read a room,” or “read a house.”9 8. Steven Holl, Interviewing: New York (Princeton Architectural Press, 1996) 9. Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, 14

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3.2.1 Material Formation Material is the physical component of a space and it visually characterizes the architectural construction. The wide exploration of materials in half-architecture practices should be the most distinctive element in forming its language, from common construction materials to the unconventional ones, such as recycling leftovers and natural findings. Currently people live in a world of planned obsolescence, in which everything gets thrown away and very few products marketed to consumers are made and intended to last. This disposable society is strongly influenced by consumerism and is based on over-consumption. It is significant and rational to expect that half-architecture works artistically and experimentally using uncommon materials that can vividly illustrate how the unfinished and the makeshift can reshape people’s notions of useful and usable, new and old, beautiful and ugly…to relieve from usual understanding of everyday materials. 1. Treasuring the value of waste is a philosophical and artistic way of thinking that creates new hybrid and sustainable forms. The significance of such attempts exceeds the ecological purposes and continually challenges stereotypical definitions of everyday life: what is aesthetic, what is useful and what is valuable. Waste materials are rough, primitive and marked by traces of lives. Different from spaces formed by tough and cold industrial productions, the singular use of a certain kind of recycled material or combining various abandoned elements contains honest records of the past, reflecting its cultures and stories. Such practices take the city as a site to perform, apply dramatic changes in spatial languages and provide strong comparisons to the formally built architecture. 2. Natural materials remove the strong isolation between architecture and its surroundings. In this regard there is no concrete boundary of inside and outside as natural findings create spaces with strong integrity. Rock, straw, wood and bamboo can be used both as structures and façades to support the architecture, as well as provide connections to nature. Literally, the use of crude materials goes from a simple artistic fantasy to an actual realization in architecture discourse. This can often be seen in developing countries due to its low environmental costs and minimal processing or refining. Natural materials also act as a critical symbol of playing against displays of wealth and capitalist desire in a social context.


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3. Local materials put forward particular, specific and unique local characteristics. As mentioned at the beginning, it has become increasingly evident in today’s globalized world that it is impossible to talk about the question of locality without relating it to globality. Producing local spirit is the most imminent task for locales. Local materials can contain recycled and natural materials, as well as symbolic ones that have cultural and historic meaning. Despite the mainstream culture dominated by globalized electronic mediawith its multimedia images and languages, architects and artists should respect local cultures and create architectural identity and every locale has to develop new strategies to survive. 4. Everything that is beyond formal architectural materials. As a collective concept, “using everything” invites everyone to begin his/her spatial tour, which initiates the rediscovery of “normal things”. A pile of empty cans, everyday dishes, used clothes, overdue magazines, can still carry meaning (or have unique meaning to individual). Light and soft materials such as paper, cloth, and plastic, provide critical spatial experience and also fight against the massive images and sensation of those too ambitious industrial buildings. Many artist and more architects are using these “new” materials to build structures in a half-architecture manner. The significance of material formation in half-architecture does not merely lie in utilizing various materials itself, more importantly, it embodies the multiple spatial languages created by such unconventional materials. With the myriad of changes of unmanufactured materials, space, especially interior space, gets its identity. In face, every material has its own features and it does not necessarily have the “common standard” like architectural material does. For instance, in architectural space, the floor should be flat, every ceramic tile should be neatly cut and aligned, and every edge should be sharp and clear. Without these restrictions, the distinctive features of materials (integrated or fragmented, fixed shapes or random shapes, transparent or colored…) can be developed to form particular spatial languages. As a result, the edges of these spaces are often imperfect and not vertical as various materials form different spatial experiences. Changes occur in many dimensions, the height, the width, the thickness, the distance and the scale. These changes blur spatial definitions by producing a new order and configuration of space. One could hardly say what is the “door”, the “wall” and

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the “ceiling” due to new use of materials, and the “entrance”, the “corridor” and the “room” are rearranged in spatial forms. All the elements are redefined and integrated as a whole. Moreover, the production of shapes can be accomplished in a much more economical way comparing to creating these shapes through concrete forms. When talking about architectural space, material is a ubiquitous system that is often mentioned to feature the building. In this paper’s context, rather than using materials to construct the building, its profound function as activating spatial language in order to reform the spatial recognition necessities its experimental use.

3.2.2 Interaction Before discussing the issue of interaction, we should know its relationship to the term “spatial language”. The language of architecture and the language of space could be identical in most parts, such as material, form, and construction. But spatial language can contain more tacit and tentative aspects in terms of its relation to human and the way that the space is built up within other immeasurable dimensions. These aspects cannot be written as formulas and physical definitions, as “to feel” is not necessarily equal to “to know”. The tacit figure subtly changes the meaning of space. Michael Polanyi in his work The Tacit Dimension considers that human knowledge starts from the fact that people know more than they can express. According to him, ...not only is there knowledge that cannot be adequately articulated by verbal means, but also all knowledge is rooted in tacit knowledge in the strong sense of that term. With tacit knowledge, people are not often aware of the knowledge they possess or how it can be valuable to others.10 Effective transfer of tacit knowledge generally requires extensive personal contact, regular interaction11 and trust. This kind of knowledge can only be revealed through practice in a particular context 10. Michael Polanyi, The Tacit Dimension (University of Chicago Press: Chicago), 4 11. Goffin, K. and Koners, U, Tacit Knowledge, Lessons Learnt, and New Product Development, J PROD INNOV MANAG, 28, 300-318


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and transmitted through social networks.12 All these experiences are reflected in space: the environment that people built constantly affects us, and the spatial interaction becomes part of tacit spatial language and our self-consciousness. Generally speaking, the outer-world itself has its certain order, pattern and structure, and it can be comprehended as an integration of manifold of human factors and social variables. Human behavior can change the environment, mainly through the behavior of interaction (with human and space). Setting the background in pubic space, a person or a group of persons occupying a plot in space, whether it is legal or not, has produced “public space”, in which interactive intention crucially affects the relationship between people, correspondently, the interaction-encouraging arrangement can promote people’s imagination of pubic space. Therefore, every movement and activity that occurs in space can be seen as an interaction with the surrounding environment (public space), the main question is, how to improve and activate this behavior. The reasons why half-architecture is interactive can be illustrated by three angles. First, its materials, as mentioned above, are inviting. They are not cold, tough, nor industrial. These materials invite people to touch, feel and experience the stories behind. Second, its scale is in human scale, which means the distance from body to edge, is moderate. This intimate scale allows viewers to visit with a relaxed mood (instead of the long passages in modern architecture) and to interact with the work more thoroughly (the scale is relatively small, so the changes in scale can produce more body-related effects). Third, from the perspective of spatial layout, the articulated spatial illusions, produced by various materials and the extraordinary arrangement, acquire the spatial curiosity and imagination. When there are not fixed standards and regulations and the architect/artist does not stand far from or up upon the users, the wholeness is harmonious. The outcomes of half-architecture would not make sense without people’s experience. The interactive participation can happen in the whole building process and may involve many detailed aspects. Half-architecture provides a journey outside our common spatial routines and also creates a platform

12. Schmidt, F. L., & Hunter, J. E. “Tacit Knowledge, Practical Intelligence, General Mental Ability, and Job Knowledge”. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 2, 8-9, 1993

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that evokes new possibilities and relationships between human and space. Therefore, besides the manners that people are used to, new concepts such as how to enter a space (entrance), how to finish visiting a space (exit), how to walk/sit/lie down within a space (behaviors) and how to get to the nearby people (communication) are re-determinated by architects/artists, in order to redefine a new language system. The interactive focus would be translated into a better allocation of its tacit elements to improve the attractiveness of public space. Additionally, its capacity for communication, for information, and above all for pleasure in natural and social life significantly contributes to the vital productivity of everyday trivialness (considering square dance and its relation to public space in Figure 15). When the value of human experience and its meaning to public space is considered, half-architecture is no longer a mere ordinary house or an artificial work; it has been given more life, and everything around it tacitly communicates with emotion.

Figure 15. Suqare Dance in China Square dance is an interesting and lively phenomenon in China, standing from a spatial point of view, it is acting as an important example of how human occupy pubic space. Actually in Chinese urban planning, such kind of square is universal, like any other public space, obviously it cannot be signified without human’s participation and experience. However, people’s imagination towards “public space” is somehow limited, which is even more lacking in architectural space, like these squares, they would be probably empty without these people dancing. Within various types of public space, the interaction between people is also different. There exist distinguishing figures between the metropolitan consuming space and the public space for people’s everyday life. Interaction, serves as a tacit language in half-architecture, can weaken the social attribute of public space (make fair), to balance different types of public space and to reach a coordinating result for urban development.


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3.2.3 Sensation Formation In chapter two, we have discussed the lack of sensation dealing with architectural space. The sensation formations, together with interaction, are collective tacit languages in space. The emphasis of humans in a human space sets a clear boundary between a half-architectural space and an industrial space with certain functions. Obviously, people need to see architecture in a different way. Besides seeing architecture through images (the most common way of people experiencing notable works of architecture is through two dimensional pictures and videos), they do need to experience with other sensations rather than vision. In today’s highly artificial environment, large amount of man-made substitutes pacify our natural sensations. In some countries, with developed technology, people nearly spend all their times within a building lit by artificial lights, with the unmovable frames of structures, breathing the air brought by ventilation equipment. These changes may block the possibility for people to truly enjoy the architecture. In contrast, many neglected senses can be motivated in half-architecture with or without their original intentions. People have been organized in architectural spaces with determinated parameters for a long time: office rooms, lecture rooms, living rooms, dining rooms, etc. How people judge space is mainly through their sight, memory and even intuition. They define a space by the physical differences in the environment, such as by looking at different furniture inside or simply by reading the sign hanging on the door; both human and space are labeled. Moreover, every space is more or less the same with similar ambience: four white vertical walls, one flat floor and one flat celling. In a half architectural context, that tacit spatial language is no longer familiar. One needs to notice the changes in scale, distances, heights, and every detail to be aware of his relationship to the space. This sensitivity effectively embodies people’s primal pursuit of spatial experiences, rediscovering views, perceptions, and their connections with surroundings. There are various categories in the domain of sensation. Besides the common five senses: sight, taste, touch, smell and hearing, there exist more tentative and tacit senses such as proprioception, kinaesthesis, vestibular, intuition and many others that subconsciously determine and exist in our social senses. In the following discussion, some of the most significant and architecture-related senses will be explained. I would first place scale as an aspect

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to describe social senses and to illustrate the common senses: sight, touch, smell, taste and hearing and how they contribute to the space. Other forms of sensation, which are not the central issues in context, can be combined into the mentioned ideas (proprioception, kinaesthesis belong to the range of body, and vestibular is with the hearing part). Scale Scale, in regards to size, distance, height and density, is a common denominator in all physical and social environments. Spatial scale is the architectural order with the human body as the standard of earliest measure. It is the basic element for human beings to build their environments; like a cell, it is a part of the whole, but also has the capacity to change the whole. Half-architectural practice focuses on human scale, which is not supposed to be experienced by large amount of people at one time as in modern architecture. While the high-density and large-scale construction is promoted in most developing countries, half-architecture can be understood as an urban-based intervention and a human experience-based installation which stands out from the massive structure of the city. These kinds of shelters and hideouts provide a mediator between human nature and nature itself. People get in touch with each other through redetermined spatial relations. With an intimate distance, people might better sense the formation of a space by its relatively small scale. Robert Morris defines the word scale as a function of the comparison made between one’s body size and the object. Space between the subject and the object is implied in such a comparison. He also interprets this definition as people measure an object’s scale by the space (distance) that they need to see it as a whole. A larger object includes more space around itself than a relatively smaller object does. The larger the object in scale, the greater distance one might necessarily take to see the full image of it.13 In this sense, what is crucial besides scale itself is the involvement of the human body. The physical participation becomes vital in the process of measuring scale. For scale, it is not merely a size issue, but an element to create a conversation between human and object (in the context of this thesis, between the human and the work of half-architecture. “The quality of intimacy is attached to an 13. Robert Morris, “Notes on Sculpture”, Artfarum, October, 1966


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object in a fairly direct proportion as its size diminishes in relation to oneself. The quality of publicness is attached in proportion as the size increases in relation to oneself. ”14 In this regard, half-architecture can be observed as a whole from a close distance, which can generate a human experience that is more inviting and can produce an intimate images of the space. Alexander explains scale in a different angle by the levels of scale. He emphasizes the importance of an object having a beautiful range of sizes, with different levels, that is the series from big centers15, middle-sized centers and small centers. The important point that he points out is that the jump between two different levels must not be too great.16 If the jumps are heavily, deliberately and evenly elaborated within wholeness, a thing will probably be more lively. Levels of scale can also be used to measure an object, but can also be available for relationships between various objects as wholeness. According to Alexander’s theory, if one takes human, half-architecture, and the surroundings as a whole, the hierarchy in levels of scales shows that this image would work much more harmoniously than that in a postmodern architectural image. (Figure 16-17) According to Leirah Wang’s Experience of Scales, scale has distinctive functions: affecting the people’s psyche and reflecting social interactions. On one hand, scale can manipulate people’s emotions through their perception of the space.17 Viewers’ personal and emotional cognitions greatly differ when they see objects in various scales. From the social awareness perspective, it serves not only as a physical spatial measurement but also a code of social status. In Edward T. Hall’s Terminology as Proxemics, based on the communication in public space in American context, he categorizes four distances 15. Alexander, The Nature of Order Book 1, 84 “To have a consistent way of talking about these entities, during recent years, I have leaned to called them all (whether parts or local wholes or hardly visible coherent entities), “centers.” What this means is that each one of these entities has, as its defining mark, the fact that it appears to exist as a local center within a larger whole. It is a phenomenon of centeredness in space. Thus a human head, or car, or finger is a discernible whole. It is also, both visually and functionally, a center. We experience it as a center. And it is, in the end, its centeredness which is its most clear, defining mark.” 16. Ibid, 145-147 17. Wang, “Experience of Scales: Residential Behavior and Housing Interior” 18. Edward T. Hall, Terminology as Proxemics, 1963, 18

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of personal space, namely, intimate distance, personal distance, social distance and public distance.18 Related to the interpretation by Robert Morris, the “distance” here refers to the same meaning as “scale”. However, currently in China, most people believe that “the bigger the better”, the display of large house, garden and office is the symbol of social power. The acceptance of “moderation of scale” and the appreciation of “intimate and personal distance” are limited. As a result, the offer of half-architecture is challenging: it involves multiple perspectives in experiencing scale; it generates relatively smaller scale jumps between people, surrounding and the work and a more primitive relationship between viewers and architecture. In this sense, scale does tacitly influence the language that the work proposes.

Figure 16. Barclays Capital, Skyscraper Index, Equity Research Report, 10 January 2012

Figure 17. Contrastive Paradigm Showing the “Jumps of Scales”


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Sight Sight constantly comes first in our judgment as it contains a pre-perception to all senses according to people’s previous acknowledgment of space; for instance, scale, capacity, relationship and its holistic content. Architects and artists implement their desires of differentiation among the conventional forms of half-architecture space by the use of materials, colors, and ideological expressions. In regards to this issue, the main value of half-architecture should be its effort to better deal with the surrounding environment in visual arrangement. Currently, at least in China, the standard to evaluate a building’s appearance is always whether it is visually outstanding and recognizable. However, the understanding of “outstanding” is not necessarily related to environmental aesthetics.

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everyday findings, abandoned waste and natural materials, as long as the artist/architect has sufficient reasons in terms of space formation, touch-friendly construction adds more layers to the viewers’ perceptions, which could function as an instrument to embody the multiple senses of touch. With the changes in materials (could be soft, flabby and with a human-like temperature), half-architecture creates interactive conversations between human and space. There are no solid barriers between the users and the woek; instead, the space could be intimate, integrated and communicative. In this regard, architecture itself is not standing at a dominant point and deciding every detail (movement, route line, action...) of how people experience it, conversely, it engenders new concepts and ideas of the relationships between human and the spatial containers.

In comparison, each impactful half-architecture project has its own visual standards and reasons according to different purposes and stories behind. For sure it could be extremely visually exaggerated, but “trying to be exaggerated” is not the purpose of the work, there must be further explanations interpreting any detail of the project. While one of the codes to judge whether a postmodern architecture is successful or not, is its “outstanding” visual impact, most half-architecture projects are not disruptive to their surroundings. Alongside with the theory of land art, they tend to visually fit in their environment and to create a relatively harmonious relationship with its users/visitors; for instance, Maya Lin’s Peace Chapel and Marco Casagrande’s Sandworm. This preference of visual identity releases people from the pressure of exploding information in the city, leading them to a relatively small, flexible and communicable space that can accommodate the desire for a nomadic life and unlimited mobility. Thus they are roaming freely beyond the densely built urban environment.

Moreover, touch here could be extended to the understanding of the whole body’s movement and its the response to the space. Besides common movements such as walking, bowing and squatting, there are more ways in which the musculature joins in the process of experiencing space. In Victor Papanek’s The Green imperative, he describes that when we are walking on spiral stairs, the balance mechanism of the inner ear is also involved, reflecting rich and subtle information back to our brain and body. Also, when we slightly lean forward on the stairs, stepping with long or short strides, there is a tactile sense involved. In the process when we go from one floor to another, we can also feel this movement. The changing height of a ceiling, for instance, affects a person’s feeling—the height is lower beside the fireplace, while in the living space the ceiling is lifted again. This change provides us with a sense of security and privacy according to different spaces. When we sit down to think, the line of sight lowers and we become more focused and closer to the level of earth that gives birth to all creatures. In this case, we change the surrounding space, and the space in turn changes us.19

Touch (body)

Smell and Taste

People get to know the surrounding world mainly by their body. Contemporary architecture is built by concrete, steel and stone which are hard and cold when being touched, and in most cases people would not even think of touching the surface of architecture unless it uses unconventional materials or it has different shapes. In comparison with the uninviting surface of architecture, half-architecture adapts to almost all materials, which can be

Smell might be the most evocative senses among all and it is always integrated and interacted with the sense of taste. Smell can bring us back to the time of childhood: grandma’s parlor, the burning incense in the temple and censer in the cathedral for the Easter ceremony.20 Theoretically, from a 19. Papanek, The Green Imperative, 91-92


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biological point of view, the sense of smell is the most ancient and primal of all our senses.21 Psychology research has shown that olfactory stimuli may trigger older memories and arouse more emotional response than verbal or visual stimuli. The French novelist Marcel Proust was the first to link smell to memory. In his novel, Remembrance of Things Past, he describes his experience of a flashback to his childhood by the smell of Madeleine, ...As soon as I had recognized the taste of madeleine soaked in her decoction of limeblossom which my a aunt used to give me…immediately the old grey house upon the street, where her room was, rose up like a stage set… and with the house the town, from morning to night and in all weathers, the square where I used to be sent before lunch, the streets along which I used to run errands, the country roads we took when it was fine. However, the sense of smell is constantly ignored in architecture industry, as a building needs to be neutral and to only produce a framework for human activities. While in a more vivid art form, framing and being framed could combine forms and behaviors that melt into each other as a whole, and all the senses are activated for viewers to better perceive the space. Smell plays an important role in telling stories and tracing back in one’s inner memories, which is why the smell of nature—flowers, rain, grass, wood, leaves can often recall people’s vanished memory of beautiful days. Through mixing of materials and the open relations to nature, the sense of smell reinforces the tacit power of half-architecture and its emotive focus. To explain, the sense of taste is always connected with smell. From the perspective of half-architecture, since it is located in the outside environment and it applies various materials, it consequently includes more scents than in industrial architecture. In this regard, while the sense of smell links memory and the scent, it also probably stimulates the gustation. For instance, one can only taste food when he or she is breathing (smelling); when one smells the scent of an apple, he can immediately feel the same taste on his taste

20. Papanek, The Green Imperative, 89 21. Rachel Herz, The Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell (Harper Perennial, 2008), 288

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bud; when people visit a wine cellar which has been built for hundreds of years, they can almost taste the architecture; when people smell the scent of woods, weeds, rain and rocks, they can say they taste nature. Hearing For a long time people have been living and staying in concrete boxes, by all means in such separations, not only are spaces and humans endowed with identities as discrete entities, but also social life appears to be unsituated, existing apart from its material forms. Half-architecture practice emphasizes all senses involved in perceiving the inside and outside content to create an interesting dialogue with open eyes and ears. In this regard, “window” is not the only way of connecting with nature and the only “hole” to look out of the architecture/art work, it takes the whole work as the subject to breathe and communicate. Therefore every motion, element and component can be a small passage to get through the environments. To remove the boundaries, viewers are never separated from the surroundings even if they are literally inside or outside. This complete integration allows people to experience architecture and environmental artworks less as an object but more as a process, with psyche and communication.

Figure 18-23. 2012 Lively Architecture Festival in Montpellier These lively and unique installations explore human interaction through the use of material, function and space to create a ‘surprise’. The works refresh the definition of “architecture” and what kinds of work that people truly enjoy; this is where half-architecture stands exactly. The senses involve in the whole human body and every perception, which again emphasize the human experience and also signify contextual environments.


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3.3 A Place and A Story Therefore it was the discovery of fire that originally gave rise to the coming together of men, to the deliberative assembly, and to social intercourse. And so, as they kept coming together in greater numbers into one place, finding themselves naturally gifted beyond the other animals in not being obliged to walk with faces to the ground, but upright and gazing upon the splendor of the starry firmament, and also in being able to do with case whatever they chose with their hands and fingers, they began in that first assembly to construct shelters. Some made them of green boughs, other dug caves on mountain sides, and some, in imitation of the nests of swallows and of the way they built, made places of refuge out of mud and twigs.22 He was a man with only one story: he had his cellar and his attic.23 To begin this section, two “stories” were cited. The first one is a scenario, telling a story of building the first house where Pollios locates the origin of community, language, the art of cooking, and the art in primitive ways of building.24 The demonstration by Joë Bousquet describes the crucial and essential relationship between a person and his house, simple but powerful. This is where human began the very first story of architecture. From mere words, the beauty of every detailed aspect of the building story can be sensed as all these details contain people’s original desire to live, to build and to survive. We can image people gathering around—their muscles acting on the raw materials; a warm fire lighting up the place; caves and nests sheltering animals—all remind us of the long forgotten keen emotion for life and the spiritual demands on architecture, the essence of both human beings and natural creatures. To talk about the story here, it can be interpreted as an emotional way of explaining a place, and also as an abstract sensatory effect caused by the subtle arrangement of spatial order. 22. Vitruvius Pollio, The Ten Books on Architecture (Architecture Classics, 2013), 38 23. Joë Bousquet, La neige d’un autre dge, 100 24. Harries, The Ethical Function of Architecture, 137

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When it makes sense to speak of a natural language of space, this language is inevitably mediated by particular landscapes, particular histories, particular stories.25 How do we understand this “story” composed by spatial languages? In Alexander’s Timeless Way of Building, he says that a town or building is governed by what activities are happening there, such as situations and events.26 He also dedicates that “we shall now try to find some way of understanding space which yields its patterns of events in a completely natural way, so that we can succeed in seeing patterns of events, and space, as one. ”27 What he implies is that what governs a town, a building or a place is not only its outward concrete shape and its physical geometry, but also by the events that happen there. These events form their identity. Additionally, these events that govern the character of a building cannot be separated from the space where they occur. They function as one entirety.28 To some extent, every event could be apprehended as a story and this story is associated with its happening place (the context set for the language). This story is about the life of every person, animal, plant, creature...it does not necessarily related to human events. If one could remember, that the sunshine shining through the window, the smell of grass after a rain shower or a bird’s song that wakes you up in the morning, they all have the same impact on us as much as any social event and they are lovely stories (memories) that can make us smile. The sad stories, the breakdown of a car, the passing of a friend or relative or a lovers’ quarrel… are all episodes in one’s experience and life. Even in nature: the running water in the river, the snowballs hanging on the tree, the little rocks arraying on the sideway...each of its aspects is a story with its own place. The happening of an event/story cannot be separated with its place (its context). Water in a cup has different context compared to water in a river; you cannot imagine running without thinking about running somewhere; the same actions have totally different meanings in various countries/cultures... This is a common place in nature as well as in human events, as Alexander 25. Harries, The Ethical Function of Architecture, 202 26. Alexander, The Timeless Way of building, 62 27. Ibid, 74 28. Ibid, 65-66


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explains: “The life which happens in a building or a town is not merely anchored in the space but made up from the space itself.”29 Place and story form the integrity of spatial identity and both contributes to each other, one cannot find an identical story that occurs in another place. A place loses its locality without its unique story. In terms of the word “life”, it could be significantly understood as another interpretation of story. In Alexander’s The Nature of Order Book 1, he in depth describes the concept of life as the living essence of conventional events in people’s everyday lives. Architecture and place, which include an overall sense of functional liberation and a free inner spirit, can comfort its viewers, making them feel alive when experiencing and offering a sense of life. This kind of life can be absolutely neutral. It is not about nobility, fashion or classical art, but it is strongly concerned in ordinary trivialness, like Alexander says, “it has nothing to do with images. It occurs most deeply when things are simply going well, when we are having a good time, or when we are experiencing joy and sorrow- when we experience the real. ”30 Alexander also claims that the neglect of the modest and humble aspects of our daily lives is responsible for the failure of producing real life in contemporary architecture. Instead, in a roughly built hut or in a slum, people are more able to see “a life” than in a work of postmodern architecture. Poverty, dirt and poor conditions cannot stop life from existing while the industrial and manufactural social status does not promise urban vitality. Emphasizing the value of a direct message from the heart, Alexander compares a slum in Bangkok and a postmodern building in the United States, indicating that even though people might get diseases, be starving and live shorter span in a slum while those who live in nicely decorated postmodern house probably have adequate food and healthy lives, there is still a more direct connection with life in a slum. For architects and city planners today, sometimes “design” is not the main problem, but rather the difficulty in creating “life” and “stories” in current urban background. Because city life is a philosophical issue, people’s attitude towards city life, public life and shared experience is still distant and suspicious.31 29. Alexander, The Timeless Way of building, 73-74 30. Alexander, The Nature of Order Book 1, 38 31. Ibid, 60

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In the practice of half-architecture, a story and a place are the leading issues that convince the audience. People come to understand why this place is so special and why it is to be at the site of work; they may listen to the author’s memories, experiencing the unique ambience that forms the space or even owning this story and this place. In Ordeal By Labyrinth, Mircea Eliade writes, “Wherever one is, there is a center of the world. As long as you are in that center, you are at home, you are truly in the real self and at the center of the cosmos. Exile helps you to understand that the world is never foreign to you once you have a central stance in it…”32 For Mircea Eliade, sacred acts create a mythic center. As art is a sacred act, the creation of an artwork can be seen as the creation of a sacred place or a mythic center. Some pieces of land art (the boulder, hole, pillar, shelter, stone circle) are forms of mythic centers. Making art can be seen as sacred experience—essentially as one of a sacralization of life and living things.

Figure 24. Maya Lin, The Vietnam Veterans Memorial The Vietnam Veterans Memorial pays tribute to those who served, fought and died in the Vietnam War. The black granite wall with the names of over 58,000 Americans who were killed or went missing during the Vietnam War, reflects the visitors when they look at the wall. It is meant to symbolized, bringing the past and present together. Spiritually, it carries the courage to face history which is beyond the political history of the humanitarian spirit; architecturally, it perfectly combine forms (long paths, sinkage, mirror-like..), human behaviors (touching, walking path way with slope, memory…) and emotions (soreness, awe, humbleness...) in a logical way (forms decide behaviors, behaviors cause emotion) This could be one of the most spiritually significant architecture in the 20th century. 32. Mircea Eliade, Ordeal By Labyrinth (Univ of Chicago, 1982), 100


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From another perspective, half-architecture contains narrative meaning and has the intention of telling stories based on articulation. As Frank and Lepori describe in Architecture Inside Out: “like speech it carries its users through a sequence of spaces/sentences, each made up of different elements /words.33 Developed from a literary narrative, narrative space can be understood as a kind of architectural space and closely related to human experiences. Ancient Chinese architecture applied this method of narrative as the key in the visiting “process” instead of the functionality of “using” space. For instance, the grand spatial sequences in the Forbidden City in Beijing, the sublime organizations of paths and the theories of “borrowing views” and creating illusion of space in the Southern Gardens, enable visitors to communicate with the place merely by the way the space is organized rather than by any other materialistic settlement. In a narrative space, the movement of people and their perceptual experiences can engender more environmental significance involving natural elements. Besides carrying the role of landscape, such space has its unique role in the scene and in the narrative process. Paths and venues are thus beyond the simply functional set of flow lines and become the narrative languages. Architecture has caught up with construction very gradually. Our own period has been slowly finding the ability to express in architecture what construction has for a long while been mutely signifying in its abstract language. This process moved so slowly that around 1900 on the Continent most of the buildings from which the modern development stems lacked all connection with human residence. They were factories, stock exchanges, warehouses, and the like. The building schemes which represent the first solutions in the manner of the present day were set forward in a neutral atmosphere, one far removed from the range of intimate personal feelings.34 After the Industrial Revolution, for a long period of time, technology has been the main weapon for architects to conquer nature and to control the environment. This created the occurrence of buildings with certain functions such as industrial buildings, transportation buildings and office buildings. 33. Franck and Lepori, Architecture Inside Out, 88 34. Sigfried Giedion, Space, Time and Architecture (Harvard University Press, 2009), 25

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In current architecture industry, architects should be aware that function is not a substitution for rational and emotional expression. The topic of a place and a story combines the issues of human memory, emotion, and self-experience, all elaborately connecting with space. Among which the narrative of architectural space is the most fascinating aspect in contemporary architecture to spark the understanding of space. More significantly, it is a new perspective to study how urban public space can generate human experiences, to understand public space (place) and life events (story) as a whole and to construct urban spaces that include architecture and landscape with content.

Figure 25. The Lingering Garden Located in South China, the Lingering Garden is one of the four most famous gardens of the nation. It is a typical carrier of culture, a meta-story place, where every scene within the garden landscape, has not merely an aesthetic function, but also an expressive function. The purpose of gardens is to meet people’s poetic pursuit of pleasure in experiencing space. The Southern Gardens, acting an important role among, implicate the Confucianism and other philosophical, ideological and religious meanings as well as the art of poems, paintings and other traditional Chinese art forms. They are normally the extensions of dwelling, thus the story (from both spatial and cultural angle) and the place (Southern China has mild climate, abundant water and rich property which create the conditions for constructing gardens) is integrated. The method of generating layers of landscape within limit area such as borrowing views, offsetting views and using winding paths are significant techniques in telling stories.


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4.4 Environmental Aesthetics “Environment arises out of the reciprocal interchange between myself as the source and generator of perception and the physical and social conditions of my sensations and actions.” —The Aesthetics of Environment Spatial language is a representation, and the figure of representation is exactly the beauty of space. In Yuriko Saito’s Everyday Aesthetics, she talks about the environmental significance of everyday aesthetics in terms of nature, creatures and landscape. Saito claims that most people are attracted to creatures which are cute, cuddly, awesome, colorful, or graceful, but not to those that are slimy, nondescript, grotesque, or pesky. They tend to believe in objects that are widely considered “aesthetically appealing”—dramatic, unfamiliar, spectacular, a “picture-like” aesthetic. In this case, a large part of the world’s aesthetics is passively neglected, especially objects that lack sufficient complexity, variety, harmony, or eye-catching features, since the “scenic aesthetics” is dominating people’s taste.35 To be more specific, architecture, demonstrated by architects and philosophers such as Kant, Alexander Tzonis and Liane Lefaivre, can be a work of art with aesthetic appeal, though somehow with limitations. As architecture considers all the outside conditions such as the canon and the rules of composition as significant obstacles, these considerations of utility would take precedence over a keen expectation for architectural aesthetics. In this case beauty can appear merely as an addition to what necessity requires, which means architects inevitably have to compromise their artistic ideals in actual practices, for buildings have to be more than objects for aesthetic contemplation.36 As Wesis claims, architecture has to exist “within a context defined by unskilled labor and such practical activities as excavation, engineering, and plumbing. It must conform to building codes written with little concern for artistic needs. No other art is so hemmed in by men, tasks, and condi-

35. Yuriko Saito, Everyday Aesthetics (Oxford University Press, 2010), 58-62 36.Harries, The Ethical Function of Architecture, 23-24 37. Wesis, Nine Basic Arts, 68

tions relating to noneasthetic matters.”37 In China, there is a trend of architectural aesthetics in regards to landscape design and the built environment. People’s understanding of aesthetics and beauty is relatively restricted and singular because of the abuse and lack of architectural languages. Basically, they usually regard luxury and extravagant objects as beautiful and it is an enjoyable experience to own them. In the domain of architecture, the mass Chinese public does not have a powerful enough voice to state their ideas, and most of the outcomes of architecture industry are controlled by a few officers with huge power. Currently, as a result of the huge influence of western values and cultural invasion, more Chinese people tend to believe in a “western style” of aesthetics. For instance, in the residential realm of business, developers constantly advertise their new real estate design and landscape planning with a large amount of “European elements” such as (seemingly) luxuriant ornaments, strong colors and exquisite sculpting. These strategies are extremely effective and such real estates are exceptionally popular in the market. However, the irony is that one cannot actually find such “European style” buildings in Europe; it is merely the result of “following the trend”. So the impact of global capitalism or cultural invasion is not the main cause of this phenomenon—it is the lack of aesthetic acknowledgement (learning and sharing atmosphere) and the standards of taste that account for it. One user of a popular Chinese web forum popped up the question: “Why do the domestic real estate developers create ‘European style’ residential districts whereas in Europe it is very difficult to find similar constructions? Why is the “European style” so expensive in the market and why is it so popular in China?38 Here list six opinions as the comments to this question: 1. The European style has gained widespread popularity in the mainland in recent years, while the prevailing modernism style abroad is hard to be accepted by the public. Personally I think that this is because of the lack of aesthetic cultivation and the development of taste. The designer’s ideas are completely neglected; 38. “Why the domestic real estate developers dedicated ‘European style’ residential district whereas in Europe it is very difficult to find a similar construction? Why can the ‘European style’ be so expensive in the market and gain high popularity in China?” Zhihu, Accessed February 18, 2014, http://www.zhihu.com/question/19934054


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customers strongly prefer the look of luxury and the image of a higher class. Good design cannot survive, and it also cannot be sold for a good price. 2. It is partly because of the customer groups. Most of the buyers are above 30 years old. They have the financial capability but lack a taste and a sense of design. As a result, tasteful design is hard to be accepted by them. People around them also like the style so they would like to have it too, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Thus the “European design with Chinese characteristics” has been widely accepted. It is also kind of sad. 3. Generally the development of buildings should be advancing. Europe also has old residential neighborhoods, but the new districts are not deliberately done according to previous designs. If you get to know some foreign museums expansion projects, the designers will not copy the original forms, but they will explore a new forms of integration with modern architecture. As for why these buildings sell so well, I think first of all, it is because of the national aesthetic education. Many of the economic problems are not resolved and it is not enough to improve the environment and atmosphere of culture and art. Secondly, many people do not have independent aesthetic values; they like to just simply follow what is popular. Another important reason is that the developer’s own aesthetic and taste determine the types of products. * ps: I do not think people who like the European style have bad taste. The European style itself is not wrong and some domestic real estate is also doing very well. It is just that personal preferences vary. The problem lies in the aesthetic education that cultivates these tastes.

Another personal opinion is nothing more than some of the following psychological factors among consumers: European style looks gorgeous; it is a symbol of the upper class.

People feel more at home in surroundings that are classical rather then modern.

A small part of the reason is the fawning over and the blind faith in foreign things.

This is a cyclical process, the consistent aesthetic orientations of most people (including developers)—the developers have done marketing research before deciding their product types that cater to most people’s preferences—sales increase (there are some consumers who follow the trend)—most people have identical aesthetic values…But in recent years, with China’s growing integration with the world, new ideas, new materials are constantly affecting the domestic construction industry and the number of younger generation of buyers has increased. This European style residential market is no longer the champion as before. 4. It is because of vanity.

5. There is no inevitable relation between high selling price and the architectural style. The key point is marketing strategy and product design.

6.It is because of people’s blind faith in foreign things. The propaganda by the developers suits people’s preference, and also makes people believe that this style is

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that of the luxury and upper class.

Most of the answers have mentioned the issue of Chinese aesthetic and taste. But actually, developed from the traditional agricultural society, Chinese culture has a long and brilliant history of aesthetic attainments. In Zehou Li’s The Chinese Aesthetic Tradition, he touches on all areas of artistic activity, including poetry, painting, calligraphy, architecture, and most significantly, the “art of living”: right government, the ideal human being, and the path to spiritual transcendence all come under the provenance of aesthetic thought. According to Li, this was the case from early Confucian explanations of poetry as that gives expression to intent, through Zhuangzi’s artistic depictions of the ideal personality who discerns the natural way of things and lives according to it. Li also believed in the Buddhist-inspired notions that nature and words can come together to yield insight and enlightenment. In this enduring and stimulating work, he demonstrates conclusively that the fundamental role of aesthetics in the development of cultural and psychological structures in Chinese culture is to define “humanity.”39 However, unfortunately, in the current materialistic background in Chinese society, economic profit comes first and it is hard for Chinese people to agree that the “art of living”, which is simple, natural and primitive, may be aesthetically appreciable. They do not have a clear definition of what is beautiful and they simply follow the current trends. These trends obey the values controlled by economic structures and by the mass media, which aim for making larger economic profits instead of creating a more convincing aesthetic consciousness. In this regard, the topic of half-architecture in this thesis is also, to some extent, a challenge to people’s common aesthetic values (especially Chinese people). Since most of these works are accomplished by economic materials and are not visually exaggerated; more crucially, they are not intended for commercial use. These works present a sense of living. If people could realize the aesthetics of mundane, ordinary and everyday life, such as the tiny adorableness of a tree, a flower, the grass, the singing of a bird, the cloud or the rain…they may develop a more spiritually significant world and find peace in mind. Like David Hume states, 39. Zehou Li, The Chinese Aesthetic Tradition (Univ. of Hawaii Press, 2009) This abstract is quoted from the page of University of Hawaii Press, Accessed February 18, 2014, http://www.uhpress.hawaii.edu/p-5975-9780824833077.aspx


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“Beauty is no quality in things themselves: it exists merely in the mind which contemplates them.” “[…] Beauty is such an order and construction of parts, as either by the primary constitution of our nature, by custom, or by caprice, is fitted to give a pleasure and satisfaction to the soul.” Panofsky also indicates, It is possible to experience every object, natural or man-made, aesthetically. We do this, when we just look at it (or listen to it) without relating to it, intellectually or emotionally, to anything outside of itself. When a man looks at a tree from the point of view of a carpenter, he will associate it with the various uses to which he might put the wood; and when he looks at it from the point of view of an ornithologist, he will associate it with the birds that might nest in it. When a man at a horse race watches the animal on which he has put his money, he will associate its performance with his desire that it may win. Only he who simply and wholly abandons himself to the object of his perception will experience it aesthetically.40

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3.5 Significance of Half-architecture The impact of half-architecture (the research) can be illustrated in two aspects: the social influence and its positive injection into the architecture industry. The significance of the topic would coordinate the content of contemporary trends of architecture discussed in the first chapter (social impact, generating a better relationship with nature and sustainable issues). The significance of half-architecture would promote a broader thinking of architecture as creditable answers to urban problems and questions and would support alternative architecture. Space can tell stories of culture and history by its language. Due to the public character of half-architecture, it is communal, which means every element that appears in the project can be seen and judged by everybody and has wilder publicity than specific buildings accessed by certain users (office buildings, political buildings, residential dwellings...). Karsten Harries suggests that, Architecture not only expresses but intends to express cultural values and concerns. It does not just communicate, it is intended to communicate.43 ...Sacred and public architecture provides the community with a center or centers. Individuals gain their sense of place in a history, in a community, by relating their dwelling to that center.44

In this regard, it is only possible for people to have aesthetic experience when they are free from usual cares and concerns (such as material wealth, business interest and economic profit) that dominate their sight and mind, then they can attend to what lies before eyes with appreciation from heart.41 Half-architecture picks up from the often-neglected aspect of hidden beauty within the world; both concrete objects and the tacit interaction (experiencing, inhabiting, building…) can be aesthetic. Recycled woods, emptied cans, dead branches, and wasted ties...may all be reformed into widely enjoyable art works with aesthetic values, so that the scope of environmental aesthetics is much wider than before. Beauty (aesthetic objects) not only includes noble art and pleasant experiences, but also involves mess and dirt.42

These justifications signify the social impact of half-architecture as well. For us, the appearance of a work, containing its appealing spatial languages, both material and tacit, constitutes reality. It is not a notable and huge sized landmark that basically has nothing to do with the real life of citizens; it is not one of the copy-paste superblocks that form the urban maze without a soul; it is not an over-priced house that you have to buy but cannot afford. It is the reality in an extremely intimate scope—something that only concerns yourself—the passion of the heart, the thoughts of the mind and the delights of the senses. These factors build up to the truth of life—to treasure what you have owned, to love what you can touch, and to remember all the

40. Erwin Panofsky, Meaning in the Visual Arts (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1955), 11 41. Harries, The Ethical Function of Architecture, 19 42. Saito, Everyday Aesthetics, 10

43. Harries, The Ethical Function of Architecture, 285 44. Ibid, 287


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beauty in this massive world. The main question is, can half-architecture solve some social problems? The answer should be yes. As a philosophical discourse, this research is a study in the inter-subjectivity between people and space. By a host of means can such a practice truly affect: it helps broaden the horizon in a spatial world and raise the social awareness of public life and urban issues. The highlight of this study is to reach out of the materialistic environment by taking into consideration the local culture and the spatial thinking. It is not just studying the social-interaction and the organization among people themselves, but also, the space itself plays a key role in making the inquiry into the spatial experiences of urban life. Various phenomena and problems in society (intense urbanization, deteriorated quality of life, weakening locality...) could find their transformative and artistic way to present towards the public problems while engendering discussions. On the other hand, what the research has focused should benefit not only the social citizens but more importantly, the architecture practitioners. No one can deny the ambition and capacity of architects today to design city landmarks such as stunning skyscrapers and popular urban projects, but kind concerns and considerations of true human experiences and emotions are also worth appreciation. The collective spatial languages can be practically applied to contemporary architecture design, which includes interior spatial design and landscape design—unconventional materials form space with illusions and multiple layers; unique and interactive spatial experiences change people’s daily routine; narrative and story telling ideas create communicable concepts. From a broader perspective, the ideological thinking of architecture and urban development should be raised to enhance the positive and social significance of architecture, instead of acting merely as the symbol of dominant power and capitalist desire. Many forms of half-architecture continually reshape the awareness of formal architecture. More architects, architecture competitions and art biennial involve the realm of temporary architecture, shelter and urban intervention. Such practice is gradually known and accepted by the viewers through their creative expressions in comparison to the unchangeable and repetitive cityscape. These works provide another atmosphere of social life, and a more experimental and critical spatial experience.

Figure 26-27 Shantytowns Some dwellings are inspired by informal buildings and settlement formats that are common in much of the developing world—so-called shantytowns. They combine the dynamic eclecticism of their subversive design mandate beyond standard blueprint mechanisms. Shantytowns cover variations of ancient hut-like buildings, garden sheds and green areas beyond the partitioned thinking of allotment culture, as well as socially engaged architecture that make use of salvaged materials to define their own spatial language. By looking above and beyond the accepted material limits of house building, the construction of shantytowns demonstrates ingenious solutions and artistic strategies which, in their attempts reuse what is available, connecting to informal building and settlement formats and transforming banal and everyday materials into aesthetically challenging spaces.


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Half-Architecture Chapter Four Diploma Work


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4.1 Background Theoretical Background of Environmental Art Certainly, site-specific art can lead to the unearthing of repressed histories, help provide greater visibility to marginalized groups and issues, and initiate the re(dis)covery of “minor” places so far ignored by the dominant culture.1

Chapter 4 Diploma Work The above-mentioned issues contribute to my diploma work in every stage and segment. The process of doing research synchronized the course of conceiving and building the final project—A corner of the World. Besides the structural background illustrated in the first chapter, I would also like to demonstrate the particular reasons that related to me and triggered the project, from the perspective of theories in environmental art practices, that I have been involved for two years, to my personal story. Even though the whole period of constructing the work was not long, its meaning to me and its place is profound.

I started the research with my keen concerns for space because of my studies in environmental art and previously landscape architecture, within which the subject of half-architecture is a critical branch, mainly in the realm of site-specific art. I regard environmental art as the very form that directly immerses its audience. Primarily, since its location is usually outside of art museums or galleries where people most often see art, it is more familiar and closer to people’s highly accessible living environments. Secondly, environmental art takes the ground that people stand upon everyday to be the site, the places they pass, work and inhabit. I would say it is a fair art form, which is less hierarchical. For instance, the paintings in the Louvre should be generally more famous and have more significant aesthetic value than those in a civic or local art gallery. However, an environmental artwork is not seen as superior or inferior by the reputation of its location. Environmental art is strongly connected to newer art forms such as happenings, installation and interactive art, communal enough to be enjoyed by the majority of people. It provides aesthetic objects that include nature, environment and community, and has the very potential to affect people by unfolding another aspect of social life. Developing from Land Art movement, most of the environmental art works follows the basic rules such as “to grow from the site”, namely, to create an harmonious relationship with the location visually and inherently. Considering these preconditions, I started to establish the theoretical background for my spatial practices. I believe the highest art form is to build and if architecture represents buildings, half-architecture then represent architecture, with a tiny ambition and a small dream. Among its categories, shelters

1. Kwon, One Place After Another, 53


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and hideouts function as the city spreads; they stand out from the dense urban environment. According to Krzysztof Wodiczko’s Critical Vehicles: Writings, Projects, Interviews, Since the eighteenth century at least, the city has operated as a grand aesthetic curatorial project, a monstrous public art gallery for massive exhibitions, permanent and temporary, of environmental architectural ‘installations’; monumental ‘sculpture gardens’; official and unofficial murals and graffiti; gigantic ‘media shows’; street, underground and interior ‘performances’; spectacular social and political ‘happenings’; state and real-estate ‘land art projects’; economic events, actions and evictions...2 Environmental art works include most of the mentioned art forms for its high open-mindedness and inclusiveness. Half-architecture, benefitting from being under the umbrella of environmental art, attempts to create spatial stories that are not separately comprehended as just decorative art. Rather, it is an “engagement in strategic challenges to the city structure and mediums that mediate our everyday perception of the world: an engagement through aesthetic-critical interruptions, infiltrations and appropriations that question the symbolic, psychopolitical and economic operations of the city ”3 Personal Background I was born in Zhengzhou, which is a less developed city in the middle of China. When I was three my family moved to Guangzhou, one of the most prosperous cities 1500 kilometers away from my hometown. Due to this migration, I always considered myself lacking roots for a long period of time, I disliked Guangzhou because it did not have my stories and my childhood memories. I did not feel that I belonged there until recently. I have always missed my grandfather’s old house in Zhengzhou though I only lived there for mere three years at the beginning of my life. It is hard to imagine that the memories and senses from that old house and the passed 2. Krzysztof Wodiczko, Critical Vehicles: Writings, Projects, Interviews (The MIT Press, 1999), 27 3. Ibid, 27

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stories could last in my mind even until now, just like an old book, with its pages becoming wrinkled and yellow, for me it is still a treasure. This house was located in the center of the city (which is not usual now in urban planning) within a bustling community. That was a time when all neighbors knew each other within a mile; they could be good friends for their whole lives, colleagues from the same factory, or even enemies that avoided seeing each other. The community was full of stories in every corner. That residential area was formed by rows of bungalows on both sides of the road, and my grandpa’s house was located on the corner of the branch road detached from the main street. Life was like this: in the morning, the men went to buy breakfast for the family, chatting a little while they waited; kids often went to the same school, they would stop at their buddies’ doors, calling their names loudly to go study together; the elderly would take out their small stools, sitting and resting under the eaves, sometimes under sunshine; after work, probably at 3 or 4 pm, neighbors started to randomly drop by other people’s houses (in Chinese, it is called “chuan men 串门” with the literal meaning of stringing the doors), they would talk quite loudly at the door, amuse the children, ask trivial things, while gossiping about others. When the sun went down, housewives would go back home to prepare dinner, children were asked to stop playing and return home with their names called loudly. Within a moment, the street became quiet again and was filled with the smell of meals being prepared; families would come together and enjoy the reunion. My grandpa’s house, I think it is the coolest among all the others until now. It was a huge two-story wooden-structural independent dwelling. The house was in dark brown, full of the beautiful scent of aged woods, which was my most distinct impression. Grandpa and grandma lived on the first floor, and their children, my mom, my aunts and uncles owned the space upstairs. The stairs made of pine were not quite stable. I remembered clearly that every time I played with my aunt and cousins, when I rushed upstairs, it would sway a little from left to right, which was the funniest thing ever. There was a big balcony on the second floor just besides the children’s living room, which was my first impression of “nature”. My grandpa was a great gardener. He planted various flowers, fruits and vegetables within 10 square meters of the magical land. It was also my most treasured place, my secret garden. The joy of picking his fruitful figs to share with my friends, knitting a necklace


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4.2 Process by his colorful flowers, and talking with the leaves of my trees next to the balcony, has built up my first and foremost fine image of life. However, since I moved to Guangzhou, life has been different. My parents needed to work hard everyday to survive. When we moved into my first home in Guangzhou, it was a crude bungalow. There were still some small gardens around and playgrounds for children. Neighbors became good friends of my parents very soon. However, when we moved to bigger and bigger apartments, on higher and higher floors, from buildings with only stairs to elevator apartments, I felt that I was eventually losing the previous fine image of life. All that I knew about my neighbors now, was that they were three girls coming from a small city to Guangzhou to look for opportunities, renting this place together. Kids are even more occupied than their parents: they need to attend various extracurricular classes, to “win at the starting line”. Buildings are reaching the sky. One could be so proud if he owned an apartment on the 28th floor to view the whole cityscape. Nobody seems to care about the tree that accompanied his childhood, his best friend.

Figure 28. Impression of Grandpa’s Balcony

In December 2013 I completed my diploma work in Huijiang Village, Panyu, Guangzhou, China. It is a house-like shed erected from two trees, grown from the site. Huijiang Village is a product of Guangzhou’s aggressive urbanization in recent years. Frankly speaking, even though I had examined the negative consequences of excessive urbanization in big cities, I had different understanding while doing this project. Huijiang Village, originally belonged to Panyu city in Guangdong province. During the expanding period of Guangzhou, Panyu became a district in Guangzhou rather than a city. As a result Huijiang turned to a part of the marginal area of Guangzhou city—it was urbanized. Generally, this “village in a city” is problematic as it lags behind the pace of the rapidly developing times. This village is divorced from modern urban management and refers to poor neighborhoods beyond the living standards. No one can deny the side phenomena that are due largely to this issue, but when I talked with the residents there and experienced their life, I could feel their dilemma in the transitional process. On one hand, the residents in village greatly benefit from the more equipped transportation and facilities as “ new citizens”, however, they also have difficulties in identifying themselves in such a transition. Most of them believe more in their previous lifestyle and surefooted living philosophy. During the process of visiting and observing the site, the village reminded me of my childhood times and also the fine image of life. Buildings here are less modern; most of them are constructed by local villagers (citizens) to accommodate the whole family together (about 10 persons). People have a slower life pace; some of them still make their living by traditional agriculture. The relationship in community is closer: they visit each other by bikes and motorcycles (which are forbidden in Guangzhou city), kids play on the mountains after school and dogs wander around on the street...An idea comes to me—if this is also the city, this life is also urban life, then it is not problematic at all. In contrast, this marginal urban life paradigm, should affect us in many senses. Actually, as Guangzhou is engaged in the “village in city” issue, its urban heterogeneity is partly formed. The force of the external population, the struggle between urban and rural and the contradictions of inside and outside, are challenges as well as opportunities in the critical evolution of the city.


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Baiyun

Tianhe

Yuexiu

Tianhe Haizhu Huangpu

Yuexiu

Haizhu

Liwan

Liwan

Central Guangzhou

Guangzhou 1998

Conghua

Huadu Baiyun

Yuexiu Liwan

Zengcheng

Baiyun

Tianhe Huangpu

Haizhu

Yuexiu Liwan

Tianhe Huangpu

Haizhu

With this social concept as the first step, I started to conceive the spatial elements of my diploma work. Walt Whitman says that every cubic inch of space is a miracle. Inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s The Vitruvian man (Figure 30), even though it is always interpreted from a scientific angle: anatomy, geometry and mathematics, I found it adequately inspiring in explaining the human (body) and the minimum space that is required for motions. Actually, according to this paradigm, one could see that the spatial need for human being’s basic movements such as standing, sitting, squatting and lying down, is considerably limited. It is within the 2 dimensional square in the sketch (2m*2m), correspondingly, it should be within the cube in space (2m*2m*2m), that can fully meet the needs of daily basic motions. Originally drawn by Leonardo, the “Vitruvian man”, is alone, robbed of life, clothing, objects, surroundings, and relationships. (Which does beg the question of whether this body needs architecture at all.) How well this image reflects the body that is often assumed in design: it too is singular, healthy, and static, perpetually independent of objects, surroundings, and people, apparently with little need for such things.4

Huijiang Village

Panyu

Panyu

Nansha

Guangzhou 2005

Nansha

Guangzhou 2014

Figure 29. The Expanding Guangzhou City In 2014, with the combination of Huangpu District and the establishment of Conghua and Zengcheng districts (previously Conghua and Zengcheng cities), Guangzhou has ultimately doubled its urban area, exceeding that of Shanghai. For sure this urban mergence has a significant impact on the development of Guangzhou such as raising its global reputation and the improvement of GDP, yet there also exists a range of challenges. For example, how to deal with the explosive population and how to promote a smooth transition from the village to the city and how to better integrate social resources and public services, in order to actually improve the quality of urban life. So far, it is still not very promising and convincing whether such urbanization could solve the problems of depressed living space and dense urban structure in Guangzhou. Additionally, this paradigm is applied in many other big cities in China, standing in the progress of industrialization—commercialization—urbanization.

Figure 30. Leonardo da Vinci, The Vitruvian Man Figure 31. Paul Gisbrecht, Human Reification, Photography 4. Franck and Lepori, Architecture Inside Out, 15


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This idea of the needs of space is also related to “contractive desire”, which exactly matches the topics and social concerns mentioned at the beginning of this thesis. Paul Gisbrecht’s series works of photography also specifically demonstrate the body motions and their most basic need of distance (space). Such “primitive” and “minimal” patterns and forms reveal the very basic idea of space and life. In my work, the layout of the shelter is a 2m x 2m square, 2.2m in height, with the house-like façade image (a house in Bachelard’s theory: the protected intimacy, our corner of the world, a real cosmos in every sense of the word). The materials of the structure are mainly bamboo and wood panels that I collected from nearby construction sites. I built it together with the local people for five days. Interestingly, before constructing, when I showed them my drafts and explained it at the spot, they kept asking me whether I was sure to build the shelter in such small size. They even made an ambitious plan for me, which implied to build it ten times larger than my original intention (from occupying two trees to a whole area of woods). The local people were also surprised at the materials I used as they are recycled and cheap. They were expecting (even recommending) some costly and “good-looking” transported woods. As I pointed before, half-architecture is a challenge here. As a rational and logical outcome of theoretical and personal backgrounds, and with the research in this papar, I always endeavor to build up a simple space where one could accommodate his interminable desires, annoyances and overthinking to peace by means of thoughts and dreams. It is our original shell, like a nest to birds. This project provides people a corner of the world for solitude, imagination and daydreaming, an escape from urban daily life. The shape of façade is the common image of a house, which constantly evokes mankind’s primordial impression of a home. This project reminds me of my times as a child. The crude rocky stairs up to the mountain and the small wooden stairs to enter the shelter, the smell of wood and leaves, the wind through the bamboos, the intimate ambience of me and the tree in the middle of the inside space, all evoke my memories in my grandfather’s old house. It is not elaborated but it is a large cradle where I have dreamt thousands of times since I left. It is a reunion. The successive houses in which we have lived have no doubt made our gestures commonplace. But we are very surprised, when we return to the old house, after an odyssey of many

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years, to find that the most delicate gestures, the earliest gestures suddenly come alive, are still faultless. In short, the house we were born in has engraved within us the hierarchy of the various functions of inhabiting. We are the diagram of the functions of inhabiting that particular house, and all the other houses are but variations on a fundamental theme. The word habit is too worn a word to express this passionate liaison of our bodies, which do not forget, with an unforgettable house.5

4.3 Effect All these above-mentioned issues are all my languages, spatial and memorial, material and tacit, that tell a story in this space, localizing a memory with honesty. The whole process of realizing my dream of building on the land I love is the most important experience throughout this project. I have gained unique aesthetic experience by using the commonsensibly unappealing materials. They are rough, raw, and local: the three trunks were picked on the site; the hanging roof-like banana leaves were obtained from the plantains on the foot of the mountain; the bamboo was aged while the wooden panels were not in structured shapes. My vocabulary also comes from my own story which involves many senses. It was likely that I could see myself back in the age of childhood—the smell of nature, the sound of wind, the fresh cool air coming trough the bamboo, the trivial talking among neighbors—I can almost taste the memory. The local people like this project. Now they have a shelter to stay in while they climb on the mountain. They can have a rest inside and take a look at the scenery from height, something that they are familiar with but is special now. Sometimes the local workers and farmers have some drinks there, as they said, they never thought of having a space like this and the space between these two “ordinary trees” could be used like this, before, this space was only a neglected emptiness. They were happy to see there was an “architecture” growing out on the mountain and they were planning to build more such huts to be a particular view of Huijiang Village. 5. Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, 15


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Photographed by Fangting Li


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Photographed by Fangting Li


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Photographed by Fangting Li


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Half-Architecture Chapter Five Conclusion


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Chapter 5 Conclusion Today’s architect must prepare the way for tomorrow’s buildings. —Bruno Taut

Through out the paper, the scope of the discussed content gradually and logically diminishes, from a broader social concern to a personal artistic pursuit. Starting from the background of urban issues mostly located in China, the general negative impact of tumultuous urban development stimulates intensive living and the phenomenon of deterritorialization. In this aggressive process, the housing problem has become the main social anxiety in China, collapsing many “city dreams”. These problems somehow prevent us from recognizing the truth of life and the reality of environment. Following the chain, the topic goes to the spatial cognition and current architectural status. By the philosophical guidance by Kant and Gassendi, we have reached the fateful understanding that space is a huge void that could be and should be applied with multiple spatial languages to form its variety and to reveal its identity. However, in today’s architectural industry there lies the “language problem” due to the uniaxially controlled powers and the complex relationship in the building process. There list three main reasons that cause the lack of spatial languages in modern architecture: structural immutability, functional immutability and sensory immutability. The fertile social and philosophical background necessities and gives promise to the study of half-architecture. To clearly explain, its typology, formations of spatial language, narrative story-telling figure and aesthetic appeal are illustrated with related examples. Half-architecture engenders a complete entity outlined by language: the physical spatial language as well as the tacit sensory and interactive languages. Specifically, the material formation, interaction and sensation formation correspondingly provides obvious comparisons as well as viable solutions to the phenomenon of language problem in architecture industry. Ending with the clarification of my final project, the content has completed on a relatively integrated level, with sufficient social, architectural and personal meanings. Architecture is given life and spirit by all the qualities that touch the human senses and the human soul: by light and color, sound and texture, by expansion and compression of space, by view and perspective. These might be considered literal qualities created by the manipulation of materials and space, but they can go beyond the literal to touch our souls.1 1. Franck and Lepori, Architecture Inside Out, 20


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There is a meaningful saying that architecture mainly has two functions, one is to shelter our body, and the other is to shelter our soul. But it is obvious that modern architecture still has distance to reach this criterion. Neutrally speaking, no one can deny the fact that human beings have reached a very high point in civilization thanks to the contribution of modern architecture: it is the manifesto of our culture. One also has to acknowledge the trivial yet prominent advantages that these solidly and standardly built works of architecture have brought to life: the tough concrete roof that shelters us from wind and rain; the functional design of modern houses that are capable to accommodate the pleasure of a large family; the high-rise buildings enable the city to operate more effectively and effectually. Without the extraordinary developments in modern architecture, the world could not be the way it is now. These notable aspects have changed the way the world presents itself, with huge industrial progress and abundant urban life. Besides, a host of distinguished contemporary architects are designing their works in a constructive manner: Steven Holl and his fascinating spatial languages; Marco Casagrande and his deep concerns of sustainability and local culture; a group of Japanese architects dedicates to ideas of architecture that involves both nature and humane living. But as time never stops moving forward, it is never too excessive to expect something more and different. If our space is boundless, then the spatial possibilities are also endless. First of all, this subject is human-centered; it focuses on human experiences and interactions. When people see grand landmark buildings as dominant symbol of culture, which are normally too ponderous and too distant from real life, lighter forms, more active languages can give people a break from the intensive being of one’s self. Half-architecture multiplies and blossoms to form the life of a space and every element that constitutes the entity. The practice simultaneously establishes a critical dialogue by its words and stories formed by the language, questioning the over reified city construction and the abuse of both natural and urban environments. Unlike the skyscraper, which is an entity and reputable object itself merely for architecture’s sake (often been judged without the consideration of the human activities inside), the experience-based works of half-architecture require critical evaluations of people; the physical manipulation of form and material might be not the most important criteria, rather, the questions it raises towards social development and current lifestyle matters.

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In this sense people can regard half-architecture as a platform, to acquire a sense of life, to communicate with its framed context while celebrating the connectedness of the surrounding environments. People could draw inspiration and pleasure from this process. On the other hand, the works of half-architecture struggle against the city and urban phenomena as a devourer of various spirits of locality and culture. MarcGuillaume claims, The obsession with patrimony, the conservation of a few scattered centers, some monuments and museographic remains, are just such attempts [to compensate for the loss of social representation in urban architecture]. Nonetheless, they are all in vain. These efforts do not make a memory; in fact they have nothing to do with the subtle art of memory. What remains are merely the stereotypical signs of the city, a global signal system consumed by tourists.”2 In this regard, the shelters and hideouts related to half-architecture in this context work for spatial identity while our cities are overloaded with the same global look and use of lands: hospitals, schools, office buildings, shopping centers, restaurants and cemeteries, etc. These concrete and functional places are at a loss for stories in space. The works of half-architecture have strong site specificity (from the angle of environmental art works) to reinforce the multiple interpretations in the built-up or natural environment. The practice claims the outside space as a huge void settled for various perceptual experiences and it has become a representation of the site, seeking its significance with ideologically symbolic meaning. As a result, it is not the issue whether such attempts can practically solve any actual social problems such as high priced housing or the economic bubble, it is more about introspection—to think about the intentional, incidental or accidental marks people leave behind. These marks can be vast in scale to form its reputation, like the extremely high cost and large-scale city landmarks that would last forever, but they can also express an intimate story that could be read and shared for a period of time. Half-architecture respects every place with its stories from the ground up. 2. MarcGuillaume, Statement, Zone, nos.1–2 (1986), 439


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Half-architecture has always had a particular aesthetic appeal that inspires enduring fascination. It reduces its capacity to the human scale, within which people can interact with many possible senses. Such creative forms possess a tacit meaning in comparison to the constructions of concrete buildings. The concise purpose and ambition of these practices ensure that they address single function such as a happening, an spatial experience, or a purely aesthetic presence. This makes half-architecture psychologically as well as physically accessible with intimacy. Albert Mehrabian states that our confrontation with the environment produces in us “...an emotional reaction that is a distinctive, measurable combination of arousal, pleasure and dominance. This emotional reaction in turn causes us to approach or avoid that environment.”3 He further notes that “...Americans tend to react to the negative effects of high population density by emphasizing privacy, sometimes to the point of social isolation. Both the car and the suburb afford a great deal more privacy than public transportation or crowed urban areas.”4 This privacy is exactly what half-architecture addresses; when human in human-dominance space, ultimately affecting the interaction and communication of people, provides a sense of security and control. Additionally, beyond the boundary set between architecture and human, this practice can provide people with a chance to explore the building process as an aspect of interaction It is a critical way of occupying public space and physical space of owners, defining our relations to space and community. The joy in collecting raw materials and constructing, the philosophical recognition of space and the myriad of spatial possibilities are crucial to human nature. In today’s globalized and urbanized culture, half-architecture attempts to establish its significance against a backdrop of increasingly grand architectural gestures. It does not have to be part of a city’s skyline, or to be outstanding announcing its capitalist desires, instead, it explores themes within a small but infinitely elastic framework in which sense, function, form, material and social meaning can be brought together as logical and rational answers to urban life. Half-architecture reflects the reality in many senses with our cares and 3. Albert Mehrabian, Public Places and Private Spaces: The Psychology of Work, Play, and Living Environments (Basic Books, 1980), 107 4. Ibid.

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concerns. From urban to natural environment, no matter it is intended to promote a unique story at the place or to create an interactive spatial experience with multiple senses, it widely differs in its elaborations of inspiration. This is a topic about challenging as well as opportunity. By the critical and affecting spatial languages this practice has provided, I hope the viewers of the works could think of their lives, dreams, and living environments in a more constructive way.

Figure 32. Ziming She, An Eight-year-old Boy, A Corner of the World


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Bibliography Addison, Joseph. Spectator, no. 412, 1712. Reprinted in Joseph Addison and Richard Steele, Selected Essays from “The Tatler,” “The Spectator,” and “The Guardian.” ed. Daniel McDonald. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill,1973.

Hall, Edward T., Terminology as Proxemics. 1963.

Alexander, Christopher. The Timeless way of Building. Oxford University Press, 1979.

Herz, Rachel, The Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell. Harper Perennial, 2008.

Alexander, Christopher. The Nature of Order: An Essay on the Art of Building and the Nature of the Universe, Book 1—The Phenomenon of Life. Routledge, 2004.

Holl, Steven, Interviewing: New York. Princeton Architectural Press,1996.

Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space. Beacon Press, 1994. Bachelard, Gaston. la terre et les rêveries du repos. Librairie Jose Corti, 2004.

Klotz, Heinrich. The History of Postmodern Architecture. Cambridge: MIT press,1988.

Bauer, Hermann. Rocaille. Walter de Gruyter, 1962.

Kwon, Miwon. One Place After Another. The MIT Press 2004.

Bousquet, Joë, La neige d’un autre dge.

Lefebvre, Henri, The Production of Space. Wiley-Blackwell, 1992.

Casey, Edward. The Fate of Place: A Philosophical History. University of California Press, 1998.

Li, Zehou, The Chinese Aesthetic Tradition. Univ. of Hawaii Press, 2009.

Claudel, Paul. L’Oiseau noir dans le Soleil levant. 1926.

Mehrabian, Albert. Public Places and Private Spaces: The Psychology of Work, Play, and Living Environments. Basic Books, 1980.

Eliade, Mircea. Ordeal By Labyrinth. Univ of Chicago, 1982. Erwin, Panofsky. Meaning in the Visual Arts. Garden City. N.Y.: Doubleday, 1955. Franck, Karen A. and Lepori, R. Bianca. Architecture Inside Out. Academy Press, 2000. Giedion, Sigfried. Space, Time and Architecture. Harvard University Press, 2009.

Harries, Karsten, The Ethical Function of Architecture. The MIT Press, 1998.

Klanten, Robert and Feireiss, Lukas ed., Space Craft: Fleeting Architecture and Hideouts. Die Gestalten Verlag; Auflage: 1., Aufl., 2007.

MarcGuillaume, Statement. Zone, nos.1–2. 1986.

Morris, Robert, “Notes on Sculpture.” Artfarum. 1966. Panofsky, Erwin. Meaning in the Visual Arts. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1955. Papanek, Victor. The Green imperative: Ecology and Ethics in Design and Architecture. trans. Bo Zhou, Jia Liu. Citic Press Group, 2013. Picard, Max, La fuite devant Dieu, trans.

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang. “Baukunst”. fragment, 1795. in Gesamtausgabe, ed. Wolfgang Freiherr von Löhneysen. Stuttgart: Cotta, 1961.

Polanyi, Michael. The Tacit Dimension. University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 2009.

Goffin, K. & Koners, U. Tacit Knowledge, Lessons Learnt, and New Product Development. J PROD INNOV MANAG, 2011.

Pollio, Vitruvius, The Ten Books on Architecture. Architecture Classics. 2013.


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Saito, Yuriko, Everyday Aesthetics. Oxford University Press, 2010.

Electron Sources

Schmidt, F. L., & Hunter, J. E. “Tacit Knowledge, Practical Intelligence, General Mental Ability, and Job Knowledge.” Current Directions in Psychological Science. 1993.

Schömer, Göran Ervin. “The Theory of The Production of Architectural Space.” Abstract of the Report of Building Research, Stockholm The Royal Institute of Technology. Accessed February 18, 2014. http://biphome.spray.se/esch/theory.html

Tafuri, Manfredo. Theories and History of Architecture. trans. Giorgio Verrecchia. New York: Harper and Row, 1980. Wang, Leirah, “Experience of Scales: Residential Behavior and Housing Interior.” PhD diss., Aalto University, School of Arts, Design and Architecture, 2013. Wesis, Paul. Nine Basic Arts. Southern Illinois Univ. ,1966. Wodiczko, Krzysztof, Critical Vehicles: Writings, Projects, Interviews. The MIT Press, 1999.

“These Unbelievable Photos Make Hong Kong Look Like Abstract Art.” New Republic. Accessed February 18, 2014. http://www.newrepublic.com/article/115209/michael-wolf-photography-hong-kongs-architecture-density “What do people do with such high housing price?” Accessed February 18, 2014. http://house.0311.com.cn/201302/06_52885.html “Indemnificatory Housing.” China Daily. Accessed February 18, 2014. http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/language_tips/news/2010-07/21/content_11028913.htm “Why the domestic real estate developers dedicated ‘European style’ residential district whereas in Europe it is very difficult to find a similar construction? Why can the ‘European style’ be so expensive in the market and gain high popularity in China?” Zhihu. Accessed February 18, 2014. http://www.zhihu.com/question/19934054


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Recourses of Figures Figure 1. <http://www.newrepublic.com/article/115209/michael-wolf-photography-hong-kongs-architecture-density>

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Four figures on the right: <http://www.picstopin.com/1200/free-download-skyscraper-buildings-royalty-cliparts-vectors-and-/http:%7C%7Cwakpaper*com%7Clarge%7CSkyscrapers_wallpapers_372*jpg/>

Figure 2. Ibid.

Figure 18. Project by tri-oh!, <http://www.designboom.com/architecture/2012-lively-architecture-festival-in-montpellier/>

Figure 3. <http://www.whwb.cc/html/2012/xwjrrd_0618/6762.html>

Figure 19. Project by Atelier, Ibid.

Figure 4. <http://bbs.miercn.com/201308/thread_217834_1.html>

Figure 20. Project by Dondecabentres, Ibid.

Figure 5. Ibid.

Figure 21. Project by Julie Biron, Ibid.

Figure 6. Self-photographed

Figure 22. Project by urbanB, Ibid.

Figure 7. Self-photographed

Figure 23. Project by shalumo and école d’architecture de l’université laval, Ibid.

Figure 8. <http://www.thecoolist.com/theater-architecture-10-modern-music-hall-masterpieces/walt-disney-concert-hall-by-frank-gehry_1/> Figure 9. <http://pittsburgh.ettractions.com/frank-lloyd-wrights-fallingwater-mill-run-pa/attractions/7757/> Figure 10. <http://ameblo.jp/coma305/image-11405463186-12287903239. html> Figure 11. <http://www.bustler.net/index.php/article/i._m._pei_to_receive_ british_royal_gold_medal> Figure 12. <http://www.e-architect.co.uk/sweden/kivik-art-center> Figure 13. <http://www.solidform.co.uk/blog/2012/4/7/sandworm-wenduine-belgium-by-marco-casagrande.html>

Figure 24. <https://mysendoff.com/2011/11/memorial-brings-past-to-thepresent/> Figure 25. <http://www.touristlink.com/china/classical-gardens-of-suzhou/ overview.html> Figure 26. <http://travelteamtravelsecrets.blogspot.fi/2011/07/shantytownin-rio-to-become-tourist.html> Figure 27. <http://www.columbiatribune.com/arts_life/pulse/slum-tourism/ article_6bfe3cf4-549e-11e3-8a8b-10604b9f6eda.html> Figure 28. Illustration by Siyang Li Figure 29. Self-illustrated

Figure 14. <http://www.designboom.com/architecture/pup-up-canopy-in-dashilar-by-people-architecture-office/>

Figure 30. <http://alphaefficiency.com/are-you-telling-me-that-leonardo-davinci-was-mind-mapping/>

Figure 15. <http://news.wudao.com/20120619/50153.html>

Figure 31. <http://www.ignant.de/2011/10/28/paul-gisbrecht/>

Figure 16. <http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2012/04/skyscraper-index/>

Figure 32. Drawing by She Ziming

Figure 17. Five figures on the left—self-illustrated

*All Websites Accessed February 18, 2014


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Fangting li master thesis half-architecture  

Master thesis

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