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WOVEN SKY by Wang Wen-Chih with Cave Urban

Preface Cave Urban was started as a research and development arm of our existing architectural practice. Its aim was to explore vernacular systems and materials used for contemporary sustainable design solutions. We embarked upon a series of research folios, the first of which examined bamboo and lightweight structures. We looked at the work of artists and architects around the world as well as traditional archetypes. Of all the artists we covered Wen-Chih’s work was the most exciting. He made great use of a vernacular material and methodology, in a bold and daring manner, to create spiritual works that went beyond the structure itself. I first experienced his work at the Setouchi Triennial on the island of Shodoshima in Japan’s Inland Sea. Visiting his sculpture the ‘Light of Shodoshima’ was a profoundly moving experience. I then had the good fortune of travelling to Taiwan to visit WenChih and his wonderful family in his home town, Chiayi. We discussed and finalised our plans for the Woodford project. Our love of bamboo, transcended any language barriers and with the help of Wen-Chih’s partner Mei-Wen and their daughter ChiChi translating we were able to cement our friendship and our desire for future collaboration. This was a project that could not have been achieved without the help of countless others. For all those people who donated their time and expertise I am extremely grateful. Thank you to Bill Hauritz and the Woodford Folk Festival for the opportunity and support to make this possible. Thank you to Wen-Chih, his family and his team for sharing their experience, vision and artistry, with us all. Nici Long Cave Urban iii

Any copy of this book issued by the publisher as a paperback is given subject to the condition that it shall by way of trade or otherwise be lent or otherwise circulated with the publisher’s blessing. Copyright Š 2014 by Cave Urban, Sydney All parts of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording or any other information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher.

Contents Preface


Part One Preparation






Part Two Creation










Part Three Completion


About the Artist


Thank you


Woven Sky


Part One Preparation



Cave Urban is engaged by the Woodford Folk Festival to explore environmental protocols for temporary and permanent infrastructure on site. Bamboo is a perfect material for this investigation, as it is locally sourced, light-weight and sustainable. A research Folio was undertaken to further our understanding of bamboo and of all the bamboo artists we researched Wen-Chih was the most bold and exciting, in terms of his creative vision and use of bamboo at such a grand scale. So we contacted Wen-Chih to see if he would be interested in collaborating with us. An initial site visit in September 2013 was followed by a visit by Nici to Wen-Chih’s installation ‘The Light of Shodoshima’ at the 2013 Setouchi Triennial in Japan, and to the artist’s home in Taiwan. Through these early meetings, Wen-Chih began to develop a scheme that was further fleshed out when Cave Urban met with him on-site in December, 2013 to commence the project. Left: The original plan called for a 300m tunnel of woven clothes, however on-site consultation shortened the tunnel and increased the importance of the tower. 7




In line with the principles of the parties involved, all materials were harvested within a 20km radius of the site. The radiata pine was selectively felled from a forest on the festival site. The trees were regarded as a weed, having self-sewn from a managed pine forest nearby. The bamboo was taken from the Crystal Waters Permaculture Village, north-west of Woodford. All the volunteers assisted in the harvesting process. We harvested 600 7m lengths of bamboo. As we were not treating the bamboo, the culms were carefully selected to ensure only the most mature poles were taken to meet the necessary strength and longevity requirements of the installation. The harvest involved not only the culms for ‘Woven Sky’ but also the removal of dead or damaged poles to help clear the forest floor and increase light penetration to promote new growth. Previous Pages: The bamboo was selected based upon diameter and age. Once it was harvested it would be cleaned of all branches and cut to length 13


Part Two Creation

Woven Sky was created over a period of three weeks in the leadup to the Woodford Folk Festival. This is a remarkably narrow time frame considering the scale of the project. Work was undertaken in often hostile conditions with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees on several days during the process. To describe the building process we have divided it into several key stages, some of which occurred concurrently. During the building process Wen-Chih became confident that steady progress was being made thanks to the hard work of his team and the band of highly motivated and enthusiastic volunteers. Due to this headway the design evolved into a more ambitious project, involving a taller, more complex domed tower. The process can be divided into the following steps: Harvest Splitting Planting the poles Weaving the tunnel and tower 17



The 500 medake and moso poles chosen for weaving produced close to 2500 splits of bamboo at an average length of 7m, equating to almost 18km of bamboo. The bamboo was split using an apparatus redesigned by Wen-Chih which was far more efficient that anything we have encountered before. Workers then took each split and, with the aid of machetes, shaved the sharp edges and nodes to facilitate the weaving. Due to the varying diameters of the bamboo, splits of different widths were created. Each garde of splits was applied to a specific section of the sculpture. Previous page: The splitting process in action. 1. The pole is aligned with the splitter 2. It is hammered through to break the first nodes 3. The remaining pole can be pushed through Above: Cleaning and organising the splits by length and width 21



Construction of the project began on the December 4. After marking out the footprint of the sculpture, a Manitou dug holes 1.5m deep into which the 9m lengths of pine were inserted. The trunks were held in place by a combination of crusher dust and earth tamped thoroughly by the tireless volunteers. The poles formed the base structure of the tower and the connecting tunnels. This process was repeated along the length of the tunnels with shorter lengths of pine inserted to a depth of 500-1000mm depending upon the bedrock. They were aligned at an angle of 15o towards the centre of the tunnel. Once the earth had been tamped into place with sea salt and turpentine to discourage termites, the poles became rigid and could only be removed by machinery. Left: Brett uses the Manitou to lift a pole into place 25

Progress was rapid, as the large number of volunteers allowed for three different teams to work concurrently. While one group split and prepared the bamboo, another planted poles, while a third team led by Wen-Chih began construction of the tower. Facing page: The Manitou digs a hole to 750mm deep. Jed cleans the remaining rubble out of the hole. Aidan, Charlie and Jed insert and align the pole. This page: Honey shovels crusher dust into a waiting hole. A long crowbar is used to finish the tamping process 27

Before the split bamboo weaving could begin, bands of pine logs were placed between the verticals in a basket weave pattern. Batten screws were used to fix the lower horizontals in place however the tension created via the interlocking of the logs meant that little or no fixing was required to hold the other pieces in place. This log base created the launching point for a top rail of logs that would run along the columns either side of the tunnels. Bird mouth joints cut into the top of each pole allowed the horizontals to sit flush, which were then joined by a batten screw. Using a chainsaw, slits were cut into the beams to house the initial structural ribs of the weave. Facing page: Juan-Pablo and Tim line up the first top rail. This page: Tunnel and tower after all the columns had been inserted. Following spread left: Coffee King and Jed connect the rail to the pole Following spread right: Dougal cuts into the rail to house the weave 29




The style of weaving used in Woven Sky finds its origins in traditional basket weaving from Wen-Chih’s village in Taiwan. The process begins with a series of ribs that set out the arc and height of the tunnel. Propped up with bamboo poles, a ridge beam then links these ribs together and the changing shape and height of the space begins to emerge. While one team set out the basic structure of the weave a second team followed behind filling in the space. This process began with a series of diagonal parallel strips at 450 centres that created a basic grid and strength. However from that point onwards regularity gave way to intuition as we aimed to leave no gaps in the weave bigger than one’s fist. As the weave became more dense so did its strength become apparent. Soon we were able to sit and move upon the structure as we sought to fill all the holes. Gloves were of vital importance as the sharp edges of the bamboo would easily cut through anything that got in its way. As gaps in the weaving became smaller, the thinner more flexible strips were used to fill in holes. While they did not add the same strength provided by the larger pieces, they served both a visual purpose and helped to tuck in pieces that were sticking out from the structure. Previous spread right: Wen-Chih and Juan Pablo weaving split bamboo Facing page: Tai-Chi Lee uses a bamboo pole to adjust the ridge of the tunnel. This page: Scaffold allowed for access to the weave from below. Following spread left: Alice guides a length of bamboo through the larger holes. Following spread right: Honey guides a length of bamboo down to the beam, where often the weave would be more dense than at the ridge. 35







The initial proposal for the sculpture had concentrated upon the tunnel as the main composition. However after witnessing the volunteers at work Wen-Chih became confident that a more ambitious undertaking was achievable. Thus the tower became the focal point of the piece. Rising 15m and constructed from green pine and bamboo, it was necessary that our consulting engineer Jeremy Sparks sign off this ambitious design. The spacing of the poles and the interlocking layer of whole pine logs toward the base of the tower ensured the creation of a rigid structure. Several patterns of weave were used to stratify the tower and add complexity to its texture. For a period of about two weeks a team worked on the internal scaffold. It was the most complex element of the project and the most rewarding. Standing upon the scaffold at the end and looking out over the festival site from within the oculus, we were given a fleeting vantage point from which to glimpse the land and the sculpture. On completion the scaffold was removed and the oculus of light became the focal point, an eye to the sky, to be admired and meditated on from below. 47

Previous spread right: looking up at the structure and scaffolding system Facing page: The Professional cuts the end off one of the interlocking poles while Aiden and Dave put a beam in place. This page: The Professional uses wire and tech screws to affix the first horizontal. Next page Left: Bamboo strips are woven between the poles in alternating bands Next page right: Bamboo is attached to the top of the poles to form the dome. 49


Inside the tower an 8m scaffold was erected to allow for a safe working environment. Later on as the tower got higher a second 4m structure was erected on top of the existing scaffold. A metal ring was used to form the oculus at the top of the tower, holding together the tips of the bamboo poles. Where the tower began to curve inwards the weaving pattern changed from regular horizontal strips to the same weave that was being used on the tunnel below. Facing Page: Ned, Kai and the Professional weave a strip of bamboo; the bamboo strips, reduce in number forming a pattern of reducing size; Coffee King steps out onto the scaffold to weave part of the dome This page, top left: The bamboo tips attach to the metal ring; below left: WenChih, weaves the bamboo tips amongst the bamboo strips. 53


On finishing the weave, we could then begin to remove the scaffold. As the levels disappeared, the space began to emerge. Finally once every last piece had been taken away, we were left stunned, silenced by what had been created. Gathering the team inside the tower we were able to finally comprehend the feeling of the space. The quality of the light through the weave and the clear difference in temperature left us speechless as we gazed up to the oculus above. With the scaffold removed, we could then enclose the space. The sides were filled in with a horizontal weave similar to the midsection of the tower. The doorways were created with a low lintel at 1500mm. The idea being that when one approached the tower, you could not see into the space. When you entered, you had to bow, showing your respect for the place. The other effect was one we witnessed many times throughout the festival - a large gasp and a look of delight as patrons were able to look up into the space for the first time, enclosed within by bamboo that completely surrounded ones eye level. 57

Part Three Completion



With the weave finished, the final details could be attended to and all our equipment packed away. All that was left was for the festival to begin. With 100,000 people expected over five days, Woven Sky stood at the entrance to the amphitheatre, the largest stage in the festival and home to the festival’s biggest events and ceremonies. Separated from the festival by a 300m-long gravel pathway, the amphitheatre often only comes alive at night. Woven Sky was designed to invigorate the journey from the festival proper to the amphitheatre, providing a place of quiet contemplation that patrons passed through before entering the performance space. While thousands travelled beneath Woven Sky by night the installation would also see many lying in the cool space below the weaving, contemplating the movement of clouds across the eye and shadows and light across the ground and structure. 63



By night, Woven Sky’s tunnels were lit red and the tower pulsed like a slow beating heart. A new set of shadows, light and textures were created in the evening as the sculpture glowed against the inky sky and surrounding hills of natural Australian bush. Within the tower the space became a point of convergence, as festival revellers broke out into spontaneous celebrations of dance and song. By lowering the height of the entrance ways to the tower, Wen-Chih had created an enclosed space, a cavern of sound and light. 69

Wang Wen-Chih Master Bamboo Sculptor and Weaver

Wang Wen-Chih was born in the high mountains of Chiayi Country in Taiwan 1959. He graduated from the Chinese Culture University’s Department of Fine Arts, Master at the Institute of Fine Arts of Taipei National University of Arts in Taiwan. He studied in France, where he became a member of the Artists Association of France. He currently lives in his hometown in Chiayi Country, Taiwan. Wen-Chih’s works have been exhibited at the 49th Venice Bienniale; the 2013 Setouchi Triennale, Shodoshima, Japan; 2007 Prague Quadrennial, Industrial Palace, Prague, Czech Republic; the Taipei Fubon Art Foundation; the 2002 Taipei Art Festival and the 2003 Chinshan International Landscape Sculpture Exhibition. He held solo exhibitions in 1995 and 2000 at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taiwan. 71

Facing page: Left - Dragon Dares Tiger Lair, 2004; Right - Beyond the Water, 2009 This page, clockwise rom top left: Path, 2003 (external shot); Path, 2003 (internal shot); Beyond the Cloud, 2002. Previous page, clockwise from top left: Portrait of Wang Wen-Chih; The Light of Shodoshima, 2013.

Wen-Chih has spent many years creating amazing installations with bamboo, wood and rattan. His dynamic structures give the audiences profound spatial experiences by balancing the meaning of the materiality, the beauty of the structure and the transformation of the space. Wen-Chih’s most recent works establish a comprehensive contact between body and nature. Senses of touch, smell and memory of light are substantial in his work. Wen-Chih’s deep understanding and application of the weaving process are based on the traditional techniques that he learned during his time living in the mountains of Chiayi. His large-scale, labour intensive installations invite the community to become part of the building process. 73

Thank you Wang Wen-Chih



Woven Sky was born out of a collaboration between Taiwanese sculptor Wang Wen-Chih and Sydney based design firm Cave Urban. Built for the 2013-2014 Woodford Folk Festival, the sculpture makes use of radiata pine and bamboo, harvested within 20km of the site. We owe a great debt to the many volunteers who worked on the project and in particular to Festival Director Bill Hauritz and Cave Urbanite Gayl Rich, without whose support none of this would have been possible. If you have any enquiries please contact caveurban@gmail.com Wang Wen-Chih Mei-Wen Chi-Chi Chen Chun-Ming Jian Cin-Jyun Lee Hsin-Yen Lin Liang-Hung Nici Long Juan-Pablo Pinto Meza Jed Long Lachlan Brown Ned Long Honey Long Alice Nivison Dougal Thompson John Mofflin Jeremy Sparks Gayl Rich Bill Hauritz Amanda Jakes Kristian Baggerson Kate McDonald Paul Grant Glenn Woodside Brett Gerhart Andy Buck Star Scaffolds Kim Pengelly Michael Hills Sigrid Hills

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Woven Sky  

Wang Wen Chih + Cave Urban

Woven Sky  

Wang Wen Chih + Cave Urban

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