2020 / 10月
當完兵在業界工作數年，吳書原暫別台灣，轉到英國建築聯盟學院（Architectural Association School of Architecture，簡稱AA）求學，在這裡他視野大開「倫敦這種國際大都會，它非常尊重自然，甚至做到the city in the garden（花園裡的城市）。我曾經手過幾個案例就是把馬路封掉改成公園，目標就是讓城市跟自然1:1共存。」
今（2020）年曾志偉獲選代表台灣參加第17屆威尼斯建築雙年展（因疫情延期至2021年），他集結數年的作品思考，以「台灣郊遊–原始感覺共同合作場域計畫」為題，回應雙年展主題「How will we live together？（我們將如何生活？）」「我的重點在will，『將』是一個探索，它沒有固定的答案，我們將會怎麼樣？」曾志偉說。
The Boundaries Between Humanity and Nature
Cathy Teng /photos courtesy of Jimmy Lin /tr. by Brandon Yen
Human beings share a nostalgic yearning for nature, but for city dwellers, the bounties of nature can appear out of reach.
How to establish a sustainable relationship with nature is an issue that demands everyone’s attention. It comes as no surprise that the diversity and all-embracing character of the natural world have inspired architects in various ways.
Telling our story through our native plants
Landscape architect Wu Shu Yuan prides himself on being a graduate of Tunghai University’s College of Agriculture. Wu and his fellow undergraduates in the Department of Landscape Architecture were required to identify individual plants during their exams, just as medical students are asked to identify parts of the human body. This solid grounding in botany would influence Wu’s decision to give pride of place to Taiwan’s native plants when he served as a curator for the Taichung World Flora Exposition.
Following his compulsory military service, Wu spent four years working in the industry before traveling to the United Kingdom to study at the Architectural Association School of Architecture. The UK’s landscape architecture broadened Wu’s horizons. “Major cities like London pay due respect to nature, even living up to the ideal of ‘the city in the garden.’”
Wu explains something of the history of landscape architecture in Britain. He notes that mid-eighteenth-century British landscapists rebelled against the conventional symmetries that governed European aristocratic gardens. As a major imperial power, Britain proudly invented its own style of landscape gardening, informed by an ideal vision of nature: lakes, lush and serpentine green paths, and clumps of plants became the defining elements of a picturesque, quintessentially British landscape.
After returning to Taiwan, Wu was responsible for curating the Houli Forest Park area of the Taichung World Flora Exposition in 2018. “Expositions show off the strengths of a country. What accounts for Taiwan’s global footing? Surely it’s the diversity of our flora and our world-beating agricultural research and practices,” Wu says. Taiwan has served as a refuge that has enabled animals and plants to survive from the ice ages, as a result of which the island now boasts an abundance of ancient species. We may even argue that Taiwan offers one of the most important databanks in the world for research on biological species.
In collaboration with botanists, Wu studied and selected species whose habitats ranged from sea level to 3000 meters in altitude, exhibiting them in the 16 hectares of Houli Forest Park. Presenting the diversity of Taiwan’s species, topography, and climate in microcosm, this was a botanical landscape garden that celebrated the richness of our island’s flora.
The exposition taught Wu a lesson: as a Taiwanese landscape architect, he has an arduous mission. Taiwan is home to more than 10,000 plant species, of which upwards of 5000 are native species, but few people are aware of this marvelous biodiversity. Taiwanese landscape architecture should tell Taiwan’s own story through its native flora.
Nature as a luxury
In his projects, Wu always strives to reintroduce Taiwanese native species, so that the public may get to know and enjoy them. A clear example is his landscaping of the Mitsui Warehouse in Taipei City for the Taipei West Gateway project. Wu began by imagining what it must have been like outside Taipei’s North Gate 200 years ago. As the warehouse originally stood outside the city boundary, Wu has planted many wild grasses around it to evoke the meadows that grew there two centuries ago. Trembling in the breezes, the grasses remind passersby of riverside landscapes.
Wu was also responsible for the Taiwan Contemporary Culture Lab’s Urban Art Park project at the former Air Force Command Headquarters. The forbidding military walls there have given way to spacious paths. “I conceive of this space as becoming Taipei’s most expansive greenbelt,” Wu says. The place, whose green mood is set by the veteran banyans, hoop pines, and camphor trees, serves as a repository for the city’s memories and provides shade for pedestrians. The verges of the curving paths are adorned with judicious plantings that bring patches of wilderness into the city. Many scented herbs have been chosen which help to repel undesired insects such as mosquitoes. Just a gentle touch will release their fragrance. Wu explains his aim of reawakening our five senses: “Landscape architecture used to focus solely on visuality, but don’t forget we have other senses too: smell, taste, hearing, and touch.”
The garden outside Not Just Library at the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park was once a derelict place. Its former wildness inspired Wu to aim for a primeval style and introduce nearly a hundred different plants into the garden’s narrow space, complete with various Taiwanese ferns. The dominant color is silvery grey. This is a quiet nook where the mind, saturated after a visit to the library, may relax and contemplate.
Wu has recently moved to a flat on the top floor of an old five-story building in Taipei’s Waishuangxi. His windows provide views of greenery, and the open-air space on the roof is a wonderland of plants large and small. Wu sees this green space as his greatest “luxury.” His approach of placing pots within pots gives room to mosses, herbs, and ferns at the bottom and shrubs and trees above. These green tiers shield the roof and the additional room he has built there from the full glare of the sun. In this rooftop woodland, insects have found a home, birds rest themselves, bees collect pollen, and butterflies feed on nectar, forming a food chain and a rich ecosystem. Wu comments: “The raison d’être of landscape architecture used to be its visual appeal, but how to coexist with our fellow inhabitants on the earth is a vital issue we need to address today.”
“During the Covid-19 pandemic, many people living in isolation have experienced mental health problems. Only when our physical freedom is curtailed do we apprehend how suffocating it is to be surrounded by concrete walls, and how revitalizing it is to immerse ourselves in nature,” Wu says. These thoughts have given rise to his contribution to Between Earth and the Sky: The Spiritual State of Our Times, a new exhibition at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum. Strolling into Wu’s “Heterotopia Garden,” we are engulfed by a green exuberance of plants of all kinds. Inhaling the fresh air, basking in the warm sunshine, and admiring the blue sky and white clouds, we realize how blessed we are to be alive.
Divooe Zein, founder of the architectural firm that bears his name, is known for a repertoire that draws on nature in an idiosyncratic way. His work on the Daxi Tea Factory in Taoyuan won the renovation category of the Far Eastern Architectural Design Awards, and his “siu siu—Lab of Primitive Senses” in Taipei City’s Shilin District earned him an ADA Award for Emerging Architects.
Zein has been visiting the Indonesian island of Bali year after year since he became acquainted with its natural and cultural landscapes when he was young. This is part and parcel of his longstanding interest in the irresistible charm of nature.
In order to help us understand nature and to sharpen our “primitive senses,” “siu siu” does away with inessential design elements. Resembling a greenhouse, its internal space is covered by black shade cloth, which gives protection from the sun and keeps out mosquitoes. “As an ‘empty’ space, ‘siu siu’ is waiting to be filled by wisdom,” so Zein welcomes proposals for experimental uses of this “lab.” For Zein’s architectural firm, “siu siu” plays an archival role: “The records and insights we gain in the experimental process can be applied to our future designs.” This is in keeping with Zein’s belief that the study of design should be rooted in perceptions of nature.
The barriers between man and nature
Zein, who is always interested in exploring nature, speaks of the barriers between nature, humanity, and architecture. Contrary to our expectations, he says: “It is good to maintain boundaries.”
True to his belief in the need for barriers, Zein has created a circular walkway for the Forest BIG at CMP Village in Miaoli County. Covered with silver, translucent agricultural netting, and measuring some 300 meters long, the walkway is thinly isolated from the wild, but it provides a tranquil space where pedestrians may enjoy listening to birds and insects while relishing the subtle modulations of temperature in the air. The walkway derives its ritualistic allure from this tantalizingly fluid boundary between man and nature.
This year, Zein was selected to represent Taiwan at the Venice Biennale of Architecture (postponed until 2021 because of Covid-19). Harvesting the creative ideas he has been cultivating over the past few years, Zein has proposed a project entitled “Primitive Migration from/to Taiwan” in answer to the biennale’s theme of “How will we live together?” “My focus is on the modal verb ‘will,’ which suggests tentativeness, rather than demanding an inflexible answer. What will become of us?”
Zein has brought together ideas from several of his creative projects. In addition to “siu siu” and the Forest BIG, there are the environmental concerns embodied in his design for the “Lab of Primitive Perception,” which used pulverized white charcoal to build air-filtering walls in response to Beijing’s air pollution; there is the need for self-imposed silence, which inspired his work for Bali’s “Nature Monastery”; and there is his imagination of future dwellings, which gave birth to the “Semi-Ecosphere Glass House for Isolation and Meditation.” For this latter project, Zein collaborated with Spring Pool Glass, utilizing recycled glass and lightning energy to create a shelter for people in the future. Zein speaks eloquently of his idea of the world to come, which has informed his creative engagement with the issue of how we will live in nature.
“The relationship between nature and architecture can be psychological: it is epistemological, a process whereby you feel for the spirit that circulates through nature. Be it real or imagined, that spirit somehow exists,” Zein says. The boundaries between man and nature don’t have to be contrived. They can be natural.