Geographic initiation starts here

By Dimitri Bruyas, The China Post

“The Venice Biennale 13th International Architecture Exhibition” recently opened in the City of Water, providing a distinctive platform for cultural exchanges on which Taiwan, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea, Hong Kong and China can display a distinctive range of architectural principles and aesthetics.

In a time of global anxiety, this year’s international event, which runs in Venice from now until Nov. 25, is putting more emphasis on continuity, context and memory. By shifting away from “starchitecture” toward something quieter, more collaborative and utopian, David Chipperfield, the Biennale director, enables us to identify the lack of understanding that exists between the profession and society. For this 13th edition, Chipperfield encouraged architects to demonstrate the importance of influence and of the continuity of cultural endeavors, as well as to illustrate common ground and shared ideas that form the basis of architectural culture. A piece of advice that Asian architects followed to the letter. Le Foyer de Taiwan With this in mind, Liu Ke-Feng (劉克峰), curator of Taiwan Pavilion, as well as team members Liao Wei-Li (廖偉立), Michael Lin (林友寒) and Liao Ming-Bin (廖明彬) designed “Architect / Geographer — Le Foyer de Taiwan” (地理啟蒙) with the aim of developing an architectural aesthetic appropriate to Taiwan’s geographic reality. Liu and his team have responded ingeniously to the limitation of not being permitted to drive a single anchor into the historical building. As you walk over the plateaued topography of “Architect / Geographer — Le Foyer de Taiwan,” one feels the subtle bounce of corrugated boards and is reminded of the winding, bumpy ride up the Bagua Mountain Range (八卦山脈). By layering the corrugated boards to mimic the variety of native Taiwanese landscapes, architect Liao Ming-Bin explained that “Le Foyer de Taiwan” eventually creates a path that leads visitors on a two-step journey across the island. The mini voyage opens with “Le Foyer Perdu” (失憶的家), the first section of the Taiwan pavilion designed by Michael Lin, which features a typical Taiwanese dwelling with an invisible line cutting across at eye level. This horizontal mark puts into perspective the apartment — a symbol of modernization and Westernization — with the cold interior of a model of imperialism, the Palazzo delle Prigioni, while causing a sense of disorientation among visitors who are invited to reflect upon the predicament of being caught between two cultures. In reaction to the invisible force of globalization that invades all and spares none, Lin then guides your vision into various angles with the help of white plastic ropes that connect the top and bottom levels of “Le Foyer Perdu” into a type of architecture that is more inclusive. In the continuity of the first section, “The Foyer of Taiwan” (台灣地理巡禮) brings you to a more open space with curved lines that follow the topography of Taiwan through photographs and models of architect Liao Wei-Li’s works. At every 30 cm for 100 m, the strata of the fiberboards not only represent the altitudes in Taiwan, but also guide the visitors in their expedition “to find peace and self-fulfillment in our contemporary society.”