Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Winy Maas' 2-hr presentation last night was pretty fascinating. He went thru. their book KM3 which I've been longing to read. He started with their study of density due to the fast economic growth globally, the urge of reducing building footprints on earch. Inspired by sci-fi movies, his solution is to extend space up in the air, to develop a "skycar city". He doesn't show much theorectical interest in architecture, rather, it is an exhilarating exploration of new possibilities in architectural space, in our lifestyle, in the future city. Then he talked about techniques they used in each project. They are really simple design techniques, such as bend, hang, extrude...What I appreciate is the process diagrams based on the program, client's need, site limitation, the transformation from a regular box/tower into a unfamiliar space that offers MORE to people and to the city. My favorite projects include Busan Cinema Complex, Liuzhou housing development, Mirador residential building. It is also amazing that most of their imaginative designs got or are getting built!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Breathing Wall v.s. Breathing Skin

SCI-Arc Gallery is hosting an interesting installation Breathing Wall, by a French architectural firm Jakob + MacFarlane.
The project is a fragment of a "theoretical building" with no conventional openings like windows and doors; instead, it has temporary openings that open and close only momentarily to let in air, people and light, and then disappear. (

This Breathing Wall reminds me of the Breathing Skin of all amphibians. Their skins are so permeable and sensitive, that gases and water can simply go through. Perhaps in the future, buildings will obtain this sensitiveness as an organic object, transforming its shape, light, color and view according to the inhabitants' needs.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Architecture is LIFE

I attended the Architecture Interruptus symposium at Wexner Center for the Arts today. It is a discussion on the church in Firminy which was originally designed by Le Corbusier (a few years before his death) and completed by his apprentice Jose Oubrerie (a distinguished OSU arch prof.). The church was finally built and opened to public in 2006.

The lectures and discussions by invited speakers were very interesting and enlightening, esp. thanks to Jeff Kipnis' brilliance and sense of humor. There is also a comprehensive exhibition of the process sketches and construction drawings from both Le Corbusier and Jose Oubrerie. Le Corbusier's original idea is absolutely genius. But if you look at all the details done by Jose Oubrerie: each detail was a creative problem solving. Who can say that is not design? A nice model was also built for this event by NBBJ model shop.

When Jose Oubrerie was asked to make a speech, he almost lost words. He said somethig like this: If I hadn't had the experience to work with Le Corbusier, I couldn't have finished the church...He started choking when halfway through the sentence and then couldn't help crying. At that moment, my eyes were immersed with tears. Everybody stood up and started applauding. I was so touched 'cause the completion of a building means so much to an architect - that's the completion of a BELIEF, the completion of LIFE. One building may take an architect's majority of his lifetime. On the one hand, doing architecture is so time-consuming and difficult; on the other hand, the finished building is a huge reward to the architect, perhaps the most powerful artwork among all art forms. Now I don't think there is a reason I will stop doing architecture. I would like to do all kinds of design without giving up architecture. Architecture is still the art form that touches me so deeply in the heart.

Before leaving Wexner Center, my friends and I all got the book Architecture Interruptus as well as Jose Oubrerie's autograph. He is already in his 70s, a very friendly and modest man. He asked for everybody's name when signing the book. I wish I were one of his students, and I will remeber today!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Kastrup Søbad Bathing Platform

I happened to see this project when browing ERCO lighting book. It is the new bathing platform on the beach of the Copenhagen suburb of Kastrup, designed by White Arkitekter A/S. I'm impressed that such a simple and elegant composition fits into the site so well and how an effective role lighting plays here to create a jewel on the sea.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Long Take

I watched Hitchcock's Rope (1948) recently. It is famous for its long take in film history. I cited it when doing my thesis on Playtime. Now I feel more eligible talking about it. Rope is constituted by only 8 shots, each running the full length of a reel of film. Without the limit of film length at that time, it could have used one continuous shot, like Russian Ark (2002) with one 96-min take unedited.

The way Hitchcock connects the shots almost seamlessly is that: he ended each shot by showing the back of a person or zooming into an object. Then he started the next one by shooting the same position. The whole story happens in one apartment. So there is only one scene, one shot (theoretically). But it never gets boring. As a skillful story-teller, Hitchcock successfully creates the tension throughout the film.

Long take is the opposite of Eisenstein's montage. By doing montage, film establishes rhythm, tension, metaphor through the juxtaposition of images and sound. Like words in literature, colors and lines in painting, montage (the composition of image and sound) is the reconstruction of time and space, thus the essential in filmmaking. In this sense, long take is anti-filmmaking since it tells the story in real-time. At the same time, it is a more difficult means in filmmaking 'cause it avoids editing, the natural skill to make a film film-like. Doing long take requires the filmmaker's ability to oversee the whole picture, like doing urban-planning. Unlike architects who can revise design and add details in later process, the filmmaker has no opportunity to prettify his work during post-production in such case.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Building Speeding

A co-worker emailed me the photos of the newly-opened Baiyun Convention Center in Guangzhou. Believe or not, this 3-million S.F. building complex was done 16 months after the competition winner ( BUROII from Belgium) was selected. It may break a Guinness World Record! Just imagine the amount of work behind the completion: the tremendous collaboration and coordination among multiple firms.
In spite of the bleeding schedule, the team didn't go for the conventional construction technology. To create the rough texture requested by the designer, a new exterior wall system was invented. It utilized a special red stone related to the rocks in the region. It is said that 10,000 different sizes of stone were used.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Multi-touch Screen

Watch this video of the amazing the multi-touch screen demonstrated by Jeff Han -
What is in the movie Minority Report will soon come true in our daily life!

FLIX - SUV Movie Theatre

Suzuki just unveiled its movie-threatre-themed concept SUV called Flix. As it is described: Flix is outfitted with an unprecedented in-vehicle movie system. After parking at the optimal film-viewing destination, Flix's clamshell roof can be opened, revealing a maximum-size moonroof that serves as a 40-inch movie screen. Additionally, the XL7 concept's front roof panel vents, giving way to a high-density digital projection system to display a family's movie of choice. For those who prefer the traditional drive-in movie experience, Flix's projection system can be positioned to display movies nearly anywhere – the side of a building, a billboard or almost any wall. (more info)

This great concept offers people the highest mobility and flexibility to experience a movie. Reminds me of the film Cinema Paradiso where Alfredo projects the movie onto an building facade for everyone in the square to see. It would be cool if those seats can be elevated above the car, so that people also have the choice of watching a movie totally inside a spectacular natural environment such as a mountain top.

Friday, January 19, 2007

CINEMA OF SPIRITUALITY - Quotation from Tarkovsky's Sculpting In Time (1)

It is not surprising that Ingmar Bergman considered Andrei Tarkovsky the best filmmaker. As he noted -

My discovery of Tarkovsky's first film was like a miracle. Suddenly, I found myself standing at the door of a room the keys of which had, until then, never been given to me. It was a room I had always wanted to enter and where he was moving freely and fully at ease. I felt encouraged and stimulated: someone was expressing what I had always wanted to say without knowing how. Tarkovsky is for me the greatest, the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream.

Reading Tarkovsky's Sculpting In Time brings me so close to his world: his vision and exploration of human nature, his own way of interpreting man's spiritual world on the screen, the development of his thinking and approach in cinema through time...Just want to include some of his writing here as I read along -

I was not interested in the development of the plot, in the chain of events- with each film I feel less and less need for them. I have always been interested in a person’s inner world, and for me it was far more natural to make a journey into the psychology that informed the hero’s attitude to life, into the literary and cultural traditions that are the foundation of his spiritual world. I am well aware that from a commercial point of view it would be far more advantageous to move from place to place, to introduce shots from one ingenious angle after another, to use exotic landscapes and impressive interiors. But for what I am essentially trying to do, outward effects simply distance and blur the goal which I am pursuing. I am interested in man, for he contains a universe within himself; and in order to find expression for the idea, for the meaning of human life, there is no need to spread behind it, as it were, a canvas crowded with happenings.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Cypress Garden

One of the stunning places I found in Charleston is the Middleton Place (much better than Magnolia Plantation). Inside Middleton, my favorite place is the Cypress Garden: a swamp with cypresses scattered. The straight and still bodies of the cypresses are softened by water. At the same time, the bodies get doubled through the reflection. It creates a perfect setting for contemplation as you slowly walk around or stand still gazing.

An immediate association was the architecture in the water in Andrei Tarkovsky’s Nostalgia: the flooded basement of a ruined building, and the flooded interior by the rain. I asked myself why I’m so fascinated with the fusion of water and land? In Maya Deren’s At Land, water is the source for thought. In Nostalgia, the protagonist walks across the pool with a candle in hand as a means to prove his belief. Water is also connected with time – its invasiveness, reflection/double image, stillness/motion.

Tarkovsky’s film depicts the naked, weathered architecture free of any decoration; while cypresses in winter are deprived of any color – it is not about being swallowed by water, by time, but rather implying the transcending of time and life - something instinctive, powerful, and timeless.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth

My studio showed the movie An Inconvenient Truth which I’d been longing to see. I think EVERYBODY should watch this movie. It is a well-made documentary: enlightening, funny, ironic and touching. It is a heartfelt lecture given by Al Core on global warming based on science. Maybe most of the facts revealed in the movie are not unfamiliar to many people, but what moves me most is seeing why he is so devoted to environmental protection from his own life experience and how he found out these facts through his own travel, research and participation.
Like he said, global warming is ultimately a MORAL issue rather than a political issue. He is never tired of giving this slide show around the world. He is doing it country by country, family by family, person by person, since he is a BELIEVER. As an individual, we really should think about what we can do in our daily routine to stop global warming!

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Inspiration from BATHROOM

Saw this interesting design at MoCoLoco -
David Olschewski's Bathroom, "A seating group evinces a puzzling character that invites the viewer to experience it sensually and reflect on its origins. The forms are based on a Plexiglas bathtub and shower tray ensemble. The bathtub has been divided into three objects, with nothing lost in the process. All four pieces are set on stainless steel legs. The focus is on the alienation of bathroom furnishings from their customary surroundings and function."

This Bathroom idea reminds me of a scene in Luis Buñuel's materpiece The Phantom of Liberty, where public space/living room and private space/bathroom are reversed: people sit on toilets around a table chatting with each other, while one enters a tiny private room to get food thru. a small elevator. I enjoy this smart sense of humor which exists in the alienation and defamiliarization of our everyday living space.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

greeting from India!

I got this new year card from Sandhya and Jay, an Indian couple who worked at NBBJ before. What a pleasant surprise to see the gorgeous Indian Bandhani! Have to go there someday!


SCAD, Savannah College of Art & Design, was a place I had been longing to see. I was admitted by the school 7 yrs ago, but I chose to go to PSU. SCAD seems to be the only college in Savannah. It doesn't have its own campus. All the buildings are scattered in the city. Downtown Savannah is a pedestrian city par excellence. After walking a few blocks, you’ll find a SCAD building.

At the end, you realize they do have a campus – the city itself is their campus, a campus merged with the beautiful trees, the river, the stylish buildings, the lovely paving patterns and materials, the art galleries….a campus for strolling and contemplation, a campus where history, art, architecture and nature are in perfect harmony.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Foreground v.s. Background

In Charleston, architecture always catches your eye. Each street or alley displays a collage of styles: Georgian, Federal, Gothic and Greek Revival, Queen Anne… Architecture is the foreground, while trees step back as the background.

In Hilton Head Island, trees are everywhere and extremely lush. On the streets, all buildings, no matter public or residential, are grey-colored and hidden behind the trees. Thus, architecture becomes the background, while nature is on the stage. The huge live oaks often form an archway – in a sense, trees become the ‘architecture’.

In Savannah, architecture reminds you of Charleston, and trees remind you of Hilton Head Island. It is a city of squares where the surrounding architecture gets blurred by the lush trees in the middle. It is a merge of foreground and background.

Vida Unique Design

I got this cute Vida butt station from a art store in Savannah. Can't resist its sense of humor :) I went to Iconic Shop's website and found a lot more cool designs. They describe their Vida series as follows -

Naive & innocence, direct & mischievous, simple & indigenously you find some of these traits present in yourself, in people around you or rather, in somebody you have long been seeking for? Here we try to demonstrate these personalities in a small lovely character at different postures on various items of desktop accessories. We hope you would giggle, find yourself inspired or have some reflection of life discovered while fiddling with any of these items.

Yup, I'm giggling at my butt station right now :)

Bubba-Gump Shrimp Co.

Finally tried Bubba-Gump Shrimp Co. in Charleston. Last year we saw the restaurant in Maui, but it was too crowded. Yes, Bubba-Gump came from the movie Forrest Gump. You can find themes of the movie everywhere in the restaurant, from the movie photos hanging on the wall, to the ping-pong peddle shaped menu (Forrest Gump plays ping pong in the movie). The most interesting invention is the two iron plate signs on the table for you to switch: if you are doing OK, just leave the blue sign saying “RUN, FORREST RUN”; if you need service, switch to the red one saying “STOP, FORREST STOP”. It is said to be the first restaurant inspired by a movie. I found it hard to believe since the idea of a movie theme restaurant is not a hard one. Perhaps from the commercial point of view, it has to be a ‘successful’ Hollywood movie in order to take place in the market or global market.

Fascinated with Hitchcock’s movie Vertigo, my trip to San Francisco was actually a movie tour of most scene locations in the film. It turned out fantastic since the tour covered most charming places in the city, also adding a romantic and mysterious atmosphere. New York, as a dream city, has more potential to offer such movie tours. The Celluloid Skyline by James Sanders explores the dream dimension of New York through a good number of movies. He depicts two New Yorks in his book: The first is a real city, an urban agglomeration of millions. The second is a mythic city, so rich in memory and association and sense of place that to people everywhere it has come to seem real: the New York of such films such as 42nd Street, Rear Window, King Kong, Dead End, The Naked City, Ghostbusters, Annie Hall, Taxi Driver, and Do the Right Thing. A dream city of the imagination, born of that most pervasive of dream media, the movies.

There is already the Sex and the City tour featuring those high-end stores and fancy restaurants in New York. While it is about spending money to imitate the lifestyle pursued in the show, a fetishized materialism at bottom. Woody Allen's Manhattan presents the very charm of New York in a most subtle and complex way, the hybrid personality of New York: the romantic, the humorous, the sensual, the melancholy… A tour of Manhattan would be a more spiritually pleasant one for me.