With the belief that architecture is a structure-generated space, the structure must be able to produce or shape every kind of space –including abstract spaces – the design was generated by rethinking structural solutions to reshaping and perceiving abstract nature.
What is the nature of nature? Inspired by Kenneth L. Patton and the drawing from Gerhard Richter, the perception of nature is ultimately human’s self-projection, it is we who project our own needs and emotions onto nature and then read those needs and emotions back again. The human reinvention of nature is fundamentally the reconstruction of human’s emotion and perception.
The site is in Concepción, Chile. A very unstable place which is both beautiful and dangerous. When building a space on the site, the sense of security that human always seeking for will surely lead to a confrontation and isolation from nature. The extraction and reproduction of the context pattern could become the medium to concatenate antagonistic relations. The structure as a human interpretation thus becomes the bone of bridge to balance the contradiction and the true-expression of the site. Thus the dialogue between human and nature, steady and dynamic, separated and tangled appear through the field of tectonic composition, while its’ combining logic come from the extracted site pattern, ascriticality.
Consider the site condition, a seesaw-like structure was designed to be an interaction pavilion. Besides its’ subtle and critical structure, it could response four possible variations to nature. Each variation mode changes the touching point to the land thus the sediments will be generated differently. Through years of interaction, this pavilion will merge into nature and becomes a neutral element which you will perceive it is neither artificial nor natural.
There is no space in this pavilion, it is a field of criticality, a POST-NATURE.
What prompted the project?
The project was prompted by the understanding of the notion of “Structuralism.” From the structuralism-oriented perception point of view, nature context could be seen as an interactive pattern – a field which was composed by a particular relationship or order of the natural elements. This project is trying to use the most ontological part of Architecture – Structure to extend this filed into architecture to eliminate the barrier between interior and exterior, artificial and nature.
What informed the choice of Concepcion in Chile as site? Could you expand a bit more on the very reasons which make this site both beautiful and dangerous?
Concepcion is a site that congests multiple kinds of unstable and uncertainty. It’s a place that mixes the issue of flooding, tsunami, landslide, fire, and urban expansion. There is infinite energy stored in the site waiting to explode. These issues made the edge condition between the land and water are changing all the time dramatically. Besides its’ natural landscape, this variation-generated critical and entangled feeling is also the chaotic beauty of the site.
How did the works of Richter and Patton influence and define the project?
As for the structure of nature. The unimaginable complexity of nature is impossible to imitate or reproduce, the so-called simulation is only a simplification for part of the natural “component” or “relationship” from people’s subjective perspective. In another word, our subjective impression of nature is directly derived from the perception of nature.
Similarly, Gerhard Richter describes his own way of painting as “Another way of making photographs, instead of making pictures like photographs”. Therefore, he felt that the most important thing was not that his paintings were similar to the photographs, but that the photographic features were transferred to his paintings. He used his own way to express these features and it results in a painting which is in-between the reality and abstraction. Because of this neutrality, the perception of his painting has even become an augmented reality. Just like what Patton said, presuming the simulation of nature is ultimately human’s self-projection, it is we who project our own needs and emotions onto nature and then read those needs and emotions back again. The human reinvention of nature is fundamentally the reconstruction of human’s emotion and perception.
From these perspectives, the nature of nature we have been perceived could be simply understood as an abstract machine which you could input your emotion and get an augmented or transformed feedback, and the system of this abstract machine could be equally understood as the perceived structure of nature. In this project, the design of the structural relations in the pavilion is correspondingly the design of this abstract machine.
What tools did you use in the development and articulation of the latter?
Structural design. The structural design in this project is not just mechanical support of the building, but also the key to working as a potential commonality through the perception of both nature and architecture. The process on the design of structure is the process of making continuously structural deformation based on the site condition. All the relational tectonic thinking around form, weight, and joints is the perception mediator of meaning between the expression of the exterior natural context and interior structural image.
What defined the materiality of the pavilion? How does this sit in relationship to the immediate natural context?
The pavilion was chosen to be executed as an integrated red concrete shell. Concrete is a neutral material but the reddish color could stimulate and augmented people’s perception on the subtle joints and critical connections. Beside these exaggerated structural expressions. The subtle calculated structure could also give the pavilion four modes of possible variation responding to the site condition changes. Both sediments from sea tide and inland flooding will make the pavilion tilt forward from the initial steady state. It will then tilt towards the direction where the sediments generated. After the flooding season, when the sediment dried and washed by the rain, it will go back to the initial state. Through different variation, the supporting edges of the pavilion are keeping changing from touching or suspending from the ground. While the structure is the soul to make this happen.
How do you approach the notion of architecture in relationship to our surrounding environment and nature?
This project is an exploration built on the hypothesis that structural relations could be a perceptual medium that contains the context order and meaning. As the inspiration from Gerhard Richter and Patton. When we are designing a contextual architecture in nature, we are basically designing the structure of an abstract machine which we could perceive it as nature. This architecture could be understood as a small-scaled physical recurring of the natural structure. By recurring the natural composition logic in the building, we can create a subtle balance in the relationship between new space and context, it will be both “stable” and be the continuation of the unstable original context, as a deeper connection.
What measures should we as architects take in relation to the ever-growing conversation on climate change?
Just as the designer of the keyboard. You will never know what people will type from the keyboard. But the design of keyboard “stored” every letter for the future possible typing.
As an architect, we should design architecture as a responsive pattern that has “stored” the responsive “variations” to the possible climate change, just like the load pre-stressing on the structure to prepare for future loads. Not only the climate but the design of architecture should also open to more possibilities and always prepare for future changes.
Could you expand on the term of post nature?
Post-nature is more like an attitude or manifesto on how we understand nature. In a structuralism vision, everything could be understood as a “Structure” composed by a series of relationship. Especially under this digital world, this relational understanding of nature or context could bring more possibilities to artificial intervention or simulation. If we understand the context as a series of relations composed by data or geometry, by raising the complexity, there will be very less difference in the perception from natural relation to artificial relation. On the field point of view, they are the same thing. Therefore, the Post-nature refers to an image that results in nor artificial nor natural, but a continues perceptively similar field.
What is for you the architects most important tool?
Structural design. I think the structure is the bone and ontology of architecture, it expresses architecture’s intrinsic beauty. By understanding and using the relational structure design as a clue, it could implement architecture from theory to practice and achieve a subtle balance between abstraction and concreteness, making structure design go beyond the mechanical calculation and becomes a new ornament.