Adaptivity of architecture
T: City is something that changes and grows. Cities become inevitably dysfunctional and need maintenance, otherwise they will decade or die off. We assume that cities are only about thriving and growth, but actually it is more about decade, declining and abandon of the cities and the history and memories of them. We like to believe that buildings are permanent, totally functional and save, however this might be one of the biggest lies that have been told in architecture schools, that form doesn’t follow function. Buildings are inevitably just functional, but might fit their purpose for their design and change their uses. This is a wonderful fact of architecture. Yet planning culture might not be something we can do.
A: Talking about the West Kowloon Cultural District, that demonstration as the failure of time and culture as the problem from a very topdown basis.
CR: There is a contradiction on architects’ fascination about culture and the unclearness of it. Culture changes and it’s difficult to predict where the inspiration comes from and what new media will be coming. A top down decision like creating a cultural district as hardware is denying and intimacy with the software for culture to take root. The idea of cultural district is by zooming out in a classical modern city, any successful case should take significant amount of time as culture grows slowly and build upon itself. Architect’s role in the top down development in existing urban fabric
A: Within an economic model, architect’s role is very small in terms of decision making.
M: Yet we should not see ourselves as individual, but a group of people, no matter professionals or not, seeing the problems with the planning system and educate themselves to engage that political process and try to make a difference. For example of the Marine Police Headquarters and compared it with the case of downtown Guangzhou, where the former is kept while later is completely torn down with no people left. My objection to a lot of these projects is about the fabric. I liked the not very organized but lively fabric of Guangzhou, and was pity for the community that was destroyed. Thought I am not from Hong Kong, there are always someone who lived here wanting to participate in the decision making. Balance of city ambition with human scale and social needs
A: We should not see ourselves as an author of a design, but a facilitator or creator for
certain collective opinion and action. We have to empower ourselves before bringing in other values. The single intention of generating profits in any economic activities excludes many other values and is problematic. An architect is the right person to take lead in such kind of transformation if he can bring in the values in such formal process.
T: If you as architectural students still believe we can change the world. There should be a strong discipline to resist the economic power, and that architects have something to offer to the clients and the society as a profession. There are words quoted from Frank Gehry “if you hire an architect, why don’t you hire him to design the building? Why would you tell him what to do?” There are contradictions between the historical material heritage and financial means of the society and of the future. I have done couples of interviews with some mainland academic scholars, and I am fascinated about the negotiation under the accusation of being nostalgic, the failure of seeing the meaning of housing to people and that preserving everything will end up gentrifying the older parts of city. Hong Kong has its uniqueness of limited geography to house many people. There should be a balance for a city to adapt to become heterogeneous to absorb the material heritage while not pickling itself. He thought this is a phenomenon of ...
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