The exhibition "Taiwan Acts!" is about a particular aspect of the current building culture in Taiwan, which promotes socially engaged architectural projects of humble origins. These new approaches that have developed independently of large-scale projects by international architects are to date little known abroad.
Since the devastating Jiji earthquake in September 1999, a number of architectural initiatives that focus on the social role of building to strengthen the equality and sustainability of living conditions have emerged in Taiwan, and continue to do so. These include measures to improve urban structures, but also cultural buildings and housing in many places on the island. Projects by architects such as Ying-Chun Hsieh and Atelier-3, Fieldoffice Architects and Sheng-Yuan Huang, Chen-Yu Chiu with Studio Cho, will be presented alongside such projects as the urban renewal of Hsinchu City and community planning projects in Keelung City.
Altogether, more than 100 projects have been selected for the exhibition, and categorized in 5 themes according to their localities and the approaches they demonstrate. Although they vary in scale and contexts, they form a collection that illustrates how architects, in cooperation with communities, are responding to the challenges and constraints of their respective social, economic, political and cultural conditions through design, architecture and urbanism. Whether initiated by professionals in a top-down approach or by non-professionals through grassroots movements, the projects testify to the practitioners close engagement with subjects relevant to the society they care about so passionately. Their shared ambition is to advance justice in a society experiencing increased division between the haves and the have-nots.
Curated by Dr. Chen-Yu Chiu (Bilkent University, Turkey) with Professor Chun-Hsiung Wang (Shih-Chien University, Taiwan), the exhibition Taiwan Acts! is the first comprehensive presentation of this topic. It will be presented with a large variety of photographs, video materials, interviews and models. A comprehensive catalog by the Alliance for Architectural Modernity, Taiwan with accompanying essays by Chen-Yu Chiu, Chun-Hsiung Wang, Ya-Jun Jiang, Sheng-Fong Lin, Chang-Chih Hsu and Juhani Pallasmaa will be published by ArchiTangle Publishers (https://architangle.com/books) in summer 2021. A free information brochure about the various projects presented will also be published for exhibition visitors. An accompanying program with guided tours is currently being planned.
The five main themes of the exhibition are as follows:
1. Making Places in Yilan:
The architect Sheng-Yuan Huang began establishing his career in 1994 in Yilan, a town located at the northeastern corner of Taiwan. He has worked and lived together with his team at Fieldoffice Architects, and together, they have played multiple roles as the initiators, mediators, designers and users of various public projects of different scales in the town. With financial support from the Central Government and the endorsement of their local communities, they have been focused their work on revitalizing the historical city center of Yilan. The main purpose of their work there is to heal the collective memory and imagination and restore the identity of its residents.
2. Developing Local Communities:
Ten community development projects are presented under this theme, including Nou-li Community, Kids' Bookhouse, Maple Community, Taumi Eco-Village, Zhushan Town, Sin Hua Old Street, Yiwu Community, Kasing Slate Slab Houses, Nanjichang (South Airport Community), and Community Planning in Keelung. Each project is the result of community members coming together to take collective action and solve common problems through design, architecture and urbanism. The cross-disciplinary efforts from civic leaders, activists, involved citizens, and professionals are aimed at improving various aspects of community conditions, while reflecting their distinct locality, identities and cultures, in both urban or rural settings. The projects illuminate the substantive role of architecture in promoting participative democracy, sustainable development, human rights, economic opportunity, equality and social justice, as well as social empowerment.
3. Constructing Autonomy of Architecture
This theme presents the very unique approaches to architectural creation of eight firms, including BMT Architects, D.Z. Architects & Associates, Divooe Zein Architects, HARMONIOUS Architects & Planners, ECG International Landscape consultants, Atelier Or, Behet Bondzio Lin Architects, and EHS ArchiLab. These projects show, on the one hand, the architects attempts to confront the dominant, conservative architectural practices in Taiwan, and on the other, their efforts to address specific social and environmental problems. The architects find solutions by insisting on upholding social ideals, which manifests in their radical approaches to design and construction.
4. Building for World Citizens
In the past 20 years, a few architects from Taiwan have devoted their life and work to the field of humanitarian architecture generally, and in particular, to post-disaster housing reconstruction. One of the most notable of them is the architect Ying-Chun Hsieh, who, together with his affiliates at Atelier-3, has completed more than 4,000 houses in post-disaster zones across Southeast Asia over the past twenty years. Also an important figure in this scene is Guo-Chou Chen, who, since 2012, has built several schools and houses in rural areas of Cambodia, together with his students from the Department of Architecture at Shih Chien University. Responding to the Syrian refugee crisis in Turkey, Chen-Yu Chiu and his team at Studio Cho are another example, having designed, constructed and managed the Taiwan-Reyhanli Centre for World Citizens in the far-away town of Reyhanli on the border of Turkey and war-torn Syria.
5. Regenerating Hsinchu City
Hsinchu is a windy coastal city with the youngest population in Taiwan. With half a million inhabitants over an area of nearly 100 km2, it is a small city by Taiwanese standards. Like most such small cities, Hsinchu had suffered from low-quality public projects, poor maintenance of public spaces, and a lack of pedestrian-friendly environments. Since 2014, the then newly elected Mayor Chih-Chien Lin and his team have commissioned a series of public projects to transform and regenerate the deteriorated cityscape.
This exhibition was developed in close cooperation with the Architecture Museum of the TUM, and made possible through the generous support of numerous partners, sponsors and supporters, including legislator Szu-Yao Wu at Legislative Yuan; the Alliance for Architectural Modernity, Architecture and Tectonics; Bilkent University; Chung Yuan Christian University; Feng Chia University; Fuguach Architecture; Golden Mile Construction; Hsinchu Chulien Market; Hsinchu City Government; Keelung City Government; Pauian Archiland; Taiwan Public Television Service; Shih Chien University; SHOULD; Spatial Native Language Foundation of Arts and Culture; Swan Development; the General Association of Chinese Culture; the Ministry of Culture (Taiwan); the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Taiwan); the Real Estate Development Association of Hsinchu; United Daily News; ViewSonic; Winsing Arts Foundation and Wistron Foundation.