2012年1月4日 星期三

A Critical and Innovative Engagement

A Critical and Innovative EngagementIn celebration of the 30th anniversary of founding for J.J. Pan and Partners
Shih-wei Lo

J.J. Pan and Partners has been held in great esteem in Taiwan for its mastering a holistic way in architectural practice. As what Professor J.J. Pan once said: “A successful piece of architecture should be a project that is innovative in design, satisfies the client and is executed flawlessly”, achieving a balanced and excellent performance in the process of design, service and delivery has become the firm’s common goal to pursue.

It evolves and keeps progressing along with the all-round growth experience in Taiwan---the urban and institutional expansion, the societal development to be wealthier, the strategic shift of economic strength from low-tech to high-tech industry…etc. The works done by the firm thus encompasses a broad range of building types, and demonstrates a concentrated effort in enlivening and enriching the environment and people.

The firm is also constituted by a sustainable team imbued with fresh vitality through a well arranged succession process. The teamwork thus proves a multi-valent mode of competitiveness and a keen design capacity, which may turn to an asset for the future.

Building the Innovative MilieuThe most widespread influence of J.J. Pan and Partners should be its active involvement in formulating the architecture of ‘innovative milieu’ in Taiwan. This innovative milieu has been structured by science and technology parks supported by government, campuses and schools, R & D facilities, hotels, libraries, congregating spaces and efficient transportation system. It forms a new life/work/communication prosperity sphere driven by innovative technologies and services. Centered at the north, middle and south of Taiwan, the agglomeration of those facilities has eventually formed an innovative corridor in the west of the Island, and contributes some two third of J.J. Pan and Partners’ projects commissioned. The high-tech enterprise for IT industry specially becomes the niche client for the firm.

This high-tech architecture, specifically of IT industry, requires highly precise design and delivery in achieving resistance of vibration, keeping absolute cleanness and meeting tight schedule for completion. The disciplined performance of the firm’s operation and its restrained design approach well meets the stringent and pragmatic demand of the just booming industry. However, J.J. Pan and Partners always further its design elaboration in shaping a friendly environment and making a humane appearance for every project it is responsible for.

Technology Building of Winbond Electronics Corp. (1999-1002)(Fig. 1), Media Tek Headquarters (2003-05)(p. ), and Lien Hwa Headquarters (2005-09)(p. ) are among the most brilliant IT building projects created through the mature composition of formal interplay. Roof terrace, atrium, axial relation, sunken plaza or garden, linked by corridor, bridge, arcade, are deliberately organized and result in distinguished characters respectively. For the other building types, Holistic Education Village at Chung-yuan Christian University (1997-2004)(Fig. 2), Fleur de Chine Hotel (2001-07)(p. ), and National Taichung Digital Library (2007-)(p. ) are also remarkable works among those co-structuring the innovative milieu corridor.

The effort paid for such leading clients by the firm over the past decades creates an innovative landscape par excellence. To some extent, this is a part of the global contribution made in Taiwan which shows not only value-added thinking but also an intention to upgrade the physical and cultural environment. This practice experience also extends to Mainland China and saw some extraordinary examples such as Kingland Mansion in Shanghai (2001-04)(Fig. 3) and ZyXEL R & D Campus in Wuxi (2002-04)(p. ).

Compositional Form Defining the New From the early period on, the firm has developed a distinctive formal strategy elaborating the compositional dualism of mass/void, solid/transparent, figure/ground, vertical/horizontal, square/round…etc. to bring forth a sense of urbanity to the project proper and its context. This specifically scales down the monolithic volume of the production space the IT fabrication demands. While the corporate complex comprises multiple functions, different forms of characters and sizes composed in plan and section are integrated into a vivid image of humanist touch.

From the 1990s on, the low-rise campus and schools in Taiwan thrived to go high-rise. J.J. Pan and Partners got some commissions for rebuilding or adding new tall construction on the existing campus. The compositional strategy is applied equally successfully to re-integrating the existing and possible relations on the sites to the new constructions and eventually re-formulates a surprisingly new wholeness or introduces a structural change into the existing surroundings.

Among those well done works, Founder’s Memorial Library at Chinese Culture University (1994-98) elaborately composed in horizontal and vertical accordance with the existing house in front of it (Fig. 4), the post-disaster reconstruction project for Nan Kai College (1999-2001) totally changing the original character of the campus with a new layout pattern (Fig. 5), and New buildings for Ginling Girl’s High School (2003-08) rendering an eye-catching figure/void composition may be deemed as the most distinctive cases (p. ).

The compositional strategy applied by J.J. Pan and Partners is mostly asymmetrical, subtly laid out, letting the void space flow lively or subverting the existing axial profile. As a consequence, while revealing an aggressive insight into the new yet unknown wholeness, something fresh and critical to the status quo is set free from the site.

Responsive Skin-layeringIf Library for Chung-yuan Christian University (1983-85, co-designed by Prof. Chiu Hwa Wang) is regarded as the first milestone work of the firm manifesting a figurative tripartite composition of top, body and base (Fig. 6), Da-sha Building of Chinese Culture University (1999-2001) plays a role of watershed displaying a screen layer on the façade of the existing building to integrate the new addition---a smart skin responsive to the media-active city milieu of downtown Taipei (Fig. 7).

The fluctuating glass curves applied to the façade of Quanta Display Inc. (1999-2001) well softens the huge volume of fabrication space behind (Fig. 8). The irregularly folding façade of the north sides of Neo Solar Power Office Building Complex (2007-09) is composed of trapezoid glass panels and compensates the boring trunk of production space in the back side (p. ). In both cases, the dramatic light skins of the buildings work as communicative layers conveying the innovative image for the high-tech enterprises.

The continuous and translucent curved glass screen hung on Research building for College of Medicine, Fu Jen University (2002-06)(p. ) deliberately unites the newly built and the existing buildings, and introduces an encompassed sense of closure to conclude the site with a much better fit to the existing auditorium of a round shape in plan.

Installing such false layering is technically similar to curtain wall, but it is essentially different from the mute curtain wall only tightly wrapping the box-building. As in the cases mentioned, the skin layering tells or performs. It tells something different (from the part behind it) or it performs an unexpected play. It is an extra layer and a cultural element as well.

Structure-Form and Monadic Envelope Gymnasium of Chinese Culture University (2000-05, co-designed by Prof. C.H. Wang)(p. ) can be seen as another milestone for the firm’s very recent works. Analogous to the IT complex of (large) manufacturing and (small) office function, it houses sport and classroom uses with the latter to form wings to comply with the surrounding campus and with the former a voluminous ellipsoidal body to stand out as a landmark in the mountains. The Gymnasium is the bold mixture of a tectonic and an expressionist approaches, and shows aggression and compliance at the same time. It leads to two trends of design practice from then on.

One is the structure-form. Scooter Garage for Chiao Tung University (2002-04) is a master piece of the sort (Fig. 9). Its folding concrete slabs work as both structural support and finished form, and ingeniously meets the parking function. For Stockholm Library Project (2006) double helix ramps are invented to interweave around an open funnel-like light well and comes out an intriguing antithesis to the adjacent library designed by G. Asplund which is well known of its spectacular round atrium inside (p. ). In the case of Huashan Cultural Creative Flagship Building (2010-), interlocked column-free floors and trussed floors exhibit a straight-forward expression of form and structure (p. ).

The other trend goes toward the monadic envelope. Chapel of Suan-lien Center for the Elderly (2005-09), Taoyuan International Airport Access MRT Station (2006-), HTC R & D Project (2009) and Taichung Library (2007-) are remarkable projects of this category (pp. ). They demonstrate completed marks or public nodes with singular form and cutting edge material. Not just an up-to-date digital style follower, the firm implies with this approach a transcendence from the functional problem-solving to the imageneering maneuver addressing the new civic and public concern.

To be confronted with the current situation of Taiwan stepping into the ‘developed’ status, both the tectonic and the expressionist practices seem to provide a new societal imagination for the general public. This mission is surely affordable for the firm which is always committed itself to the fundamental and radical.

Design-oriented with Critical CapacityWith its sustaining endeavor, J.J. Pan and Partners have already developed a very convincing design discourse over the past thirty years. Employing Habermas’ concept, the firm’s main contribution is having helped to formulate the very shift of the world ruled by instrumental rationality to the one by communicative concern during the rushing time in Taiwan. The formal strategies it has applied to the various kinds of projects may tell a discourse with its key concern on ‘culture’. To make the high-tech fabrication shed more friendly, to communicate with the public by attached layers and to explore the tectonic and expressionist possibilities for a new civic vision contribute mostly to build up a critical sense of culture for here and now.

The critical strength revealed in these works comes from an always sharp apprehension to keep re-structuring a new wholeness unseen before the firm’s intervention. This strength is so sound because of the practice is fundamentally based on a holistic care for the architecture as a social and cultural engagement. For J.J. Pan and Partners, a mixture of Christian spirit of providence and Confucian pursuit for ultimate goodness guarantees indeed a commitment for a critical and innovative architecture.