Tangible Companions is a project to develop contemporary companions for a number of old artifacts that Whampoa residents have fond memories of. From January to April 2017, high school students will draw from the interviews and images curated from the Tangible Stories project to develop their proposals. By describing the outcome as a companion, the project aims to encourage a multi-scalar and an interdisciplinary inquiry grounded on an empathic creative response to the artifact’s history, qualities as well as its affective relationship with the owner. The project is conceived by Thomas Kong and led by faculty members David Gan and Vincent Leow from the Department of Visual Arts at the School of the Arts, Singapore (SOTA).
Exhibition of Completed Works at The School of the Arts. Singapore. All photos courtesy of SOTA.
I was a mentor to a group of high school art students for over 5 days. Working collaboratively on a theme set by Singapore's Ministry of Education, the students developed spatial propositions via models and drawings. A showcase of the works was held on the last day.
The energy and enthusiasm was infectious. The works carried a spirit of shear audacity that defied my expectations. What to make of a web of bridges that dared to confront our discriminating mind? Who wouldn't want to be in a place of peace and tranquility amidst a sea of noise and distraction? Or be thrown into a reality gameshow that do not simplify our desire for and repulsion of digital connection? And not to forget a tower that fostered sociability over coffee, gardening and a good book. Countless ideas and possibilities to keep us curious, engaged and inspired!
Mies’s Loop Post Office in Chicago provides an exemplary building for the study of skins in architecture. The building’s large steel beams painted matte black are separated from the non-load bearing exterior walls, which are full height glass and stretch along four sides of the building. The walls are only broken up only by the steel I-beam mullions. The glass façade reduces the perception of weight while accentuating the building’s transparency. Its materiality alludes to the thin, light and diaphanous qualities that one would associate with skins. The separation of the load-bearing structure and the non-load bearing enclosure has afforded enormous freedom for the exploration of architectural space in the 20th century. The building skin, on the other hand, becomes a surface opened to investigations through the various strategies of material, perception and programmatic thickenings. The opportunity for discovery is vast.
Lina. Inside Mies's Mind.
Tyler. Transportable Skins.
Rebekah. The Ghost of Mies.
Alex. Mies and Movements.
Melis. Trangressing Mies.
Suzie. Sensing and Learning Mies.
Jordanna. The Four Modernisms.
Olive. Transcribing Transparency.
Molly. Capturing Corners.
Dana. Mies and the Weathering in Time.
Lauren. aMediated Nature.
Learning from Shenzhen: The City as a Studio, was conceived and led by Thomas Kong. It formed part of a series of studios organized by the Aformal Academy during the 2015 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism and Architecture. In this 5-day studio, participants were involved in a number of micro, on-site investigations centered on the interplay of everyday life, urbanization and globalization in China’s first Special Economic Zone.
Everyone waits. Despite the fast pace and busy life of Shenzhen's residents, waiting is one common social phenomenon that binds everyone in the city while the cellphone is the indispensable electronic companion to alleviate the boredom of waiting. What do we actually do with our cellphones when we wait? What are we waiting for in the first place? These seemingly naive questions formed the basis of Lai Sihan and Gongyu's work.
The love hate relationship between Shenzhen students and their school uniforms was the focus of Xia Weiyi's work. As the city continuously erases and rebuilds at an incredible pace, the ubiquitous school uniform that Shenzhen students wear daily becomes an identity anchor for many. However, it is not just a passive acceptance of the uniform attire by the students. As Weiyi's work showed, the relationship is one of creative improvisation, and negotiation with personal identity, memory and authority.
Shenzhen's economic development has brought transformational change to the lives of the residents. The urban village of Baishizhou exemplifies the mix of hope, ambition, opportunity and squalor that comes with the city's relentless push for urban and economic growth. Inspired by their work in Baishizhou, Deng Yinjie and Huang Jiangshen set up an installation that solicited from the visitors to the studio their ideas of a good life in Shenzhen and beyond.
Form follows signage
Like tattoos on a body, the advertisement signs follow the contours of the building's form in Shenzhen. It is almost impossible to distinguish between advertistment signs and the building's surface. Taking this premise, Ali Keshmeri's work re-imagined a new architectural form arising from the locations and shapes of the signage.
Shenzhen Vending Machine
Lin Simin and Zou Yizhi’s designed and made a vending machine, which they placed in different parts of the city. The machine had three buttons- money, love and water. They were associated with the economy, the body and human relationship. Unlike the vending machines in the city, their version did not offer what it promised. Instead the machine frustrated the user by consistently failing to vend what was desired.
As the only participant who grew up in Shenzhen, Lui Min witnessed first hand the urban transformation of her city. She noticed places that had formed an important part of her life growing up in Shenzhen were no longer around. Through her mnemonic drawings, she recalled several memorable moments at different stages of her life.
Micro gardens is a project by Whang Ye-Eun that re-purposed discarded objects as housings for plants. While exploring the Bloomingdale Trail in Chicago, Ye- Eun discovered a variety of discarded objects strewn along the abandoned, elevated railway track. She meticulously cleaned a few of the objects and carefully placed small amount of soil within the cracks to transform them into rehabilitated grounds for the cultivation of plant life. These new, portable micro gardens serve as both a metaphor for the rejuvenation of the trail by the local residents living in the area and as physical evidences of how through care and determination, what are considered as valueless objects can be potentially turned into precious housings for new lives. Project adviser: Thomas Kong
Interview with Junko Abe of Beppu Project, a not for profit arts organization
1. How successful was the studio in bringing community together?
As a result of the GFRY RE: studio, the community has started to open the market every week with their neighbors. They have a reason to get together and talk about their visions, which were activated by your student works and presentations. Your studio has given a lot of energy and hope to community of elderly. Now, they are reactivating their neighborhood by themselves.
2. Do you feel it is important to have these international design events?
Yes!!!!!!!! Although in the beginning, we had no idea what students were doing but little by little with curiosity and dialogue, we built up the relationship and awareness. During the March presentation in Beppu, we realized it was very important to have the opportunity to pause and think about the role of design in a community. In Japanese we say DEZAIN. We do not have a Japanese word for design. Some people think design is for only young generation's latest fashion. Some people think that it is only work on a computer; something you have to renew all the time and have to deny the past in order to sell something to make money. In other words, design that is based on a business or for marketing purpose. If you don't belong to any design industry, you probably will never think about design. Now we have a little movement in the design field in Japan. DEZAIN started to have its own word 「意匠」. Now designers are starting to use this word to express themselves. It means "the maestro who delivers, moderate, modify and facilitate.... the consciousness, such as the consciousness of human-being, the consciousness of the society, the consciousness of nature....the consciousness of the history....the consciousness of community. I feel the 21st Centry is not only about seeking an individual’s or one nation's benefit through the design, nor to compete in the vast scale of building such as super high skyscrapers.....Instead, we need to seek an international, global consciousness to create a better future. The Motorola supported GFRY studio, RE had helped to evoke discussions and reflections on life, community, society in so many ways. I feel Design has very important meanings now. I believe it is very much necessary to have these international design events for the next generation in Beppu and for the future of the global community
3. What was most memorable for you?
They have planted the seeds of SMILE, which was one of your student projects.
It is growing in our community!!!! We have a BIG SMILE on our face!!!!!
Beppu Tane is a collaborative project comprising of citizens of Korea, Japan and Indonesia. Led by Whang Ye-Eun and Yang Wonbin, the project is conceived as an on-site installation where residents of Beppu, Japan can come share their stories and aspirations for the city, and as the seed to empower them to imagine new possibilities for the city, which is facing economical and social challenges. Central to the project is the documentation of the many smiles of this city and the opportunity for the residents to wear them as T-shirts. Instead of feeling helpless and depressed, the residents are encouraged to smile for the city and tell the project team one inspiring personal story or of the city. Through nearly two weeks of fieldwork, documentation and engagement with the local residents, the team gathered and produced hundreds of smiles that were printed on T-shirts and ideas for the revitalization of the city from the residents and visitors. Instead of assuming the traditional top-down, deterministic attitudes that many architects and designers have when designing for communities, Beppu Tane offers a more inclusive, participatory and bottom-up movement of inspiring local residents to be their own caretakers and changemakers.
The project is a joint winner in the 2010, Let’s Not Talk About Architecture competition organized by mAAN*Y Singapore.
Project team: Whang Ye-Eun (Korea), Yang Wonbin (Korea), Sono Miyakawa (Japan), Tatsu (Japan), Lydia Jaffar (Indonesia)
Project advisors: Thomas Kong and Kenta Kishi