Wednesday, 22 July 2009

to jsopeh

haha... it's okay... i do see ur point... and i do admit that somewhere along the way i might have contradicted myself.... perhaps its because the conversation is so multifaceted...

but of course.. there are no absolutes in architecture... so in many ways u have misunderstood me...

so to give everyone a better idea of where i am coming from in terms of where i stand

here it is... my 1300 word manifesto i did this semester... i will let it speak for itself...

but before u read it, some disclaimer:

1) i am not trying to justify whatever i said in my previous post by posting this manifesto. i still stand by my word on treating studio as the real world

2) i ascertain that the problem is still simple. because we complicate it by looking at other things while in fact it has everything to do with our culture. tackle that then sustainability will not be an issue anymore.

3) i do not discourage fancy ideas... neither do i condemn paper architecture. dreaming is good. but to realize your dream to built form and to get the world believing in your idea and willing to build it... now that's something. so yes, good architects are good negotiators in this prospect... (well, i will start a new post on this area...i'm in the mood..XD..)

4) when i say dont be too critical, i didnt mean do not critic at all... OMGOSH ppl... please dont take things literally... if i didnt intend to suggest that we should be constantly learning, why would i say 'u might disagree with urself in the end'?....??? so aite, to clarify, dont be fixed on an idea just yet... cos in time u may disagree with urself... we live and we learn... and eventually u may discover a better truth....

5) the nature of a manifesto is that it doesnt necessarily have to lay down the method step one til step ten... it is to post an idea... a final destination so to speak... an ideal... but well yea... and hence, is always open for debate...=)


At the beginning of the nineteenth century we abandoned tradition, it's at that point that I intend to renew it because the present is built on the past just as the past was built on the times that went before it.

Adolf Loos

The decline of the institution of the family and the devastation it brings to our society is clearly reflected in the chains of undisputed problems and chaos we face today. The war in the Middle East and the current global financial crisis is the epitome of the failure of human values. The ever increasingly alarming effect of global warming is the direct result of an unsustainable lifestyle of the family unit all around the world. Therefore, there is a clear calling for the return of old values in family, religion and state across the globe. One has to understand that it has everything to do with our culture.

In the face of such atrocities, I believe that the only viable way that architecture can be able to be the sustenance of memory in a space of matter is through the study of the individual house. Since our first breath, mankind always had an innate desire to make sense of our existence. In efforts of trying to grasp the meaning of life, an order is formulated to counter the disorder that life brings. This order is reflected in our lifestyle, culture, religion, art and architecture. The family unit is and always has been the first of human order. And the house is the physical container that holds it together as well as the non-physical symbol of the entire order.

The house and its many forms is the reflection of our pragmatic and emotional reaction towards disorder. Architecture is particularly adapt to express this duality of the tangible and intangible aspects of a system of order. A courthouse for example is the pragmatic reaction towards law and order and also an emotional reaction towards social injustice.

Therefore, the architecture of the city started with the house. The house expands as the complexity of the family life increases. Certain branches of the house would specialize and form different entities by themselves, such as government, military, religious or commercial buildings. These diversified houses will then double and multiply and order themselves into what we know today as the city. The ordering of cities has then evolved into urbanism and town planning that is ultimately part of a nation building effort.

However, the house varies according to specific environments and time. Different localities and seasonal changes would call for different needs and hence, different responses. Out of the abundance of these variations come the different culture, lifestyle, politics and technology of the various localities. These four elements are important because together through time they form pockets of memories that collectively constitute the essence of the genius loci.

To be culturally sustainable and socially responsible, architecture must respond to these four aspects of the house,


Every society comes with a root and a need to identify with that root. Most of the time it is religious and it has great ties with the constitution of the family. It is important to recognize and respect the culture of the place. Racial harmony and integration can be fostered through sensitivity to culture by design.


By articulating the spaces and the programs to work as a backdrop to the life contained therein according to the lifestyle, architecture takes a backseat and encourages the occupants to discover cultural sustainability by themselves through the interaction between space and man. Architecture be should less concerned with the form. Instead, the spaces between should add to the quality of life by capturing the memory of what was and the potential of what is to be.


Architecture should reflect the politics of a particular time and space. It should never be regressive and de-contextualized. It should be about the here and now. It reflects the current identity of the place and it has the power to determine the direction of a nation. If a country is democratic then the architecture should reflect its politics to the full sense of the word. It should never be bias to any cultural or racial background. Whatever the politics standpoint may be, it has direct connections with the culture of the place and insensitivity to politics can disrupt the order.


Architecture should reflect the technology of the particular time and space as well. Because architecture is about the long term inhabitation of space, technology places an important role in ensuring that the aesthetic life of architecture is as long as its material and physical life expectancy. Hence, technology should be seen as a mere tool for permanence in architecture and should not overrule the essence of the building which is to be culturally sustainable.

These four elements are crucial to the success of the building and without which there should be no architectural respond. It is through the study of culture and lifestyle that practical spaces and programs can be derived. The study of politics and technology will then justify the form and materials used to convey an architecture of joy and survival. The resultant architecture now becomes an identity that is unique to the genius loci of its locality and time. This whole process reflects the transformation of the physical house into a metaphysical symbol of order which is the home, a final destination of comfort and refuge for the harmonious inhabitation of man.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Johnson Wax Building in Wisconsin, USA is a perfect embodiment of these principles. It is a direct responds to the core family values of the Johnson Family and their vision for the building to be a home for the workers of the Johnson Wax Company. A clear understanding of the working lifestyle of the staff at Johnson Wax informed Wright’s decision to design the grand cathedral of columns as the main work areas. The form and program of the building responds to both the politics of the surrounding environment and the organization of the corporate body. Wright’s clever manipulation of modern technology such as the use of the inverted pillars and the impression of the floating roof paved the way for the building to be timeless and relevant even till today. It evolved through time and become a monument of the neighborhood and contributed to the spirit of the place. Through its careful thought to all four aspects of the house, the Johnson Wax Building is undeniably a culturally sustainable building.

Therefore, let it be clear that I am not concerned with the various stylistic forms and methods in architecture. To me, the ultimate goal – home, is all that matters. I believe in the concept of identity in variety, where architecture has a specific identity that is a reflection of the genius loci and also a variety that consist of the human touch of the individual architects. This returns us the analogy of the house where architecture is evolutionary and ever learning and adapting. This allowed the birth of various architectural movements and styles that portrays the individual characteristics of the architects. Collectively, they are all part of the architectural order of cultural sustainability.

The study of the house is all about creating an alternative reality to the current global conditions that we now live in. it is a call for a paradigm shift amongst architects to get out of the narrow confides of ideology and into the broad fresh air of the real world. If we truly aspire to be a society that is culturally sustainable, it is time we question how people live, beginning with the house.

1300 words

1 comment:

Richard Lee Mun Chun said...

as requested by ian, here are the comments from my tutor, sophie foo, who happens to be an ex student of Taylor's College as well... and she is doing her PHD right now at Melb Uni...

very engaging idea indeed. well executed and interesting ideas that supports your main idea. it's interesting that you chose the idea of a house/home as a point of departure. i'm definitely in agreement with you.

aite well thts tht..=)