Tuesday, January 22, 2008

P/A Award: Taichung Gateway Park

A wide range of 'progressive architecture' awards were recently announced on ArchitectOnline going to a wide range of winners. The process and product of what defines 'progressive' is a constantly shifting target, due to new jurors as well as new architectural directions. From the article:

"Last year's jury, for instance, favored projects with a sense of social and environmental responsibility, including an orphanage in Haiti, a school for working children and women in Lebanon, and a retirement community in Arkansas. This year, by contrast, no single agenda dominated the jury's decision-making process. While clearly mindful of the critical issues in contemporary architecture... [the jury] weighed each project according to its own individual strengths—whether those be social, environmental, technological, aesthetic, or otherwise. The results of their selection process are diverse, to say the least; the eight winning projects range widely in budget, location, program, scale, and architectural intent..."

My vote for the most 'progressive' architecture, that of the mostly non-architecture of Taichung Gateway Park in Taiwan. Designed by architect Stan Allen, this 620-acre park is adapted from a former airport. The site actively rejects historical park planning concepts of space ringed with circulation (i.e. the Central Park Model, which at 840 acres, is similar in scale), instead weaving landscape and park functions in and out of the fabric of the community, "...to increase the possible surface area for adjacent buildings." This is diagramatically reflected in the overall plan configuration:

:: Traditional v. Contextual - images via Architect Online

Continuing a line of significant urban parks designed by architects (la Villette, Downsview), this is another example of the more directed trend towards Landscape Urbanism, with capital L & U... which to paraphrase Waldheim '...provides the buildings blocks of urbanism not with architecture but with landscape...' Essentially the idea reversed of building structures and filling in the voids with greenery, there is a distinct blurring of the line between urban and landscape until the two become indistinguishable.

Via the landscape urbanist principles shown by Corner et.al, there is the typical compartmentalization of functional overlays (infrastructure, structures, ecology, amenities), shown below in diagrammatic form:

:: image via Architect Online

The main strength of the approach is a cohesive and flexible infrastructural system that will be realized many phases down the line, allowing for responsiveness to a wide range of unpredictable variables. A major tenet of Landscape Urbanism, this adaptability is the cornerstone of many alternative modes of thinking, specifically in the dis-realization of what we know and can predict, versus the realization that what we must allow processes to unfold over time and provide fields in which to accomodate them. The fact that this process can create rich spaces and uses, as well as changing environments, is shown in some of the potential visuals from the website as well.

:: image via Architect Online

The great the quantity of significant landscape projects (esp. beyond paper architecture) that have significant temporal strategies at their core, will continue to allow for greater traction beyond the static 'finished product' of so much landscape architecture. This is reinforced by this particular project's timeline, which is slated to occur over a long period of implementation, making this flexibility of program and form even more important.

Again from Architect Online:

"By necessity, the project will be completed over several phases, beginning with the ecological aspects (water regeneration, reforestation, and the greening of pocket parks), then moving on to infrastructure (primary and secondary roads, bike trails and footpaths), and then finally into the urban program (anchor buildings, then the cultural, academic, and canal districts). The first stage is slated to commence in the fall, and the entire scheme may take decades to complete."

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