Uniting through Architecture
2A Magazine is pleased to report a conference and discussion panel which have taken place on October 20th 2017, in Berlin. The Conference was a professional platform to share and discuss innovative Architecture in Asia and Europe continents. This gathering was a room to talk about new directions and order in both continents. It has also been a unique opportunity to both academics academics and practitioners to share their vision, information, ideas and experiences relating to contemporary architecture in Asia and Europe.
The theme of the 2A Architectural Awards for 2017 is: “Uniting Through Architecture”. Since this conference is being held in Berlin, I was delighted to find that we are also “United Through Poetic Visions” when my research found the reference to the Goethe-Hafez Memorial built in Weimar in 2000, inspired by the “West-Oestlicher Divan” originally written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in 1819 (Figures 1 & 2). Goethe’s generation struggled against the encroaching limitations of the Cartesian mechanistic world view. Today, Iran and the world face the crises caused by the same dilemma. Traditional German “Wanderlust” and Iranian spiritual quest both cry out for a “return to nature”, and a balanced, passionate desire for spiritually inspired creativity and order in life and our built environments, as envisioned in the tradition of Goethe’s Naturphilosophie.
Goethe’s romantic vision found a liberating home in the lyrical, worldly, metaphysical poetry of the 14th c. Hafez of Shiraz, whose perennial message, valid today as ever, speaks of the inseparability of the transcendent unity at the core of humanity, East and West. Thus, Goethe wrote in his Divan this tribute to Hafez:
“Whether world becomes ruined or not, Hafez! I want only you as my rival. The happiness and the sorrow, for us, the twins, are alike.
This should be my glory and life, that I love and drink wine like you.”
“Come, so that we can scatter flowers and fill the glass with wine, And split the ceiling of the skies and try a new Design!”
Our Human Community is facing unprecedented challenges that threaten our very existence and that of all life on the planet. It is becoming clear that current predominant, materialistic worldview, which led us to this place of environmental, social and economic crisis, is no longer capable of informing or inspiring a viable, sustainable future. We need a new cultural vision. Art, architecture, landscape architecture, and urban planning have the potential to influence the transcendent cultivation of humanity by providing the physical forms and spaces that not only give tangible and meaningful expression to our individual and collective dreams, desires and aspirations, but that also connect our worldly existence to the realm of the ineffable.
Cultural Dimension of Sustainability:
In 2015, 193 UN member states unanimously adopted the 17 Sustainability Development Goals (SDG) to be achieved by 2030 (see Figure 3). We support the value and benefits of SDG, but observe that these objectives were based only upon a triad of Social, Economic and Environmental dimensions and omitted the critical role of Culture as the fourth dimension in the definition of Sustainability. Culture and its associated considerations of transcendent design, beauty and cultural identity need to be integrated into the SDG to enable spiritually inspired, holistically sustainable built environments of the future to be realized.
Definition: “Culture”: The integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, behavior, and aesthetic expressions that depend upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations by consideration of UNESCO Conventions on the Tangible and Intangible aspects of society’s accrued heritage,
such as oral traditions, performing arts and crafts, social practices, rituals & festivals, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe, a civilization’s Worldview (“Weltanschauung”).
Role of Transcendent Consciousness In Architecture & Planning:
Definition: Transcendent here refers to the cultivation of a profound respect, reverence and relationship with all people, places and things in the physical, mental, emotional and most subtle realms. Transcendence attends to a heightened state of mind in which one percelves, with unbound wonder and reverence, the presence of an Insight beyond limited self-consciousness; an attempt to be in harmony with an unseen order of the Universe and its connections to everyday life. This tradition continued to 19th century Romantics, Emerson, Thoreau and Goethe’s generation who perceived and struggled against the coming dominance of Cartesian, mechanistic, materialistic world views. They had a ‘Wanderlust’, a passionate, creative and balanced relationship with nature and earth. The concept of transcendent beauty is perennial and timeless. It has and continues to inspire outstanding designs that integrate culture and sustainability.
Reflections Upon the Design Awards:
As a member of the International Jury for the Asia Continental Design Competition, with Waro Kishi of Japan and Shirish Beri of India, I wish to observe that an internationally high standard for the jury process was observed. The Phase I online, wed-based design review and assessment process by the 2A Organizers of nearly 500 entries was exceedingly well organized and facile to use. Furthermore, the Berlin judgement process at the Technical University of the nearly 150 shortlisted projects in seven categories resulted in a consensus based selection of a wide variety of worthy projects.
I have been seriously thinking about the deeper lessons that can be learned through the 2A Architectural Awards process. Having considered my own deliberations on this subject over the past five decades of active practice and research and paraphrasing Juhani Pallasmaa, the following key questions can be asked on the topic of the achievement of meaningful design and finding a spirit worthy of the architectural heritage of the great regional cultures of the world:
1.Can we decipher and define, the timeless identity and ‘spirit of the architectural and planning heritage of each of the unique regional cultures 2. If deciphered, are they a closed pre-coded and prescribed system of conventions or are they open, experiential qualities arising from contemporary situational, Individual and unique artistic visions 3. Or are they a creative combination of timeless, perennial principles and spontaneous, situational conditions that unite to allow ever contemporary, new design realizations? I can decipher two significant themes in the majority of projects awarded and thereby suggest some answers to the deeper questions that have been posited: “The future lies in the past” The majority of project awarded were small, modest, human scaled and followed in the footsteps of their grandfathers’. They strived to reinforce existing spatial traditions, such as courtyards, and the use of local building solutions, such as earthen and wood construction. Thus, they were following timeless sustainable and socially relevant design principles that still allowed contemporary, affordable and innovative designs. “Low-tech is the future high-tech” In addition to the worldwide growing awareness for healthy living, natural building materials and methodologies result in low energy needs and usage, cost efficiency and recyclability. Most low-energy buildings do not require mechanical ventilation while providing comfortable indoor climatic conditions. As High energy buildings, due to cost and lack of energy availability are phased out, low energy buildings will become the future. In conclusion, I look forward to the publication of the 2A 2017 Awards and encourage continuance of such significant endeavors in 2018, with even more definition, rigor and explorations of the value and timeless lessons of the different Regional and Cultural Architectural identities that have historically existed and may continue to shape the natural transcendent ‘spirit’ of future sustainable built environments of World Continents.
When I was a student, I could not understand Why Japan is in the Far East”. But after I began practicing as an architect, I have come to learn that there are two type of maps of the world, or the globe. One is our familiar one for the Pacific rim countries, which has the Pacific Ocean in the center of the map, and the other is the one with the Atlantic Ocean in the center which is more often used in the Western world. When I found out that there are two versions of the world map, I could understand our country, Japan, belongs to “Far East”, found in the far-right edge of the map. Due to the cultural and historical situations of Japan, we were under the Western-style map, in which Japan had been on the right edge, in the “Far East”. All our cultural influences came from the West, specifically from China, India, “Middle East and even from European continent from around 6 or 7th century. We, in Japan, have had so many cultural imports from the West including Buddhism, tea, flower arrangement and, of course, architecture style. Our national archive in Todai-ji Shosou-in, which was established in 8th century, includes imports from China, India, Assyria and many from the West. As for our architecture, we have Shitenno-i, built in 7th century(593AD) follows the strict China style, the symmetry plan. But Horyu-ji, which was built around the same time (601AD), also follows the China style. But there is a difference. Horyu-ji plan is not in a symmetry one but is asymmetrical, which you may say is the origin of “Japanization” in architecture. Since then, we have been accepting the cultural influences from the West and, moreover, we have been adding some “contemporariness” to the imported historical
culture. You can find the same kind of phenomena not only in our architecture style but also in our city planning, tea ceremony, flower arrangement and interpretation of Buddhism. As a Kyoto-based architect, I have come to understand our cultural characteristics as I have described, and decided to follow my understandings. For example, “Hu-tong House” is my contemporary interpretation of the historical urban space in Beijing. Also, with “House in Wakayama”. I gave a contemporary alterative based on my personal impression of the water garden of a Hindu temple in Bali, which I encountered almost 20 years prior to that project. Even “Modernism” is already a part of historical archive for me. With “House in Fukaya”, I was offered to follow the style of Pierre Koening, who is one of the architects of Case Study Houses in Los Angeles in early 1960s. I wrote a book on Case Study Houses and my client told me to follow the style. And I completely enjoyed doing that, just like the architect of Horyu-ji in 7th century, who was offered to follow the style from China. This co-exsistance of history and contemporariness is important for me, as a Kyoto-based architect of 21st century
I always look at these events as small opportunities for fostering greater brotherhood, compassion and goodness between people of different nations. Thus, I was happy to accept Mr. Ahmad Zohadi’s invitation to act as a jury member for this international design competition. Thank you Mr. Ahmad and your team for inviting me to this august gathering. It was a stupendous task to review the 457 design entries, each in a different context and with a different
conceptual priority. The entries were judged on the basis of their rootedness to their context of place, culture, society, climate and also on their merit to transcend these towards the universal value of a holistic goodness in architecture. Use of appropriate materials and technology to achieve the above was also reviewed. These winning entries also had to display qualities of holistic, benevolent and sustainable architecture. What can constitute this architecture of goodness How can goodness be translated in the architectural language
This has been an important criteria for me while designing as well as while judging the entries. Thus, I always ask…. would striking a rapport of empathy with nature bring in goodness into our architecture and then, into our lives? wouldn’t an architecture that brings us closer to other people also bring about goodness in our lives? can unified, holistic architectural spaces create that ambience and goodness of bonding with the surrounds as well as with one’s own self? wouldn’t a caring, compassionate and simple sustainable design evoke and spread a sense of well being and goodness in the environment ? Can my work help in shifting of our emphasis from the measurable saleability to the immeasurable sanctity and from glossy wrappings to inner content. when we experience ourselves as this fascinating universal energy. we drown in its intrinsic goodness … and then … – sound becomes music – colours become a painting – words become poetry – movement becomes dance – the formless becomes a form – mind becomes meditation and life becomes a celebration.
A brief of the speech in the conference Lots of people think that virtual reality is something new, especially in building industry, but the principal of 3D was actually invented in 1838, where they took photos from a scene in different angles and by making it switch very quickly and putting it together you have a first impression of 3D. And the principal that we use today is actually still the same but of course we have been through some kind of evolution. Nowadays there are virtual reality rooms, which are called caves. You can step inside them and walk in a building that is not yet built and this is exactly what we have built in our headquarters in Belgium at the Reynaers aluminum and our caves are called Avalon. And for us using this tool in a business context is really important because it’s a tool where you can have a conversation and a bound with the stakeholders. And next to that the resolution that we can achieve is way higher than be achieved with the mobile devices, so the details can be watched closely. The benefits of virtual reality are that a lot of time and money can be saved and also many mistakes can be avoided. It can be used in architecture, collision detection, real estate, training, simulation, etc. On a daily basis we have building teams over to our premises to visit Avalon with a project or they just send it to us, sometimes it’s the architect that brings the investor of his design, sometimes architects bring the general contractors or clients of the design to discuss a technical detail and so on. For example a hospital that used beam structure in Belgium first tested their project structure in Avalon and the cutting mistakes has been reduced to 2 percent, a percentage that used to be 50 percent before using Avalon.
20th October 2017- Estrel Berlin
The discussion panel started with an introduction by Pejman Aghasl, the introduction included thanking and welcoming the participants and a brief description of architecture in Asia and Europe, then the question of the panel has been asked:
Part 1: How do you predict and hope the modernization of todays architecture and usage of new technologies would shape the future development of our cities around the continents, how do you asses this transformation? Do you find it appropriate and positive? Do you have any suggestions to improve on the existing situation?
Nader Ardalan: 1 personally have been identifying what are the timeless qualities within the bioclimatic cultural zones, and then asking myself, are these timeless qualities, closed conventions, or are they actually open systems with an essential core idea that can over period of time be used. We are really dealing with the contemporary expression of bioclimatic cultural zones of the earth. So I’m very interested in identifying some core perennial patterns that some of them do exist. But I’m interested in, are they closed, do they limit the creativity of the individual who latches onto these timeless qualities, or are they actually very positive in their creative that they give you a seed but then you can plan that seed in the soil and water it and it can give you a new bloom, because we really are in a state in which we need to survive and so there are certain lessons towards sustainability that can give us from timeless perennial aspects of what has existed in history and then we can interpret some of these.
Elke Becker: actually the time we are in is the only time we can actually be in, so that is the only option that we have got. We can sometimes complain about how the world changes, but we only have the option to accept what we have got and to try to change that and that can on be done with scientific analysis, can only be done successfully with many different competences and participating as well as joining forces and then making something with all the creativity, with all the knowledge that we have that is better than it was before, that is not only our ambition, that is actually what we have to have in our agenda because if we don’t take it, we will not be able to influence it and we will get subject to others and that’s not what we want. We want to take our phase, our future in our own hands, and we can do that. That is possible.
Sergel Tchoban: I think we are becoming too global, so nearly every work could be built in any part of the world so if you go through exhibition you can not think clearly in which part of the world this was built or maybe was project for. So I think the very big challenge would be to create or develop the identity of every region with own building materials, with all own possibilities, to produce its materials to produce its methods, and to bring the technology to serve its identity, I think we should come nearer to the own identity of every region and to traditional materials, and maybe to create more modest but more sustainable.
Yes, I think we need to sympathize and be attuned to the universal timeless values, timeless things like compassion, dignity, justice and peace. Which are common in all of the world, Universal values, but they need to be applied to area specific context. So something like, which is a very cliché sentence is that, “Think globally and act locally.” Then I would like to ask whether we can shift our emphasis from compartmentalization to holistic unity, from the measurable to the immeasurable, from sellable to sacred, and rather can we strike the right dynamic balance between all these, I mean, I feel that if this can happen, a lot of things will fall in their place, spontaneously.
Waro Kishi: showed two maps of the world in my lecture, and actually the world is one world, but the map shows that the world looks different according to your point of view, and I explained about the china japan relationship from the 6th century. So, the world is like that. I helped you so now it’s your time to help me. Of course, the world is so wide, so the situation is so different, but all is according to you to help each other.
Bahram Shirdel: I come from from a land with five or seven thousand years of experience in sustainability in architecture, Persia. I don’t really think that architecture is only about technology. Space according to technology always has to be a homogenous space, that is a space, which is suited for everybody. And a space that is suited for everybody means a space, which is not suited for nobody at all. We are in Berlin and Berlin is like a museum of architecture. And all of this is about heterogeneous space; it’s about space that queues for individuals. That provides for the life of the individuals.
Part 2: It is international events such as this that provide a very unique opportunity for the architects of these two great continents or other areas of the world to come together and share their experience and their professional expertise. So I want to ask you, how beneficial and useful you think these kind of events can be for architects from various regions, for our sake, Asia and Europe, to share their information and expertise for building a better living space in the respective continents.