The sixth Annual 2A International Architectural Conference
The Emergence of Contemporary Architecture in Asia
For the most part of the 19th century and all of the 20th: architects, planners and urban designers have worked according to the architecture of modernism, understanding that as ideology and style. This process has resulted in an environment that does not sustain the spatial geography of the Asian cities. This kind of approach leads to homogenic cultural/ social space which has dominated the traditional heterogenic Asian architectural heritages.
How they can alleviate this problem is to understand our own traditional heritage of architecture. This is regeneration vs ideology.
Through decades, the meters of valuation for architectural projects have followed the same process which were outcome of western systems of thought. According to this fact that this competition has been defined in context of Asia architecture, thus juries obliged to consider the valuable factors of Asian architecture. Regard to this proposition I did my best to capture this elements as judging criteria, as well.
Architecture in Asia has had a structure that is neither about reproduction nor invention of forms; it has been about an evolutionary repetition in form of regeneration. What is of interest today is that this concept of regeneration and sustainability that are manifest, have become global.
The profession of architecture in a contemporaneous sense is based on a system of education that is designed in western world. A system of thought where Asian mind has had no participation in its formation and this is superimposed on the Asian landscape (context).
Today’s young Asian manifesters tend to establish a different school of thought according to geography of Asia, instead of following the western architectural system.
I remember Winston Churchill’s words which was delivered at the ruin of the Parliament destroyed by bombing in 1943. He said “We shape buildings thereafter they shape us.” I fully agree his words. In the other words, architecture could change our life. Namely if we live in a good architecture, we could be better.
The reverse is same. Thus the most important thing is how to get a good architecture. I believe there are 3
elements to be a good architecture. ; timeness, purposeness, placeness. If a newly built environment would respond to the virtue of the current time, and if it responds to requirement following its program, and if it satisfies the condition of the land, it should enhance the inherent dignity of our life.
Let’s remember the story of Modernism. Our masters created Modernism believed our intelligence and
ration, and believed form follows function. They focused on standard, categorization and division based on statistic results. In its results, we witnessed mass care and devastation thru wars by its mechanism. But this time is different with previous one. Now everybody becomes to express his/her own opinion thru various networks.
Individual or a part becomes more special than before. But this special individual or part might not be
interested by others. Here the specialness needs to intend universality in order to share by all people. So I like to call this ‘specific universality’, and have a keen concerning on architecture to have this wherever it built.
For this answer, I like to quote Richard Sennett’s speech.; ‘Decentralized democracy has a particular affinity to the modern city. That is what Aristotle tried to convey in the term synoikimos-a coming together of differences, be they families or economic interests or political views.
……. Decentralized democracy also has a visual dimension. This democratic vision may prefer the jumbled, polyglot architecture of neighborhoods to the symbolic statements made by big, central buildings…………….. The results of visual, decentralized democracy should be, ultimately to shatter those images which attempt to represent the city as a whole.’
The land. Time should change, and function or program would change. But a land stays as it has been
wherever it is. This fact is unique and essential to my architecture. Land always say or whisper what kind of architecture or city it wants to be. I think only good designer or architect could hear the voice. I called it ‘architecture and urbanism of ‘Landscript’.
The question is whether architects and planners have special or heightened responsibilities for the alleviation of the human condition in comparison to other practitioners. This is a difficult question to answer in a simple way but I shall try and do this as well as I can. The end of the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries has caused more human suffering than ever before. That same period also experienced the most rapid urbanization that the planet has seen. It would be easy therefore to conclude that there is a correlation between the expansion in the areas covered by the built environment and the rise in the levels of human
suffering. However, if we recall that same period in history, we would see that in that period, capitalism and colonialism also expanded rapidly and both have been the cause of immense human suffering by its victims while giving immense joy to the victors. As an Asian however, I cannot blame history or the built environment for being the cause of the suffering of so many people. Human suffering, I believe, is caused by the conditions that prevail in one’s mind. If a people are full of desires and anger, or greed and ignorance, then the actions of those people will naturally seek situations, which will allow them to vent those feelings. Such a people will conquer and enslave others and generally cause immense misery amongst innocent people whom the keep trying to defeat. Architects and planners do have one special responsibility and that is to ensure that no action of theirs increases this misery amongst people – on the contrary, they have a special responsibility to use their creative endeavors to reduce human suffering. Whether it is in the realm of landscape or the built environment, I believe that the architect must create an environment that lifts the spirits of the users and brings them immense joys.
Sancaklar Mosque located in Istanbul, aims to address the fundamental issues of designing a mosque by distancing itself from the current architectural discussions based on form, focusing on the essence of religious space. The building blends in completely with the topography and the outside world is left behind as one moves through the landscape, down the hill and in between the walls to enter the mosque. The interior becomes a dramatic awe inspiring place to pray and be alone with God. The slits and fractures along the Qiblah wall enhances the directionality of the prayer space allowing daylight to filter into the prayer hall. The project constantly plays off of the tension between man-made and natural.
There are many countries in the great continent of Asia, which have rich and ancient cultural heritage. Each of them has unique, colorful and rich history and civilization, which may look very different on the surface, however they are not contradictory but complementary to one another, because they all have some underlying commonality; which is their richness in culture, history, religion and civilizations.
International events such as 2AAA, allows us to witness this beautiful display of various amazing cultures and their characteristics in one forum. And in doing so encourages the contemporary architects to appreciate their roots and at the same time learn more about various other viewpoints and methodology of their Asian Counterparts. It also facilitates the interaction between the Asian Architects. And finally promotes the Asian Architecture, and displays the greatness of Asian civilizations specially their amazing architectural designs and projects.
Historically, Asia’s architecture has tended to be heterogeneous; each civilization – from the Persians to the Chinese, the Indians to the Ottomans – has contributed to the creation of an architectural cartography that established the spatial organization of cities such as Istanbul, Isfahan, Samarkand, Calcutta,
Beijing, and Tokyo. and immensely influenced the architectural traditions of the European, African, and American continents.
Consequently, Eastern contributions to Western culture and architecture deserve significant scholarly investigation.
The modernism of the past two centuries (as evidenced by the modern movement in architecture in the West) dominated the landscapes and cityscapes in Asia as well, with largely unpleasant results. However, architectural traditions and cultures in the Asian continent have recently started to stray from modernism.
Architects in Asia are now offering alternatives relevant to their specific geographies and cultures.
The Asia Architecture Award is a critical effort to establish and recognize Asian architects from Istanbul, Beirut, Tehran, Delhi, Seoul, Bangkok, Beijing, Tokyo and other Asian cities. Asia is now engaged in creating and designing buildings and cities that are relevant to their particular geographies. The Asia Architecture Award is an attempt to offer a long overdue recognition to a whole new class of Asian architects.