Dialog with Emma Tucker, Editor / Meri Media
What was the original inspiration for Ruin Academy?
I have been following the ruining processes in Taiwan for a longer period – how nature is reading architecture and how nature and architecture can coexist together in a symbiosis. I am interested in a condition, where nature and human nature share the same house – or the same city. I started to develop the architectural design methodology to reach the constructive and creative ruin condition while teaching in the Tamkang University. From architectural scale the thinking evolved into urban scale and through the methodology of Urban Acupuncture into the theory of the Third Generation City. Ruin Academy was set up to further develop these lines of thinking from a multidisciplinary point of view.
Next to the actual building of the Ruin Academy in Taipei is a tree growing on a wall of an apartment house. The roots of the trees are penetrating into the sewage system as a source of energy and the tree uses the house as a physical support for its growth. The tree needs to regulate his growth though, otherwise it will break the house. In needs the house and it needs people using sewage. This tree, this urban bonsai, is a great inspiration.
What are the differences approaching building a project out of an existing building, and creating an entirely new structure?
Site specific qualities are always different. These are the qualities where architecture is rooting to. Man-made environment can be very fruitful. So can be forest. Everything is interesting.
It seems that these kinds of projects that take over abandoned or derelict buildings are becoming more common. Do you think there's a move in this direction, for architects to focus instead on renovating existing buildings, rather than creating anew?
Dealing with existing buildings and communities is harder than creating new anonymous objects. Architecture is not design, but dealing with reality. There is only one reality: nature. Nature can be found in abandoned buildings, which sometimes have transformed to be part of nature themselves. This is a high quality in architecture and architects should focus on this. I want to see the organic ruin of the industrial city and I want to see people ruining the industrial fiction. The trend is to feel nature, also in architecture. Without this sensitivity architecture and urbanism is developing against nature turning the modern man into a mechanical joke. Cities are full of therapy.
The inhabitants of the building are called 'constructor/gardeners' - can you explain this term a little bit more, and what the role entails?
If an architect is a gardener, he is a constructor. If he is not, he is a destructor. Many spontaneous and often illegal communities are gardening houses, growing architecture that is much more complex and fruitful that official development and official architecture, that is blindly directed by economy and centralized politics. These organic settlements – favelas, slums, ghettos, camps, urban villages etc. are bringing in hope into the urban development. I want the students to garden architecture, to grow structures that will mingle with other structures and natural element resulting into an organic human mangrove. This is not romantic. Nature is murder. A constant impact of energy is needed to keep the structures weak and flexible. Hardness is an expression of death. Anarchist grandmothers are cultivating illegal community gardens and urban farms everywhere around Taipei. These farms are producing needles of urban acupuncture tuning the mechanical city towards the organic. Anarchist grandmothers are an expression of local knowledge, a seed of the Third Generation City.
Can you explain a little bit more about how you hope the organic/manmade will merge in Ruin Academy?
By accident. Nature will grow in and find its balance with the architecture. We find our balance with architecture and nature.
What do you hope will emerge out of Ruin Academy?
I hope the Ruin Academy to be a continuous series of international workshops, research and studies taking place not only in Taipei, but in other locations too. In Norway we are on a process to open up NOMAD as a window in Hemnes community in straight connection with stunning nature and nomads. This nomadic window will bring in something new to Taipei and to architecture. In Artena, Italy we are opening up Ruin Academy together with the International Society of Biourbanism, together with whom we will publish a book this summer focusing on the possibilities of Biourban Acupuncture. Ruin Academy is a compost, that needs to be turned over every now and then and new organic material needs to get into the pile.
What other projects or people working today do you find most inspiring or innovative?
Normal people are inspiring and innovative. Architects are getting too closed to the discipline like all the other academic disciplines and just taking care of their own “rights” and posing to each other. Most of us are just prostitutes for developers and that is not totally satisfying. Architecture has a big social responsibility in developing built human environement that can perform as a mediator between the modern man and nature – not closing in the mechanical-human joke into a box separated from the rest of nature.
Normal people are good. Illegal architecture is interesting. Spontaneous urban acupuncture is fine … in anarchist grandmothers we trust!