The beauty and sorrow in the postcolonial Taiwan

Yi-Chih Huang
Ph.D study in University College London

Interbreeding Field as a name of an architectural group from Taiwan, it is not only referred to an architectural academic institute, but also relates to an environmental attitude toward architecture and locus within contemporary post-industrial society. This is an experimental matrix, which was first planned and designed by Li H. LU in 1998, and afterwards built single-handedly by Lu and the graduate students under his guidance at the Graduate Institute of Architecture, Tainan National University of the Arts in 1999. Lu and his students reject the traditional studio paper work but appeal to the direct labour of building activities. After three years of group efforts, Interbreeding Field and their experiments won the Far Eastern Architecture Design Award in 2002.

As a site for the architectural explorations, the formal representation of Interbreeding Field is not conspicuous at the first glance. Although the metal structure and the corrugated-metal roof just like other common light industrial factory buildings in the southern Taiwan rural landscape, the big curviform roof with its minimalist aesthetic expression tells its uncommon ambitions to be not just a "factory" of declined industry, but trying to revive certain values between the relationship of man and craft, industrial material and natural environment, modernization and regionalization. The matrix structure of Interbreeding Field is located at the edge of a hillside and surrounded by wilderness-the rural landscapes. Just as other corrugated-metal-made factory buildings that located in the wilderness, this is typical and common rural landscape in southern Taiwan. It is the result of modernisation at the early stage of transformation from agricultural economics to light industrial economics. But as the light industry was fading out from the economic stage of Taiwan, these structures became terrible scares not only on the rural landscape, but also on the traditional relationship between man, labour and the earth. Here we are not only facing an aesthetic problem of architectural representation, but more importantly is the fragmenting of rural communities and the loss of human-earth relations-a loss of Martin Heidegger's "dwelling."

Interbreeding Field is trying to face these historied problems of modernisation and to find a new attitude toward the future society. By emphasizing the importance of physical and manual practicing, Interbreeding Field encourages her participating members to discover and experience the textures and conditions imbedded in the surroundings. Through the use of his/her own bodies, the young artists may re-establish their own relationship with the earth, the environment and to find out their own position within their time and place. Via the open framework of the matrix structure, the Interbreeding Field supplies free accesses to its rural surroundings and forms a reciprocal relationship between artificial structures and natural environment. Walking to the matrix every day thus becomes a ritualised process. Students have to walk across the hill circuitously to approach their lab, which only a small part of roof can be viewed from the route. After climbing to the peak of the hill, the matrix, which surrounded by the woods and mounds, now reveals herself to the visitors. The students?experimental sites, in this circulation, are even more far behind the matrix. They are hided within the woods and mounds and waited to be explored. In accordance with the manual labour process central to this ritualised working routine, the participating members would then be able to write such value and aesthetic view into their body and form a permanent architectural memory of their own.

In Interbreeding Field, all the participating students have to face the endless dialectic between the matrix and the environment and to make their own reactions. The younger generation have to face the existing context that built by the predecessors to make their own statement about the matrix and the environment. The main structure of Interbreeding Field as the matrix of a framework is to assist the students in building a referent for self-positioning. As every generation of the students may differ and vary, what they bring along or implement may also create change, alienation or even mutation to the matrix and its atmosphere in general. In this sense, the Interbreeding Field is variable and always under-construction; she is an endless story. This kind of attitude and spirit that Interbreeding Field has accentuated is in fact corresponding to the constantly changing or transforming Nature and cityscape. How does one conduct a communication and interaction with the matrix and, furthermore, to enrich the latter? Or, in the process of breeding new architecture, how is it to maintain the inter-linkage between the newborn and the matrix to create a meaningful context for its tenants? Both have been the major concerns of the Interbreeding Field.

The various challenges in the Interbreeding Field are just as the simplified representation of the real challenges that contemporary architects have to face. It is because the multiple exchanges of interpretations and expressions have constituted a hybrid phenomenon in this highly globalised world. Likewise, such change would also pose an influence on those yet to come in terms of how the latter may feel, understand and reinterpret the external environments they are about to encounter. Such process of interbreeding is never simply a decision of "to save" or "to delete", just as the dilemma of tradition vs. modern in the last century cannot be an either-or question. As time proceeds, the need for space changes, the cultural process transforms, and the architectural matrix such as Interbreeding Field would ultimately come into a metamorphosis with distinct footprints. Thus, multiple, composite thinking has become a key philosophy in the creation and building of architecture at Interbreeding Field. Under Taiwan's special postcolonial conditions, how to face the challenges of colonial/modernisational heritages and the globalised cultural hegemony is a crucial question for nowadays architects. In this sense, Interbreeding Field is trying to help the younger generation to explore their perspectives and critical thinking through the endless dialectic hybridity. In this evolution process, Interbreeding Field and her participants are gradually forming and writing their own culture, value system, aesthetics and history of architecture with a distinctive contemporary Taiwanese character.

Interbreeding Field, which located on the most sorrowful land of colonial and modernisation histories, where we can expect that the most distinctive flowers may be going to grow.