A conversation between John Lin and Yifan Shen on The importance of not trying to control everything in Architecture

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一场关于在建筑实践中尝试不要控制一切的重要性的对谈

本文是想法专辑NO.49《创造性地应对使用》的番外篇
This article is the extra episode of gooood idea NO. 49, Please scroll down to see the English version

 

林君翰 John Lin
城村架构创始合伙人(Rural Urban Framework on gooood

(林:林君翰,沈:沈一帆)

沈:当我还是你的学生的时候就经常听你说,试着不要去控制一切。这是什么意思?

林:首先,如果你去听建筑系的评图的话,你往往能听到老师和学生评价一个设计做得好不好的方式,本质上是去评判学生在每一个设计上掌握了多少决定权。在我们的传统教学里,懂得如何做每一个设计决定是成为一个好建筑师必备的技能,大家急于学会如何去决定建筑的每一个细节应该如何设计。但我觉得可能在建筑设计中最重要的一点,往往是学会决定不要控制哪些东西。至少在我自己的建筑实践中,我发现从你开始做一个设计的时候你就必须懂得妥协——因为从本质上来讲,建筑是合作的产物,你不可能一个人造出一栋房子,所以从设计的最开始们就需要学会妥协。所以我一直在探索我们到底如何才能将这种对设计过程中减少控制欲的思考融入进设计和教学的过程中去。

沈:可以举个例子吗?

林:我经常给我的学生看一张卡洛·斯卡帕为卡斯泰尔韦基奥古堡博物馆设计的瓷砖图样的草图。在这张图纸上,他画了很多格子,但故意留空了一些格子没有进行设计,留待施工者自由发挥。作为一个设计师,他下定了决心要减少自己对设计的把控度。其实我觉得这张图更像是提供了一种设计的构想者和实现者之间进行对话的方式。它告诉我们建筑师实际上并不一定是最重要的那个人。

▼图1:卡洛·斯卡帕为卡斯泰尔韦基奥古堡博物馆设计的瓷砖手稿;图2:卡斯泰尔韦基奥古堡博物馆瓷砖立面;图3:卡斯泰尔韦基奥古堡博物馆瓷砖细部

沈:但其实有时候建筑师是很难意识到这一点的。因为作为建筑师,我们一直以来接受的教育就是关于如何利用我们所学的设计来进行专业的设计。

林:对。所以我建议我们不如换一种角度理解建筑。我们以往理解设计是以追求结果为导向的。其实我们不如将设计看作是一个合作的过程。我觉得这才是斯卡帕的草图中传递的最重要的信息——设计是一个过程,而不是一个产物。

我很想谈一下我自己做过的一个失败的案例。如果我们真的想要实验和创新,那就必须直面自己的失败、并从失败中学习。我做过最失败的一个项目是陕西石家村的“四季一所房子”。从这个项目中我不断反思,并总结出了很多经验。虽然我说它是我职业生涯中最失败的作品,但其实从设计的角度来讲,它是很成功的——这个项目赢得了很多奖项,同时它的设计理念也影响了很多建筑师。但从使用的角度上来说,它是失败的,因为现在这个建筑已经被废弃不用了。每每想到这个项目,我都会很惊讶于它所面临过的种种处境,因为其实当初做这个项目的时候,我们对设计和预算都是有非常精准的控制的。

这个项目是由一个香港慈善机构资助的,也因此对于怎么做这个设计我们是有全部的话语权的。但是在设计建造的过程中不断出现了各方面的分歧和矛盾,最后村子里没有办法决定哪户人家会入住这个房子。作为设计师,我们的初衷是给村子带来福祉,但是我们也没想到事情会变得如此复杂。当然,我们对这个房子最终的使用方式所持有的态度是很开放的。最后他们把它用作当地的社区活动中心,同时当地妇联也辟了一间屋子作为村里的女性做手工草编活的工坊。到此为止,这个设计在使用上都很成功。但后来资助我们的香港慈善组织停业了,并且他们内部产生了很多意见分歧。然后一切就不知怎么的失去控制了。从那时候起我开始非常强烈地意识到,在设计和交付使用的过程中,所有我们未曾预想到的、需要我们妥协的问题,我们都应该用一个积极的态度去看待——我们应该拥抱这些问题,而不是抵触它们。因为妥协是合作的基础,也是建造过程的参与者与业主在合作过程中能达到的最终结果。所以从另一个角度来说,学会妥协在建筑领域中是非常重要的。我们必须清晰地认识到建筑物作为社会合作的产物,它的最终归属是非常重要的。

▼图1:陕西四季住宅外观;图2:村民们在四季住宅内进行妇联活动

沈:这种情况现在在中国其实很常见。尤其是很多建筑师都在中国乡村进行建筑实践。可能是因为在乡村做设计成本比较低,有时候建筑师甚至自己就可以出资建造,所以他们能够对设计的每一个方面都拥有决定权。但其实现在国内很多这种乡村建筑在建成后很短的时间内就废弃了,有时候寿命甚至不到一两个月。我觉得很多建筑师都会通过这些项目去实现自己的建筑理想,但是他们其实并不一定真正和施工方或使用者进行了沟通和合作。可能有时候这些建筑过于理想主义了,普通人很难去理解和使用它。

林:我同意你的观点。我觉得把建筑交付给社区的过程是非常重要的——而且这个过程应该和设计的开始是同步的。建筑有时候是给不同的活动创造舞台的,但其实你并不能决定在这个舞台上会发生什么样的活动,因为行为是无法事先设计的。我认为建筑应该给使用者提供一种创造令人惊奇的、有启发性的生活方式的可能。

不过一定程度上我也不同意你的观点。我觉得建筑师的角色在创造新的生活可能性的过程中是非常重要的——因为它提供了一种局外人的角度。我对将设计导向另一个极端——把设计过程全部交由使用者决定也持保留态度。说回斯卡帕的那张草图,我觉得它传递的最重要的信息是,他很精准地决定了哪些他可以控制、哪些他不去控制。我始终相信建筑师应当有这样的远见。

沈:我觉得建筑师常常会花很多时间去决定建筑的空间和功能如何设计,但其实有时候你并不能定义它们。因为人们会按照他们自己的意愿去使用一个空间。

林:对。所以好的建筑师会让人在建筑中感到自由。好的建筑除了功能性之外,能给你创造出愉悦感。尤其是在住宅设计中这一点非常重要。家的感觉来自于,住在家里的人同时也创造了这个家。

沈:而且人们会自发地去对这个家进行改造。因为人们的生活是会发生变化的。比如说家里人会变多,生活也会和以前不同,所以他们是在持续性地改造一切的。我觉得这是住宅的魅力所在——它是会成长的。

林:我觉得这是非常好的一个点,就是建筑是和社区共同成长的。它不仅仅是和建成后使用的过程有关,而是它从最开始就在成长——从你开始有设计意图和开始着手设计的时候,你就可以开始将社区融入进去了。它可以通过集体合作的方式被设计出来。

我还想通过另一个给了我很大启发的项目来阐述这一点,就是路易·康的孟加拉国会大厦。参观那个建筑的时候,你会发现它的混凝土墙上每五英尺的距离间都有一条水平线。这不是路易·康最初设计出来的。这些水平线之所以存在,是因为路易·康当时每天都在施工现场观察施工者的建造过程,他发现当地本土搭建框架的方式是先在墙体上每隔五英尺留一条缝(之后他们会将这个缝隙填上)。随后他立即决定在浇筑的过程中保留下这些缝隙。我觉得这个决定是拯救整个建筑的关键。这个建筑有非常高大的混凝土墙体,而他的这一举动改变了整个建筑的尺度。它一方面提供了一种更符合人体尺度的度量方式,另一方面这些线的存在也放大了人对空间的感受(因为它们看起来很像是分隔楼层的楼板)。我们常常认为路易·康是一个非常有秩序的、很有掌控力的人,但其实我觉得他同时也是在整个建筑过程中都非常开放且包容的人。他让建造的过程启发并改变了他做的最终设计决定。

▼图1:孟加拉国会大厦建造过程;图2:孟加拉国会大厦外立面;图3:孟加拉国会大厦立面细部

沈:我们往往觉得建筑师是无所不知的,只有这样,他们才能设计出一栋完整的房子。但其实有时候我们也不得不承认建筑师并不是万能的,在很多时候我们都需要其他人的帮助和介入——这些人往往会影响一栋建筑是如何建造和使用的。我觉得这不仅仅提醒我们需要意识到设计的局限性,更重要的是,我们必须承认我们作为人的局限性。

林:确实是这样。说到这个项目,我还想提一下关于国会厅的屋顶的设计过程,它是整个建筑中最最重要的部分。当时路易·康一直不满意于自己对于屋顶的设计,所以即使面临着来自甲方的极大压力,他也一直没有办法作出最终的设计决定。因此,他一直坚持对这个屋顶设计、再设计,一直到整栋建筑快要落成的时候,他都没有完成对屋顶的设计,因为他一直很不确定该如何设计。因此,我觉得在设计中拥有一定的自我怀疑是非常重要的。不确定性是创造的关键。当然,对设计的自信也很重要,但是在设计过程中保有一点点对自我的怀疑,能帮助你意识到作为一个设计者,你的构想是有局限性的。我觉得康能够做出如此震撼的屋顶设计,一定是因为他观察了整个建筑建造的全过程。

▼图1:孟加拉国会大厦模型;图2:孟加拉国会大厦屋顶平视;图3:孟加拉国会大厦屋顶仰视

沈:同意。而且我觉得很重要的一点是,你必须接受那些既存的东西,并且要明白你其实并不能够提前预知并掌控一切。你必须保持不断地向外汲取、在思想上演进,只有这样才能做出好的设计。

林:的确如此。做一个好建筑师和做出一个好建筑是两件不同的事情。我们必须明白对于建筑师来说,设计是一种能力。其实你不得不承认,作为建筑师,我们常常会在完全陌生的环境里进行设计。所以建筑师必须非常擅长不断学习、不断了解和吸收陌生环境里的文化,并且你最终必须知道如何将这些东西融入进设计中。我觉得这是作为建筑师最重要的能力。当你开始学会妥协的时候,你会发现妥协其实是合作过程的一种呈现方式——你必须拥有去汲取和接受不同观点、拥抱未知和出乎意料的各种境况的能力。

沈:听起来好像好的建筑师应当非常谦虚。我们必须学会拥抱各种不确定性,并且少一点过度自信?

林:我觉得这两者是有一定关联性的。作为一个建筑师的自信是对自己既有的设计理念的自信——但是同时你也应当相信自己能够在充满未知的空间里进行设计。建筑必须开放给人们自由地使用,并且要给人们提供各种各样的文化和生活方式存在的可能性。所以我觉得,如果我们真的要做好一个建筑的话,设计的过程所导向的目标,应该是通过合作,来实现对我们共有文化新的理解方式。我们应该少放一点注意力在如何设计一栋建筑上,而是要对如何共同建造,或者说是创造一个建筑更有信念。

More: Rural Urban FrameworkRural Urban Framework on gooood


 

 

A conversation on The importance of not trying to control everything in Architecture

(JL: John Lin, YS: Yifan Shen)

YS: When I was your student, I often heard you talk about trying not to control everything. What do you mean by that?

JL: Firstly, if you listen to reviews of students’ work in most schools of architecture, you tend to hear teachers and students engaging in a conversation where they are evaluating each project by how much control you have over every decision. It may seem that control is the prevailing skill and ambition of the architect. But I think deciding what not to control is perhaps the most important decision to make. At least this is my own experience with trying to build architecture – it’s a compromise from the beginning, since you cannot do it alone and its fundamentally collaborative in nature. So,the real question is, how can we incorporate this lack of control into the design process? And how can we teach it?

YS: Can you give me an example?

JL: One of the documents I show in my studio quite often is a drawing by Scarpa. It’s a very simple sketch of a tiling pattern for Museo di Castelvecchio which shows some areas where he wants to have input while leaving open other areas where the workers can freely adapt the pattern. The drawing is a precise determination of the limits of the architect’s willingness to control. I actually think the drawing is a dialogue between the architect and the builder – between the one who conceives the vision and the one who realizes the vision. But it says to me that the architect is not the most important person.

YS: But I think it’s a rather hard thing for architects to realize that because we are the designers and our entire training and expertise is about designing things.

JL: Yes, that’s correct. I suggest it requires redefining our understanding of design as result or product oriented. We can begin to consider design as a process of collaboration. That’s the essence of the Scarpa drawing – it’s a drawing of a process, not a product.

I like to discuss my failures- it’s very important to engage with our failures if we truly want to experiment or innovate. I would say one of my biggest project failures was “The House for All Seasons”. I learned a lot from this project and reflecting on its failures. When I say failure, it’s interesting because on one hand, the project as a design was a big success; it won a lot of awards and it influenced a lot of architects. But I also say it failed because the project ultimately became abandoned, and at the end no one really lived in the house or took care of the house. Upon reflection, I was quite surprised because in this particular project we had complete control over its budget and its program.

A Hong Kong charity helped to fund the entire construction and we could decide every aspect of its use. However, some political issues occurred, and the village could not agree on how to select a family to live in it. We didn’t quite anticipate the complexity that was created as a result of our simple gesture to gift the house to the community. We did have a flexible and open attitude, and eventually established the house as a community center and headquarters for a straw-weaving cooperative run by a local Women’s charity. This succeeded until our Hong Kong charity closed and experienced some internal political problems of its own. All in all, there was some bad luck which was out of our control. But I also had a very powerful realization that the occurrence of compromises in the design process and during the project realization are of utmost importance – we should embrace NOT resist them. Because compromise is the fundamental process of political engagement and compromise is the result of stakeholders and people taking ownership over the project. So, from another perspective, compromise is essential in architecture, because the sense of spiritual ownership is what is essential for the social contract of architecture.

YS: I think it happens a lot now in China. A lot of designers are doing all sorts of experiments – particularly in Rural China. I think it’s because they can fund it themselves and have a great deal of control over everything. However, a lot of architecture that is implemented in the villages is finally abandoned within just one or two months. I think many architects design everything to test out their own design ideas, but they didn’t really work with or consider people who are using it. Maybe their designs were too ideal, and regular people couldn’t really fit in it.

JL: I agree with you. I think it is important the process of turning architecture over to a community – and this should happen from the very beginning, during the design process. I feel that architecture is like creating a stage for different activities, but you can’t really determine these activities because it is not a choreographed performance at the end. Instead it should open up surprising and inspiring possibilities for how people, the users, conduct their lives.

But I also disagree with you, because the role of the architect is important in conceiving of new ideas for living – it takes an outside perspective. I am also cautious of the other extreme, which is a design process that is completely given over to people. Back to the Scarpa drawing, I still think the most powerful action is to decide very precisely where the line between control and not controlling is. I still believe in the architect’s role as a visionary.

YS: I think it is that architects tend to spend a lot of time defining the space and functions but actually you are not able to define it because people just use it as they want.

JL: Yes. Good architecture actually allows people to feel free, to give you a sense of the enjoyment of life beyond its functions. Especially in houses this is very important.  That’s the true feeling of home – that people who really live in it, create it.

YS: And people happen to intuitively change their homes. Their lives change, and family grows, life is different from before, and they constantly change everything. That’s the magic of house – it grows.

JL: I think it is a very good point, to say that architecture grows within the community. And it is not just about the post-occupancy process, but it happens from the very beginning – as soon as you start designing and building a vision, you can begin to incorporate the community. It can be conceived of as a collective process.

I would like to illustrate this with another project which impacted me a lot: Louis Kahn’s parliament in Bangladesh. When you go visit the project, there are horizontal lines in the concrete walls every five feet. That was not part of the original design. That happened because Louis Kahn was on the construction site every day. He watched how they built the walls and he observed that the local formwork process was leaving these lines in the walls (which were intended to be filled in later). He instantly decided to leave all these lines from the casting process. I think it saved the project. The project has immense multistory vertical concrete walls – and it changed the scale of the project, on one hand it gives a sense of human scale, but on the other hand, the lines exaggerate the size of the space (because they look like floors).  We tend to think Louis Kahn is someone who is very ordered and very controlled, but I think he is someone who is very open-minded throughout the whole process. He allowed the process of construction to inform the final result.

YS: We always think architects are people who have to have knowledge of so many kinds of things so that they can design complete buildings. But sometimes you just have to admit that you have some inability in a lot of aspects and need other people – who will just influence how it is built and used. I think it is not just about realizing the limits of design, but also realizing the limits of yourself and as a human being.

JL: Exactly. And the second anecdote which I’d like to relate about the project is the design of the roof over the main parliament hall. It was the most important element of the project, and he was dissatisfied with the design, despite enormous pressure to make a final decision. He continued to design and re-design it almost until the rest of the building was nearly completed, just because he wasn’t sure. Therefore, I think that self-doubt is very important. And uncertainty is essential to the creative process. Again, self-confidence is important but having a little bit of doubt in your design process allows you to understand the limits of what you can conceive as a designer. I think he could only design it after he saw the building under construction.

YS: I agree. And I think it is very important to accept what is there and to accept that you are not able to control everything beforehand, keep absorbing and evolving allows good design to take place.

JL: Exactly. Being a good architect and making good architecture are two different goals. I think we have to be more conscious of architecture as an ability. One of the truths of architecture is that you often make architecture in a place which is foreign to yourself. So, an architect should be someone who is very good at learning and absorbing the culture of another place, and ultimately being able to incorporate that into their work. That’s what I think is the most important ability. As you start to compromise, it is the reflection of a collaborative process – and the ability to absorb different opinions and unforeseen circumstances.

YS: It seems very humble, to embrace all uncertainties, and to be less self-confident?

JL: Well its related. To be self-confident as a designer is also about placing less confidence in a fixed design idea – but being able to design in the space of uncertainty. Because architecture is something that embraces the freedom of use and function and celebrates the diversity of different cultures and lifestyles. And ultimately, I think architecture is political. It’s a celebration of living together, whether as a family or as a community. So, I think if we really want to make good architecture, it’s a collaborative process with the goal to contribute to a new understanding of our collective culture. It starts by placing less emphasis on the design of a building, but more confidence in the process of building together.

More: Rural Urban FrameworkRural Urban Framework on gooood

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