Hi Ladders High – 2018 Spatial Installation by Left-Behind Children, China by One Take Architects

An Indeterminate Participatory Open Ended Situation

Project Specs


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Appreciation towards One Take Architects for providing the following description:


Hi Ladders High is a non-profit project launched in the summer of 2018. In the Summer Camp of Tanghe Primary School in Luotian County, Hubei Province, One Take Architects and Sunners, together with college volunteers and left-behind children designed and built this spatial installation.

▼装置鸟瞰,installation aerial view


Hi Ladders High consists of 20 independent wooden ladders. This kind of ladder is one of the most common and easily accessible tools in China’s rural areas. Its main body is cut or polished from China fir. In order to make it stronger and cheaper, the makers use hinge screws instead of Mortise and Tenon joints. Since each ladder has a completely independent and relatively stable structure with a highly adjustable angle of inclination, these 20 ladders present plenty of possibilities of spatial combination. Even children without professional architectural training could be involved in the whole process of designing and building, which is what we call “an indeterminate participatory open ended situation”.

▼未经建筑学专业训练的儿童也可以参与到“设计”与“建造”的全过程中来,even children without professional architectural training could be involved in the whole process of designing and building

“无限参与式的开放场景”(indeterminate participatory open ended situation)的概念由雷纳班纳姆(Reyner Banham)提出,即创造一种可以回应事件的空间(suited to what you are going to do next)。嗨梯作为一个开放的结构,通过相对稳固的结构提供了一个空间形态多变的场所,没有具体预设功能,从而可以激发或者回应里面发生的事件。随着时间的推移以不确定的方式改变,不断显示新属性”的能力“change in indeterminate ways over time, continually manifesting new properties”。建筑师鼓励孩子们重新发现场地与建筑的逻辑关系,定义建筑的功能,由建筑装置的使用者/体验者(建造营的孩子们)来完成嗨梯的建造。嗨梯可以被认为是一个由未来的使用者共同策划建造的装置,这在装置所在地罗田的乡村就有着悠久的历史和传统。但是在分工细致的现代城市中,很少有使用者能够参与到建筑的设计和建设中。在这个小小的建筑装置里,我们部分地重现了这个有趣的过程,恢复建筑的全民参与的社会属性。

Reyner Banham proposed the concept of “an indeterminate participatory open ended situation” in which you could create space suited to what you are going to do next. As a relatively stable open-ended structure, Hi Ladders High provides a place of variable spatial forms. Without preset functions, it could trigger or respond to events happening inside. It changes in indeterminate ways over time, continually manifesting new properties.Children of the construction camp are the users or experiencers of the installation. They are encouraged by architects to rediscover the logical relation between the site and the construction, to define its function and to participate in the building process. Hi ladders High could be viewed as an installation collectively created by its future users. This kind of installation has a long history in the villages of Luotian. However, in modern cities with sophisticated division of labor, few users could participate in the design and construction of buildings. In this small spatial installation, we manage to partially reproduce this interesting process and restore a social property of buildings, that is, public engagement.

▼国旗下的“嗨梯 ”,Hi ladder under the national flag


Hi Ladders High: Three -Act Space Drama


In the end, the architects or volunteers and the children collectively made Hi Ladders High into a stage for a three-act space drama where events such as a carnival or camp closing ceremony take place. The children interact with Hi Ladders High not only by playing games in the structure, but also by making changes to it through their creation. The setting of a three-act space drama adds a dynamic time dimension to Hi Ladders High. It now serves as a building where events take place. It is no longer eternal, long lasting or fixed, but a user-driven place whose shape and space relations could be changed instantly according to the needs of its users. As an indeterminate building, the blank part of Hi Ladders High can only be filled by its users, that is, the children of the construction camp.

▼俯瞰“飞鸟与鱼”,overlooking “Bird and Fish”


Act One: Bird and Fish. It is designed by the architect team but got this name from the children’s understanding of its shape. Seen from the top floor of the teaching building, it looks like a fish fossil with distinct bones; Seen from the side, it looks like a bird flapping its wings.

▼“飞鸟与鱼”,”Bird and Fish”


Act Two: Qi Jun. Created by five students: Xiao Sihao, Li Tianyu, Peng Zehua, Hu Ziying, and Luo Anqi. This group of students noticed that a student in the construction camp had body odor. They proposed the idea of double paths so that people who feel uncomfortable with the odor could leave the space at any time but could still peep inside. This work is named after the volunteer tutor of this group: Qi Jun.

▼“琦珺”,”Qi Jun”

▼孩子与“琦珺”的互动,children’s interaction with “Qi Jun”


Act Three: Little Bug House. Created by five students: Zhou Lei, Zhou Yu, Luo Kai, Wang Ling and Wu Dun. With the shape of a bug in their mind, this group of students built the body, tentacles and limbs. They define it as a quiet space for the elderly and the weak to read and rest in.

▼“小虫屋”,”Little Bug House”


In fact, the children proposed over a dozen ideas for Hi Ladders High. One of them even sketched 15 designs all by himself. After a serious review, we selected two proposals to be physically built in the construction camp. The children react quite differently to the materialization of their works. Surprise and shy seem to outweigh excitement and joy.

▼夜晚的灯光下,嗨梯展现出美妙的色彩,Hi ladder shows beautiful colors under the lignt of night



Redefining Common Materials

在每天的日记中,孩子们称自己为“建筑使者”:“我们每天都做建筑使者,真正的建筑使者五年做的东西我们在一天里完成,虽然做的不是那么好,但可以感受到建筑使者的辛苦。”他们也敏锐地发现了“空间装置”有趣的地方——“用生活中常见的事物做一幅美丽的画卷”,也正是理论家威廉C赛茨(William C Seitz)所形容的:“装置艺术主要是装置起来的,而不是画/描/塑出来的,他们的全部或者部分组成要素是预先形成的天然物体或碎片,而不是艺术材料。”

In their journal, the children call themselves “Construction Explorers”. They write: “We build like construction explorers every day. We complete a construction that takes real architects five years to build in only one day. Although the work may be rudimentary, we get to know how much effort they put into their work.” They also keenly noticed an interesting thing about the spatial installation – “painting a beautiful picture with things so common in our life”. This is what the theorist William C Seitz described: “Installation art is mainly installed, not sketched, painted or carved. All or parts of the components are natural objects or debris instead of art materials.”

▼嗨梯的主要材料全部取自日常乡村生活中的常见事物,all the main materials for Hi Ladders High are objects common in the country


All the main materials for Hi Ladders High are objects common in the country, such as wooden ladders, transparent tablecloths and cardboards. During field trips, the children pick auxiliary materials. They grow up in the country and stay close to nature. But this time, these common objects are given completely different functions through their construction. Therefore, the children have the chance to view them from a brand new perspective.

▼孩子们制作的丰富多彩的梯架填充物,colorful ladder infilling made by children



Architecture as a medium to perceive the real world


Our aim is not to cultivate future architects, but to use architecture as a medium to perceive the real world, to guide and help children grow, and to let children return to the real world through physical participation, thus bringing their interests back to the real world.

▼“嗨梯”夜景,night view

▼装置如同黑夜中闪耀的灯火,将孩子的兴趣重新带回真实的世界中,the installation act as flashing lights in the night, bringing children’s interests back to the real world

来自土耳其诗人Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar的诗,十分适合作为建造营嗨梯项目的一个感性注脚:

The poem from a Turkish poet Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar is well suited as an emotional footnote for Hi Ladders High Construction Camp project:

I am neither inside time
Nor am I completely outside of it
in the indivisible flow of an integral, extensive instant
Each shape has been aetherized
By the hue of an uncanny dream,
Even a feather on the wind
Isn’t as weightless as I am.
My head is a limitless mill
Grinding through silence;
My inner heart’s now sated
Dervish without cloak or post;
I sense a world entwined,
Its roots extending from me,
As I float at the center of
A light the bluest of the blue

▼装置透视图,perspective drawing




Little Architects: Yan Zibo, Peng Zehua, Zhou Yao, Wang Lanqing, Zhou Zhihao, Zhou Yifei, Zhang Nanqing, Yang Tingting, Xiao Sihao, Zhou Lei, Hu Ziying, Wang Mingshuo, Luo Anqi, Li Tianyu, Wang Zihao, Wu Dun, Zhang Kexin, Wang Ling, Zhang Gan, Yang Di
Volunteers: Lv Jiaxin, Tang Zihan, Shi Yufei, Guo Qijun, Chen Gaojie
Architects: Li Hao
Design Team: Wang Xiaoyang, Kang Wei, Zhou Xueer, Cai Xinyuan
Photography: Kang Wei, Li Kexin, Cai Xinyuan
Course Design: One Take Architects
Camp Design: Sunners
Materials: PVC, plant, paper, LED, wood

More:One Take Architects  更多关于他们:One Take Architects on gooood 

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