Saturday, March 6, 2010

Architectural language of Richard Rogers and partners invites look at museum in Taipei

By Nancy T. Lu

Richard Rogers, the British architect who truly found fame as “high-tech iconoclast” with the building of the Pompidou Center back in 1977, and his partners get viewed up close in an exhibition of 78 scale models at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum.

The scales of the projects carrying the name of Richard Rogers over the years – from the house he did for his parents to the Barajas Airport in Madrid – are different. But the intellectual input remains consistent and keeps developing. Simply put, the architectural language fascinates.

“Richard Rogers + Architects: From the House to the City” was an exhibition conceived six years ago for the 30th anniversary of the Pompidou Center in Paris in 2007. The show covering 50 years of work by Richard Rogers and his collaborators has been on the road for two years and Taipei is its first Asian stop.

The British Council in Taipei is actively involved in organizing educational activities for different age groups during the almost two-month run of the exhibition in Taipei until May 2, announced Christine Skinner, director of the British Council.

“We have been working in Taiwan for 10 years now,” pointed out the visiting Ivan Harbour of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners on Friday. “We have done two modest buildings, the Ching Fu Group Headquarters and the Kaohsiung Central Park MRT Station. Both are in Kaohsiung.”

The exhibition carrying primarily the name of the winner of the 2007 Pritzker Architecture Prize includes a vast range of projects. Some are difficult to link according to style. But themes like “Public,” “Systems,” “Transparent,” “Legible,” “Urban,” “Lightweight” and “Green” have served to somehow bind them all together, explained Graham Stirk of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners.

“Legible” has to do with “what the building is trying to say” and “Public” has to do with “public responsibility,” said Stirk.

Of the Ching Fu Group Headquarters (left photo), which has exposed columns and large extractor funnels thereby echoing the Pompidou Center in design, Harbour remarked: “This project has been one of the happiest buildings we have been involved with.” He added: “The building has soul.” Skinner, who once attended a function at the site, described it as “a fabulous building with a gorgeous deck.”

The building belonging to a leading shipping company and commercial ship builder has been turned around to minimize the impact of the hot sun in southern Taiwan and at the same time to face the best view. Louvres on the roof also help reduce the heat.

Lloyd’s of London (right) with six towers was described during a guided tour of the exhibition as “basically a large box where people work.” It has been designed with an eye on “a great deal of flexibility.” Although “complex-looking,” it has been “based on simple principles.”

The Barajas Airport (left phoro) in Madrid covers an area of 1.2 million square meters. It is virtually “a city in itself”. Although built in such a vast scale, the architectural design does not lose sight of the fact that it is intended for use by humanity. There is a system of repetition in space design. The roof has an underside of bamboo. The “unique use of a rainbow of colors” helps travelers find their way around the airport which happens to be a 1.2 kilometer-long building.

The Rome Congress Center, another project designed like a giant ship (see top photo), was an experimental work going against the boring concept of an insular building. The architecture emphasized the top as private space. The rest was open to 24-hour activity. Trucks could drive up to the main spaces.

As for the National Assembly of Wales, Richard Rogers’ team felt like they were “creating a big living room for the people of Wales.”

Energy needed to keep the building running is reduced to only 30 percent. Reduced demand for energy follows if spaces are not treated equally. Absolute temperature becomes important only if the environment is contained, according to Harbour.

The building also borrows heat from the ground. Wind power generated at a site near the National Assembly of Wales pumps up the heat from the ground.

Technology is closely tied to public responsibility in the works of Richard Rogers and his collaborators.

All photographs were taken by Nancy T. Lu. The group picture shows: (from left) Ivan Harbour; Chen Wen-ling, acting director of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum; Christine Skinner, director of the British Council; and Graham Stirk.

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