Every country that has been prosperous, has been able to find a balance between its roots and its progress, it’s history and it’s future. Taiwan has one of the most ancient cultures on the planet while it has been able to develop a growing economy. As a country Taiwan works well and it’s culture can be breathed in temple ceremonies, in gastronomy, or when we relate to anyone on the street and enjoy their characteristic friendliness.
Perhaps the most difficult element to understand is its architecture. If we look at the architecture of other civilizations such as the Greeks, the Egyptians or the Japanese, we can see how its architecture, through its formal language, construction, materials, colours and the stories they tell was a representation of the thinking and understanding of the world by its people. In other words, its architecture was endowed with culture and played a fundamental role in the development of these societies and their identity.
In Taiwan however, its architecture is mostly thought of in the utilitarian and economic sense. This has worked whilst Taiwan played the role of manufacturer of products designed abroad where the important thing was to be fast, cheap and useful. But after the departure of many factories abroad, now Taiwan is in a very different situation and aspects such as the authentic, the original or the experience should become more relevant. A design and architecture that goes beyond utility and induces the way of understanding and observing the world of its people can play an essential role in the development of its identity and its position on the international map.
In fact, it is culture, this immaterial jewel that makes Taiwan a dream place for many countries of the world that has to be incorporated and expressed through its architecture. This has also been one of the fundamental pillars in developing the cultural center of Xiafu given its decisive location next
to the Hongfu Gong Temple and its cultural center: How to approach the relationship between the new cultural center with the existing buildings that are the soul and meeting place of the people of Xiafu?
The first aspect is that of its function. The two buildings of the temple and the new activity centre have to have the possibility to be used simultaneously. Additionally, the new building needs to have spaces of different heights (4.5m, 8m and a future extension) and the weather conditions advise to look for protection against solar radiation and rainfall.
In order to accommodate these needs, the project comprises a large roof that varies in height and extends beyond the walls. These prefabricated walls that vary from 5 to 12 meters played a fundamental role in allowing the building to be developed with the required precision and quality control, necessary to become the first building in Taiwan with prefabricated panels of up to almost 4 floors in height being made on site.
However, the most interesting element of the temple’s buildings is the roof, full of the symbolism of Taiwanese culture, its stories and its bright colors. The role of Xiafu Activity Centre has been no more than interpreting this rich Taiwanese language and making it experiential for the public. This project supports all that chromatic spectrum with their sequences of colors shouldn’t be far away up on the roofs but enjoyed whilst we walk around the building and perceive the change in the spatial feeling. It supports activities that are not only developed in the interior where everything is Measured and controlled, but also with the different spatial conditions in the semi-exterior and Exterior that make it possible to generate other kinds of situations where the culture can be interpreted, transferred and enjoyed. It facilitates an architecture that functions as an interface that serves to define, transform and enhance the culture.
Defining, transferring, exchanging, empowering are characteristics that, although they cannot be measured with the industrial rule of the “fast, cheap and useful”, yet they are essential qualities of the prosperous societies that become referents to follow.