Who Lives Who Dies Who Tells The Matrix 

Team: Joseph_Wei Chao-Chun
Time: 2022 fall

A critical commentary:
Who lives who dies who tells the matrix

The research investigates this archeological site located at the heart of the city of Tainan, on which relics of different regimes superimpose upon each other. This history spans as early as 1620 to as recent as 1920.

It is historical, with each discovery of the relics marked upon the timeline of alternating regimes, settlers, and colonizers. From the aboriginals, to the Dutch international trading fleet, to the Qing dynasty of China, to the expanding Japanese in the late 19th century, and to the now Taiwanese governor of R.O.C, traces are left, interacting beyond their own scope of time.

It is multidimensional. There was the Dutch fortress protecting the trading town by the bay, the façade typical of 17th century European military facility sitting atop a plinth. There was the educational complex adjacent to the then Qing Dynasty administrative center of the island. The Chinese architectural language of hierarchical typology of roofs could be found in the still standing structures of Chih-Kan tower and its surrounding small temples, while the concept of modular spans of units is evident in the remaining foundation works of the county office uncovered through excavation. There was the public school established by the then colonial government of militarist Japan. The design was elevation oriented, typical of that time when architecture meets the westernization and modernization of Japan started in the early 19th century. It’s the fusion of western elevation of proportion acclimated to the aesthetics and climate constraints of Japan and Taiwan.

Its is forensic. The relics revealed transcends across multiple spans of historically defined times, thus requires a deep investigation into former maps and other drawn references for accurate identification. Theses reference reflects the disposition of its time through different forms of annotation styles and projection method of drawings. They also demonstrate cultural differences of recording, designing, tradition and point of view.

It is tectonic. The tree of tectonic differences and evolution could be traced along the history of the site. Its was the mass works of classic European fortress at first, the castle of solid forms that is meant to be protective and climate resistance. Then it was Qing’s ruling that brought in Chinese tradition construction of frameworks that forms the collection of intricate roofscape and courtyards of administrative, educational, and religious facilities. During the Japanese colonial, the earliest from of reinforced concrete was introduced, usually with wooden-framed roof seated atop. The Meji public school was one of those.

It is terrestrial. Since the Dutch fleet landed the shore of Tainan in 1620, Taiwan has long been part of the world trading system. Tainan was first the trade town of the Dutch, when the island was first known for deer skin export. These deer skin was brought from aboriginal hunters at a very low price, thus generated significant venue.  In the earlier times under Qing Dynasty’s ruling, Taiwan became part of the Chinese domestic supply chain. Tea was one of the major products. In 1858, Tainan was one of the four ports forced open by the western countries after the Eight-Nation alliance’s invasion of China, through which treatise were signed to open up ports for global trade. Tea, sugar cane and camphor plantation entered and became indispensable for the global market in the 19th century. After Qing’s major sea battle lost to Japan, Taiwan, again as part of the treatise, was conceded, and became one of the first oversea expansion of the then rising militarist Japan. “Agricultural Taiwan, Industrial Japan” was the major economic strategy. Taiwan’s agricultural infrastructure was significantly improved, with new dams and irrigation web paired with strategic planning of plantable lands and times led to a surge of rice and sugar cane production. Most of these farmlands were claimed and owned by large Japanese corporate, while behind the huge profit was intense labor. However, these commercial activities was key to drive the implementation of the railway coverage of the island, which is still of great influence nowadays.

It is ecological. The change of hydrological condition around the site is evident and dramatic throughout these hundreds of years. As early as 1620s, it was just sitting right at the heart of the bay area. The typology is more similar to the now city of San Diego, with a long-stretching sand dune buffering the inner by from the sea, a fabulous setting for the formation of a international harbor. As time goes, human activities of oyster farming and natural alluvial forces acted together and gradually transformed the bay area into a huge, new piece of land. The only trace left nowadays is the canal running through the city west, which is still few miles away from the site. Nevertheless, the life of the city still retains its close relation to the mountain and the sea as the old maps suggested.

It is decolonial. The archeology revealed the site’s inseparable relation to the history of colonialism upon the island. It was first the Dutch cooperate, then the two Chinese regimes followed by the Japanese. They erased and built upon each other, leaving traces that reflects the times upon architecture. Decolonial efforts happened at every turning point in the history, adding up to a self-identification solid and intricate, complex and superimposed. People on this island never concede the right to fight, the spirit of democracy and the notion of a nation grew at every moment stronger than ever.

It is intersectional. The ecological, hydrological condition and geological location lends the site to its terrestrial history that is written at the locus of global economy, while subject the site to constant colonial and decolonial activities – shifting of regimes, and the rise of the people. The tectonic tree is a way of outlining this history, while strongly informs and manifest cultural differences of spaces that is multidimensional. The comprehension of intersectional relation require a diligent forensic investigation that is cross disciplinary integrated.

It is embodied. The scale of the uncovered relics reveals modules and rhythms of density within this inner-city area. The spatial perception shifted from a vast, newly-found island at the brim of the west Pacific Ocean to a more densely populated, cultural dynamic, mingled society of immigrants and (ex-) colonizers. The architecture that existed formerly on the site bears more sense of hierarchy comparing to other places in the city. The program history is of administrative centers and educational facility of regimes that enforces certain value and ideology upon its people. This was a place to be questioned and decolonized. It is embodied in the formal language, spatial tradition, while acting aside with the atmosphere in the society of its time.

It is technical. The documenting drawings resonate with the design tradition of the culture architecture is built into. The façade oriented design of European fortress and the Eclecticism architecture appeared during the Japanese colonial were both represented in a rather 2-dimentional projection. The Chinese architecture of modular elevation, hierarchical roofscape and crafting of courtyards, were, on the other hand represented in a elevational-planar way of distorted projection that is commonly used in many early temple and religious facility designs. This method is astonishingly efficient in conveying the gradual, hierarchical spatial sequence that one experiences while moving through courtyard after courtyard. (The main drawing of this compiled research also applied this kind of projection method to showcase the site on which archeological excavation is in its forensic progress.)

It is activist. This research intends to suggest a history that is dynamic and inspiring, in a way that it opens future trajectories and explorations, that history is not a fixed end and tradition. History is to activate eruptions and innovations. The site the story of the city that should be more multi-dimensionally comprehended by its people so to move on and evolve. So that the bond is not just relics in the museum. This site of archeological excavation could be far more than it is now.

It is futuristic. At this point we rethink the future of relics in the contemporary urban environment. There is possibilities of reinterpretation and re-inhabitation that incorporates a more complicated process of spatial discovery and experimentation that is more than exhibition and preservation. The relics are a new form of artificial landscape with inherent sense of scale. A new common-ground that is free to explore.