Dounangaoka


Designer: Chao-Chun Wei
Time: 2021 summer
Location: Yunlin, Taiwan
A local cultural facility





History

Dounan is traditionally an agricultural town of Yulin, situated at the heart of the great Jianan Plan—the region that contributes to the country’s large percentage of consumed food crops and vegetables every year. The town owes its development preliminarily through economic policy, and further grew after the western line of the Taiwan railway was completed in early 1900s—all during the Japanese colonial.

The old Dounan police office building complex was also constructed during this time, as the growth of population required the reinforcement of governing. Its form is typical of that era, in which the Japanese struggled to strike balance between neo-classical influence and their own vernacular. The front(west) wing’s “red and grey” elements on the elevation represents the mainstream movement bought by the first generation of Japanese architects headed up by Tatsuno Kingo. The following south wing emphasizes more on Japan’s traditional form of wooden structure, for the colonist’s purposeful call for patriotism. Designated recently as cultural heritage, the complex experienced various addition after the colonial ended, now composed of four wings centering around the internal courtyard.  

70 years has past— the town of Dounan encounters new challenges. Structurally, young people moving out to cities for more opportunities bought about severe aging problems. Under limited budget, it faces frequent struggling between traditional industry, tourism and wait-to-be-improved infrastructures. The complex now sits quietly at the end of the main street, at one hand hardly linked to civic activities, at the other simply not attractive enough for cross-county tourists. 

Outward to inward

The design questions whether the now tourism-driven program of the site fits into this small township. Historical heritages shouldn’t be just what to be preserved, but to adapt and move on with its context. To rethink the need of the time at every point of revitalization add layers of cultural depth and complexity to the legacy itself.

Dounan sits at the midpoint between two other major towns of Yulin—Douliu and Huwei, while the site sits on the intersection just aside the major inter-county road. This relationship with its vicinity was key to the project seeking to service the local population at wide. To create a gathering point within the county for a multimodel of activities, and to facilitate public engagement on cultural events need no a cultural “bastion”, but a place that melts into the striation of the township lives.

Inward to outward

The existing arrangement of the four wings is inward-facing, with fences surrounding the periphery, obstructed views and limited entrance render the complex less accessible. By cutting a way though the center, the former courtyard becomes part of the streetscape where civic lives could pour directly into. At the meantime, by knocking down the concrete fences and opening up part of the façade, its relationship with the town becomes dynamic. These subtraction at the first floor ensure the two wings that were built in the Japanese colonial is well preserved, and the modification focuses on the rest two wings built afterwards, to open up especially the north and the east sides of the complex. Along this inner “street”, galleries, café, public restrooms and community workshop are unfolded.

Hill

Hovering above the heritage, floors and traversing circulation supported by lightweight structures and cables define the upper three levels. Pieces of floor slabs are connected in a sense that resonate the complex’s original circulation—a closed loop, the essence of which suggests that one never get to a cul-de-sac which requires heading toward the coming way, while going around.

Most part of the upper level have no solid roof, but streaks of “cloud” – pieces of shimmering metal panels— as though flowing by. The concept of “interior / exterior” is blurred, this “environment” here is a manmade nature, just like being on a hill among fog. On these floor slab there are “Pods” scattered. These pods are multifunctional boxes that define the absolute interior spaces. These spaces are adaptable to different purpose of use—such as community activity rooms, rentable discussion space, and even suits for nightclubs or bookshelves for bookstore. Thus the program across these levels is ever-changing, housing different activities during different span of time. These individual pods could be left open-air or closed off accordingly to weather condition.

The place is named “Dounangaoka”, which means “The hill of Dounan” in Japanese. Suggesting and Reminding people of its origin, the name is also a metaphor of the place. Like a hill that as one ascend it gets more foggy. Like a hill where one feel free to find their own way of climbing, roaming around and engage. Like a hill that it is a place for all people.



Plans 



Sections


Other drawings





Models and Process - The study of rifts 


Inside this existing courtyard defined by the surrounding four wings, light move, shifts and shimmer subtly but dynamically through the rifts. These rifts are the interstitial fragments amongst the intersecting vertical and horizontal elements found along the periphery of this inner void. The silhouettes of vegetation permeate through the system of orthogonal elements, adding further drama to the rifts, through which the outer keep streaming in.  

A series of models were made to experiment on the proportion and formation of rifts through manipulation. The existing rifts has an approximately 30-70 in terms of the horizontal-vertical proportion. The first model was made according to this proportion, followed by three others which are 0-100, 50-50 and 100-0 in proportion respectively. Organic elements could be found within these sprawling vertical and horizontal elements, also contributing to the defining of rifts. These models were set to grow upward at first, but turning them all 90 degrees revealed and exaggerated the dynamicity of the rifts further.

This discovery was applied when making the following concept model, which was grew upward first then turned 90 degree. The translucent part in the model represents the existing structure that comprises primarily of orthogonal elements. The aluminum part is the concept of addition, rifts emphasized in a way of formation found in the process aforementioned.

This study of rifts was the formal basis of the succeeding architecture.







Scenes 


1.
Vertically the layering of old and new is of various forms of relation. At ground level it’s redefining the existing structure, while additional floors like clouds hovering highly above. At first floor, rather shattered pieces of floor slabs straddle the existing roofscape, ranging from touching physically to gradually distancing. At higher levels, the heritage fades out from the sight. The experience is just like entering and penetrating the cloud while the city below no longer visible.


2.
Approaching from the intercounty road, the northern elevation formerly closed up by layers of fences and solid walls are opened up to form a more dynamic relationship with its vicinity. The porosity is a welcoming gesture underscoring its role integrating itself into part of the local township life. The location of the public restroom right on the interface is to both service the complex’s own users along with people just jogging or sauntering by.



3.
The street runs though the front(west) wing, render the sense of interiority ambiguous. The exhibition becomes part of the streetscape, boosting engagement in cultural events through new form of spatial gesture that fits into the scale and sense of the township life. Here exhibitions are not housed in closed-off bastions but somewhere sort of an open, roofed forum.


4.
The former closed-off, inward facing courtyard becomes a kind of streetscape along which multivalent activities are unfolded. This is achieved through morphing the existing higher courtyard walkway with the peripheral lower sidewalks with slopes, while cutting away part of the east wing to run the street though the complex. Not far above, the Grand Stair of Reading and the service counter seated above the roofscape are also engaged with this dynamicity below.

5.
Ascending to the realm of the cloud, there are pods scattered within. These pods could be opened, shelves unfolded to display books, forming a bookstore across the levels. Except for the pods, here in the clouds there are no specific roofs, but streaks of metallic panels flowing by. It’s an environment in which people find their own place among the rifts of the clouds. Here, wind and light and rain wonder freely through.

6.
Light pierce through the cloud rifts, projects onto the floor illuminating the realm of the walkway. Form peak to peak, one passes through piece of clouds.

That’s on top of the hill.