Expedition Out
The West Gate 

Designer: Chao-Chun Wei
Time: 2021 fall - 2022 winter  
Location: Tainan, Taiwan
A community center + Chinese garden + organization building + brand square and hotel

The historical maps of Tainan reveal more than ever a land of freedom. There were still boundaries, like the natural canal formed between solid island brim and soft, ambiguous sandbar, or the former Tainan castle wall. No matter how they are—absolute, intimate, powerful, everchanging—some kind of freedom was left between. People found their own way of living, not only with other people but with nature, the terrain and the tide. There were routes stretches freely to its own ends, and the informal grids organically formed by adjoining farms or oyster ponds. The shifting of density informed communities, while voids are left for imagination. Rolling mountain hardly blocked, and the living condition was bound to the ground—the ground by which people go the way it goes, rugged or flat or undulating.

That was all before the grids of urban planning had ever begun to take dominance over the entire land. From there on in, everything is planned and restricted. From street to alleys, sidewalks to blocks to communities, every piece of land seen was filled with strategies and tactics, guided by a certain group of people how this entire region will look like—from the top at least. Roundabouts and orthogonal grids collided, in a somehow awkward way. Remnants of freedom curled within the frame enforced—so do the inhabitants. And, as it turns out, this dense exploiting doesn’t actually offer much space—not only in terms of the number itself but that for decision and freewill.

Putting together these maps, they raise question and somehow offer directions at the meantime. The question is raised, if read in chronicle order, as: “where goes the land of freedom, and how can it be re-imagined in the future?”. The graph after the last one is still waiting to be unveiled, on which the living condition could be new or known. And, the direction offered, if read inversely to the chronicle order, propelling us to find ways back in the primitive conditions, in which freedom exists under amorphous sprawling of the land, the water and their dwellers. We are just part of it, so do our architectures and built environments.

These architectural projects proposed on the consecutive blocks flanking Fuqian Road in the city of Tainan look into the possibility of architecture not just as bland, solid objects—but as part of the landscape, or amplifying the landscape, or even create a kind of landscape itself. These manmade structures resonate that of the land, by its form and its relationship with people.

At the eastern part of the plan is a new community center dedicated to the residents within the surrounding six villages. In the central three blocks between, a contemporary Chinese garden is inserted. In the west, two structures on the opposite sides of Fuqian road houses the Taiwan Design Research Institute (TDRI) southern branch and the KINJO plaza, respectively. TDRI is a government operated organization in charge of various design events and projects all across the nation. KINJO, on the other hand, is a Taiwanese accessory manufacturer that features wedding rings and artistic, limited braces by top-notch craftsman.

These together, could be seen as different means of exploring and rethinking architecture in the names of landscape. There is a kind of rolling hill extended from the ground and expand into, flow all the way up till the top of the structure. There is mountain and water and stones and forest, inherited and interpreted from tradition, either remain in the scale of a garden, or as large as in the form of architecture. The space of freedom is exerted within, and the iridescent culture of our relationship with and our hands for crafting the nature is relayed to crafting the new form of urban streetscape and living environment in the city of Tainan.

Here, between the manmade and the natural, in all forms and definitions of landscape, the interplays are either subtle or dramatic. It’s like the old way it was suggested by the maps, but a new way it is in this contemporary world.



Other drawings


The crafting of Yuan


The site of the community center winds along the periphery of the former roundabout. The vectors within follow this former current of traffic, defining ways through which people flow freely up and down. Two sunken parts form the space for an auditorium and outdoor tiered plaza on one side, a tennis club on the other.

The inner topography of the community center forms an open community library sprawling all the way from the ground level entrance to the first floor. Alternating levels of platforms scattered within, linked with a web of gentle slope zigzagging the way up. The terrain will contain built-in book shelves within its wall aside the slopes and platforms. It’s a free land where people could roam up and down as a small city hiking, or find their books and take a seat on platforms, or just sit casually along the walkway.

The community welcomes its major user from the north with a shaded plaza for various events to be held. Community gatherings that involve traditional outdoor dining activity typical in Taiwan is one of the many possibilities. This is the future forum of the community, where people attract more people, and the virtuous cycle of growing public participation among residents could be nurtured and facilitated.

The roof top is the second, elevated plaza for the community, rising subtly at one end forming a gentle slope topography. It is capable of holding larger events, and could act as the extension of the community workshop with operable space compartments. On normal day, citizens could just take a seat on the slope, or have a small table for board games or barbecuing with the night view and breathe of the city.

Mountains are formed when viewed from the west of the community center, through the play of solids and voids in the language of nature. The mountain range begins from its bottom the lowest, polyline form of the translucent garden parapet. Gradually but drastically rising up ahead is the rocky scenery within the garden. The next level is then defined by the opening of the building, and finally the roofscape. Combined together, a piece of landscape portraited through the synthetic language of traditional Chinese garden and contemporary architecture is completed.

The community badminton center straddles the road beneath. It’s a bridge structure of truss supported on its two ends. The space provides active interaction and mingling through sport, gathering people from the office, bnb and restaurant onto the court, on which lively talks and play could take place

The major entrance of the KINJO valley faces the road with a grand stair leading to the reception hall on the first floor. The organic form frames the central valley crafted in the center, along which activities from the gallery, café’, restaurant and hotel lobby are exhibited. The sight vectors weave within the valley, facilitating exploration. Facing the major commercial and tourism artery on the ground level is the KINJO café and flagship shop, flanking two sides of the grand stair, merging itself into this vibrant streetscape of café and diners and stands spilling out onto the sidewalk.

A plaza is created between the building of Taiwan design research institute (TDRI) southern branch and the local religious center Bao-an Temple. This clearing within the urban fabric provides the long-needed space for holding religious and traditional performance and events for the local community. At ground level, the activities in community classroom could spill out from the operable façade. At higher levels, the temple becomes part of the local art exhibition. On top on the open air patio, the artistic and delicate roofscape of traditional Taiwan architecture is there for beholding.

The façade of the TDRI southern branch building resonates the palette of traditional architecture in Taiwan. Upon entering the main hall, a spiral staircase leads visitor up into the upper levels where exhibitions of local artists are held. The grand aisle aside the staircase leads to the main event hall of the organization, in which annual design awards, conferences, speeches and fairs could be held. Its interior is flexible for separating according to different use.  

“Borrowing the view” is a term widely use in traditional Chinese gardens. It is a way of maximizing the visual depth of a scenery one encounter, through borrowing the framed view of a more far-away building as though its is part of the garden. The design here is based on this method, but in a circumstance that the architecture lends its roofscape form to its own garden. This creates a kind of mountain range view, that through its relationship to the observer, creates an illusion of being far away in the depth of the sight.

The chapel is high above the cityscape, the craved-out cave in the tip of the range. The brand of KINJO, an accessory manufacturer known for its delicate wedding rings is here to witness the everlasting engagement of the pairs. The opening is framed through the organic form, the ritual backdropped by the cityscape, sunset or night sky beyond.

The form of the architecture curls in from the exterior into its own interior, rises to form the welcoming canopy sweeping toward the hotel lobby and reception. Visitors arriving from the escalator and elevator are all guided toward their destination. Restaurants are hidden behind the canopy.