2023 IRACDC Discussion and Comment for Shortlisted Projects
Event message

Host :
Chang-Mei Huang  / Director of Taiwan Residential Architecture Award Association, Director of 《TA》Magazine
Keynote speaker :
Ming-Yuan Kan / Host Architect of D.Z. Architects & Associates 
Chia-Ju Lin / OMA Director TW/ Architect 
C-David Tseng / Lifetime University Chair Professor, Graduate Institute   of Architecture, National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University
 Chih-Jen Yeh /architectural technician @back mountain       
(Names are listed in the order of the number of strokes in their   surnames)
Organizer :
Chin-Kun Wang / Secretary General of Taiwan Residential Architecture Award Association
Translate: Kun-Feng Su,
Time : 2023/03/29 

Chin-Kun Wang:International Residential Architecture Conceptual Design Competition (IRACDC)is founded in 2018 which is the 3rd session this year. Architects Riken Yamamoto and Francine Houben are the 1st and 2nd session separately, and architects Rem Koolhaas and David Gianotten are invited as the judges this year. IRACDC is aimed to encourage social elites and students under the age of 40 in the architecture-related industries. The topic will be contributed and the winners will be selected both by one (team) judge(s) in each time. The time of 2nd session coincides with the outbreak of COVID-19 which also becomes the topic of 「The Future of Housing-before and after a pandemic」by judge Francine to review the living way of people. The situation of pandemic is going to the end around the time of hosting the 3rd session. Therefore, judges Rem and David contribute the topic of 「 The Multifunctional Sustainable and Healthy Home」with 3 important issues which echoes the trend of architecture development to face the situation and brainstorm new strategy of residential architecture. All of the 274 submissions are received from 24 countries for the competition this year.

Chin-Kun Wang/photo: ta

Chang-Mei Huang:The topic of 「 The Multifunctional Sustainable and Healthy Home」and declaration by the 2 judges are from the observation of this era who select 10 shortlisted entries and winners. Four participants coming from architecture-related industry are invited in the forum to discuss the change of housing caused by COVID-19 and the change of relationship in residence for the first part. The 2nd part goes to the concepts and thoughts of the 10 shortlisted entries relating to society, economics, sustainability and life. The 3rd part is to discuss the inspiration or the direction of practice for architecture industry through the concepts.

Chia-Ju Lin:Although the topic of the 2nd and 3rd session are both related to the pandemic, we can see different key words, such as "sustainability" and "health" and the topic of "countryside" which OMA has been discussing for over a decade. Before the pandemic outbreak, OMA even organizes the results into an exhibition called "Countryside, The Future" at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Unfortunately, the exhibition was forced to be suspended due to the pandemic but the issue of the countryside was already an unavoidable topic at that time. A different thinking is from the mainstream study that predicts a continued large-scale migration of the global population to urban areas which will make the scale of cities larger than ever. There is a possibility that 80% of the world's population may live in metropolitan areas by 2050. While all professionals focus on how to solve urban population problems, the outbreak of Covid-19 pushes people to have a reverse thinking of choosing to move to suburbs and rural areas. The situation also becomes an opportunity to push architecture professionals to review the issue of countryside. The top 3 shortlisted projects selected by Rem and David also response several key words.

The first-place winner, Sky Village Incubator, mentions the situation of rural farmers and workers leaving their hometowns to work in cities due to the demand of large workforce in urban construction. However, the process of construction goes slower caused by the pandemic and the rural workers are neglected with poor living conditions. The team proposes a solution of creating a self-sufficient and multi-functional living space where rural farmers and workers can live and using their planting skills. The second-place winner, POLAR STOROZHKA, which is located in the cold polar region of Russia, creates a possibility of group living of building a fortress-like housing. The third-place winner, Carbon Lab of Circular Economy, also creates a communal living style. However, the designer focuses on utilizing machines to transform energy for daily necessities and using open spaces for circulation to better connect nature to locate the site of project in rural areas rather than metropolitan areas.

C-David Tseng:The first-place winner questions the situation of “villages in cities “and takes care the residents with poor living conditions. China should be the country having the largest gap between urban and rural areas (income and welfare) in the world. Meanwhile, the action of reorganizing villages in cities several times in the past has paralyzed the city's service system. The problem actually is derived from the gap between wealth and poor. Therefore, the top-down management cannot solve the problem. The strategy proposed by the first-place winner this time is to find reasonable solutions and use planting skills of farmers and workers to supplement the urban deficiencies and build the mechanism by modularization and land integration. However, the relative unoriginal idea is to use old-fashioned domino system to place small houses in stack system. Nevertheless, it is integral to touch the problem China is facing by bottom-up solutions to response issues of sustainability, health, and rural villages. It is pity that we do not see more discussions on operational systems such as structure, agriculture, energy, and waste management.

The third-place team's topic and solution are also well-developed, but they are still lack of integrity compared to the first-place winner. Although the system proposed by the first-place winner is not a new one, the structure is flexible to be adjusted be demand. In contrast, the third-place winner relies on breakthrough in future 3D printing technology to create forms with machines to provide living spaces more freely and meet demands flexibly. Moreover, the idea of Carbon capture is used to try to match the circular economy by capturing carbon footprints. The relative smaller scale of proposal is hardly to achieve the result. In comparison, we are interested in the first-place winner's proposal because of the large-scale system in China with the real problem of rural farmers and workers at the same time.

Chang-Mei Huang:The pandemic is still at its peak when hosting the 2nd session but the pandemic is going to the end for this year’s session relatively. Therefore, the topics and strategies raised by participants are different. Last projects more focus on protection and safety which is to keep a safe distance for communication. The projects this year seems to focus more on urban, social, and housing trends and OMA’s topic physically raises the issue of “multi-function”, “sustainability” and “healthy”. In general, all of projects focus on issues of urban and rural villages but lack of 2 issues of sustainability and healthy which should be considered both for physical and psychologic level. I believe that the 3 issues of this competition are critical which should be considered for architecture industry in the moment. 

C-David Tseng/photo: ta

Chih-Jen Yeh:Living and accommodation are daily life for human beings but they are always the starting point to push us to move forward. I believe that the life nowadays is not easier than ancient people even though we have had some foundations such as population structure, land use, economic models, digital technology, and housing forms. However, the appearance of housing may gradually become blurred in the future due to the maturity of technologies such as 3D printing and AI, which seems like can solve all "problems". Hence, what the roles architects should play in the future?Is it the time we can go to find an utopia? Or being enslaved by objects(technology)? It is a big question. However, do we still think about questions by binary method of “city” and “rural village”? Horizontal development? Vertical development? For example, we build a gigantic structure and putting elements such as sustainability and green architecture into it, then have clean air through filtration. Is it the correct way? Participants have to solve the named topic in the competition. However, if the ideas could be involved with bold hypotheses to provide viewpoint for space forms. When the next pandemic comes again, we can control it instead of lockdown and think about what is the living style for people. We can control the situation when it is necessary, open it when it is needed and use technology to solve healthcare problems. Technology is used to make life better instead of causing more problems and difficulties.

The first-place winner’s project discusses an unique issue of politics and society, and it's not about farmers but about farmers and workers who migrant workers who move from rural to urban areas. Shanghai for example, if someone is not registered as a resident of Shanghai, they may face living problems during lockdowns. The team specially build a system that not only provides living spaces but also allows them to utilize their farming experience. If the sociality is drawn out of the viewpoint and check whether an idea of creation is made with universal values. We can see most of the 10 shortlisted projects are unique. The redesign of Qingguang Market for example, it is a special area which cannot be applied to another culture, society or environment. Although the competition is ended, I suggest that we can expand the horizon of discussion instead of merely focusing on issues raised by the projects.

Chang-Mei Huang:For the concept of controlling it instead of lockdown mentioned by Ye Chi Ren, the idea of 15-min living circle has been launched in foreign urban plans earlier. All of spaces of living and medical treatment can be found in the scope of urban plan to meet people’s demand when pandemic outbreak comes. The so-called small districts in China are actually quite large which will be affected hard by lockdown. The concept of 15-min living circle should be adopted in the future.

Chih-Jen Yeh:I like the concept of a 15-minute living circle, but there's another possibility that using drones to deliver demands instead of calculating the time of workforce. It is a kind of thinking out of box so it's possible for people to return to a natural utopia. The digital world has no boundaries and out of imagination so people's social styles will also be changed to allow them to return to the natural environment.

Although digital world aims to promote freedom, surveillance issues also become the problems we worry about. With the use of AI, our actions and intentions may become more predictable and easier to monitor. As a result, a peaceful life will not only “choose (design) a house” in the near future. In the past, the rapid population growth brings a worrying of the housing demand could not be enough. However, if we break down the global population structure, we can find the urban population in advanced countries has started to decline. Although these countries have highest population density, the population decline brings a problem of many vacant houses without care. It is a good timing to talk about the vacant spaces actually.

When there are too many such spaces in society, it becomes a serious social problem. Therefore, we should handle an issue with more aspects such as carbon footprint and zero-carbon emissions. We must think thoroughly on whether we indeed understand the meaning or just waste resources. The government-driven certification systems could be such the problem. This is the reflection from the topic of competition for me, precisely in this part.

Ming-Yuan Kan:It has been a long time for me living in rural areas of Yunlin for almost 20 years. The first-place winner’s project reminds me of many unfinished buildings left after the collapse of Chinese real estate market in recent years which remain incomplete. There are still residents inside and need to continue to pay off their mortgages for over a decade then. They have nowhere to go and the ruined buildings are still alive. It is special for the identification of Chinese farmers which could often change between farmers and works. They do farming or do part-time jobs in the peak time or the weak time of farming respectively. If the essence of living is to have a place to live in peace, farmers and workers have the ability to build and cultivate to make life for themselves. However, the situation is unable to work in the original urban system. This project integrates these two points, allowing the laborers who are being exploited at the bottom of society to be accepted by the city as well. However, this is actually a trap because farmers and workers still have to live in dense populated cities and bear the high housing prices. It is quite ironic and I do not believe it will be a beautiful vision in the future.

Douliu of Yunlin actually has a situation similar to the 15-minute living style. Douliu is a small town with a population of around 60,000 to 70,000. The down has railway system for public transportation and National Yunlin University of Science and Technology for education. The basic industries are centered around schools area which can be covered within 15 to 20 minutes by cars. My house is on a mountain about a 20-minute drive from Douliu.

I believe that "home" is a place where people can settle down and live in peace, allowing themselves to live comfortably and relieve stress in natural environment. Home is a place to refresh ourselves without any plan in advance. There is an organic farm with a shared store offering services similar to convenience stores to provide package shipping and receiving. I believe that this is an ideal living style and environment in the post-pandemic era. For sustainability or social perspective, such a low-density area like this one is actually easier to implement.

Ming-Yuan Kan/photo: ta

Chia-Ju Lin:In the past, it is believed that population concentrated in metropolitan areas is normal. In contrast, people start to yearn for free space and clean air and move to the suburbs after the pandemic outbreak. But is this correct? If we disregard self-respect of human beings, people are like viruses on Earth, and big cities are places to control and concentrate these viruses. Currently, rural areas are in a state of balance which will be going better with less intervention. When people start to move to the countryside due to the pandemic, it is necessary to consider the way of migration. Regardless of the first, second, or third-place project, I believe that a system should be built to control the migration to rural areas. If people follow that way of building housing the same as in cities, it will only harm the rural areas. Therefore, how to limit the intervention in rural areas is the correct attitude we should have.

Many cities around the world are experiencing a declining population trend, and Taipei has  a negative population growth for over six years leading to issues such as vacancy rates and aging population. In the book "The City in the City," Rem Koolhaas studies the city of Berlin in Germany and suggests that the government should not intervene in the population decline and allow houses to be abandoned and occupied by plants. A scenery would be seen of groups of green forests in the city and allow nature to return to the city and achieve balance.

However, is the idea good? Taiwan's situation is quite unique which cannot be categorized as cities or rural villages correctly. For neighboring Japan, the concentration of population in cities has led to aging populations in rural villages. The areas has tried to conduct local revitalization programs for a long time to figure out the problem but failed. Unexpectedly, the COVID-19 helps to solve the problem to raise value of house in rural areas and bring a phenomenon of wonderful rural life for people. Yet, we have not found a way for people to return to nature and live with it in a suitable manner. It is time for architects to expand their expertise and think about changes beyond the city.

Chih-Jen Yeh:There is no concept of garbage or pollution a thousand or two thousand years ago. The solution should be found in the ancient situation. Nowadays we use technology to solve problem caused by technology but it seems like an endless circle without ending. “Human beings” is actually the real problem.

As technology is always a double-edged sword, it not only brings us convenience but also unpredictable disasters. For example, when we promote green building certification standards, we actually do many unfriendly-environment things at the same time. Where is our position when we begin to enter the digital world? Does it still count the situation of living in peace in the past? How do we take care of ourselves? What are supporting measures of medical system? Should we continue to use the concept of grid designate certain areas specially for medical or educational units, or should we adopt an organic, healing approach for plans?

Ming-Yuan Kan:When I review the second-place project, it reminded me of my experience in the northern part of Canada. The climate challenges are extreme and the gap of temperature often goes to more than thirty degrees between indoor and outdoor. It's easy to develop depression because outdoor activities are limited in such an environment. So the strategies and solutions are accepted to design an important insulation in outer walls. For those of us who live in subtropical regions, it's difficult to imagine what is the life in cold climates. The ironic reason for the first-place project is that Chinese government spends lots of resources to build commercial housing but actually results in a large number of vacant houses that many rural farmers and workers cannot afford. However, they build these houses. Chinese government uses urban and rural household registration to control the entire country. The situation is poor for the farmers and workers without household registration who are unable to have education or medical services or any urban amenities. They are exploited and the proposal is quite utopian.

Chih-Jen Yeh:It is not really ironic but maybe a desire in heart. We sincerely hope farmers and workers could have an opportunity since being a group of minority. However, this opportunity is not allowed in the current politic system.

Chih-Jen Yeh/photo: ta

C-David Tseng:I try to look back further that the hot modernism of architecture in the whole the 20th century is the base of housing theme such as Weissenhof Estate in 1928 or Modern Architecture: International Exhibition in MOMA in 1932. Contemporary critic of architectural history Beatriz Colomina once said an interesting statement that goes something like: "The best way to propose experimental or avant-garde architecture is the housing." The meaning behind the words is that housing is a familiar architectural type for people to meet people’s basic function of accommodation and responds to basic mechanism of life. Therefore, after architects capture these basic conditions that most people understand, they can begin to experiment may through forms, languages and construction methods. For example, the second conference of the International Congress of Modern Architecture (CIAM) discusses the minimum size of a housing unit. Therefore, the best part of this competition is that participants try to explore possibilities of housing through the issues raised by the judges and encourage participants think about what is housing.

Unfortunately, the ten shortlisted projects in this competition mainly focus on sustainability and multifunctionality, lacking of health. Perhaps the reason is that the participants are healthy and too young to feel the part, or may not yet having the capacity to take care all aspects of architecture.

Since the mid-1990s, people in the architecture industry have gradually realized that the problem of architecture does not come form form or language, but connects with society and economic systems. The first-place project attempts to solve problems for farmers and workers which is a very good idea. Although the response of the system is not perfect, it is still worthy of encouragement. The second-place winner responds to cold climates, proposing a double-layered wall for insulation and planting trees in the courtyard to unite the residents' consciousness. Although this system is not clearly explained, the imagination and creativity are great, but the idea lacks of responding to health and happiness.

Chia-Ju Lin:I am the director of OMA in Taiwan so Rem and David invite me to review all of projects submitted. Although all of participants are anonymous, I still can roughly tell which projects submitted by Taiwanese students from the drawings. Although the number of entries is large by comparison, they do not have advantage by the proportion of submission. The result shows that maybe students in Taiwan are not interested in residential architecture. For reviewing graduation projects in Taiwan for many years, it seems that there are relatively few students with excellent design abilities to choose housing as their topics. Perhaps they feel the performance of housing design is not strong enough? Many of the submitted projects of students who are around the third-year degree of study. It is the time in the middle of their learning process and their skills and thoughts are not mature on the topic with weaker presentations and expressions.

Furthermore, I can see that Rem and David prefer complex and large-scale designs with multiple issues. Therefore, some Taiwanese participants propose interesting ideas about thinking the way of residential living but may not have been favored by the judges due to the smaller scale of their designs. On the other hand, there were many submissions from China of which most are done by teams, providing higher quality and more complete drawings. Their preparations have an advantage for the judging.

I am impressed by the Honorable Mention project "Urban Instability", in which the team conducted research on the Qingguang Market and then uses a non-traditional design. They materialized the concept of "metaverse" and provides residents with an app to adjust the space to meet their preferences and break the limitations of the building. The team also explain the way of adjustment through drawings. During the final selection, Rem asks him that although the app can be used to do adjustment, the furniture and space scale still have to be controlled. We can see a framework there and people have to make choices based on those settings. If so, people can still feel free in such space? I think it is an interesting question for the student. I also liked the Four Filtering Pieces House from Germany which proposed a more traditional strategy but the building is sliced into four layers with its own function for each. The outermost layer facing the street is a semi-open space, the third layer is a public space, the second layer is an indoor social space and the last layer is a residential space. This simple technique effectively handled the relationship between open, public, and private spaces. The relationship among open, public and private space is handled which is a simple and interesting way.

C-David Tseng:There are operational systems in the project for Qingguang Market, including air circulation and other equipment. However, Ren gives a good question which I could not answer as well because of the assumption of the space arrangement being handled by app. The article of project FFPH has explained the concept of Four Filtering Pieces House. The idea is simple and the drawings are interesting. Unfortunately, the issues of society, politics and economics are less discussed.

Chih-Jen Yeh:I am interested in the second-place winner and would like to know more about her psychological state. During the Q&A time, both judges ask her if she had lived or visited the area she designed for and she replies that she had not. Therefore, she responds to the polar conditions using hypotheses. Secondly, she uses the abstract concept of the Tower of Babel for the project with unknown polar conditions. It's a pity that the final hand-drawn drawings of building and floor plans seem from format, leading to a sense of conflict. I have no idea why they make the choice of design. Among the ten selected projects, there are not much emphasis on residential plans and just following traditional styles. However, technology has changed our behavior such as looking down at our mobilephones to avoid eye contact and maintaining social distancing. Do we still need a living room in this situation? Even if the function still need to be kept, it should be changed. The purpose of conceptual design competition should inspire discussion and break down these existing boundaries.

The word of instability in Honorable Mention project "Urban Instability - Participatory Urbanism" means instability which is to discuss population density, activities and groups at different times. People can have different possibilities of activities based on time, location and people by their design. People is unpredictable. Therefore, sesigners try to make it predictable by App but the interesting part is the unpredictable behavior should be realized by testing people through this way instead of developing complicated styles. Although drawings are great, people are still feel doubt to believe it. The project “Alveolar Filter” is to bring an idea of that people can have clean air inside the house which is filtered by huge pipes. That is the solution proposed by the team against COVID-19. However, there is a more important direction for the topic of competition that we should start to think about the response for the next pandemic. I hope we can develop the possibility of ideas for cities and rural villages through the competition and the idea can be applied indeed instead of such specific method.

Ming-Yuan Kan:Although we fell being monitored by the way of using equipment moved with people to sanitize and control the quality of air, I recently have another thought for the environmental control equipment. I live at an area where around at an altitude of about 400 to 500 meters located half-way up the mountain. The environment is quite and beautiful but the humidity is too high to have a stable quality of air. We advocate the design of air circulation but it cannot solve the problem. We finally ask help of friends who are familiar with this kind of equipment to adjust the air circulation. The problem is solved quickly and the indoor phenomenon of bugs, mold and cost of air conditions are handled. The old concept of following the nature is the best way is changed then. Therefore, if we choose the equipment well, the aim of sustainability and heathy can be achieved.

Chia-Ju Lin:The shortlisted project of “Return To The ( )”is an idea of apartment complex to address that people are not only animals but need more activities. The living spaces are quite small compared to large public spaces for residents to build a new group mode of living. Two judges ask him the idea is for the prototype of design for future social structure or just being treated as living behavior in the public spaces but he does not give a clear answer.

Chia-Ju Lin/photo: ta

Chih-Jen Yeh:I often consider things with the character of humans as animals because lots of gene of human beings are kept. Although technology has changed our living styles, the metauniverse cannot replace basic demands of living such as eating or sleep.  When the designer brings the concept of “People are not just animals”, preconception is existed already. It is pity that the arrangement of space lacks of logic with random assembling. There is no explanation of relationship between public space and living and how residents can use the system comfortably. Although designers put efforts to build the atmosphere of living spaces, these spaces do not present a community. However, if the idea goes back to pure housing style, the functions are systematized. It is possibly interesting.

C-David Tseng:I think this project is about "freedom" and "diversity" but the comparison with animals is somewhat out of focus. Humans are also animals and animals can be divided into wild and captive ones. Therefore, the focus should be on the human experience in spaces such as encountering each other in a passage, walking and planting outside together and then constructing freedom and norms. When talking about the third-place project of Carbon Lab of Circular Economy, it has an attracting name and a correct politics direction. Unfortunately, if we thoroughly review systems inside such as structure, environment and accommodation which are mentioned less and are unmatched with the name proposed.

Chih-Jen Yeh:The shortlisted project of “No One is an Island” is interesting that each unit is individual. Units can be connected to form a community to break down the boundary of residence and give residents more control. The idea allows residents to decide whether going out or not to touch the world outside.

Chang-Mei Huang:The generation of participating the competition is quite familiar with the digital tools. The shortlisted project of “Spatial Folding of Urban 'Patches'” is to use the digital software to develop a building type. It is an overturned idea.

Chia-Ju Lin:The Spatial Folding of Urban 'Patches' uses parametric design to generate architecture but the designer finds that the results produced by the program could not be directly applied during the process. As a result, the interaction design is still needed to combine the spaces into a rational plan structure. So Rem and David asks her that if she decides to generate units by AI, why her subjective design is also used to do adjustment in the process and how to define the project? We can see that she does not answer the question. In contrast, the Honorable Mention project of “Urban ZIP.per” is to respect to classic works. The plans and strategy is quite similar with Unit d'Habitation, Marseille designed by Le Corbusier but public spaces are positioned in higher floors. Therefore, two judges ask him that why he wants to learn works in the past since the development of architecture has gone for a while? And what is the new value he finds in the process? Unfortunately, we do not have his answer. It is clear that people are interested in paper works but the fluency of presentation and the response for judges are the key of degrees of the 10 projects.

Last, students are not interested in residential houses nowadays but residential houses tie with our life. The reason may go to too many restrictions and demands in designing residential houses. Designers need to experience life, the space of houses and relationship of community in person so the creation is limited by lacking of unique points and these experiences in the beginning. Therefore, students are not willing to face the topic. I will encourage students to observe environment around us and daily habits to gradually find the characteristics of living spaces for themselves. Every generation has to build their aspects of residential houses for current generation instead of merely treating them as commodities.

Ming-Yuan Kan:The demand of social housing has been discussed and becomes a topic and trend in recent years.  The situation has aroused the interest of students to discuss social housing through the angle of taking care minorities and environment. This are the real things happened in Taiwan now but Taiwan’s market of real estate should be valued and reformed from now on.

photo: ta