Relational Urbanism: Taiwanism

The official studio days are Tuesday and Thursday, but the instructors will be available on other days to meet individually with students at mutually agreeable times.

Questions about the discourse of an urban plan are intimately linked to concepts of “vision”, “scenario” and ultimately some form of “utopia”. It is perhaps the existence of an urban utopia, or the mere question about such a possibility, which has pushed design into a problem of circular causality, in which the generation of fixities and formal outcomes suggests the very same rigidities and superstructures that utopia is wishing to overcome. Design practices have moved either to different modalities of formalism claiming total independence or total submersion in the flows of reality, or have tilted to a purely consensual attitude towards facilitation of design by others.

In this context, landscape and ecology have served as mere sources of harmonization and smoothness or an excuse for de-politization and technocratic management. Relational Urbanism tries to unearth the radical quality of nature and process as sources of new modes of spatial utopias. It fabricates landscape and architectural typologies understood as models of organization derived from a materialist reading of the environment. It positions itself as a resolutely morphological albeit processal practice, proposing scripted design interfaces as effective forms of documentation dealing with complex metropolitan conditions. Its final goal is to explore how cybernetic and environmental descriptions of time, flexibility and feedback reposition the role of spatial specificity as a fundamentally urban problem.

The studio research capitalizes on Taipei’s current ambitions to act as an engine for economic change and the generation of a new metropolitan condition for capital of the ROC; in essence, a new form of Taiwanism. As part of this move, we believe that it is perhaps the ambition for Densification, the Assertion of an Ecological Character and the drive towards a creative society that best encapsulates the common goals of Taiwan, constituting the framework for the future vision of the island. Urban density, as commonly argued, plays in the benefit for the realignment of economies into creativity and the fostering of the new. The “buzz effect”, reaching a “critical mass” and the feeling of the “new about to happen”, these are all concepts that point to the innate relationship between innovative economies and tightly packed urban environments. On the other hand, the perennial preoccupation of Taiwanese with the cultivation of a strong cultural image is strongly linked with an acute focus on the management of a rich natural landscape which surrounds, sources and ultimately defines the ecological matrix for Taipei.

The research will look into digital technologies that reposition spatial concepts of nature and architecture at the core of an utopianism of process defining the future of Taipei. If, by definition, you cannot represent utopia, perhaps we shall tirelessly draw pre-architectural formations that help us wait, watch and provoke the unexpected and the ultimately disruptive, which may be the best way to describe what Taiwanism should be.