Monday, May 25, 2009

Pockets of Design # 1

Favourite Local Buildings

In my bid to pay a little more attention to my surroundings, I have decided to photograph and document some of the things that I like the most in my local area, but that I see regularly - maybe the most difficult things to appreciate.

For me, this manages to be 'Taiwanese', speaking in a vernacular of concrete and harsh angles. The desire to customise individual treatment of air conditioning and external facades is somewhat channeled, and who can argue with the stripes of magenta, and might-I-say awesome lightening bolt foyer? This building makes me smile.

Labels: , ,

Monday, April 13, 2009

Taipei Mega Architecture


I live pretty much slap bang downtown in Taipei, and I am forever amazed at the scale of my local motorway at the end of the street. The thing is, they posted it up on stilts, so it really does the double trick of magically disappearing and providing an incredible space right in the centre of the city. It also seems to be lit professionally, although I suspect that was more by accident than design.

Anyway, on my way back from my semi-regular trips to the computer market, I thought I would take a few photos.

Stairway to heaven

Painting on the ceiling with light.

Cathedral of the Automobile

Juicy couture. And home.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Open-Source Architecture

Open-Source Architecture in Taiwan

I am sure I could find some earnest academics somewhere postulating about Architecture 2.0, or some such thing, but the fact is that it is happening here in Taiwan right before your eyes.

Unlike in the West (see top layer of the image), where we tend to build something, and leave it as-is until it falls down, or at least when a new supermarket comes to town, Taiwanese people tend to view their buildings as a mere starting point for their own augmentations and addenda. When you first arrive - or at least for the first few years - it's easy to say that it is ugly and unplanned, and that clearly nobody cares about the big picture (see second layer of the photo). However, after some time looking and getting used to the pipes emerging out of every orifice, it does at least seem to make a little more sense. Why not, indeed, customise the building for its eventual use? Why not allow it to adapt over time? Is this not what we are talking about with Web 2.0, Democratic Design and Open-Source Architecture? (do forgive me if I am coining these trends, or at least give me a royalty cheque).

With a little more foresight, and accepting that this is going to happen no matter what the planners do, I reckon that there is a way to build these edifces with just a touch more grace and charm. Lord Rogers - do pop in, and I'll discuss my ideas with you.

Lloyds Building in London (with the Erotic Gherkin behind) - sometimes Taiwanese buildings remind me of this building, a little.
Photographed by Adrian Pingstone in June 2005 and released to the public domain.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Grey Days in Taipei

I had a day wandering the streets in the rain last weekend, and it was well worth checking out some of the nooks and crannies of Taipei that I have not returned to in a while. It has been seriously pissing it down for months now (without much exaggeration) with a seemingly daily shower timed to coincide with leaving the office. Its really getting a bit boring and predictable!

Orange Adidas hit the MRT escalator

A taxi lies in wait

Wandering off to Guanghua Arts District to check out one of the graduation shows.

Zhongshan / Zhongxiao intersection while waiting for the lights to change.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, May 11, 2008

TiT Taipei

I love Taipei.

All the building developments in the city have an enormous amount of money thrown at marketing and branding, usually ending up gleefully making impossible promises about the life-changing factors that come along with purchase of your, as an example, 'Noble City Castle'.

However, there are times when the English checking team clearly left early for the day, and you end up with such incredible names as this - opposite the Siemens / Nokia building on MinSheng and Fuxing - it must have made their day.

Town in Town = TiT

And seen in context ... of one of the busiest intersections of the city.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, December 10, 2007

Shanghai & Hangzhou

Well, there is a reason they call it a 'kickoff' meeting ... we waited six months to start this project, and now I am spending more time abroad than I am at home. I can't relax as much as I might like, but if you know me well you'll know that I maxed out on the fun, frolicking and food - and most importantly had the chance to meet up with Anke, Lars and Bump (a huge part of the Singapore story that I was not allowed to divulge is that Anke is preggers with a baby - Made in China of course - and she announced it on the beach... hang on, this is too important for brackets...)

So - congratulations guys! You have your own paragraph now... look how spacious it is!

Anyway - I spent the days visiting clients and factories, and the nights heading out with the crew and meeting some new and old friends, and some like Simon that I know through multiple contacts, but never actually saw face to face. Anyway - not too good with words right now, so here are some pics. Ahh.

Shanghai World Financial Centre - not without its fair share of controversy... its original (elegant) shape had a large circle in the top ... but the locals are still rather sensetive about the whole Japan thing, and so dropped that for some kind of melted square hole. And in the process of the delay lost top spot as the world's tallest building.

Not quite the world's tallest building ... on the streets of Shanghai

View from one of the client offices - quite funny to be up above one of the recognisable locations in Shanghai - The Pacific Mall (same name as the one in Taipei!)


Sunset in Shanghai

View from the Galaxy Hotel (translation 'Star River')

Road block

Hangzhou sunset - really rather wonderful

Loch Ness

Shattered mirror (just look at the texture on that one, Michael and Markus!)

Totally ridiculous - the only thing missing was the whiny Chinese music

It's really amazing to be around Taiwanese guys when they come to China... there is all this tension, but at the end of the day their culture is rooted here, and they know all of these stories... quite touching. Here is Alfie contemplating things.

Bikes - Shanghai Style

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Yes. I do!

Looks like we got an answer to our big question!

Yes. I do!

There has been more than a little controversy over this proposal... which surprise surprise turned out to be a fake, and an attempt to drum up business for the world's (maybe) tallest building.

The cost for proposing in this way? About 300,000 US$, so you better be sure he/she says yes! (I wonder, is the reply included in the price?).

Labels: , , , , ,

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Marry Me - Diana

Taipei 101 - now available for rent ... I wonder if she said yes?

... Quite a trend of using the world's tallest buildings to propose, eh Ele?! :-)

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Windows on Taiwan

Growing up in the West, there are many things that you assume to be universally acknowledged as a Good Thing, but this is not always the case. Windows are a nice example; in the West, they add greatly to a living environment and raise the value of property by allowing light in and a view to be presented to the lucky inhabitant.

Here, they seem to be a necessary evil, added as an orifice for the air conditioning units. If the small size of the windows was not enough, very often a layer of dark plastic is applied over the top to stop too much natural light in, and bars are then drilled into the fabric of the building. People have explained these bars in various ways - for security, to stop babies falling out, and so on - but I am positive it is much more culturally ingrained than that. I am just sure that the link between the inside and outside world is much less obvious here.

In general, people seem to place much less emphasis on the outward appearance of a dwelling, focusing instead on the interior decoration. This is not always the case, as there are too many stylized European villas and castles to explain it that way, but there is something different going on with the relationship.

Enjoy the view

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, February 26, 2007

Tokyo Plastic

Back in Tokyo, and ready to leave after a few days staying with Kaoru. This time, returning has been fantastic, but very different to last time. Whereas with the previous visit everything was new and shiny, this time I more or less knew my way around the major locations. As a result, I focussed my efforts on Shibuya, Harajuku and Shinjuku ... I decided I wanted to know less areas better, rather than seeing more of Tokyo.

Anyway - gagging for breakfast, so I am hardly in the best mood to write!

Next stop - Yokohama and Osaka. I'll be bullet training in front of Fuji and claiming the cities for the Tokyo Shogunate!

View at night from Kaoru's apartment - thanks so much for letting me stay!

Old shack in Shibuya

Close up

Super glamour in Shibuya

View by day


Harajuku girls - a tourist attraction in their own right

A traditional Japanese wedding in progress at Meiji-Jingu, near Harajuku

And another! Don't ask me what is going on, but it looks like a scene from Star Wars

Omotesando hills, with live orchestral accompanyment

The Prada store - designed by Herzog & Meuron

Inside, looking out at all the poor people

Stairs - I am convinced photography was not allowed, but I had a nice looking camera, so who cares?!

Human traffic again, viewed from Starbucks

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Kyoto Jazz Massive

Kyoto is now officially one of my favourite places on the planet. The weather has been nigh on perfect for my time here and it has been truly splendid seeing the city.

The highlight of the trip - just perhaps one of the highlights of all my travelling - was renting a bike and riding around in the winter sunshine on a rented bike with my Cambridge University scarf waving behind me. I had a smile on my face for the entire day, popping from temple to temple, putting my head round the door of a few UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and cutting up taxis riding just like a student so late for their morning lecture there is simply no point rushing any more.

It would be very easy to overdo the temple thing here. They form the city's major industry and have done for the last thousand years. I think I have done a reasonable job mixing it up though, making sure I also include some gardens, pagodas, food and stopping to ponder the immense complexity of this society - at once immediately accessible and frustratingly impenetrable; espacially here in Kyoto.

I suppose the feeling I have of this place is of awe, but in a similar way to the secretive halls and passages of Cambridge University, even if I was Japanese I would have difficulty breaking more than the most superficial of surfaces - let alone understanding the place.

I'll have one more day to soak, then I will have to the even more historical capital of Nara and then on to Tokyo for a weekend of eating, shopping and drinking with Kaoru. Should be a blast, and a nice contrast to the hostel + 'cultcha' of this place.

Ridiculously beautiful and endlessly layered, this place is beguiling.

Sanjusangen-do. This temple had 1001 human-sized standing buddas standing inside. Each budda sported 40 arms. Each of those arms are able to protect 25 universes from evil. In turn, each can save 25. So, this insurance policy - an insurance policy that took 100 years to build - can protect a total of 30,033 worlds from destruction, and save mankind. Seems... a touch... excessive.

Kiyomizu-Dera - UNESCO World Heritage Site

The weather was simply perfect

Pagodas in the mist

What more to say? I played for a while with B&W

Views over Kyoto

Happy Budda at the love temple - I would be too, surrounded by such beauty

Hon-do - rather an arresting site in the gorge

Even lamps in the cafe got my pulse racing!

Everything - everything - seems to be considered and nicely executed, with little design solutions everywhere you turn

Yeah, so my new camera has depth of field - you guys have guessed. Again, not Sakura!

Port hole

The roofs just blew me away every time

3G monk!

Heian-Jingu is a rather large and gaudy temple - or shrine, I always get them mixed up - in a very Chinese style

Fortunes tied to trees

Ginkaku-Ji, or the Silver Pavilion, is another UNESCO site. Very nice, but with a pretty ugly Zen garden (in my opinion) and rather too many chattering tourists

Make a wish

Tools of the trade on show at Ryoan-Ji. But he messed up all the raking!

Hi Contrast

Layer cake

Icy cold sunshine

Is this just the nicest row of buckets you have ever seen?!

A very pleasant lunch while looking out across an immaculately manicured garden

Hello ... or rather Konichiwa

At the Imperial Palace ... much more well preserved than the other places. But with an organised tour, lots of camera toting tourists and a slightly hygienic feel, I think other locations were better

Yeah sorry! Sakura? No.

A lovely garden... but I have begun to realise that while Japanese gardens seem to be made for looking at, Western gardens are for sitting in. If I sat down I am sure a necromancer or irate gardener would shoo me away!

Too cool!

The English chap I hung around with for a couple of days; a hip hopper from Oxford

Labels: , , , ,