There is a Chinese saying: One minute on the stage, ten years of practice off the stage. This is the case when projects have the opportunity to be presented in an exhibition.
It took more than 10 years for RAC Studio to step onto the stage, and now finally, on the occasion of the 6th edition of ECC’s biennial exhibition Time Space Existence, RAC has the opportunity to finally present itself to the world.
Since it was founded by designers, graduated from top universities and committed to cutting-edge academic research and educational institution, the exploration of the studio never stopped and never got easier.
Today, RAC works with top universities, governments, research institutions, enterprises, and non-profit organizations, promoting an integrated education system of Industry-Teaching-Research in order to connect students, society, and programs, bringing top designers to remote villages, to work for more accessible academic resources, more diverse information, and broader perspectives.
But how should the exhibitor connect with the themes of the exhibit?
As a matter of fact, the topics RAC has focused on in the last two years include: Space and Interaction, Countryside and Heritage, Ecology and Material, also featured in the exhibition. In the three chapters of this article, we will explain how these respond to the the themes of Time, Space and Existence, presenting more insights of the exhibitors.
Chapter 1 | TIME
Yang Fei, “Maison Sédimentation”
Yang Fei, founder of Field Object Lab and Studio Fei, believes that every design and construction has the potential to transcend its physical entity, with the space and atmosphere of a place evoking contemplation, memory and empathy. Therefore, “experience” and “physicality” are central elements in all his designs.
The “Maison Sédimentation” project aims to revitalise a traditional urban townhouse and transform its function into an urban art complex while preserving its authenticity. Built in 1770, the townhouse rests on the foundation of a much older structure dating back to 1692. Similar to the historic city of Montreal, the townhouse itself can be considered a sedimentary body. It is filled with additions, demolitions, and repurposing of the building’s foundation. The long architectural history resulted in complex spatial configurations and varying elevations within the building. As a result, the designers needed to carefully develop a strategy, after an honest assessment, to strike a balance between preservation and meeting the functional requirements of the exhibition space.
The project is a “rewrite” that harmoniously accommodates the functions of a contemporary art museum while preserving the authenticity of the original architecture. The materiality and spatial organization of the existing building have been preserved and become the keynote. Internal height differences and spatial layout have been carefully retained, recognizing their importance as distinctive features of the old building. The process of remodeling is like a surgical operation: a part is precisely removed and a part is strategically added. Through three different but complementary approaches to restoration: comprehensive restoration, restoration with intentional expression of new elements, and complete new construction, the project builds an experience in which ” timelessness ” is seamlessly integrated. Rather than transforming a space, the project is more of a curated experience.
Through a gradual restoration, Maison Sédimentation attempts to dissolve the dichotomy between the old and the new in transitions that can be understood in multiple ways: from historical decoration to unfamiliar texture; from a shadowy and ambiguous space to a pure and neutral backdrop; or from an entanglement with history and time to a suspended reality.
Shimin Cao, “The Tower on Ruins”
The designer demonstrates her innovative talent in the reuse of the Torre Rinalda seaside fortification in Italy. The name “Torre Rinalda” carries the historical roots of a tower built in Italy in the 16th century to defend the area from Saracen attacks. As part of the defense system of the Puglia coast, the tower forms a magnificent landscape along with other similar structures in the area.
At the architectural level of scale, the design skillfully blends two distinct spaces: the stone box at the base subtly blends into the terrain, revealing a solid firmness and a deep serenity. Through the use of rough stone, the bottom contrasts with the delicate man-made structure above. From a wider perspective, the design could be replicated on a large scale along the coastline, with the use of lattice elements that attract migratory birds. Adjacent towers become stopovers on the birds’ flight paths, enriching the ecosystem. When night falls, the upper part of the towers is lit up and becomes a new landmark with a unique shimmering light.
Chapter 2 | SPACE
Camilo Rebelo & Jiani Huang, “ELEMENT’U”
The project is built on a mountain, backed by the Zecha stone forest and facing the village, with a certain cultural construction and an intention to establish an emotional connection with the local culture and ecology. The design considers the local ecological conditions and cultural background from the conceptual stage, from both natural and humanistic perspectives, with the formal core derived from the dependence between man and nature, and the actual function responding to the lifestyle and psychological habits of the local people.
Based on the results of the research, the project uses natural materials and weaving methods such as bamboo and wood, which are favored by the local people, with the sheltering function of “Shelter” and the viewing function of “Stage”. The wood structure itself is not load-bearing, and the planks are spaced equally at 0.5 meters apart to shape the space and accommodate light and shadow. All materials used are environmentally friendly and recyclable.
The main functional space is divided into three parts from small to large: the triangular shelter space, the semi-circular dialogue space, and the upper viewing platform.
The design of the triangular space is derived from the tents used by Tibetan nomads. The geometric contours of the acute triangle repeated, combined with the circular openings at the end of the space, form a strong composition, presenting a classically symmetrical, rhythmic, quiet and sacred spatial atmosphere. The semi-circular space is mainly composed of semi-enclosed benches, designed after the local seated living room. In a deeper sense, the space also contains two levels of “dialogue”: a dialogue between people and people, and a dialogue between people and the natural elements (the earth). From the spiral staircase to the viewing platform, it is a gathering space that can carry more groups. It offers a 360-degree view of the stone forest and a distant view of the village. The roof is woven into a semi-filtered roof style using traditional local techniques to block the strong UV rays of the highlands and create a rich light and shadow effect.
Through the study of form, material and light, the ELEMENT’U project brings the architecture back to nature, bringing people emotional belonging while calling for the beauty of nature and humanity in the vast mountains and forests. This is also a representative result of the ” Industry-Teaching-Research” model, where a group of students was involved in the whole process and their knowledge of the countryside, construction and sustainability was developed throughout.
NX Iinfitni, “Wide New York and Narrow Hong Kong”
The project is related to the city where NX infinity is based, HK and NYC. As island cities, grew through the infusion of colonial settlements, diverse immigrants and its strategic proximity to global investment. The strength of New York City is based on the idea that there is no one style; While HK reinvents itself from as a site on the border, to a metropolis articulated through hyper density. The “Wide New York, Narrow Hong Kong ” topic captures this aesthetics and explores an alternative idea of urbanisation.
How people live and how they use urban space is the broader perspective of architectural space.
Chapter 3 | EXISTENCE
Yuting Zhang, “Iceland Volcano Museum”
One of her most acclaimed projects, the Iceland Volcano Museum, has earned the Silver Award from A’ Design Award. In the project, Zhang transcends conventional museum design by crafting an interactive and immersive experience that seamlessly integrates visual allure with environmental sustainability.
Situated in Iceland’s Myvatn landscape, the museum diverges from traditional architectural norms, embracing a circular form inspired by the locale’s volcanic craters, hot springs, and lakes. This design choice not only harmonizes the building with its natural surroundings but also fosters a dynamic interplay between indoor and outdoor spaces. The museum’s innovative layout offers visitors a multi-layered experience via three distinct pathways: a serene interior gallery, a rooftop observation deck, and an outdoor trail festooned with large-scale sculptures.
Moreover, the museum’s façade, featuring optimal louver orientation, achieves not only aesthetic integration with the landscape but also effective sunlight conservation. This meticulous detailing enriches the visitor’s experience, converting a static tour into an engaging dialogue with both architecture and nature while preserving the essence of traditional Icelandic design and writing about the co-existence of natural and artificial nature.
How should the exhibitor connect with the themes of the exhibit?
RAC Studio’s exhibitors have given their own answers. The three concepts of Time, Space and Existence can make us reflect upon project, ideas, artifacts, but also life: finding a way to coexist with our thoughts and with the world we live in, is also an eternal search for self-existence, in both time and space.