The experience of meandering through the Venice Biennale is not dissimilar from the journeys of Le Petit Prince – one wanders amidst a river of inquisitive souls, transporting themselves from worlds to worlds. In this proposal, we welcome the international sea of meandering guests into our home – an oasis, a temporary set, or a guesthouse – but a private diagram of domesticity inverted as public.
This pavilion is a collection of nine small houses, each with one single program. Scattered inside the Palazzo delle Prigioni, it forms an interior township of misfit parts. Each house embodies one domestic program, such as the House of Sleep, or the House of Social Eating, so forth. While this pavilion is fully functional as a guesthouse for international visitors, it also works through three thoughts in the discipline of architecture:
As such, we engage the theme of this Biennale through such constitutions of part-to-whole relationships.
Responding to the prompt by Rem Koolhaas, this proposal package engages two prevailing themes in the 14th Venice Biennale: Fundamentals, as well as Absorbing Modernity. Domesticity is possibly one of the most fundamental beginnings of architecture. In some ways, we are trying to make a direct correlation between privacy and the production of program. There is something very modern about the idea of programmatic specificity. In his work of writing, In the Manor of Nietzsche, architectural critic Jeffrey Kipnis imposed a question: “Did the cavemen set out looking for a two bedroom cave?”
Architectural program, particularly throughout the 20th century, has evolved into a highly specialized vocabulary in the composition of the interior, and at times it even impacts the exterior. This is possibly a sign of maturity in the industry of both architecture and real estate, but itemizable matter is quite effective in the quantification of value in architecture as a commodity. Furthermore, the concept of billable hour for the private sector reinforced the separation of a public self versus a private self–impacting a further compartmentalization within the domestic unit for higher levels of privacy. As the institutionalization of architectural program sets standards for evaluation as well as enhancing privacy, our civilization seem to have adapted to a new norm in the domestic grammar over the last 150 years.
What is perhaps unseeingly striking is the political implication that the designation of architectural program produces, particularly when this occurs within the house. As inhabitants behave properly within the prescribed parameters of particular rooms, a sense of etiquette brews over time. In other words, architectural program creates a condition where actions that mismatch the prescription can be frowned upon and considered a type of misbehavior –or, perhaps at times a guilty pleasure in its recontextualization – sex in kitchen, eating in bed, and so forth.
“Illegal additions”, or “weijian”, is a very common phenomenon in Taiwan. One way of analyzing such condition is to consider a sea of houses built on top of houses, or hats on buildings. It is a visual distillation of programmatic augmentation, and highlights part in the part-to-whole relationship of architecture. This observation was one of the initial driving forces for this project at the beginning. Weijian more than just its political implications –yes, it is interesting to misinterpret zoning laws – but it is also interesting to consider Taiwan a place full of cities with buildings that wear hats. Such reading renders architecture and cities to be a representation of culture and attitude. Architecture with non-exact character – suggestive like cloud watching, but operating within the parameters of visual communication.
Our proposal can be considered an inverted version of Weijian. Flipping the illegal additions onto the interior of Prisoner’s Palace, the township is a set of adorable but intrusive characters.
In the English language, the etymology of the word “guest” comes from gæst, giest and gest – further back Proto-Germanic gastiz, originally Proto-Indo-European ghosti – “strange”. All traces in the origin of this word held a very close relationship between host and guest, as well as highlighting the importance of strangeness or stranger-ness. This is particularly interesting for us, as it returns to further conditions in the struggles between of norm and strange.
In languages of the Sinosphere, the origin of this word “guest” is also interesting. The character “客” is composed of the covering of a roof (宀) and the sheltering of each/any (各). This is of interest to us because the simultaneous democratic attitude of interiority coincides with a sense of plurality. In the meanwhile, the idea of hospitality is also a constructed representation of formality, as both hosts and guests behave in ways that are not their usual selves, but with otherness.
This pavilion proposal, as aforementioned, can be considered a guesthouse. It engages the ideas around impression of strangeness and otherness.
Though this project functions as a guesthouse, it should also be considered both as an exhibition and an installation. As a fully functional oasis, the nine houses can be considered architectural installations – the experience is a 1:1 translation, not through photography or other means of representations. This idea of the pavilion is of the tradition set from Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion, where the architectural effects are tested as such.
One of the primary constraints about the Palazzo delle Prigioni is that we may not touch any of the interior surfaces. For this reason, the nine houses are each freestanding structures that can be prefabricated and assembled on site.
As structures not quite big enough to be architecture and too large to be furniture, we have been defining this work as superfurnitures. Isolating the diagrams of part-to-whole relationship and part-to-part relationships, we condensed each domestic program into its own freestanding superfurniture with character.
In one of his masterpieces, “just what makes today’s homes so different so appealing”, Richard Hamilton produced an interior lifestyle through a collage. This collage is deliberately inaccurate in its pursuit for verisimilitude. However, in doing so it opened new possible readings and projections for what domesticity could be. We constructed the following nine collages ourselves in attempt to further open hour thoughts on lifestyles and programs.
In investigating further about domestic programs, we sampled 50 canonical works of domestic architecture. As well, we looked to Richard Hamilton as an exemplar in the construction of fictional domestic lifestyles. From SANAA’s Moriyama House to Johnson’s Glasshouse, this step was instrumental in the identification of architectural characters.