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COMPASS MAGAZINE > December 2008

Dark City: Creating Taiwan at Night

Dark City: Creating Taiwan at Night
Architect Yang Chia-kai focuses
on the metamorphosis that
takes place at twilight.

Dark City: Creating Taiwan at Night

Dark City: Creating Taiwan at Night


Dark City: Creating Taiwan at Night

Words and photos by Taichung City Government
Translated by Ann Lee

To stimulate a dialog within the community of local architects, the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts is currently hosting the "La Biennale di Venezia", its 11th International Architecture Exhibition. The show, which runs until to November 23, is subsidized by the Council for Cultural Affairs. Professor Kuo Chao-lee of The Graduate Institute of Urban Planning at National Taipei University and Assistant Professor Liou Ke-fung of Chaoyang University of Technology are the curators of this event. In September, Kuo and Liou's own work, "Taiwan: Dark City", was showcased in the Taiwan Pavilion at the Palazzo Delle Prigioni in Venice, Italy.

"Dark City", the Venice display, plays with the concept of a city at night. The work fits with the show's theme: "Out There: Architecture Beyond Building" and explores less traditional ways of thinking about light and darkness in an urban area. The Kuo and Liou exhibition explains that daytime activities are stiff and limited while night activities tend to be more exciting and free. Nights in Taiwan are especially active, as many people take to the streets to go for a walk, visit night markets, and buy things from local sidewalk vendors. The exhibition's creators believe that the difference between city nighttime activities is a major way to distinguish Eastern and Western cultures.

Kuo and Liou explore the concept of "the space of time" to re-evaluate Taiwan's city space, aiming at the fusion of light and darkness in an attempt to create gray areas. The idea of space creation in "Dark City" does not simply emphasize architecture, but also the aesthetics of space formed in the city. It is not an accident that the work showcases not a city, but rather a negotiation process between time, space and people. The curators show the reality of city space in Taiwan as a creative arena in which unnecessary restraints are shrugged off and a new, free society is born. The fact that the exhibition is set at the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts further adds to the meaning of the work; when people visit the museum, they are not only interacting with the "Dark City" exhibition, but also with the city itself and the architecture therein. This work allows architects and laypeople from various parts of the world to get re-acquainted with nighttime in Taiwan and the meaning of its space in the city.

The Taiwan exhibition presents the work of six prominent architects. One architect, Yang Chia-kai, focuses on the metamorphosis that takes place at twilight. His installment includes fluorescent light tubes and translucent paper that gives visitors the feeling of walking through a "Soft City". His work is greatly applauded on an international level as well. Besides Yang, the Department of Urban Development notes that participants include Professor Kuo Chao-lee, and architects Jay W. Chiu, Kris Yao, Shi-chieh Lu and Victor Su. They all agree that nighttime in Taiwan is more fascinating than what happens during the day.

For Kris Yao, the exhibition is an attempt to disclose the story of a city by using projections from the front and back. The projection's multiple layers create a borrowed sense of reality. Jay W. Chiu turns to a linear glass panel, allowing the heart, the mind and the eyes to crystallize what is there and beyond. Meanwhile, Victor Su zeroes in on the concept of "night" to get the body to experience rhythm and movement. He makes use of walls and floors with fluorescent features. Finally, architect Shi-chieh Lu works with the ideas of time and fluidity to share night time phenomena and the way things change.

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