A great way to recharge yourself when you feel you may have lost all inspirations is playing with juxtapositions and with the dichotomies of modern life, such as traditions Vs innovative technologies or natural Vs robotic fabrications.
These dichotomies are tackled for example by architect Philip F.Yuan at the Pavilion of the People's Republic of China at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice.
Entitled "Building a Future Countryside", the Pavilion of China features a series of projects divided into six sections – dwellings, lcoal production, cultural practices, tourism, community reconstruction and the future – all of them trying to plan a vision for modern rural communities in China.
Architect Philip F.Yuan and his team moved not from the past, but from the future for their structure entitled "Cloud Village", designed at the Tongji University and at the Shanghai Digital Fabrication Engineering Technology Center, with digital fabrication courtesy of the Fab-Union.
The structure - conceived as a temporary space where people can seat, think and relax - is located outside the Pavilion of China and it is built using robotic printing technology.
The pavilion is inspired by the Chinese country side and it is made with recycled plastic, something that points at environmental issues, while the abstract shape of "Cloud Village" - enhanced via a topological optimization algorithm that allowed the architect and his team to give a vaguely waving rhythm to the roof - points instead at everyday life in the countryside with semi-enclosed recesses that open up onto a central public space (in the countryside in China boundaries of private and public realms are not always defined), a combination of private and public that hints at the interactions between the individual and the community.
The texture of the structure, integrating modified plastic, steel plate and high strength cable ties, is interesting, even though it doesn't look extremely intricate: the pavilion is made of prefabricated components (though the pieces are made off-site, they are assembled on-site), made with 5 types of different densities forming a continuous geometry based on what could be defined as a basic "stitch", generated not by an eager knitter but by robotic fabrication technology.
Yet architect Philip F. Yuan is not just about the future and innovative materials: another structure, "In Bamboo", included inside the pavilion and developed with Archi-Union, evokes the Chinese term that inspires the pavilion – xiangchou – indicating a nostalgia for rural lands and a desire to return to the countryside where Chinese culture originated to recover forgotten values and overlooked possibilities,
Inspired by the work of the Song Dynasty poet Lu You and shaped like an infinity symbol (to cover as much space as possible while saving the surrounding bamboo forest and trees), the building hosts the Cultural Exchange Center, a multi-functional space destined to exhibitions, conferences and other community events located in the rural Daoming, in China's Sichuan Province.
Yuan and his team tried to integrate the structure into the regional landscape by employing traditional construction techniques and materials such as bamboo weaving for the roof (the team worked with a local artisan who modeled over 20 variations of different weaving patterns using thin strips of material), supported by a steel frame and finished with ceramic tiles, while also using prefabricated industrialization (digitally prefabricated structural wood helped the team reducing waste), which meant the structure was completed in just 52 days.
Yuan's projects prove that digital design technology, architectural and craft traditions can not just live together, but they can also inspire each other, generating new shapes, forms and configurations for modern structures and buildings. Fashion designers please pay attention, as the same technologies and traditions can lead to intriguing experiments in your industry as well.