Home (家) Revisited

The symposium Home organised by ACROSS Architecture in collaboration with the London Confucius Institute, SOAS, University of London took place at SOAS lecture theatre on 27th February 2016. ACROSS’s collaboration with top institution in the UK was a great success with a full house.

The syntax of language is always associated with architecture, especially for language systems like Chinese, in which characters are a form of ideogram. It’s especially evident in those characters in oracle-bone inscription. In the character Jia, we can clearly read the physical space out of it, it doesn’t matter if you know Chinese or not. The iconic shape of a shelter and an animal, probably a pig, under the roof. These two elements symbolise the permanent settlement of home in agricultural economy. In agricultural civilisation, in order to maximize productive capacity and efficiency, it’s essential for all family members to live under the same roof, to produce physical materials together and to worship their common ancestors.

The three key words of the event - family, home, house - depict a backdrop for life and set the stage for the everyday. These topics are really common but comprehensive; they are intimate but could also be alienated at the same time.

The symposium HOME is really an inter-disciplinary discussion for exchanging ideas rather than architectural monologue. The event started with an introduction on the Chinese character Jia (家) by Lik Suen, the deputy director of the London Confucius Institute, and followed by an architectural reading from Jingru Cyan Cheng, co-founder of ACROSS Architecture. We are honoured to have three very different but interrelated presentations: a sophisticated academic research (Dr. Fei Chen), first-hand experience in housing design (Kam Fai Tai) and an experiment in domestic space in the tropical (Brendon Carlin). Talks were followed by a heated round table debate, chaired by Dr. Doreen Bernath, greatly benefiting from questions, comments and stories from the audience.

This event was hosted by Jingru Cyan Cheng and Jing Qiao, co-founders of ACROSS Architecture.

Speakers and Presentations:

1. Make A House Home: Typomorphology and Sense of Place

Dr. Fei Chen
Senior Lecturer, Internationalisation Lead,
Architecture, School of the Arts,
University of Liverpool

This presentation will discuss the dynamic relationship between typomorphological characteristics of the residential environment and the intensity of sense of place. It will firstly introduce the concept of sense of place which is rooted in the notion of home in the field of architecture. Typomorphology will also be introduced as an analytical approach through which the formation and transformation of urban form could be understood. This talk will present a research project that provides empirical evidences for the common belief in literature that continuity of urban form helps sustain sense of place. The project assesses sense of place along the typological transformation process of houses and their neighbourhoods in Turkey. It compares the intensities of sense of place in the cases of continuous transformation and that of mutational transformation of the residential environment. The result suggests that positive responses to local types in housing design would offer the residents a better chance to develop a sense of place with their houses.

2. Home: Space and People

Kam Fai Tai
Chief Architect, Global Director
SURE Architecture Ltd. (www.sureaa.com)

Housing design is the design for a family and the design for the life of a family. At first, the presentation talks about the physical space of what can be called home and its transformation, discussing issues of family activities, structures of a family and its relation to the society through the functional layout of a residential unit. The comparison of housing design in Chinese and British contexts as well as different development stages will be addressed. Case studies would range from the traditional courtyard house (Si He Yuan) to the tube-shaped apartment (Tong Zi Lou) then to the conventional residential layout today. Then, I will draw attention to the relations between space, decoration and people. Culture, literature, arts and custom can be discussed through space and living environment. At the end, the presentation is to ask the question: how space and architectural elements as well as decoration can reflect the idea and experience of the habitants?

3. Tropicality: exposing shifting socio-economic structures and the material organisation and typological composition of the tropical urban domestic space

Brendon Carlin
Unit Master, Architectural Association School of Architecture
Director, Urban System

This presentation will give a short summary of the theses and results of initial studies carried out by Tropicality. The programme is a series of two week teaching-based workshops concerned with investigating how shifts in socio-economic structures are perpetuated by or manifest in the material organisation and typological composition of the tropical urban domestic space. Having completed the first workshop in San Jose, Costa Rica, the programme will visit Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam in 2016, and in subsequent years Chennai, India and Lagos, Nigeria. Because of the very short format for the workshops a methodology was devised to compile a comparative series of individual stories and surveys. Topicality’s collaborators visit houses to conduct focused interviews and material surveys of the domestic space through film and drawing in collaboration with documentary film makers. During the presentation, several of the first years short films and drawings will be shown and the observations, theses and questions discussed. The research aims to highlight the effect that technology and the dissemination of liberal economics have on perception of self and purpose, dynamic of family, sense of home and ultimately the material organisation of the house.

4. Video from “faan nguk kei”

This group is in preparation of a documentary of six traditional buildings in the old town of Guangzhou. Through the video, they are to argue that the way of life and memories in the past continue in there novation and transformation of space, rather than get lost in the mist of time. Their attempt can be seen as an enquiry into the concept of origin.

More images from the event:

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