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Reno Yang 2016-05-20 08:59

Yao is considered by many as the bellwether of architecture in Taiwan, China. A head of gray hair exemplifies his wisdom and maturity. TheWithin, Without exhibition held at the Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai was his second exhibition in Mainland China. When asked about his initial drive for the exhibition, he waved off the question with a casual laugh: “No particular reason, it just happened that the curator and I are good acquaintances.” Self-deprecating and infinitely calm, Yao reveals that he discovered the Tang Ao philosophy after years of practicing architecture; later, as we went on to discuss the idea of inner self, Yao says that he still needs to explore further.

The “Simple, Naive” master

“I fell in love with architecture when I was in college.” Yao tells us, “When you love something, you will devote yourself to studying it. It has been 40 years now since I graduated, and I feel that if one uses a simple or even naive attitude to face all complexities, then those complexities will become simple.” When recalling the reasons that made him pursue architecture, Yao states that there were no particular reasons; rather it was a result of pure passion. His family’s complete support gave him full confidence during his pursuit.


Even when awarded the Fellowship from American Institute of Architects AIA, Yao still humbly considered his years of work “simple” and “naive.” Perhaps it is because his open mind and optimism that made it possible for him to use simplicity against complexity during his work, thus returning architecture to its essence; blending architecture with its surrounding environment while also being able to highlight the characteristics of humanity in a building. Although his designs carry the principle of simplicity, Yao never takes any simple short cut route during the actual construction process. For outsiders, he has complete authority to make final decisions himself for any construction project; yet during his lecture and interview, he never stopped mentioning “building’s owners.” It was apparent that communication with the owners and between team members is critical to the building process. In Yao’s opinion, all misunderstanding during design and construction is a result of insufficient communication; it is only with repeated communication that a concept can gradually mature.


“Intuition” Fathom Architecture Philosophy

Having been in the architecture practice for 40 years, in collaboration with Ms. Peini Beartrice Hsieh , the newly appointed director of the Taipei Cultural Affairs Bureau, the 65-year-old Yao came to host his exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai. Ms. Hsieh commented: “After twenty years of development, Shanghai has changed dramatically; during such a historical period, it is perfect timing to promote Yao’s architectural spirit nationwide.” Yes, Yao is regarded as the pioneer and leader of Taiwan’s architecture industry, and he is highly praised for his “Field Spirit” and “Human Spirit.” Yao thinks architectural design is a manifestation of “ eld spirit”. He explains: “Architeture should be a theater where people enjoy activities, thus it should demonstrate field spirit to enable people to play and live together.” Besides, Yao said he also likes to use “intuition” to illustrate architecture and its connections with environment and people; it is his belief that such element is missing from the current rapid development of Chinese cities.


Yao strongly believes in intuition, therefore when he meets the right “owner,” architectural design suddenly evolves into a practice that can only be felt but not explained - full of understanding and Zen. When designing Water-Moon Monastary of the Dharma Drum Mountain, the “owner,” Master monk Sheng Yan, and Yao had a contractual partner meeting, but it was not so much of a meeting as a style of Zen practice, because the “owner” only gave six words for Yao to frame his design concept: “Flower in space; moon in water.”

With only these six words, the design of the Water-Moon Monastary can be said to have started in the process of slowly understanding the Zen to eventually incorporate a Zen atmosphere of “Flower in space; moon in water.” Yao did indeed perfectly re ect the Master monk Sheng Yan’s expectations of a temple not only with owers and water, but also a solemn temple and meditation hall.


The finished project not only has elegant water landscaping, but also overlooks the breathtaking Datun Mountain. Yao’s other masterpiece Wuzhen Theater, too,  started with minimal understanding of the project’s overall planning. With a mentality of “look and see,” Yao started discussions with Stan Lai and Xiang Hong Chen, two of the organizing committee members, and gradually their discussions turned into the design concept of “Twin Lotus”. After comprehensive communications, Yao can always manage to incorporate all parties’ ideas into his designs, and by uti- lizing his unique understanding and years of practice of architectural design, he also implants his ideas into the architecture.


In 2015, Yao finished his new design piece- the southern branch of the Palace Museum located in Chiayi, Taiwan, China. The design concept, originating from three techniques of Chinese calligraphy - ‘the thick-ink, half-dry, and smearing’ - led to the creation of the Moyun Building and Feibai Hall through the arti tial lake and the museum’s connection space; the architectural structures are intertwined with beau- tiful curves. In order to achieve the goals of a low carbon structure, the construction of the southern branch of the Palace Museum in Taiwan, China was considered multi-dimensionally on all counts: construction, materials, design, and energy. The architecture’s exterior resorted to the essence of Chinese calligraphy and its way of showing a very smooth shape. The exterior is made of 36,000 pieces of cast aluminum discs plugged into the curved walls - with modern digital design, the wall also shows dragon and cloud curves from ancient bronze sculptures. Yao said years of practice and accumulation made him realize two words:Tang Ao. Tang here refers to the visible shape of the building, but Ao is a spiritual state that an architect should peruse in his or her lifetime, and it is precisely this concept that Yao has been pondering for so long.


◆About  Kris Yao


the winner of “Honorary Fellow” achievement Award of the American Institute of Architects AIA

the founder of KRIS YAO | ARTECH

Kris Yao was born in Taiwan, China. He obtained his Bachelor of Architecture from Tunghai University in 1975, and Master of Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley. Upon his graduation and after returning to Taiwan, he worked at his brother’s firm doing interior design. In 1985, he founded his own architect firm: KRIS YAO | ARTECH.

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