DYNAMIC DESIGN Architectural Gems in Taiwan and Mainland China | The Plan
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DYNAMIC DESIGN Architectural Gems in Taiwan and Mainland China

Kris Yao | Artech

Dynamic, poetic and idiosyncratic, the buildings of Kris Yao stand out from the pervasive mediocrity of Taiwanese architecture like a ray of sunlight in a stormy sky. Artech, the firm he established thirty years ago, has grown and expanded its scope, opening a satellite in Shanghai to supervise an increasing number of projects in mainland China. About 125 people work in the Taipei office, designing cultural and civic projects, as well as sleek stations for the high-speed railroad, college campuses, and distinctive corporate towers. Yao has the air of a sage, and his Buddhist faith infuses his life and work with an inner serenity. That quality complements the exuberance of his best buildings, which take their cues from nature and art. There’s a balance of yin and yang, a harmony of form and space, and a pent-up energy that draws one in.

“Every project is a brand-new experience and I need to feel the spirit of place,” says Yao. “I take an intuitive rather than analytical approach, using very simple forms that conceal the complexities of each structure. People feel a sense of stillness in the spaces I design.”

Yao has raised the bar for other creative architects in Taiwan, who have - like their mainland peers - been marginalized by foreign stars and crass developers. Major cities feature a scatter of prestige projects by such firms as OMA, Mecanoo, Toyo Ito & Associates and Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, and a surfeit of Postmodern towers, armored with blocks of stone and trimmed like wedding cakes. This discordance reflects the turbulent history of Taiwan, which was colonized by the Japanese, then transformed by the arrival of two million refugees and soldiers in 1949, fleeing the victorious communist forces. As military dictatorship gave way to democratic government, the economy grew exponentially and the north-eastern cities exploded. Now there’s a move to develop other parts of the...

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