Last summer, National Chengchi University in Taipei and Professor Kim Seiyong of Korea University invited us to teach at their urban design workshop sponsored by the Taipei City Government. The purpose of the annual global gathering is admirable. In the words of one of the workshop leaders, Professor Kelwin Wang: “Due to globalization, the young generation will encounter unprecedented competition from all over the world without any warm up when they finish their academic training. As students, they have to learn how to establish internationally collaborative task forces with people with different expertise/characters/nationalities. This workshop provides such an opportunity in an environment where they can still speculate and take risks.”
The site, a historical region called Jingmei contained important cultural spaces and practices while facing developmental pressures without which the area would lead to further underutilization and decay. As with many cross-disciplinary design efforts, collaboration was the both the inspirational ideal and the frustrating stumbling block. Appropriately, student groups varied in focus from architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, and land use policy. The results of the 1-week exercise included a range of important stances, applicable to other similar urban conditions:
- The coordination of small-scale interventions that ‘added up’ to a regional effect.
- The simultaneous creation of high-density buildings and large scale open space integrated with traditional fabric.
- The leveraging of existing pedestrian networks in conjunction with proposed city-scale transport.
- The design of new riverfront infrastructure that allowed for the creation of new open space while safeguarding against rising water levels.
- The injection of new programs to form new bonds between existing and new social fabrics.
The projects became a a launching point for enlightened conversation between students, PhD researchers, and professors in the form of casual group meetings and intimidating (for the students!) full-scale presentations in the main auditorium. Our own personal pedagogical agenda was to bring to the table the concept of ‘micro-urbanism.’ As a more radical historical preservation must be implemented in centuries-old urban zones, micro-urbanism eschews tabula-rasa style renewal and works more like acupuncture: A phasing of multi-scalar and cross-disciplinary interventions work in concert with one another to catalyze a historical catchment socio-culturally and economically.
A special thanks to NCCU professors Chien Ell Huang, Li Fu Chen, Tsung Yu Lai, Jen Te Pai, Shi Hong Chio, Chen Yi Sun, and Shih Yuan Lin; Kelwin Wang of CCU; as well as Professor Seiyong Kim of Korea University. Also a warm thank you to student assistants Janet Wu, Siou Shan Jian and all the other brilliant team members that kept the train on the tracks.