Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope, and that enables you to laugh at life's realities. Dr. Seuss
One last time? I thought last year would be the last time I write the Foreword of the Grad-book. It turns out this would be the last instead. As such, I am honored to do so once more. Similar to last year, I wish to offer a few snippets of thoughts for you as you move ahead to chart a new course. Hopefully, it will confuse you a little and perhaps to provoke you a bit also.
We often connect certainty with confidence and conviction, a positive attribute we often admire. However, when it comes to design there might be something else worth considering. In The Storm of Creativity, Kyna Leski writes about the importance of “uncertainty” in the design process. To doubt, to question and to be insecure about one's initial preconceptions to what the design question calls for, in her mind, is an essential and indispensable quality to creativity. An open mind that asks the fundamental and essential question of what is? at the beginning of a project.
How do we draw a distinction between fiction and reality? Is it a clear line or a fuzzy verge situating in-between? When we create an architectural proposition in the School of Architecture, or anywhere else for that matter, is it reality-to-be? Or could they be experienced as what they are whether in drawing, model and other means? Alternatively, should it be considered as a spatial hypothesis always in the state-of-becoming? Is the Architectural Project reality, fictional or transitory in between the two?
In the The Mask of Medusa John Hejduk describes the phenomenon in which the painter starts with the real world and works toward abstraction, and when he’s finished with a work it is abstracted from the so-called real world, but architecture is different. The architect starts with the abstract world, and due to the nature of her work, works toward the real world. The most interesting architect is one who, when finished with a work, the original abstraction is retained…. and that is also what distinguishes architects from builders.
Is it possible to be new? Not in the sense of wearing a new dress one just bought from the mall. But a NEW dress with a completely different performance and appearance? Under this premise, is it possible for architecture to be new? Or must the new always be understood as part of a continuum from the origin? Is the understanding of the new conditioned upon the old in order for it to be defined? When the new is so radically different from its origin does it need a separate category? If such is the case, can architecture really be new?
In 1975, Bernard Tschumi famously put out a series of Advertisements for Architecture composed of provocative texts and images. One of which is titled Ropes and Rules. On the poster he proclaimed: “Look at it this way: The game of architecture is an intricate play with rules that you may break or accept. These rules, like so many knots that cannot be untied, have the erotic significance of bondage: the more numerous and sophisticated the restraints, the greater the pleasure. The most excessive passion always involves a set of rules. Why not enjoy them?” Within the academy this provocation is fittingly true. However, what if we were to apply such advocacy in the context of Hong Kong? Would the bondage be so tight that it simply suffocates and pains without any pleasure?
We face a dilemma in architecture when it comes to endurance. On the one hand, there is a desire for permanence, from the material we choose to the space we design. In earnest or in naivete, we hope that the design we make and the actual building constructed would endure the test of time. Yet on the other hand, we also know that the only constant in life is change. Given these forces, is it really possible to design for endurance or indeterminacy?
What are your certainties and what are the paradoxes in your life? What are mine? It is the part of life that we should be most thankful for. Without it, we would be looking through the right end of the telescope always. To the 23rd class of MArch graduates, many, if not all of you were students and friends of mine, I wish the best to you. CHANGE is on your way. Having said all of this, I REALLY will have nothing else to say.