Select a SchoolSchool of Architecture
Select a ProgrammeArchitecture
Select a StudentWei Chieh Kung
Wei Chieh Kung
Portobello Square: A Journey From Landscape to Land
‘A landscape is a cultural image, a pictorial way of representing, structuring or symbolising surroundings.’ Stephen Daniels and Denis Cosgrove
The relationship between landscape and man is a primitive and anthropological one. From its origin, our inborn behaviour and ritualistic actions are set and derived from the physical condition of the landscape we inhabit. Landscape, in its nature, is the base which establishes and forms our culture. The spatial practice of altering landscape is the most ancient and fundamental method of structuring a collective society. Yet within the relentless process of construction, destruction and reconstruction that characterise the contemporary dynamic of urbanisation, landscape is merely the container of countless layers of economic relationships and social behaviours. Rather than opening up the possibility of freedom, contemporary landscape production rejects any individual and collective abnormality by reducing land to a mere economic value, and landscape to a practise of normalisation and reduction to the dominant culture.
It is from this perspective that the project looks at estate regeneration as a highly contentious topic in contemporary London. What is at stake in urban regeneration is, more than the replacement of physically deteriorated buildings, the restructuring of the social and economic relationships through physical reorganisation, subdivision thus management and control of the residents. The housing estate is doomed to decline and be demolished, but this deliberate decision needs to appear as a natural process, as a result of the unchangeable cycle of the landscape.
Located at the end of Portobello Road in the West of London, the site of the project is an under-construction estate in its third cycle of destruction and reconstruction since the cultivation of its land in the mid 15th century. The project’s proposal seeks to explore landscape as an apparatus to disrupt the concurrent architectural, political and social structure of the regeneration schemes in London. Portobello Square, through the reconditioning of the residential square and centrepiece of the regeneration project, challenges the normative lifestyle that the development imposes onto the inhabitants.
The residential square as a type originates from the negotiation between the developers and the residents. Though in many cases the squares were initially designed to be socially exclusive, they were always diverse and publicly open since their first instances in the 16th century. It was not until later the square began to be enclosed and privately ‘maintained’ in the interest of public order and social control. As a sort of revival of the true essence of the London square and resistance to the estate regeneration, the project investigates the English landscape garden as a type that could reawaken the ancestral bond and rites between people and the land. Building on the ambiguous character of the English landscape garden being a work of nature or a work of art, the project aims to create a space that is open to a multiplicity of interpretations and appropriations.
Referencing the English landscape garden and its three evolutional traditions – the Augustan, the Serpentine and the Picturesque – the design extracts and reinterprets each one of these traditions in light of the contemporary condition. The result of the project is a visual landscape constructed by a constellation of objects. In their spatial and experiential terms, the objects differ and relate to their archetypal and ritualistic origins, with the aim to encourage a collective use of space. Yet at the same time, the abstraction of the formal language blurs a prescriptive use of the space, purposely leaving a series of undetermined spaces that allude at the landscape as a whole. Continuous yet fragmented, the constructed landscape reveals the relationships that the objects establish with one another and with the land. The obtrusive and deconstructed quality of the proposal rejects the circumstantial qualities of the context to embrace the universal potential of collective rituals and actions.
- BA Architectural Studies, University of Waterloo, Ontario, 2016
- Architectural assistant, Junya Ishigami + Associates, Tokyo, 2016; Architectural assistant, Office for Metropolitan Architecture, Hong Kong, 2015; Architectural assistant, Mecanoo Architecten, Delft, 2014; Architectural assistant, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, New York, 2013; Architectural assistant, Buro Ole Scheeren, Beijing, 2013; Architectural assistant, Mao Shen Chiang Architecture Studio, Tainan, 2012