Self articulation, self-formation: ‘In the Western tradition, the process of becoming a person has often been characterised in terms of the realisation of ideals of a transcendental sort. The classic advice, “Become what you are,” has been most influential in characterising the acitivity of realising personhood.’
Confucian self-making: ‘The process of dissolving the barrier between the self and its social environment involves disciplining the ego-self and becoming a person-in-context. This process can alternatively be described as the objectification of self in that it recognises the correlative and coextensive retationship between person making and community making and ultimately world making.’
‘The personal self wo (我) that discloses yi (義￼) (both a self-construing identity and what one does) … is a self-realising person-in-context. It is objectified in that, no longer asserting merely one limited perspective in its interpretation of experience, it does not make any final distinction between self and other in construing the world. To express this another way, the person-in-context understands “self” as a dynamic and changing focus of existence characteristically expanding and contracting over some aspect of the process of becoming, the interpretation of which is grounded in and involves reference to the environing whole.’
All quotations from David L. Hall and Roger T. Ames, Thinking Through Confucius, SUNY Press, 1987.
Images from exhibition of works by Kadena Shigehiro at the Gallery Sekka, in Yanaka, Tokyo.
These days, when designing resort hotels, clients will insist on rooms having good views. Guest rooms must be planned to face any available beautiful view. Even the bed must face unobstructed view. The better the view, the higher the room price. That is the current code. Resorts in turn attract you by selling you views. Dining spaces must have views. The pool must face a view. Spa rooms must have views, never mind the fact that you spend most of your time facing the sheets. There seems to be an overarching need to feed eyeballs everywhere you turn.
In this too-obvious, too-easy set up (the malaise of contemporary design), you are the subject, the framed scenery out there the object of your view.
In a typical traditional Japanese onsen (hot spring resort), subtlety and delicacy reign, as if there is a silent voice whispering, “not too much” behind your ears.
A veranda-like sitting area wedges between an inner tatami room and the view. In this case here, with a view towards other rooms. There is a kotatsu (blanket rimmed low table with heater below that warms your legs), on which the swift, quiet attendant arranges your meal — an array of small plates in various colours, textures, smells and tastes. When it is time to sleep, the kotatsu makes way for the futons on the tatami. Light filters softly through papered panels, leaving the option for a small little view out through different layers of aged windows. In this small room you feel softly ensconced in a private sensual world, not too bright not too clear, even without being able to look out. And what will omnipresent views do, if after all, you have journeyed here up the mountains through coniferous forests covered deep in snow and crisp leafy air. You can already feel these all around you. They envelope you.
Even in the hot bath the view is limited. You soak in the hot timber pool dimly lit only by standing lamps; relishing the heavy and light shadows as Tanizaki would put it. Looking up, high small openings, the falling snow. Your body soothed by the hot spring pool, skin against darkness, but linger you do not. You come back again the following morning for a brief dip before you leave. You stay only a night typically. It is enough. Savour everything in bits. Not too much. The mountain says I will be here. The forest and the hot spring say we will be here. It is never only about you. As some will say, subject and object, self and scene, mingling together.
We are looking for young architecture or interior design graduates and interns in our Shanghai office. Applicants please send in your CV and some samples of your work (not more than 10Mb file) to firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications will close 1st March 2014.
Tip: Don’t tell us how good you are, show us.
Over the New Year, abbetted by an abundance of festive silliness, I’ve been thinking about how slowly things move in architecture and design.
If you juxtapose mainstream architecture and design images in media ten years ago with those now, you would find (generally of course), although images have become sharper, there is little difference in the approaches behind them.
Taken as a whole, things appear to be consolidating around certain common grounds that bespeak a new conservatism, with a firm nostalgic nod back to the past. Compared to the 70s (e.g. Italian interiors in the 70s) or even 80s where new materials and forms were debated and experimented, there is not a lot of projecting or thinking about the new.
Consider architectural approaches in contemporary architecture: Portuguese and Spanish architecture, still look somewhat the same with a preference for an “El-Croquis”esque minimal; British ones still as sober as ever, every stroke a crawl; the Swiss still dressing up their standard plan-forms in solid, natural materials; the South Americans in their minimal planar boxy brutalism; the Japanese remain much locked in their white walls, plywood shelves and pendant bulbs groove. It seems freshness comes ever so slowly.
When they do talk about the future, post-this and that, such as parametric and ‘digital’ architecture, they often generate the same stock images that incestuously refer to one another that one could easily dismiss them as stylistic shenanigans.
In the so-called lifestyle and interior design scene, two retro styles in particular dominate: Brooklyn “Williamsburg” industrial chic style, and the simple natural “Muji”-like aesthetic. And sometimes they interfuse as in popular Tumblr image blogs such as this. We know it has a large mainstream following because we now have trendy bakeries and cafes in New York, London, Singapore and Shanghai looking like one another. These architectural and design values belong to everyone and therefore no one in particular. Architects and designers surfing in this sea of images, await the next global trend, … to be made by someone else.
Freshness is hard in our present situation. Especially when our architecture and design worlds have become a part of the wider world of branding, buying and selling; a victim of our own marketing success (”good design is good business!”). And the visual consumption and actual commissioning of architecture and design have become popular hobbies, the largest client base now being the broader band of salaried middle class. This combination of corporate cautiousness (”best practices”, “innovation that works!”) and safe middle class values have insidiously shaped much design thinking in the past decade.
However hard, we need to think about freshness everyday, like we need fresh bread. Or in the case of Shanghai, fresh air.