Siu siu – Lab of Primitive Sense by Divooe Zein Architects, Taipei 2014. Photographer: Jetso Yu Courtesy: Divooe Zein Architects

Primitive Migration from/to Taiwan: an interview with architect Divooe Zein

by Alessandra Bellomo
May 18, 2021
Alessandra Bellomo
Divooe Zein

Could you explain the concept behind the exhibition “Primitive Migration from/to Taiwan”?

People who pine to live closer to nature, tend to travel between urban and rural areas. This kind of informal, ever-changing nomadic lifestyle is well represented by travellers, spiritual practitioners, and those who pursue their sanctuary in nature.
There is a fine line between the balance of developing and conserving nature that is worth the effort.
For this exhibition, Taiwan-based interdisciplinary design team Divooe Zein Architects studio has been dedicated to studying and planning in nature and rural fields for many years. In 2014, the studio established Siu Siu– Lab of Primitive Senses, with the core value of generating a nature-based learning field. The success of interdisciplinary collaboration among botanists, traditional medicine practitioners, aboriginal artists, climatologists, spiritualists, yoga instructors and many others is shared with the public through this experimental base.

The Taiwan contribution presents five experimental works by Divooe Zein Architects: Siu Siu – Lab of Primitive Senses in Taipei, Nature Monastery in Bali, as well as other planning and conceptual design projects through collaborations with enterprises such as The Forest BIG with CMP Village, Semi-Ecosphere Glass House with Spring Pool Glass and JUT foundation, and Lab of Primitive Perception with developers in China. These selected projects reflect different cultural backgrounds, geographical landscapes, commercial industries, and space usage among others.

Curator Divooe Zein
Siu siu – Lab of Primitive Sense by Divooe Zein Architects, Taipei 2014. Photographer: Jetso Yu. Courtesy: Divooe Zein Architects

How does the exhibition respond to the question “How will we live together” posed by the curator of the Venice Architecture Biennale Hashim Sarkis?

Responding to the overarching theme of this year’s biennale, Primitive Migration from/to Taiwan draws from existing case studies and interdisciplinary collaborations that elicit in-depth discussions around constructing pioneering, environmentally friendly buildings to present an exemplary model for future experimental architecture. Cities continue to expand into the suburbs, developing land, and constructing buildings. Through conducting site and field surveys, artistic collaborations, experimenting with local materials, we gradually explore suitable propositions that adhere to the local customs, understand and respect the culture, the original natural environment, and connect with the industry. Ultimately, we find ways to work together to produce an influential future.

The three sub-themes of the Taiwanese presentation – Ask, Work Together, and Influence Each Other – are a culmination of Divooe Zein Architects’ ongoing preliminary research in the last couple of decades, having collaborated with partners in interdisciplinary fields to explore various ways for buildings, environment and humans to co-exist.

The exhibition features a series of architectural projects in Taiwan: how are they connected? How do they investigate the multicultural and ecological identity of Taiwan, aka the “Ilha Formosa”?

Primitive Migration from/to Taiwan stemmed from Siu Siu, a research-based initiation by Divooe Zein Architects. The studio established Siu Siu – Lab of Primitive Senses by incorporating gloss, grass, Buddha statues, flowers, fragrances, sounds, yoga spaces, along with other spiritually-charged objects, and collaborated with local and international healers to convey the symbiotic energy and ideas from our symbiotic relationship with nature. From spa, yoga, dance, music, meditation, painting to ecological research, each expert brought a unique perspective and specialty through performances, workshops, lectures, experimental image creation, exchanges and dialogues, whilst exploring the wild nature, our primal five senses, aboriginal culture, natural materials, and spiritual healing methods.

Other works in our presentation, The Forest Big in Miaoli, Taiwan, Nature Monastery in Bali, and the Lab of Primitive Perception in Beijing, serve as an extension of Siu Siu – Lab of Primitive Senses, as they were built under the same concept, despite located in different parts around the world.

Mock-up of Lab of Primitive Perception. Photographer: Justin Kao, Courtesy: Divooe Zein Architects
Concept drawing of Lab of Primitive Perception. Courtesy: Divooe Zein Architects

How does the exhibition project dialogue with the concepts of environmental sustainability, ecology and low-impact architecture?

We created such dialogue through past field surveys and research on local issues that we conducted in suburbs and nature settings. We used information gleaned from our research and took this into account when developing the function and construction of a building.

How does the exhibition project fit into the debate on the relationship between men and nature?

Our architectural spaces are very much based on studying our behaviours and research on how to best reduce size space through our designs. In terms of building materials, for example, we see the building as an air filter, for which we develop the construction materials that adhere to this principle. We use as this as a foundation for several future developments.

Concept Drawing of Nature Monastery Courtesy: Divooe Zein Architects
Mock-Up of Nature Monastery Photographer: Justin Kao Courtesy: Divooe Zein Architects

What could you tell us about your selection process/ the selection process of the architects involved? Were there any criteria to meet?

The five projects selected on this occasion do not have an underlying connection per se, but we have deliberately chosen them as they were constructed under different climates, different concepts and set it different locations. Therefore, the miniature architectures and pioneering buildings that we constructed across various locations reflect these regional differences.

Which challenges are you facing in the architectural processes in this time of pandemic?

The pandemic has delayed our architectural design process and drastically altered the way we communicate with each other. During the construction process, we had to urgently rely on many field studies and dialogues. Therefore, factoring this new communication framework and the application of existing design methods, we had to overcome time interference and ensure smooth communication channels in the face of such delays as a way of achieving breakthroughs in future architectural designs.

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