Saturday, March 30, 2013

the buddhist temple modernized/ taichung

largely skipping the high modernism of le corbusier and importing a semi fascist modernist classicism to best represent the rule of martial law, taiwan seems to have been on the margins of international architectural discourse. today with the swirls and swoops of most projects done in schools or seen on the internet, i wonder how long that will last. a protectionist policy towards foreign architects working in the country seems to keep the worst excesses at bay. although the over swirled library in taichung makes a good case for zaha in the original rather than an 'almost' copy. yet, in architecture schools and in so many new buildings a 'good taste' seems to be quite common. a pared down modernism- the kind that architects love- the kind that echoes the great masters. like the corbusier-ed version of a buddhist temple- a far cry from the red and gold glories that are dotted around the cities. instead we have a exposed concrete pavilion that remixes the plan of millowners, ahmedabad- complete with the curved toilet and separation of  structure and enclosure and the staircase that shoots out below the floating roof out of the facade- breaking the box. while the lower floor is pretty much a corbusier copy, on the second floor it looks like the need for a more conventional space has led to a cladding of wood within the concrete shell making a more warmer temple like space- with false ceiling and a wooden floor too. i doubt the architects did that. the topmost floor has learning  spaces for the monks, accessed by a garden path. in the lobby below, a painting hangs on the wall that follows the path of a person into the building with all the elements along the way representing the path to spiritual moksha. in the shop below they played 'buddham sharanam gacchcami'

Thursday, March 28, 2013

red rose

it had to be a remake of a south indian film. this strange moral misogyny when playboy rajesh khanna stops being lover boy and becomes serial killer to avenge the wrongs women have to done to him while growing up- including a wrongful rape charge. his house has a rose garden above the bodies of the women he has slaughtered. poonam dhillon plays the damsel in distress but keeps taking her clothes off periodically. and in the end stands by her man- even though he wanted to kill her. the mangalsutra... see? i dont. 

on the road

a weird nostalgia for something i have never been part of- an american youth. rebellion and madness overspilling into each other. yet, as the young person in me responded to the story of wild youth, the older person scoffed at the juvenile staging. the overheated 'poetic' seemed at some level childlike and looked like what it perhaps really was- white boys wanting to get their hands dirty by living like the 'other'. and then they pay the price for it by standing alone on the streets of new york, while the one who wrote the 'novel' is in a limo heading to a duke ellington concert. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

migrant central, taichung

conveniently located in the middle of taiwan (tai-chung), near the railway station, is a behemoth of shops and stalls invaded by the migrant labour working in construction, in factories or as caretakers of the aged, from thailand, from indonesia, from vietnam, cambodia and the Philippines  here they find their weekly dose of groceries and food, of phone calls to home and packages to be sent or picked up, meetings with friends spread across the country and food- naturally with a healthy dose of home-style karaoke. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013


the city of tainan is the oldest city in taiwan. established first by the dutch and then taken over by the chinese. a port for the japanese, it does not seem that well to do now. the streets are alive with an older form of activity which was a change form the new money of taichung. 

we walked from the railway station to the older council hall, past a smaller neighborhood temple and then to some more temples on the map. the temple for the city god, the temple of the god of the underworld (dongyue), then to the shrine of the local hero koxinga who fought against the dutch and the lady linshui temple where women come to pray. 

we found a city gate, tiny in scale at the end of the shopping street and the confucius temple across with its large garden and free standing gateways for the right and righteous. 
 as we walked further north past the fire station we came to the altar of heaven and another temple firectly in from of the dutch fort provintia. all terraces and chinese roofs now. turtle memorial in front.
a short taxi ride and then a walk into a traditional street alive with bohemian types leading to another temple. 

the dutch fort zeelandia lay closer to the sea. a watchtower, newly built allows you views across the landscape, to the canal that runs from the sea into the city. the market streets nearby were crowded and alive.