• World Interior of the Year inspires new living in Taipei

    24 June 2020

    Building a future on the foundations of the past

    Born and raised in Taiwan, award-winning designer and architect Johnny Chiu is the founder of JC Architecture (JCA) in Taipei. A graduate from Columbia University he has lived, worked, and taught in New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, Japan and the US. He believes that good design should be inspired by the needs of the individual, and that society and the interaction between human and space must be integral to the design process.

    (按此瀏覽中文版)

    “Design is a tool for creating change in society; a building, whatever its use, should improve the lives of its inhabitants. I believe in creating accessible buildings that have a voice in the community as a means of creating change,” he comments in an exclusive interview with PRC.

    Taiwan Design

    It is this philosophy that won JCA the prestigious World Festival of Interior ‘Inside’ award for Interior of the Year for an innovative project entitled JCA Living Lab.

    “This is a first for any Taiwanese design company and for me is a great honour to achieve such worldwide recognition. For a country that is not well-known for its interior work I feel this gives us a voice and a degree of authority that is good for the industry and the future of Taiwan design,” he adds.

    JCA Living Lab is an embodiment of Chiu’s philosophy and a project close to his heart – a community facility linked to his own family home in a renovated 90-year old building once left to history. The project was inspired by a vision of creating a space for his children to live in a healthy environment.

    Set within a 240 square metre plot, the building was built during the time of the Japanese occupation of Taiwan as a university dormitory for professors. JCA’s research showed that there are over 1,000 similar buildings in the centre of Taipei. Left largely abandoned and with some having been renovated and now housing cafes or small museums, Chiu’s motivation for creating a public and private space is driven by a belief that residents of the city should know that there are alternatives to living in high-rise apartment buildings and condos.

    “The last professor passed away around 25 years ago and the building was left abandoned, so we saw this as a perfect opportunity to revitalise the space. As a rental property it works on the idea that we rent it for ten years, renovate it and move on to somewhere else to leave behind a new culture and vision for society,” Chiu explains. “Within the space we created a community hub to host various events, activities and speakers. Community is important for me as a designer and I believe the best spaces are those that promote participation and collaboration.

    For me, the design process is ongoing, changing with the different needs of those living in or visiting the building. Children and adults alike can gain insight into a different way of city living. The project is not about luxury or refined details.

    Rather, it’s about giving the building a new lease of life and using this opportunity to showcase the relevance of our design approach based on realistic social economics and believing that we can create a ripple effect within architecture and society. By embracing the old, and breathing new life into it, we are also sending out a message to developers that we don’t need to build any more apartments in the sky,” he adds.

    Moving into a modern future

    The site has created a new environment for an urban world, full of possibilities.

    As such, the project explores the relationship between the old and the new, between Chiu and his family and the visitors to the house. Unlike the high-rise apartment so familiar to Taipei residents the concept merges the exterior and the interior of a ground floor setting, from the use of Japanese wood, antique marble floors and tables, through to the scent of herbs that flow from the outside in.

    “Analysing the lifestyle of modern families and then attempting to contain it in an historical living space is like learning to talk to elders. There are things that should be preserved, and things that should be changed. Instead of just dwelling on the past, it is our goal to bring history forward into the future,” says Chiu.

    A six-metre long wall separates the public spaces from the private. The private house is the main space of the residential space, while the additional space that was added to the original building in the 1950s is now transformed to include a public kitchen and living room as well as an open space designed for public meetings and gatherings. The contrast between modern and historical times is exploited throughout, with the insertion of a door into the main wall symbolising the infusion of new energy.

    “Outstanding adaptation and reuse of
    local heritage. Successful integration
    of indoors and outdoors on a confined
    site in a dense urban context.”

    INSIDE judge’s comment

    Freedom to explore

    Looking at how Chiu has renovated the building, it is clear that his children have been a big inspiration. The design allows a freedom to explore that would be impossible in any modern apartment building. From the vines in the garden to the red exterior ladder that leads to the roof area, different areas are set on different levels to exude a living style that encourages exploration.

    The master bedroom connects to the main living space, backyard and kitchen/dining area, while the tub and outdoor shower are features that promote external activity. Chiu has successfully optimised the idea of spatial fluidity, and the elements of light and wind create a flow that breathes energy between the old and the new.

    For Chiu, greenery plays a role in creating spatial fluidity where the sunlight and wind flows through. The skylight of the roof shapes a path of light, and carries a majestic tree that acts as a guide for the house, from its historical beginnings through to its present chapter. The exterior red staircase reaches up to the roof, connecting the ground to the sky, and even the block to the city,”

    “This is a design project that never ends. It is a place full of life and energy and a place for innovation and experiment. As designers we are influencers of lifestyle, but in the end, the result is a collaboration between all who live and breathe it,” he concludes.

    Read the digital version of the feature story

    More Features
    Designing for a contemporary generation
    Grand Gateway 66 is a flagship commercial mixed-use development located in Xijiahui, Shanghai, developed by Hang Lung Properties. (按此瀏覽中文版) The revitalisation project undertaken by Elena Galli Giallini Ltd., as design architect and interior designer, has involved the rejuvenation of the existing retail complex through a complete transformation of the 20- year old North building [...]
    Modern contemporary design by LW
    Since 1999, LW Design Group has established itself as a leading figure in modern contemporary interior design across the globe. PRC spoke to founding partner and CEO, Jesper Godsk about bringing Scandinavian flair to the forefront of hospitality venues. (按此瀏覽中文版) As the group celebrates its 20th anniversary this year by being awarded Interior Design Firm of the Year at the [...]
    Vertical Creative City Redefines the Commerical Workplace
    K11 ATELIER King’s Road, a new iconic mixed-use office complex in Island East, is opened for operations.  Even before opening its doors, it has attracted some of the world’s most prestigious global companies and top brands to take up tenancy. Spanning a gross floor area of 440,000-square feet, K11 ATELIER King’s Road stands on 728 King’s Road in Quarry Bay next to the Quarry Bay [...]
    Substantially Urban
    URBAN PROJECTS: a boutique architectural practice working on a large scale throughout Southeast Asia and beyond. Founded in 2003 and headquartered in Hong Kong’s Central Business District, the practice has delivered multiple projects since inception covering commercial, hospitality, cultural & residential typologies. (按此浏览简体中文版) The practice directors honed their [...]
    A Bookworm’s Dream
    An award-winning studio JATO Design transforms an ordinary bookstore into a modern haven for book lovers at Shenyang Jiuwu Cultural City, China (按此浏览简体中文版) For the Shenyang Jiuwu Cultural City renovation project in 2015, JATO Design was tasked with transforming a traditional bookstore into a dynamic, multi-use space – to be not only a shopping mall but also a cultural hub [...]
    Complex Facade Specialists – Permasteelisa Group
    Permasteelisa Group is a leading global contractor in the design, engineering, project management, manufacture, installation and after-sales service of architectural envelopes and interiors. Present in four continents, with a network of around 50 companies in 30 countries and 10 production plants, the Group generates a total turnover of around 1.1 billion euro a year. The Group brings its [...]
    Landmark 81 – A National Architectural Icon
    Landmark 81 tower is the tallest building in Vietnam and the 13th tallest tower in the world. (按此浏览简体中文版) Designed by Atkins for Vingroup, the largest developer in Vietnam, Landmark 81 is the centrepiece of their Vinhomes Central Park development located to the north of the city centre beside the Saigon River. Landmark 81 was originally conceived to uplift the profile of the [...]
    Magnum House – The Peak of Natural Design
    Jointly developed by Wing Tai Properties and Manhattan Group, La Vetta, located at the peak of Kau To Shan close to Shatin, is an example of a low-density luxury residential project making headlines in the Hong Kong property sector. (按此浏览简体中文版) Featuring 68 individual houses and eight towers of one to four-bedroom low-rise apartments, La Vetta is a masterpiece of [...]
    Lead8 Celebrates Fifth Anniversary
    Growing from a small design team to now over 200 based in Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and London A lot can change in five years as Hong Kong founded architecture and design firm Lead8 is demonstrating. After launching in 2014, co founded by a team of likeminded directors, Lead8 has cemented itself amongst the leading design firms both in the region and internationally. Now more [...]