TAO (Trace Architecture Office), one of the most active and influential architectural firms in China’s contemporary architecture field, was founded by architect HUA Li In 2009, and is based in Beijing. Being critical at contemporary architecture as an obsession to fashionable forms in media driven globalized consumerism, TAO visions architecture as an evolving organism, being an inseparable whole with its environment, rather than just a formal object. With most projects positioned in particular cultural and natural settings in China, TAO explore the essence of place; make architecture deeply rooted in its cultural and environmental context with respect of local condition. The sense of place, response to climate, efficient use of local resource, site-responsive construction method, such issues are always explored in every TAO project responding to its specific situation.
TAO’s key works include: Museum of Handcraft Paper (2010), XiaoQuan Elementary School (2010), Wuyishan Bamboo Raft Factory (2013), Forest Building (2014), Split Courtyard House (2015), and TiensTiens Café (2016). TAO has won several important architectural awards including ARCASIA Award, shortlisted in Aga Kahn Award 2013, Architectural Record GDGB Award, China Architecture Media Award and WA Award, and TAO was listed in Design Vanguard 2012 by Architectural Record Magazine. TAO’s works have been exhibited in Venice, Vienna, Berlin and New York, and have been widely published internationally.
Space is a memory, discovery and inspiration. It is definitely not just a rational term defining functions. Space is perhaps most powerful aspect in architecture which can challenge our unconsciousness to our existence condition. Inspiring space can ask us questions: where you are? How you want to exist? So to create spaces which can provoke our curiosity and doubts is the most profound mission for architecture.
The construction is the essential means of realizing architecture. Thus, architecture is not just abstract but physical and material. The tectonics should obey an order following laws of nature, instead of arbitrariness relying on technologies. In this, there are three things important: 1. Authenticity----a quality which resists the dislocation of meaning. It reveals the essence of things; 2. Clarity----a desire of expression of true logic in structural and material although it may not be completely achieved visually; 3. Here and now—--a respect to “gravity” of our existence in sense of place and time. Architecture belongs to specific site and context in both environmental and cultural sense, we should work with limits and discover the solution with a creative mind.
Beauty is not dead. Also “beauty can not be created overnight” (Kahn). Beauty is always there, waiting to be discovered by man, only the way of seeing beauty is transforming constantly. This is a belief in feelings, rather than thoughts. If thoughts are the shadows of our feelings — always darker, emptier, simpler (Nietzsche), then we should really be suspicious to the abusing power of any concepts in name of intellect. Beauty thus exists in silence.
Doing architecture, we are anticipating the future, but with our memory. Architecture is a dramatic meeting between past and future, while has to be realized by present means. Thus Architecture belongs to a time, but it can also go beyond its time. Architecture without style, without appearance, without metaphor, will last and present itself in spirit.