“The magic of design is to bring out that which is there, but which we do not always see.”
–Architecture Matters by Aaron Betsky
In the arts, the term “bricolage”, similar to DIY, is a technique or a creation of various materials available at hand. The artists use found objects to come up with innovative and unique ideas based on their past experiences. It is a process of assemblage orrearrangement. It is “the gathering together of disparate bits and pieces into something that is not a whole but has coherence.” In the book Architecture Matters, Aaron Betsky revealed the new meaning of bricolage in architecture. He told us “The magic of design is to bring out that which is there, but which we do not always see.” It is a deep thinking on the future of our environment, try to re-use the existing elements on hand rather than build everything from zero. In the manner of assembly, balance or tension appears through the new relationship. By bricolage, the beauty of a place, which tends to be long overlooked by us, will shine again. The value of our environment will be realized again by us.
And how to show what is already there in architecture? I think it is primarily a process of scaling. It means to change our point of view, treating landscape or urban pieces on sites as objects that we can play with. In this way, it becomes possible to assemble and gives new order to the “objects”. Bricolage also requires a little wise of the designer. This wise lies in the proper rearrangement without wasting extra energy based on a deep understanding of place, on its past history, present relationships with its surroundings “as objects you can see, feel or taste”. By bricolage, “their very nature as things becomes evident and is intensified.”
For example, In architect Wang Shu’s project of Ningbo History Museum, he recycled the architectural materials from the original site using his craftsmanship. The tiles and bricks from the demolished village, in the architect’s eye, should be not only recycled but also remembered, as part of the history in this place, even as the memory of China’s rapid modernization.If Wang Shu’s architecture work is considered as “house” to pieces of “materials”, Song Dong’s artwork Waste Not shown in MoMA, is “house” to pieces of “objects”. In this project, he targets on the essence of common objects in life by transforming his mother’s houses into installations in the museum. What lies in a mother’s life is totally unveiled by the thoroughly classifying of all her collected objects. New order gives a surprising experience to the overlooked aesthetics in a dwelling, rather than a house.As said in Architecture Matters: “Bricolage also matters because it is the art of poverty rather than of surplus. Rethinking architecture on a fundamental level and transform what is left over into what could be.” In the installation exhibited in UCCA in 2011, Wisdom of the Poor, Song Dong assembled an exterior tree into the interior, an innovative tree home thus born. But we should pay attention here, that this combination is not an original creation of the artist, as this phenomenon of “tree home” already existed in the old neighborhood of Beijing when the poor people were struggling for more living square meters but not with a sacrifice of nature. This wisdom of the poor became the artist’s intelligence of bricolage and inspired him on many works.The same way around, RCR Arquitectes focus on the void space in landscape or in the city to emphasize the lost relations in existing places. in their project Tossols Basil Athletics Stadium, they take advantage of a void field between several trees and forests in the boundary of Olot and insert a track to fill the void. The topography and trees’ distribution in the existing landscape is emphasized with runners brought by the stadium. People who live there ever have a chance to breathe and feel the nature around.
The referred architects may haven’t thought about to use the technique of bricolage during their design, but their works, similar to artworks, start from an innovative point of view, a sharp observation of our life and a deep understanding of our environment. These works concern the terms of typology and place, by giving a new order to what is already there, have shown us the code of the place, even the true face of our life.