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HASHTAG WISH TREE at Auckland Art Week 2020: Urban Art Village (Photo by Sacha Stejko)

Art. Installation. Sculpture. Architecture.

From the East to the West: A Traditional Chinese Technique Translated into the Modern Realms

Dou gong (斗拱) is a traditional Chinese bracket system commonly used throughout historic Chinese architecture, largely dating back to the Tang Dynasty. The use of Dou gong requires precision for each joint to interlock without a single nail or drop of glue, forming a robust and aesthetically pleasing structural system for the overhanging roofs.

Inspired by this artistry, the thesis explores the possibilities of reviving the Dou gong method through modern fabrication. It follows the process of research, design, build and application of an architectural installation to critically question: how can we employ the advancement of modern technology to revive a long-lost ancient building technique of the traditional Chinese joinery system, and create a monumental piece in commemoration of the COVID-19 global pandemic?

This ancient artform's beauty lies within the craftsmanship that demands high precision cuts for each piece to perfectly join together. The once repetitive and labour-intensive complex joints can now be programmed and mass-produced, allowing for efficient and effective construction.

The practical approach of the project has led to the design of two different scaled architectural installations: the realisation of the 'Hashtag Wish Tree' for the annual Auckland Art Week and Kaipara Coast Sculpture Gardens Exhibition, and the 'Sentimental Piece' proposal as one of the top finalists for the 2020 Brick Bay Competition.

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Photo by Sacha Stejko
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The ultimate three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle comprising over 3,000 components - Photo by Sacha Stejko
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Act of hanging up a ribbon with personal wishes from the community and reactivating public interaction after lockdown - Photo by Sacha Stejko
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Night view - play of light and shadows
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Sea of ribbons evolving into New Zealand's 8th of October Covid-19 case curve

Both installations are carefully crafted as a monumental piece, hoping to reactivate the site and reunite people together as the crisis settles back into normality. The notion of the installation marks this historic event, translating it into an architectural language which bridges the traditional and the modern; the east and the west; architecture and sculpture, into one.

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Prototype model
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Fabrication of units & installation method
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The Sentimental Piece - 2020 Brick Bay Folly Competition
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The void - a poetic representation of the deceased and portrayed as an ‘absence’ of life