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Looking for Yourself through the Rear Window of a Building | UABB EXHIBITS Vol. 13

2020.05.07

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The 2019 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (Shenzhen) (hereinafter referred to as “UABB”) themed “Urban Interactions” was officially opened on December 22nd at the two main venues at Futian High Speed Railway Station and the Museum of Contemporary Art & Planning Exhibition (MOCAPE). The exhibition consisted of two sections, namely “Eyes of the City” and “Ascending City”. Nine sub-venues in the different districts of the city well interacted with the two main venues, completing an organically interactive network throughout the city. On August 19, 2020, the 8th Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (Shenzhen) officially closed online.


More than 140 exhibits presented by over 280 participants from 24 countries and regions explored the evolving relationship between future lives, technological innovation and urban cities. This volume of UABB EXHIBITS brings you an introduction of Looking for Brunelleschi, an exhibit from section “Eyes of the City”, which is also one of the four excellent works that were awarded the Academic Committee Award of 2019 UABB.


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Looking for Brunelleschi

Yung-Ho CHANG, Atelier FCJZ

Venue: Futian Railway Station

Section: Eyes of the City

Sub-section: Resisting Technologies

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Yung-Ho CHANG, AIA, RA, is the founder of and principal architect at Atelier FCJZ, and a professor of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Tongji University. In 1984, he received his Master of Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley. In 1993, he established Atelier FCJZ in the US with Lijia Lu. In 2002, he served as the Kenzo Tange Chair Professor at Harvard Graduate School of Design. Chang was a jury member of the Pritzker Prize from 2011 to 2017.


Technologies are the salvation from, as well as the root cause of anxiety in modern cities. The sub-section “Resisting Technologies" explores how people react to the invasion of technologies from two perspectives: resisting technologies, i.e., people fight the invasion with creativity, and cases of resisting technologies, i.e., technologies are used as tools of empowerment. The work Looking for Brunelleschi attempts to reproduce the famous experiment in which Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446), an Italian architect, developed the technique of linear perspective, in modern urban scenarios. It serves as an “architectural lens" for visitors to look at the views before them with their naked eyes from certain angles, and position themselves in modern cities.


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Project: Looking for Brunelleschi

Principal Architect: Yung-Ho CHANG, Lijia Lu

Project Team: CHENG Yishi, ZHANG Bowen, GUO Qingmin, ZHANG Min

Size: 3.0×0.9×2.2m

Material: Steel panel, Steel grid, Mirror

Design Period: Mar 2019

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*Excerpt from Watching Back by Yung-Ho CHANG


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Looking for Brunelleschi, 2019 UABB


“Is the real world being replaced by the virtual one?

Will the cyberspace replace the real space?

These questions are commonly asked.

I do not intend to offer answers.

But let your imagination run wild.

If the physical realm were invaded by the virtual one,

what would become of it?"


The old places we know would become messier, rougher and heavier to counterbalance the weightless “brave new world", I suppose. Thanks to virtual reality, we get to experience weightlessness on the earth's surface at any time. But when the VR glasses are off, aren't we crave the weight, texture and temperature? It's like how Detective Columbo in Wim Wenders' movie realizes the meaning of life when holding a cup of hot coffee in a cold winter morning in Berlin: feeling the coldness and hotness at the same time is to be alive. It's not that we are not fond of the fantasy world shaped by progressing technologies, we just want to see a perfect contrast between the old and the new. In other words, we want the best of the two parallel but completely different worlds.


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Looking for Brunelleschi @Pingshan Art Museum


This is why as an architect, while I accept that Virtual Reality and Real Reality are both the reality we are in, I am more interested in magnifying the real reality by heightening our senses. Instead of defying gravity, I prefer singing the praises of gravity as I did before.


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Looking for Brunelleschi @Pingshan Art Museum


In the section “Eyes of the City", Atelier FCJZ intended to respond to the questions related to “watching" in modern urban life using this installation. Rather than being watched, we suggest taking a more proactive stance: watching the city, sky, space, art, etc. Although we may not be able to control how we are watched, we are able to decide how and what we look at. Today, it is a new mission in the field of architecture that we should pay attention to the sustainability substantiality of the physical world. Therefore, we would like to invite you to look at the real world with your naked eyes from certain angles through this installation, an architectural lens, “Looking for Brunelleschi".


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Looking for Brunelleschi @Pingshan Art Museum

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Concept sketch of “Looking for Brunelleschi"


“Looking for Brunelleschi" attempts to reproduce the famous experiment in which Filippo Brunelleschi, an Italian architect, developed the technique of linear perspective. The viewers adjust the distance between themselves and the subjects they observe using the lever, looking for the two artists behind the apartment windows through the peephole. At the same time, they will find themselves behind the window of an apartment in the reflection from mirror. This work intends to resist technology in two ways: the installation without electrical parts is completely operated manually; when the viewers' sightline reaches the building facade, they are not able to take a selfie due to the small size of the peephole.


01. 伯鲁乃列斯基 文艺复兴时代的佛罗伦萨建筑师,曾设计佛罗伦萨大教堂。据说是他发明了数学透视,并为佛罗伦萨大教堂的洗礼堂的设计进行了历史上第一次透视试验。.jpg

Brunelleschi, a Florentine architect in the Renaissance Period, designed Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore


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Experiments regarding linear perspective in Florence


To study and verify the principle of perspective, the Italian architect Filippo Brunelleschi conducted many experiments regarding linear perspective from 1415 to 1420. He held the painting of Florence's Baptistery with a peephole in one hand and a square mirror in the other hand, and moved the mirror back and forth. In the square in front of the Baptistery, he looked through the peephole, saw the painting reflected in the mirror, and discovered the liner perspective by comparing the painting and the real building. From then on, this architect ushered in the era of drawing space in a scientific way.


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Baptistery in the Perspective


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Florence's Cathedral with the Baptistery in the foreground


When one tries to establish his/her position within the contemporary city, most likely, he has to look at a building facade and even into someone’s apartment, a scenario vividly portrayed in Alfred Hitchcock’s film The Rear Window. This very moment, when Filippo meets Alfred or the baptistery of Florence meets the residential block of New York, is what we like to capture with this viewing machine.


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Operate the lever to move the mirror back and forth


Specifically, this piece of equipment allows one person to look through a peephole onto an elevation of a multi-story building in the reflection of a mirror, which can be pulled forward or pushed backward with a crank operated by the observer, who may want to adjust the distance between him and the observed. In the end, what he discovers is his own eyes in one of the windows on the wall and realize that the window he sees is exactly the same as the one of his own room and he himself is the reference of his existence.


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Zoomed-in image from the peephole

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Reproducing the experiment regarding perspective


This project attempts to reproduce Brunelleschi's experiment in the context of today's urbanization. Two paintings of buildings in the city of Shenzhen face each other, with a mirror strip in the middle. The mirror is placed on a slide rail, and can be moved by a rocker arm. The viewer behind painting A operates the rocker arm, and observes through the peephole the changes in the position and proportion of the reflection of painting A in the mirror to painting B. As painting A is observed indirectly, its proportion in the field of view changes depending on the distance from the mirror to the viewers; while as painting B is observed directly, its proportion and size remain the same.


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Interactive paintings of building


The two paintings are about the same ordinary apartment building in Shenzhen, where you and I might reside. Painting A is a sketch, while painting B is a color rendering. The profile portraits of the Italian architect Brunelleschi and the director of the movie Rear Window Hitchcock are hidden in them. As the viewers operate the rocker arm, the two paintings will merge into one at a certain point to piece together a complete image of the apartment building. This is also the moment when the two figures meet behind the rear window of the apartment.


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The entire installation


The installation is placed inside a steel box about 3 meters long, 2.2 meters high, and 0.9 meters wide. Viewers may operate the rocker arm in a relatively private observation area and observe the interaction of the two paintings through the peephole. They will see their own eyes in the mirror. At this point, they may get the feeling that they are the owner standing behind the rear window of the apartment, watching someone and being watched by others. But in no way they may take a selfie because the small-sized peephole prevents them from doing so. The installation is a machine resisting selfies and technologies.


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Waching and being watched

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Looking for Palladio


Referencing and extending from the spatial prototype of Teatro Olimpico, the installation attempts to trigger off the viewers’ thoughts on the actual urban spaces by strengthening their perception of the abstract urban space in the installation and their changing locations there. At the center of the installation is a trapezoidal observation box inspired by the stage of Teatro Olimpico. The peephole is opposite a set of perspective paintings of a city causing visual traps. As the viewer moves in front of the peephole, the abstract urban space of streets, courtyards, city walls and mountain cities will be gradually presented through several one-point perspectives. At the same time, perspective paintings will also be used to demonstrate multi-faceted, dynamic and ideal urban space.


Exhibition: Unknown City: Exhibition of Architecture, Installation and Image in Contemporary China

Location: Shenzhen Pingshan Art Museum

Principal Architect: Yung-Ho CHANG, Lijia Lu

Project Team: CHENG Yishi, LIU Chao

Woodwork: Shenzhen Xizao Workshop

Size: 3.7m (length) x 2.1m (width) x 2.1m (height)

Materials: steel keel, wood board, propylene spraying

Design Period: March, 2019



Looking for Malevich


Six devices, composed of rotatable bases and distinct apertures to capture views, are named View-Finders. Since there are targets of geometric figures in the space to be viewed at, these devices can also be called Form-Finders. Each Form-Finder correspond to a geometric figure. Five of which correspond to the surrounding that are distributed on the columns and on the site. The last one correspond the viewer’s oneself, so it is attached to a cap to be worn by the viewer.The site which the exhibition is held at is a product of the planned economy in the 1970s, and it is a classical representative of industrial architecture. Kasimier Severinovich Malevich’s Black Space and the other pure abstract paintings are inspired by the spirit of the industrial age. Through this set of devices we would hope the viewers to retrieve the connection between industrial aesthetics and the masterpieces of Malevich. In other words, we would like to see a reunion of Malevich’s arts and inspirationunder this special occasion in Shanghai.


Exhibition: Shanghai Urban Space Art Season (SUSAS)

Location: 80,000-ton silos on Minsheng Wharf, Shanghai

Principal Architect: Yung-Ho CHANG, Lijia Lu

Project Team: YIN Shun, JI Yaqiong

Design Time: Aug 2017

Exhibition Time: Oct 2017 to Mar 2018



Shede Visitor’s Center


The design intends to preserve the pristine natural landscape as well as the tranquil feeling of the locale that attract the people trying to get away from the hustles and bustles of the metropolises. While the building complex of the visitor’s center serves as a connection-transition between the Shede campus and the woodsy landscape, the architecture of the center is spatially organized as a series of smaller pavilions with central courtyards arranges in a linear fashion and its formal language is based on a low-key vernacular vocabulary of deep eaves and wood-paneled walls. The cross-section of the typical pavilion resembles that of an umbrella with beam-less concrete roof cantilevering out from the center. The thickness of the sloping roof canopy changes gradually, thin at the eaves and thick at the base, where the air-conditioning ductworks are concealed. For tourist, the visitor’s center is the prelude before departing for a tour of the Shede distilling facilities and has a well-mixed program, including a museum for liquor culture, a hotel, a dining theater, a R&D center, among others.


©Arch-Exist ©FCJZ

Location: Tuopai Zhen, Sichuan

Principal Architect: Yung-Ho CHANG, Lijia Lu

Project Team: LIANG Xiaoning, HUANG Shuyi, ZHANG Bowen, LIU Chao

Interior Design: Simon Lee, ZENG Xiangyan, ZHANG Min, LI Shuai

Collaboration: China Southwest Architectural Design and Research Institute Corp.,Ltd

Building Area: 22,592 ㎡

Structure and Material: Concrete framework

Design Period: 2017

Completion Time: 2019



*The text and photos are provided by FCJZ


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2019 BI-CITY BIENNALE OF URBANISM\ARCHITECTURE (SHENZHEN)


THEME | Urban Interactions

MAIN VENUE | Futian Railway Station & Shenzhen Museum of Contemporary Art and Urban Planning

SUB-VENUE | Sha Tau Kok Bonded Zone of Yantian District, Bao'an International Art Exhibition Center, Qiaotou Community of Bao’ao District, Ban Xue Gang Hi-Tech Zone of Longgang District, Guanlan Ancient Market of Longgang District, Guangming Cloud Valley, Dapeng Fortress of Dapeng New District, Xichong of Dapeng New District, and Qianhai Cooperation Zone



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