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Yes We Camp in Taiwan: Art Taking Roots & Innovation Sprouting

YES:Converting the Imagination for Space Usage

The spacious badminton court is empty, except for several tables covered with tools. Within just ten days, the space is turned into a busy work area. The French team stationed at the Taiwan Contemporary Culture Lab (C-LAB) starts with the wood (that has just been transported here) and leads the volunteers in creating plenty of large outdoor movable furniture by hand. The finished works are an imitation of the C-LAB construction. When placed together, they become a microcosm of the whole park. This “representation” not only guides the users to learn about the architectural characteristics of C-LAB but also endows these pieces of furniture with the flexible combination for more free use in the future through the fun and movable design details.

This idea comes from Yes We Camp (abbreviated as YWC), a social innovative group mainly stationed in Paris and Marseille, France, and made up of young people with a passion for converting city space. Just in June 2018, they paid a visit to Taiwan. With the assistance of Urban Tai-ouan, the French city planning group stationed in Taipei, they got familiar with the C-LAB and its surroundings, and visited the different professional working groups in urban planning, art, and architecture to exchange opinions and learn from each other. Afterwards, YWC made observations and analyses in terms of the objective conditions of the park and planned four innovative projects for renovation. After the C-LAB interior discussion, one was selected and both parties collaborated to put it into practice.

In fact, every innovative project is similar regarding the major direction: It is hoped that the park, which used to be the Air Force Command Headquarters base, can be opened to the public, which will change the past enclosure and authority isolation, authoritativeness and make it a public space shared by the local residents, tourists, and the cultural and art workers. Therefore, the four YWC renovation projects all aim to raise citizens’ involvement, enhance the public’s re-acquaintance with the place, and infuse human the energy of humanity into the field. What’s more important is to convert the usage and imagination of the space through innovative thinking.

The French team Yes We Camp stationed at C-LAB starts with the wood and leads the volunteers in creating plenty of large outdoor movable furniture by hand. Photo courtesy of C-LAB
Yes We Camp decided to focus the event on the form of “an open studio,” recruiting the volunteers interested in making furniture to assist them in completing the mission together. Photo courtesy of C-LAB

WE:The Fun Gathering Time

After selecting the outdoor movable furniture project, due to the limitation of time and space, YWC decided to focus the event on the form of “an open studio,” recruiting the volunteers interested in making furniture to assist them in completing the mission together. Therefore, the students and office workers of different ages, each with their own different reasons, gathered here. Some of them aspired to wood hammering. Others simply found it interesting to work with the foreign group. Still others, who had majored in industrial design and were now housewives, invited their friends to join in. Even though these partners do not necessarily have carpentry experience, they all share the feeling of wanting to create something with their hands through practical engagement.

As a matter of fact, if done separately, the work is not difficult. However, it takes everyone’s cooperation to complete it within the time given. The basic procedure is as follows: First, measure the shape and size of every wooden board based on the design layout. The professionals will machine them and assemble them. The house-like furniture then takes shape one after another. Then putty is added to the cracks and pits, the surface is polished, apply the primer to go with the exterior color model after the building of the C-LAB, wait for the primer and paint to dry, and it’s finished.

Different volunteers came every day to do their share in building the outdoor movable furniture. Photo courtesy of C-LAB

As the schedule kept updating, different volunteers came every day to do their share in building the outdoor movable furniture. At noon, everyone would put aside their work, sit down in a circle, enjoy lunch, and talk about where they came from, why they were here, and what opinion and expectation they had for the undergoing project. They just got to know each other. After some rest, everyone voluntarily resumed their work. No one was forced to stay. They could extend their working hours or leave anytime according to their own schedule. At a corner of the space, a tent was even put up for people to take a rest. Compared with a regular workplace, the atmosphere built in this field is more like a shared moment for fun as people group together working for the same goal.

CAMP:Playground and Outdoor Area for Socializing

As the project came to the last day, everyone worked flat out. The volunteers were worried that they wouldn’t make it on time, but the YWC members were still as cool as cucumbers. In fact, they worked overtime until very late the night before. As the opening time drew near, people came to the open studio one after another with their expectations and doubts. Among them were the volunteers who had joined the work several days before. Everyone wanted to see the result.

At last, the finished furniture was all set up, fastened with ribbons, and lit. A miniature park was just displayed for the people. With the assistance of the C-LAB crew, the ribbon-cutting ceremony ended successfully. People walked in. Look, here is a long bench for taking a rest. That is a large wooden table with a sunshade. Some laughter was heard as a child rode on the wooden chair fitted with the pulleys pushed by his mother from behind. From the smiles on everyone’s faces, it was obvious that the days of hard work on the open studio paid off.

At last, the finished furniture was all set up, fastened with ribbons, and lit. With the assistance of the C-LAB crew, the ribbon-cutting ceremony ended successfully. Photo courtesy of C-LAB

The placing for the movable furniture at the badminton court was temporary. Adults sat or stood inside and exchanged opinions with each other, making it a brand-new place for social interaction; but for children, it was a free playground. It was a public space with both social and recreational qualities, which were both beautiful and useful. These features did not conflict with each other, and they also made people see the function and diverse uses of the furniture. The finished furniture would be moved to the park and arranged on the green areas or rest areas to endow the broad area with a new look. The YWC project starts from humanity, art and international exchange, concerning not only design but also work, practice, and action. From the early stage of the developing and proposing of the innovative ideas, to their taking roots at the C-LAB park, this activity is completed so well, which is a successful starting point of the cooperation for both parties.

Raphaël, who travelled a long distance to Taiwan, said that everyone was satisfied with the outcome. The project is both practical, by imitating the architectural design of the C-LAB, and to a certain degree poetic. However, he revealed that he also liked another friendly project with animals very much. Inspired by the dog walkers commonly seen in the park, the project aimed to build a fun obstacle race park exclusively for dogs.

“Everything is related to stories,” another member Antoine said. The key is not only putting into practice the plan made together with the partners and renovating the original environment; what’s more important are the people encountered in the process and the background stories of every encounter. If the conditions permit, the ideal working period is three to four weeks. They usually live together with the fixed volunteers and work with each other more closely and freely. It was a pity that the time for this project was limited as they had to hurriedly return to France for other projects. But they still cherished the pleasant experience of working with the C-LAB and thanked everyone dedicated to and participating in the work.

YWC and volunteers took a picture with the finished furniture. Photo courtesy of C-LAB
Yes We Camp: Established in 2012 and mainly stationed in Paris and Marseille, France, Yes We Camp has about 50 members. The workers are from different professional fields, including urban planning, architecture, and visual design. The group’s core value is to explore the possibilities of humans and the usage potential of their living environment, architecture and space. They build the “temporary public space” with creative thinking to promote a reciprocal relationship with nature. The members get along with each other like family. They are good at doing their work by adopting art methods such as camping, outdoor catering, and performance and also encourage citizens to take part. Besides a large number of short-term projects, at present they are also undertaking large projects including “Les Grands Voisins”, one of the “Infinite Places” projects of France Pavilion in the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale, as well as the open recruitment operation project to revitalize the Esperienza Pepe.
HO Bo-YenHO is a writer and film worker, studying for a master's degree of Department of Motion Picture at NTUA, and runs the Facebook fanpage "Finding Neverpath."
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