| Abstracted from Isozaki's presentation
at ANY-conference, June 1995
Kaishi as Mirage City is the construction of an artificial island
in the midst of the South China Sea,off
Macao. The original conceptualization began at the request of
the municipal government of Zhuhai City, and we are going to add our
own free thoughts to their guidelines.
There are double implications in the term kaishi; first, the literal
meaning is of a city on the sea, but it also implies a mirage. Now
that the municipal government is considering this project seriously
and the sponsors are researching economical as well as technical aspects,
at this point I cannot forecast whether the signifi . will be a city
or a mirage. In any event, it is possible to see this as Utopia, because
constructing a city on the sea allows us to imagine a world totally
detached from the ongoing political institutions and social conventions.
It has already been about a quarter of a century since we observed
the death of all kinds of utopias, yet their memories are still fresh
in our minds. And what is it to project another utopia, before they
completely disappear? Whether to consider the new utopia as a ritual
of revival or as a repetitive farce or as a new vision of emancipation
makes our stance today totally different from what it once was. And
actually driving this project to realization means involving all of
the possible stances. The notion of producing a project can no longer
take linear relations for granted: projects no longer develop by way
of diachronically progressing posturing, but they unfold only as negotiation
between different positions.
It is interesting that Sir Thomas More -the first person who wrote
about Utopia- plotted the nowhere land on an island to be discovered
only after a long ocean voyage. Our artificial island will also appear
in the sea, of South China; the difference is that the former was
envisioned in an age when frontiers still existed with real expectations
of new discovery, while the latter is a fictive construct to be fabricated
on a sea where there is nothing to be discovered. By the way, in the
first edition of his Utopia (published in 1516), More had an illustration
of the island. In the second edition (published in 1518), he changed
the image so that two bridges connected the island to the shore of
somewhere land. The reason he made this change is unknown. In any
way, the topographical conditions of More's illustrated island are
quite similar to those of our island. Thus the idea of connecting
our island to mainland China with two bridges -just as today's Venice
is connected to mainland Italy with a long bridge.
The projected location of the artificial island is two miles away
from Hang-Qin Island, off the southern tip of both Macao and Zhuhai.
The depth of water in this area is less than 5 meters, that is it
is ideal for reclamation. Facing the South China Sea, the south side
of Kaishi City is to be surrounded by a breakwater, while small boats
can be serviced in the inner sea between the north side of the island
and the mainland.
Inasmuch as it is an island, communication with the external world
Though the term island implies an enclosed system, the solitude nevertheless
assumes a pre-existing exteriority. Both More's Utopia and Tao Yuen
Ming's Tao-yuen-xang (the Chinese Shangri-La) are words to be discovered.
Although they are actually non-existent places, imagined in someone's
interiority, they are projected as outside and distanced from this
world; Tao-yuen-xang is described as existing deep in a peach forest,
and it, like More's Utopia, is only reached at the end of a long and
hard voyage going back to the source. Therefore, transportation is
necessary to bridge the distance. For the actual planning of Kaishi,
there are three categories of intercourse.
1. Flow of people and objects: transportation routes for cars, boats,
and other vehicles, energy supplies, waste treatment
2. Flow of information: communication circuits
3. Flow of qi: circuit of invisible circulation
For the fundamentals of urban activities -people, objects and information-
we are researching the use of alternative technologies, that is, a
way to sustain facilities with as little energy as possible. As such,
the characteristic gestalt of this project is determined by an experimental
method: producing a clue as to how to construct a city by an arrangement
of devices that corresponds to the invisible flow of qi. In other
words, it attempts to construct the framework of the whole project
by reinterpreting the traditional geomancy, feng-shui, which the local
people still believe in.
The bay of Heng-Qin Island, where the project is located, opens toward
the South; on the island, low mountain ranges run around from the
north to east and west. According to feng-shui, since ancient times,
a topography precisely like this -where mountain ranges embrace a
level expanse of land from the north- has been considered an ideal
location for a city and housing. Kaishi is located precisely in the
southern fold of such an embrace.
Passing through the non-mai (dragon vein), qi reaches the high peak
of Nao-Bei-Shang Mountain, dives into the ground, and then overflows
from the non-xie (dragon hall). The bridge is to be constructed between
the mainland and the island, parallel to the flow of qi. A fresh water
pond that is to be installed on the central axis of the island corresponds
to the flow. A canal meanders from northeast to southwest, leading
Also, another flow of qi, coming from the south to the central axis,
is controlled by a gate formed by symmetrically placed towers.
Geomancy is a law formed by experience and is derived from the same
roots as Oriental medicine, based upon empirical knowledge about routes
through which qi flows within the human body. There is no way to prove
the rightness or wrongness of geomancy, for it is a pattern recognition
of reciprocity between life and its circumstances; nevertheless it
is actually effective, and people in this region practice it with
And feng-shui seems to be useful as a hypothesis or a tentative guideline
for a project which has to be drawn from a blank, without a single
clue; it is in the same way that a computer
generated gestalt requires a measure of some sort when it is actually
introduced into a project. In the present situation of architectural
planning, or particularly in this artificial island project, Kaishi,
which is to be fabricated without any historicity, here is no common
element for the basis of judgement at hand. Thus the importance of
applying a tentative set of rules. Feng-shui as a rule of experience
is effective in this context (aside from the fact that in projects
in general, any common element is only projected as a hypothesis).
All in all, Kaishi is going to be constructed for the sake of a new
world which is coming after the disappearance of three conceptual
bases for modernity; the frontier, the boundary, and the vanishing
point. The frontier was useful when one's territory was believed to
be expandable, and in the same breath, even utopia was to be discovered
one day. The boundary was artificially devised so that many occupiers
could conhabitate; when multiple nation states hold their own ground
in a power tension with others, what comes to the fore is the borderline.
The vanishing point is symbolic form that was introduced in order
to stabilize the origin of the gaze of modern subjectivity (as in
one-point perspective). Their disappearance has already been manifest
in the following claims; we can see the coming of the end of the world;
borderlines have disappeared; and modern subjectivity has collapsed.
At the twilight of the 20th century, this has come to be common knowledge.
Kaishi is to be constructed upon these ruins, assuming the following
roles and activities to be programmed.
1.The central organization of Asian political communities
When Macao is returned to mainland China in 1999, Zhuhai City is planning
to establish a new zone for political and economical activities in
combination with Hen-Qin Island.
Placed as it is off the shore of the zone, Kaishi can be an extension
of it, rather as an independent territory, shared widely by the whole
Asian community. Sooner or later, the time will come when Asian nation
states have to reconstruct their mutual interrelationships just as
the European Union has. Then, precisely because it is located within
3000 km of all Asian regions (and
including the fact that it is on the sea), Kaishi will make an ideal
spot. Simultaneously, in contrast to the modern convention that the
main territorial requisite is to rule the surface of the land, cultural
territoriality based upon sea area as a unit -the same intercourse
that used to flourish before the middle ages- should be reconsidered.
Thus the idea of constructing Kaishi as the center where representatives
from all Asian nations gather and discuss matters.
2.Buisiness facilities equipped with the new information network
Simultaneous communication with the world over has been made possible
by the information highway and satellites which are now transforming
all institutions of our social activities; money, finance, correspondence,
broadcasting, leisure, education, etc.
Technology permeates the world by way of decomposing the elements
into bits and reconstructing them into digital informatics. Under
the circumstances, the transformation of our institutions is inevitable.
However, customs and apparati upon which nation states have been dependent
are resisting the transformation. In order to escape from this bind,
a new topos that is constructed from a tabula rasa is of primal necessity.
Kaishi presents an active model for a society consisting of bits of
informatics. To be certain, the model does not imply a so-called central
business district but rather assumes a spatial mingling of work and
living. Therefore, the idea of the living unit should also be reconsidered;
a ＼new space should be designed where there is no work/life distinction.
3.A station for interchange between various cultural organizations
In the manner that informatics flow and culture functions, boundaries
have already disappeared. Collaborative research, as well as multi-disciplinary
conferences and conventions, are now parts of our daily lives. Kaishi
will be host to not only exchange programs and exhibitions, but also
various creative practices. In this respect, too, a new program for
facilities should be composed, and a new building type which is totally
different from the conventional university, museum, convention center,
etc., should be designed.
In this way, the project simulates the state of tourbillon in constant
flux and becoming; that is to say, no sooner than conveying a fixed
image, it begins to counter is premises.
Then, how can we achieve a way of expressing it if it is an everlasting
hypothesis and cannot assume any determinations and gestalt of a conventional
sort? And still, it must be illustrated in order to persuade both
the Zhuhai City municipal government and related organizations. The
way to jump to gap between intention and method has not been discovered.
The only possible way at hand is to change the method of expression
constantly, according to the receiver, in such a way that the project
in flux is always understood properly by a certain positionality.
It is for this reason that this presentation has been limited to the
basic concept and a few drawings. When you see another presentation
of the same project in the future, you might see totally different
images. I believe that any projection is essentially in fluctuation
like this; and here again we glimpse Kaishi as mirage.