Qingtian76 Creativity in Spatial Design

The Mixed Japanese-Western Style Houses During the Sowa Era

青田七六-模型與正面線圖

After the Meiji Revolution, there was a popular slogan in Japan calling for Japanese to exercise “Goodbye Asia, Hello Europe”. The desire was to leave its position as Asia, at the time a troubled continent, and become a part of the dominating world power, consisted by European nations by the time. One of their many attempts to Westernize was to adopt European architectural techniques and spatial art to take Japan into the European world. Taiwan provided an excellent test ground for this policy. The Presidential Palace, the old Taiwan University Medical School Building, the Taiwan Museum, the Monitoring Yuan building and the Sun Yatsen Hall are all public buildings exhibiting this attempt. By the Sowa era, besides the change of mixed Japan-European style, many of Japanese residential houses also adapted bigger available family space compared to traditional Japanese houses.

The door at furthest left is a French window that opens down to the floor and to both sides. Upon one glance and the message that it is a living room decorated in Japanese style, as the window on the outside was tailored with venetian blinds can be conveyed. The northern side is the entire façade of the house. The appearance bears great difference to that of Taiwanese or Fukian-styled houses. Even though the framework of the house followed that of a dormitory residence, it is still quite apparent that certain western construction elements had been utilized in small details. The house is, essentially, like a Japanese man wearing tailored western suit.

In this Japanese-styled house, browsing from right to left, one would see the ante room, the guest room or the greeting room. On the outside there are protruding windows often seen in western houses. This is identical with the residential house owned by Chen Tianlai, one of Taiwan’s most important Tea merchant, on Guide Street. But here, the windows have diamond-shaped glass panes, giving these windows a more elegant look. Further to the left there is the reading room, the outside of this room is fitted with venetian blinds. Many examples of western-styled houses are fitted with venetian blinds, but it is quite rare that a Japanese residential house is appointed in such manner. The main reason is that Taiwan is indeed much hotter than Japan, and venetian blinds can serve the duo purposes of shading the room from sunshine and keeping the rain out.

The designer of the house was Professor Mashashi Adachi of Hokkaido, Japan. Construction of the house was completed in 1937, it is now 80-something years old.

On the platform in front of the house, we used shale for repairs.

Everyone may be wondering why the natural science research rocks and plants are placed in this place, because this house was inhabited by Professor Ma’s after the Second World War. He is a very well-known geologist in the world.

This wall of rocks comprises three parts: In the middle are rock specimens from Taiwan; lower below are dimension stone specimens from all over the world; and on top there are 366 motifs of flowers from Taiwan, which are creative flower totems developed and crafted by our company. The flowers serve nicely as gifts to friends as each of 366 flowers represent 366 days of a year.

The blocks of rocks on the floor are sample stone specimens from all over the world. Rocks from Taiwan are not suitable for use as construction dimension stones. The main reason being rocks from Taiwan had been exposed to many phases of compressive strength resulting from plate collisions, hence the rocks are full of incipient joints and fractures and tend to break down when used as dimension stones. The only local dimension stone used in construction in Taipei since the end of the Qing Dynasty up to the period under Japanese rule was the coarse sandstone from Neihu or andesite from Guanyinshan.

Aside from the rocks and soil underneath us, as we raise our head, we see motifs of 366 flowers that come from this land we live on. These motifs are created according to our calendric birthdays and the horoscopic personalities of that particular day. These motifs enhance creativity in gift giving and show how much the giver cared since the flower motives can be made to order on desirable objects.

Wall of Taiwan Rock Specimens

青田七六-台灣各地的岩石標本牆

Rock specimen wall from all over Taiwan

Taiwan straddles the boundary between the colliding Philippine Sea plate and the Eurasian continental plate. The plates are nothing but flimsy layers when compared to the tremendous volume of the earth. The downward plunging of the Philippine Sea plate underneath the Eurasian continental plate formed and up-lifted the Taiwan Island. The eruption of volcanoes formed volcanic rocks. Compressive stresses from plate collision changed existing rocks and transformed them into metamorphic rocks. Both igneous volcanic rocks and metamorphic rocks are subject to erosion and the ultimate deposition of these detrital materials from this erosion process formed sedimentary rocks. The surface morphology of the earth is shaped by both erosion and deposition processes.
Generally speaking, volcanic rocks are wide-spread in the Yangmingshan area in northern Taiwan and on the off-shore Penghu archipelagoes; in eastern Taiwan the major rock type is metamorphic rocks, and in western Taiwan the predominant rock type is sedimentary rocks. However, if we take a look at the locations of these rocks collected, we would discover that many types of rocks can be collected: volcanic, sedimentary or metamorphic, from anywhere in Taiwan. This points to the complexity and multiplicity that underlie the geology and stratigraphy of Taiwan.

Plate movement

The blocks of rocks on the floor are sample stone specimens from all over the world. Rocks from Taiwan are not suitable for use as construction dimension stones. The main reason being rocks from Taiwan had been exposed to many phases of compressive strength resulting from plate collisions, hence the rocks are full of incipient joints and fractures and tend to break down when used as dimension stones. The only local dimension stone used in construction in Taipei since the end of the Qing Dynasty up to the period under Japanese rule was the coarse sandstone from Neihu or andesite from Guanyinshan.

Aside from the rocks and soil underneath us, as we raise our head, we see motifs of 366 flowers that come from this land we live on. These motifs are created according to our calendric birthdays and the horoscopic personalities of that particular day. These motifs enhance creativity in gift giving and show how much the giver cared since the flower motives can be made to order on desirable objects.

青田七六-板塊運動與台灣島的形成

Plants in Japanese Garden and the Southward Move Policy of Japan

In the front yard garden just outside of the family room there are brown bamboos, planted since Professor Adachi’s time. According to Mr. Guoguan Ma’s description the presence of Hibiscus is an important mark of his home. In the front yard garden there were Orange Jasmine enhancing a distinctive sweet smell in summer time. Fragrant osmanthus blossoms during the fall while in pots of various sizes there were jasmine, night will herb, and white roses. Professor Adachi’s taste in living was manifested strongly by the perfumes and arrangement of the flowers in four corners of the house.

Qingtian76-Guanyin brown bamboo in the front yard
Guanyin brown bamboo in the front yard is a common plant in Japanese gardens

In the frontal part of the yard, there are still some tall mango trees, as well as palms and Chinese Fan Palm that are often seen in Japanese house gardens. On the east side there are Shri Lankan olives and Formosan Gum Trees. Straight into the south garden is where the tall Royal Palm Tree stands. It was said that there used to be coffee trees too.

Qingtian76-Straight into the south garden is where the tall Royal Palm Tree stands
Qingtian76-Straight into the south garden is where the tall Royal Palm Tree stands

The Southern Expansion Doctrine was a Japanese national policy during the Daisho years (pre-WWII), where it extensively covered area containing China, Taiwan and Southeast Asia. Taiwan served as Japan’s base during the span of the policy. Meanwhile, research and study on crops and agricultural commodities are done in Taiwan to serve to further tighten Japan’s grip on the economic veins of Southeast Asia. After several industrious work and operation, there were fruitful results in fields of medical science, commerce and agriculture. Fu-Yuan on the campus of National Taiwan University and the Butterfly Valley in Meinong were the remains of the botanical gardens where the Japanese conducted studies on botanical sciences of Southeast Asia. A hothouse for botanical comparison still remains on the campus of National Taiwan University’s campus.

青田七六-楓香樹

Professor Adachi studied soil improvement for growing of sugar canes and used organic fertilizer rather than chemical fertilizers.

Professor Iso Eikichi who lived in the house just behind professor Adachi (now rebuilt into an apartment)conducted studies on Taiwan Penglai rice in the fields situated at Zhuzihu, Yangmingshan. Professor 馬場為二, who also resided at Qingtian Street, conducted studies on sugar cane syrup fermentation by bacteria, and discovered that the extract could be used as electric generator fuel as well as for airplanes. This is what is known as bio-organic petro. Research work was by these professors in Taiwan were quite advanced in their time, and even today, these studies are mainstream researches.

Beyond the door to the engawa, a Japanese corridor with a view toward the garden, there was a sunroom where one can enjoy basking in the sun. The five pebble-stuccoes pillars and the floor are all remains of the original. The design of the sunroom was quite fashionable at that time. Professor Adachi’s son described that roofing for the house already made use of transparent materials to allow shining through of sunshine.
Outside of the sunroom there was a swimming pool lined with brick edges. The pool was for the use of professor Adachi’s kids. His son eventually became quite a swimmer and won a number of trophies in swimming competitions.

At the rear there was a flat, originally an air-raid shelter with 70cm of thickness to its structure. Some fire-proof, British-made bricks with English markings are still left on the small flat. . In 1960, Professor Ma’s sister and her family moved into the house. The swimming pool and the shelter were dismantled to make way for the flat. Today, this flat is over 50 years old.

Living in the House

Creativity in Spatial Design

The corridor of the house measures to 120 cm and is standard for typical Japanese residential houses. Note that the several doors are of western-style push-open design. For some unknown reasons, the doors on this side are different in sizes. The upper diamond shaped frosted glass structure is a little low-keyed, yet creative.

The Taihoku Imperial University (now Taiwan University) did not have a design for a gigantic door as construction of the campus was initiated. Rather, there was only a small door much like a door to the security guard room. Two side doors were used to enter or exit the campus. Immediate into the campus, none of the university’s characteristic features such as sky-pointing coconut palms or coconut-palm-lined passage-way could be seen. Only after the individual passes through the small door and takes a few steps to the right can the halls of academy be seen. It takes a bit of travelling to be surrounded by academic establishment as none is visible from the outside. The campus was designed this way because it exhibits Japanese architectural ideals: Keep a low profile and let the unknown be unknown.

The doors of Qingtian house are 180 cm in height. The lamps on top of the doors are embedded into an empty space dug in the wall, with electric wires running inside the wall. One lamp is enough to light up the two separate spaces in the room. Japanese houses are characteristic to having many partitions, and so there are as many corners or niches that are generally dim and barely lighted. Switching on a shared lamp immediately illuminates and brightens up these darker spaces.

Excellent use of space was arranged in the house. Each room was designed to have two rooms, making communication easier and provide safe and fast exit during emergency. Light-sharing rooms are not the only smart measure in effective use of space as most of the wardrobes are shared between rooms. Description made by Professor Ma Guoguan, eldest son of Professor T.Y.H Ma, indicated that there used to be a cellar underneath the kitchen.

The house was also positioned to make great use of natural sunlight. All of the rooms involving use of water are clustered to the right side of the corridor, the geographic west of the building. These include wash-room, kitchen and bathroom that are damper than most other rooms. Exposure to the sun will keep these facilities dry and comfortable.

青田七六-玄關入口大小不對稱的洋式門
青田七六-玄關入口大小不對稱的洋式門
青田七六-崁在牆內的燈可以照亮兩個空間
青田七六-崁在牆內的燈可以照亮兩個空間

Adjusting to Taiwan’s hot and humid weather, are the widening of corridor. The corridor of the Qingtian house, referred to as Ranma in Japanese, are widened and expanded to 180cm. Traditional Japanese corridors are usually narrower. The wide corridor keeps ventilation in the house crisp.

Panes of glass extended as far as the sitting room. At the end there is a simple door made of wooden frame with horizontal bars. Doors and windows on the left side were also constructed in this simple, regular structure. Although the door was not in Japanese style, the mixed Japanese-western style here at the corridor was all but Japanese in essence. This is greatly different from the western appearance upon entering the western-styled sitting room through the front door.

青田七六-整修前的廣緣
青田七六-整修前的廣緣

Creativity in Spatial Design

青田七六-充滿和風的廣緣

Following the Meiji Reformation and through Daisho years to the Showa years spatial use in Japan houses had become more westernized, and gradually, guest entertaining functional designs gave way to daily family home comfort. The Zanshiki room, the living room, was situated at the innermost of the house became family space, and the baby room, Kodomoheya, entrances were all set at one spot. Outside, there were tall, towering trees that block the house from hot summer light so that the house was cool and airy. In a winter afternoon, beautiful antique hand-stained glass can be seen via the weakened sunlight.

Outside of the Zanshiki room there were two sets of chests of drawers, serving the purpose of storing the boards for the rain-door, Amado. During a typhoon the wooden boards are fitted onto the frames of the windows or rain-door to ward off rainwater.

When we first came to renovate the house, some of the Ranma corridors did not have glass underneath. It was originally designed to be “cat doors”. The Ma family is lovers of cats, and thus many cats made the underground of Ranma their home. There even was a Casablanca cat, which had many female cat lovers and enjoyed taking naps on the Ranma corridors.

Worn parts of the house are scattered around the house, and provides interesting aspects of old times. Traces of light absorbing, black fabric that covered the roof can still be found. The reason for it was to cover up all possible light in nighttime, for fear of air raid during WWII. Graffiti left by little children still bound the pillars, as well as pottery-made vintage light switches. The traditional houses that appear in Miyazaki Hayao movies and Hotaru no Hikai (both of them are shows and films that are famous for their focuses on nostalgia Japan) are indeed, real in real life.

青田七六-見到長長的廣緣就想要坐下來放空
見到長長的廣緣就想要坐下來放空
青田七六-廣緣外保留當年的手工玻璃及固定玻璃的石灰條
廣緣外保留當年的手工玻璃及固定玻璃的石灰條
青田七六-存放雨戶的戶袋門栓設計簡單又實用
存放雨戶的戶袋門栓設計簡單又實用
青田七六-榻榻米清掃前-先將使用過潮濕的茶葉灑上後再掃起來

Japanese love to ponder things while they sit. This trait shines brightly when it comes to designing gardens and rooms. Inside a Zashiki room, sitting down on the floor and staring into the garden, or the acknowledging the spaces around, can convey a unique living room experience.
The tatami-floored room used to be two separate rooms,and were eight tatami and six tatami in size respectively. The conventional size of a tatami measures 90 cm in width by 180 cm in length, giving a surface measuring 1.62 square meters. Most shops measure 5.5 Tatami whiles most tearooms 4 and a half tatami in measurement. Installing tatami can be a great deal of a hassle. It was said that, in terms of fengshui, wrong assembling of tatami may bring disaster upon the owner of the property. So people generally avoid arranging Tatami should in grids or four corners of four tatami converging at one point, as it is well known to bring bad luck. The positioning of Tatami is deeply involved within Japanese Shinto rites and sato.

The wooden boards up above Ranma are for ventilation purposes for the two connected rooms. These boards were missing when restoration work was on-going. Thanks to Mr. Yu, the kind next door neighbor, who was generous enough to offer some replacement boards of similar dimensions, they are now restored. Although each house may have different layouts, it was a common practice for many articles to be able to interchange similar parts without much problem.

Kodomoheya is the baby room or children room. Spaces within these rooms are designed to be especially safe after the door and the windows are closed.The Zashikiroom is the living room of the house. The Kodomoheya and Zashik room shared the same set of chest of drawers.As rooms shared the same chest and drawer furniture, voice can easily travel and if the baby cried its roomthe parent can easily hear it cry in its surrounding room.

In 1947, Professor Qi Banyuan of the Foreign Language and Literature department of National Taiwan University had just graduated, and was invited by Professor Ma to teach in National Taiwan University, made a brief stay here in this house. Following the expropriation of the National Taiwan University Professor after Japan’s defeat in WWII, Ma made many trips back and forth between China and Taiwan in search of teaching staffs to fill academic posts in National Taiwan University. Professor Ma also, against much objection, retained some of the original Japanese teaching staffs to stay and continue their teaching and research in Taiwan. This act greatly sustained academic work of the university following end of the war.

In the Zashiki room there are spaces where one can not only store chests, but also make space for religious alters or expansive household ornaments. The spaces below, usually inhibited by a chest or some sort of drawers, usually stored duffels, comforters, and mosquito nets. The space above which is reserved for more valuable legacies such as a Samurai sword or other objects of bigger size and values.

The main agenda for restoring this house was to preserve its historic appearance as much as possible, attain a safety level so that it could be used. Old Parts and fixtures from the past were kept and put to use to retain the original design and appearance. Pieces of replacement that had become obsolete and no longer available were reluctantly substituted with modern parts. For example, the broken hand-made glass had to be restored using modern ones.

青田七六-兩間榻榻米房的欄間是鄰居所贈

In Daisho years (1912) houses were built with great emphasis on the social standing of their owners as owners of the house frequently entertained guests and visitors. The Zashiki room of houses was generally quite sizeable and the décor spoke for a sociable master. However, by the Showa era (1926–) emphasis of housing layouts shifted to the daily living quality for the family members. The Qingtian house exhibit the latter traits as it has bigger rooms and more privacy for its inhabitants and smaller entertaining rooms.

Qingtian76-Doodle of Professor Ma's son
Doodle of Professor Ma’s son
Qingtian76-CD box of Professor Ma's son
CD box of Professor Ma’s son

青田七六-床之間是日式房舍內特有的神聖空間
床之間是日式房舍內特有的神聖空間