Ringo Runzhou Ye (SMACT ’19): Yuanlin In The Window

Ringo Runzhou Ye, Yuanlin In The Window, 2018.
ACT at MIT

Final Review, Spring 2018
Ringo Runzhou Ye

Yuanlin is the name of the traditional Chinese garden, the epitome of classical Chinese art, cultural values, architecture, aesthetics and philosophy. The Astor Court on the second floor of the Metropolitan Museum in New York is the first Ming dynasty-style Yuanlin to be built overseas. This small courtyard was built to mimic the corner of Suzhou Wangshi Yuan, which is also known as Ming Xuan. In the bustle of New York City, people gather here and enjoy a precious moment of serenity, so that body and mind can be freed from the stresses of urban life. The contemporary Yuanlin is not only a prescription for the urban malaise, but also a sanctuary for people in the city.

In Chinese culture, the Yuanlin is a microcosm, an earthly glimpse of Shangri-la. In Chinese, the Universe is called Yu ZhouYu names the space, the boundless universe of the garden, boundless, Zhou names the time, the garden’s four seasonal blossoms, without beginning nor end.

Today, only from a few classical Yuanlin remain, with many becoming victims of China’s rapid urbanization. Construction and upkeep of Yaunlin demands a lot of time and financial investment, a fact which has further exacerbated its demise.

It is only in the last few centuries that mankind entered into “modern” civilization. Before that, people could not escape from the “soil.” When humans build worlds in relative isolation, it seems that we can survive without nature. However, in our genes, we are always a part of the natural world. Yuanlin represents a world that links nature and humans, an ideal which has never been forgotten—It still survives in the cracks of the city: in small towns of Southern China, in the center of the cities, and even a room in a museum. Perhaps it could also exist in a window, in a wall.

This project utilizes the yuanlin techniques of “borrowedscene” and the “framedscene”. (In Yuanlin’s design and construction, there are eight main techniques of mise en scene, including the framedscene, the borrowedscene, the blockedscene and the pointedscene. Ancient craftsmen used these compositional techniques to convey atmosphere and artistry.) Using the multiform window combined with projection, the Yuanlin was scaled down from a room to a window, bringing the infinite space and time from Yuanlin to the public space. Through a portal, viewers transcend time and space. For people living in a noisy city, they have the opportunity to spy the universe, contemplate nature, and seek the harmony of man and heaven.

New media and traditional media combine: the infinite space created by this new medium gives new meaning to Yuanlin and finds the status and possibility of Yuanlin in the current urban context.

one might ask, what is the Yuanlin? Where is the world?

one might answer, the window frames the Yuanlin, the wall conceals the world.