Saturday, October 24, 2009

Making an O-gui (tortoise) pond.

When a standard aquarium can no longer sustain the growth of my 3 pet tortoises, making a bigger habitat for them is necessary. With 4 years experiences in architecture study and 5.5 months of work practice in local award-winning architecture firm, I gained enough courage to design and build a habitat for these 3 living creatures. I gathered a team of 3 to carry out this project, Han – a civil engineering student, Wei – an international economics fresh graduates, and me – the archi student.

The Brief and Site

Though this project is small, it was never easy even during the design stage. Firstly, an in-depth study into the ‘client’ is important especially when the ‘client’ can’t explain what it needs. From daily observation and some wiki-research, the conclusion for the project brief is like this:

1.) A favourable swimming area approximately 1 metre in width and 1 metre in length, with about 1 foot depth.

2.) Adequate dry area for sun-bathing activities.

Making a pond at the garden will be a disaster if it looks ugly. Failure in the design of the pond would make my parents question their investment on my studies, and would tarnish my pride as an architecture student. And so, I started carefully with a site analysis identifying the site which is only exposed to direct sun-light in the morning (7.30am to 10.00am) to avoid over-heating from tropical climate. Besides, the site would become a focus point for visitors. The pond will become a sculptural element that welcomes the arrival of guests.

Texture and Colour

In order to make the pond shine out in the surrounding vegetation yet give a sense of belonging to the surrounding nature, rough and stone-like texture was the decision. In addition to this point, the brownish grey colour of the pond is in contrast to the green surrounding making it hard to ignore. A layer of aggregates lying on the ground crafting the changes in texture is to bridge the raised pond to the soft turf.

The form and its philosophy

Like many functionists’ design, the pond was started with a rectangular block where the simplest and experimented building techniques are applicable. However, such simplicity renders the new generation of engineering students jobless. I proposed to create a post-modern architectural sculpture emphasizing on inconsistency, irregularity, and most importantly celebrating individuality and deconstructivist for the pond. Part of the pond is elevated for the purpose of experimenting pre-cast slab and the controlled ‘ruin’ in structure. Han, the engineer-student proposed 3 column points and using ‘bbq net’ for the reinforcement, less aggregates in the thin slab (50mm) to achieve the ‘ruin’. The result proved that his calculation was perfect.


From this project – making an O-gui pond, I realized that architecture is about making artwork for one’s pleasure. It is not necessary a discourse for grand narrative like many modern buildings, but it is necessary for architecture to be a story – narrating the man, site and structure.