UN – Office

Architectural Network Office
New York


«Contemporary architects have built an enclave with all kinds of –isms.»

«Contemporary architects have built an enclave with all kinds of –isms.»

«Contemporary architects have built an enclave with all kinds of –isms.»

«Contemporary architects have built an enclave with all kinds of –isms.»

«Contemporary architects have built an enclave with all kinds of –isms.»

Please, introduce yourself and your Group…

I’m Xiaoyang Fang from China. I founded Uncertainty Network Office (“UN-Office”) with some friends in New York City in 2017.
Uncertainty Network Office (“UN-Office”) is an unofficial, unlicensed and unprofitable group of architects, urban designers & artists. We call ourselves an office while actually, it’s not; “An” and “Un-” is not only a pun but also conveys our focus on duality, contradiction, complication and ambiguity in architecture, art, urban and humanity. We’re fascinated by the uncertainty of post-modernity and post-capitalist society and obsessed by the network where various territories and hierarchies are converged. So we name our group as “Uncertainty Network Office”.

Portrait Xiaoyang Fang
Portrait Xiaoyang Fang

How did you find your way into the field of Architecture?

By curiosity about the physical form of the gradual disintegrating world, and the impulse to materialize the unspeakable emotions and feelings. I am a forgetful person, architecture is a form of diary avoiding myself falling into nihilism.

What comes to your mind, when you think about your diploma projects?

My diploma project is “The Chinese Cultural Revolution Memorial”. I express my political appeals and commemorate the anonymous with an overturned Dome and collapsing blocks burying under the ground. Yet after then I’m more interested in de-fictionalizing the projects and manufacturing the phenomenal atmosphere, memories, emotions, and perceptions.

Diploma Project Xiaoyang Fang
Diploma Project Xiaoyang Fang

What are your experiences founding Uncertainty Network Office and working in a collective structure? 

My Friends and I started UN-Office for competitions first as “getaway” from daily routine.

We don’t expect UN-Office as a site-anchored official office, but more like a pub-on-the-air. Each of the group members has each own job during the daytime while discuss and design our UN-Office projects at night.  
We collaborate online and fantasize a fictitious “Les Deux Magot” where we discuss and waffle to keep our heroism during None-bid time. We discussed weird topics like the feature of exotic or guilty space, tried to “price tag” the beauty we’ve seen, and legislated the built outlaw, etc.
We’re fascinated by working on some hypothetical projects whose owners are ourselves, which we named us as “SPLIT”. We cosplayed the clients and trying to understand and de-conflict their harshness. And we always mock ourselves that we will deal with any clients after surviving the meanest “clients” like ourselves.

How would you characterize New York City as location for practicing architecture? How is the context of this place influencing your work?

New York is the best place for fantasizing personal heroism. Every corner here can be named as “street”, producing infinite inspiration. The hustle and bustle would overwhelm any weeping and whine, and only ecstasy left. You can whisper any tattoos and anecdotes, as a result, you turn out to spend more time talking than producing architecture. That’s why New York is both heaven and hell for architects.

How do you communicate Architecture?

We always start a project with naming it: A(N) X with Y and Z.
X refers to typology while Y and Z indicate the most important elements we expect to extract and conceptualize. X can be residential as house, home, hut, cave, etc. X and Y can be architectural components, atmosphere, surroundings or any flashing words.
Sketches like Caoshu (a cursive script style in Chinese calligraphy) are our UN-Official argot to communicate. Our sketches focus on the gesture instead of a figure. They indicate temperament.

“Caoshu” Sketches

What needs to change in the field of Architecture? How do you imagine the future?

Contemporary architects have built an enclave with all kinds of -ism. Those who venture or are exiled always end up coming back with anecdotes and obscure theories. Inhabitants get panic and demolish the rampart to show their openness and hospitality, while paths no longer pass this place.  Architects need to know that what ought to be demolished is their ego and vulnerability, and they need to walk out into the real world.


A House of Wind and Water

A house with Wind and Water originated from the primitive illustration of residence, the hut on the frontispiece of Marc-Antoine Laugier’s “Essai sur l'architecture” . It is a container of Tongtou (transparency & permeability) where the surrounding scenery, odor, vapor, and wind can pass through. A house with wind & air threading is the starting point of the project.

Semper classifies the four elements of the building as the hearth, the roof, the enclosure, and the mound. In this small house, I make wind and water as the “hearth”, the primacy of residence. I insert vapor/wind space in between “the roof, the enclosure and the mound” as respiration system. The house can breathe gently and welcome wind and rain.I want to create a circular, warm, permeable, floating, light clay container filled with air and wind, water and ripples, sunlight and shadows, people and life.

The exterior of the house maintains the form of a pitched roof house echoing Malaga context, while the interior is a continuous arcade. The interior chamber provides a sense of primitivity, a metaphor of the cave. I always think of a photo of the Salvatore Fiume clay sculpture studio, the arched ceiling and the curved clay sculptures create a tranquil, mysterious and even sacred spectacle. Because of the curved form and handmade texture, everything looks soft and gentle.

Two strips of light running through the ring extend the mysteriousness and generosity. One comes from the disjointed wall and the base (the mound); the strip light draws shading on the ground. And the height difference of 1.5 meters and the ramp at both ends let the light belt rise from the ground to the eye and down to the ankle again. Walking around the pool, you can see the light under your feet slowly turns in front of your eyes. The other strip light pours from the gap between the wall and the roof, gently pouring from top to bottom of the wall into the pool. The gap brings light as well as wind and rain. The wind dance through from the ankle while the rain drips from the gap of the skylight and shades the wall with the light. Light, wind, and rain frequently play and flirt with people. This is a tranquil and intimate ring as a “public” space for people, house and nature.

Based on the double-layered, suspended arcade form, we also emphasize the support structure. Like the T-shaped structure in Sigurd Lewerentz’s St. Petri Church, we hope that in a blurry gradation of light and shadow, the structure becomes the focus. It can turn out to be a cross, a birdlike structure, or an alcove depending on the needs of different spaces. I hope that the place where I dine, is in the dark, the living room is shrouded in light, and the studio creates an atmosphere that leads to the light. We hope that a religious metaphor can be conveyed and sacred atmosphere experienced here.

The roof and walls form a continuous shelter embracing interior space. The air gap in between double-layer enclosure pulls in the air by chimney effect that increases the flow of the wind and light. Osmanthus and olive trees around the 25cm "ground window" bring aroma and moisture to the interior. The house turns out to be an altar, sitting there you can pray and meditate; you can also idle and sleep. It greets the sun and nonsense, wind and water.

Website: https://u-n-office.com/About
Links: Instagram
Images: © Uncertainty Network Office
Interview: kntxtr, 06/2019