The context is the same, as is the building type, and the client. The approach is the same, that of total design (an operation of synthesis, from architecture to interior to product design), which the firm Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel (ACPV) has exported around the world as an emblem of the finest, clearest character of Made in Italy. But there is also a substantial difference, avoiding any risk of repetition, in La Bella Vita. This is the name assigned by the client, a tribute to Italian style, for the latest residential tower (or, more precisely, compound) designed by the Milan-based studio at Taichung, on the west coast of the island of Taiwan, in the 7th District, halfway between City Hall and the new National Taichung Theater by Toyo Ito, an exclusive cluster that has grown rapidly over the last ten years, where since 2018 the Treasure Garden has already stood, an earlier work by ACPV. We talked about the new project with the architects.
What leads to innovation in the design of a residential tower?
Antonio Citterio: Innovation starts with thinking, prior to the definitive project. La Bella Vita is an interesting work in terms of its social type, because it offers a sort of co-living arrangement inside a compound, which reinforces the sense of sharing and being in a community. The possibility of having spaces of exceptional quality for sports and fitness in the same place as your home, for education or for welcoming guests to a dinner prepared in community kitchens, conveys the idea of a small village, where the sense of belonging and identity becomes very strong, especially in intergenerational terms. In certain aspects, it is the translation of the value of the public space of a large hotel into a residential building.
What are the other distinctive features of La Bella Vita with respect to the Treasure Garden skyscraper you designed and built in 2018?
Patricia Viel: The basic demands are different, as are the problematic issues, though the buildings are adjacent in space. The Treasure Garden is a tower with a relatively classic layout, organized with a central core and two large apartments per floor. It is a tall skyscraper, but one with a very standard ratio of occupation of its lot. La Bella Vita covers a much larger area of 33,000 square meters, and stands on a lot that is slightly set back from the main street. Our invention was to separate, to split up the overall volume into four towers that contain the 168 housing units, stacked around a central core. To find an erudite reference point, the concept is the one explored by Le Corbusier in the Ville Verte (Green City), the stacking of residential volumes with three sides exposed to the view of nature, and connected by a central core.
AC: The extremely significant part is that in this case the core, which is almost always hidden, has become an iconic feature, the landmark of the building, granting fuller meaning to the importance of the community spaces. With a height of 128 meters, it rises with respect to the four towers it connects; its hexagonal honey-color architectural skin, with warm amber reflections of the light, generates a sort of honeycomb that reinforces and underscores the relationship with the horizontal stone bands that define the terraces and the green biophilic dimension of the apartments.
Is this an innovative architectural type in this part of the Orient?
PV: Its morphology is certainly not common. Just consider the enclosure. This stele, a three-dimensional façade that rises 4-5 levels with respect to the towers it connects, creating the effect of a signal, an urban lantern, represented a major investment for the project. It is part of a logic of capitalization of community areas and their quality, on the part of a client who understands its value, a developer similar in certain ways to our enlightened Milanese enterprises, proudly working on both real estate development and construction.
Is this the same client as in the other project?
AC: Yes, Continental Development Corporation. They work with international architects at a very high level, like Richard Meier. We have designed the Treasure Garden and La Bella Vita for this client in Taichung, and now we are at our fourth project under construction, while others are in progress in Taipei.
You’ve become the firm of reference for Taiwan...
AC: Absolutely, because our things work! Behind every project there is extensive teamwork, involving specific experiences and forms of expertise. To know how to manage them, when the project and the situation are complex, makes all the difference in the results.
Who supervises the construction?
PV: There’s Chung Yi-Yang, our designer of Taiwanese origin who has been with us in the studio in Milan for years. I often make trips myself to supervise the work with the structural engineer, the façade experts, the lighting designers. Local companies do a lot of the prototyping. From the façade reproduced on a scale of 1:1 and tested with hydrants, to the elevator cabins, all the way to the finishes of the community areas. They are all very careful to comply with the intentions of the designers.
What changes have you noticed since you began working here?
PV: Let’s not forget that the world of Taiwan is not comparable to that of construction in mainland China. The island has been invaded in the past by the Japanese, and this influence is perceptible in the discipline of building and the focus on overall quality. In the development of a private building there is a very strong sense of responsibility regarding its impact on the city. In recent years we have seen a very rapid general acculturation in the world of design. Our local architects teach at the university, and in particular those who focus on enclosures have reached a level of sophistication very close to that of their European colleagues, in terms of technical expertise. Furthermore, they have the resources and a strategy of effective investment that is much less speculative than in our world, for a very simple reason: here there is a multiplication factor of real estate investment that is still very high.
AC: Taiwan offers great possibilities for new construction. It is a young nation, where you do not feel the weight of history that is so constraining in Europe. What we are doing, like other colleagues working in these cities, major architecture firms from all over the world, is to construct the center, the urban context, with sensitivity, know-how, authorial quality. Many people are interested in investing in this country, whose high technology and scientific culture attract capital. Taiwan is going through an extraordinary period: the golden age of a land in a moment of expansion.
One more thing – the name of the work: why La Bella Vita?
PV: The client chose it, demonstrating a focus on the overall communication of the product. They wanted something Italian that would suggest the value of Made in Italy and the Italian design system. We proposed calling it La Dolce Vita, which has a global meaning in people’s imaginations, but they were worried about using a term that did not belong to them.
AC: Yes… but now let’s stop speaking so highly of Taiwan, otherwise we run the risk of getting our competitors a bit too interested.
Project by Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel (ACPV) - ACPV team Antonio Citterio, Patricia Viel, Claudio Raviolo, Chung Yi-Yang, Paolo Aranci, Massimo Frigerio, Slavko Milanovic, Antonio Paciolla - Photos Yuchen Zao, Studio MillSpace