Tainan National University of the Arts (TNNUA) is an institution for art education, bringing together about 500 instructors and students in a secluded campus far from the city. In this environment, material desires are kept to a minimum; life for these scholars is dedicated to research and creative work. The Art History building is a sequestered, stable space for teaching and learning, serving about 150 instructors and students. This is a space where scholars of history can hone their capabilities and engage in dialogue. Therefore, our design concept for the building is “a retreat for self-improvement.”
This retreat is an austere space. Even light from the outside world only barely peeks in, and little is seen of the beauty of the surrounding landscape. The space is dominated by an inward-facing veranda surrounding a courtyard, giving a monastic feel when the viewer looks across the courtyard from the veranda. Walking from one part of the building to another, the destination is always in view even when some time is required to reach it. The courtyard features a steel staircase to the roof, the only part of the space where the outside world (and the surrounding landscape) is in view. A walk up the staircase is a journey from an inward-facing space to an outward-extending one, and a reflection of how historians discover the meaning of history through careful work. For me, the study of history is the process of taking unvarnished facts and evaluating them with evidence to reach an interpretation of truth. This is a sacred process. A journey up the staircase to the rooftop, which stands alone within the building, is a metaphor for this process.
The building is surrounded by trees, and the exhibition hall’s outdoor patio connects with the hallway leading to the north gallery, creating a veranda around the building courtyard. A trip to the rooftop takes one among the branches and leaves of Madagascar almond trees, which also fill the view from the instructors’ offices with green, adding to the tranquil atmosphere. There is an atrium within the building. If one pauses and lingers on the staircase landing, the feeling is that of a monastery or convent. Indeed, an educational institution is also a place for people to devote themselves to improvement and learning.