The Omission of Addition & Subtraction: Identity Rediscovered at Century-Old Factory
When we were tasked with transforming a 90,000 m2 factory by HCG, a household Taiwanese brand nearly a century old, we didn’t want to fall into the trap of creating a “reasonable”  design. We wanted to raise a question and adopt a strategy that will help the industry rediscover the extraordinary nature of their work so that people, objects, and events within the space can begin developing a sense of cultural recognition and thereby evolve. What would such a design even look like?
Within the space, we witnessed various machines and busy production lines converging and then diverging. A chaotic kind of order had developed from changing times, evolving demands, and factory expansions. Yet there was something mesmerizing and uniquely beautiful about the enduring scenes of ceramic production and conveyer belts. We decided to convince HCG to not make any changes to their “design”. We weren’t going to fill out any holes, repaint the factory, or renovate it at all. We would simply brighten up their daily lives with “light”.
“Tell your own story, and you will be interesting.” — Louise Bourgeois
When we introduced light into a setting that has remained unchanged for decades, every unassuming and ordinary item or space becomes a culturescape. Semi-finished products on conveyer belts, the largest 150m kiln in Taiwan, vacuums tucked away, familiar work spaces, or unknown corners ensconced between different stories have all been transformed from the familiar through a “light” sleight of hand. More so than the aesthetics, we transformed a hidden, communal experience and memory, allowing extraordinary aesthetics to coexist with the ordinary while converting the ordinary into an emotion elicited from the harmony and conflict within the same space.
It was absolutely thrilling to witness a mentality shift among factory employees during this transformation: “we never knew our factory could be so beautiful!” Such a light transformation introduced self-identity to people working in the space, it also opened management up to consider how the company could connect with society. They had once believed that opening up to the public meant pausing production and spending a lot of money. We also compiled a wayfinding design guideline for future expansions. By adopting the original painting techniques in the factory, we created functional signs akin to light that would brighten up different sections. Our simple guideline and techniques make it easy for them to extend that to future additions.
With the HCG project, we attempted to think outside of the mainstream definitions and restrictions on design and aesthetics to develop a new design concept that neither added nor subtracted. We wanted to create new meaning from within rather than a “good work”. Only when removed from “reasonable designs” would one be able to witness a better version of oneself in their work. Having witnessed tens of thousands of toilets throughout this project, we would like to conclude this piece with a tribute to Marcel Duchamp who created Fountain, a rule-breaking artwork featuring a porcelain urinal, over a century ago.  
“Design is embedding ‘thought’ into a space and making the ordinary lexicon extraordinary.”


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