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Back to Nature

Chuchu Chen

This design utilizes Pollepel Island, located in New York State, as the site for creating multiple back-to-nature retreats. These retreats showcase varying degrees of closeness to nature. These retreats are partly man-made and partly rely on nature to become complete over time. They exist between architecture and nature, showcasing the merging of natural and built spaces and creating a symbiotic relationship between the two, ultimately revealing our connection with the natural world.

Human progress has been so rapid that we seem to get from nature and get rid of dependence on natural processes in these decades. Industrial development has enabled us to cultivate hybrid crops, convert coal into electricity, and transform iron into automobiles... The city's night sky has lost its stars, food arrives directly to our tables, and the fast pace of life surrounds us with scenery that we fail to truly experience. The city has become akin to a giant bonsai, with concrete foundations almost completely isolating it from the nurturing soil, ruthlessly disconnecting nature from the outside. In this era, humans often forget that we are at best minor actors in the broad natural order.

Human must live in response to nature, in encounter with our natural environment. Because all that we have and are was grown in or gathered out of nature. The architectural world, as a kind of nature of our own that we consciously create, is the result of the interaction of multiple forces, including our quest for meaning in the things we create, the fundamental nature of the materials out of which the world we create for ourselves is built, and our idea of nature itself.

The series of retreats I have designed can be considered as different stages of "Primitive Huts." These huts were built using resources sourced from the land—stones, wood, mud... deeply connected to their environment and would eventually return to it in the future. They were not like the permanent buildings we define today, but rather resembled temporary shelters for wandering people. However, these return to the essence of architecture's beginnings, perhaps serving as a reference point for us to be closer to nature and better understand its value. By recognizing nature as an integral part of our existence, we can construct and enhance our world by adapting to and working harmoniously with the environment.

We need to timely return to contemplating the essence of architecture. Space can be synonymous with nature itself. While architecture can manifest in complex forms and intricate components, it can also embody simplicity and purity. The value and significance of this simplicity have often been overlooked by many.

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