Land(e)scape by architect/artist duo Casagrande & Rintala in 1999 was one of my favorite installations. After the group dissolved, Marco Casagrande continued to explore the boundary between architecture and art.

I’m not an up to date person and didn’t know until now that Marco Casagrande has actually been building houses (my apology to the architect!) …

Chen House built in 2008 by Marco Casagrande, Frank Chen and the crew is almost as striking as Tadao Ando’s Azuma House. NO, this house may be better than Ando’s 1976 masterpiece – Ando’s early houses tried to recreate ‘tough’ living environment (coldness, dampness, and other inconveniences), but Chen House simply embraces its environment, including typhoons, earthquakes, flooding and heat.

Chen House reminds me of the very basic of Judo and Aikido, “yield to win.”


Back side of the house, stairs to the rooftop

Front view


Side view / Low-height windows

Playing chess / Distant view

Courtesy of Marco Casagrande (Photos © AdDa)


Marco Casagrande
Frank Chen
Construction work:
Marco Casagrande, Frank Chen, Shi-Ding Chen, Nikita Wu, Shu-Gi Bai
Local Knowledge:
Missis Lee

Location: Sanjhih, Taipei County, Taiwan
Site: 3890 m2 farm land, Datun Mountains
Building foot print: 138 m2
Interior space: 62,5 m2
Materials: mahogany, concrete
Completed: 2008

The house is realized on an old Japanese cherry-farm in the Datun -mountains of North-Taiwan. It is designed as a vessel to react on the demanding wind, flooding and heat conditions on the site.

The house is a stick raised above the ground in order to let the flood waters run under it. The different spaces are connected to a flexible movement within the axis of outdoor and indoor functions. The smaller bathroom and kitchen unit acts as a kicker stabilizing the wooden structure during the frequent typhoons and earthquakes.

The bio-climatic architecture is designed to catch the cool breeze from the Datun -river during the hot days and to let in the small winds circulating on the site between the fresh water reservoir pond and the farmlands. A fire place is used during the winter for heating and for cooking tea. In connection with the bathroom is a small sauna.

The house is not strong or heavy – it is weak and flexible. It is also not closing the environment out, but designed to give the farmers a needed shelter.

Ruin is when man-made has become part of nature. With this house we were looking forward to design a ruin.

» The Architectural Review

» Drawings of Chen House
» Works of Marco Casagrande