Wilderness in Funaki

 White Rose, 2011, Sterling Silver, Lacquer. By Doris Betz. Photo Credit: Gallery Funaki

White Rose, 2011, Sterling Silver, Lacquer. By Doris Betz. Photo Credit: Gallery Funaki

In this particular visit to the remarkable Gallery Funaki on a drizzling mid-Thursday, a fabulous piece of jewellery by Doris Betz caught my heart.

A few others lured sketches out of my hand, but the lacquered silver brooch stood out and I felt it possessed a quality that I longed for in my own practice – Freedom; Freedom in its wildest form. Because to paraphrase Tolstoy:


“If we admit that human life can be ruled by reason, the possibility of life is destroyed.”


No one can really grasp the movement of humanity, and opinions as to what is good or bad changes with the flow of time. After all, morality is separate from ethics. If architecture is to serve humanity for as long as humanity exists, it needs to be wild. Architecture for humanity must be wild.

Clearly defined concepts, ideas and pleasantly coined architectural mambo-jumbo jargons must be recognized as failures, which do not have to be written off entirely, as failures contain valuable lessons nonetheless.

‘Wild’ can be a bit of a nuisance in the nature of the construction process, though, and ‘wild’ is difficult to regulate. A true measure of skill has to be in the achievement of creating a quality of being able to get lost in the wilderness, for surprises and adventure...of new experiences. The human spirit flowers from new experiences!

The silver brooch had a visual language of freedom, and also disobedience, with its free-flowing lines unrestrained by a strong crown-like container. To quote Thoreau,


“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”


Pure disobedience is also pure stupidity I think, and there is no safety in stupidity. The answer is individuality, not disobedience. The answer is individual identity; an individual creative expression of a visual language one can call one’s own. This is the truth. Anything else is an act of self-betrayal and this truth can only be found in the wilderness of humanity.

Wilderness resides in a communal spirit, and a communal spirit resides in the wilderness. A visual language of a communal architecture must have a sense of freedom and to be wild.


“In wilderness is the preservation of the world.” –Henry David Thoreau


By Steven Chu

Steven Chu is a Burmese-Australian architect and the Founding Director of Alter Atlas.

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Steven Chu