Dr. Wang Qi works as an associate Professor in Architecture, Course Director of March Design in the Department of Architecture & Built Environment, University of Nottingham. He earned his BArch Degree (1996 - 2001) and MArch degree in the field of Architectural Linguistics (2001 - 2004) at Xi'an University of Architecture and Technology, China, and his doctorate (2004 - 2008) at the University of Nottingham, the UK. His research interests include architectural linguistics, museum study and conventional architectural conservation.
Dr Wang Qi is also a member Architecture, Culture and Tectonics Research Group, which is one of the most active research organizations within the Department. Led by Dr. Jonathan Hale, this group has experienced significant growth in recent years and a group of staff and PhD students are regularly working in and contributing to the research and teaching programmes. As a member of the Architectural Humanities Group, he regularly delivers lectures and seminars based on the updated outcomes of research projects and contributes for PhD supervision as an organic element of the group's research strategy.
Architectural Humanities Research Group:
He is currently teaching a wide range of theory and history modules in the scope of architecture, which includes the History of Architecture in Eastern World, Museum Architecture, Architectural Language and Spatial Stories, Architectural Studies and Studio Projects.
His PhD research was the Built Environment Linguistics, which focused on an interdisciplinary scope between Semiotics, Structural Linguistics and the Built Environment. He has extensive experience on exhibition design in natural history museums and science museums, and has completed some funded consultation projects in both China and the UK. He has established long-standing research cooperation with museums, research institutes and universities in China as design consultant and advisor. Dr. Wang Qi has published widely on the topics relating to architectural linguistics, museum design, and exhibition narrative in both English and Chinese.
Based on my recently completed PhD thesis - Towards the Built Environment Linguistics - a further practical application of the findings of the research is proposed in relation to a specific type of… read more
WANG, Q. and HEATH, T., 2011. Towards a universal language of the built environment Social Semiotics. 21(3), 399-416
WANG, Q., 2012. From isologic to non-isologic, the transition of symbolic communication In: International Conference on Knowledge, Culture and Society - ICKCS 2012. 44-49
WANG, QI, 2011. Rethinking the Reactive Exhibition: Academic Symposium hold by Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, the National Library of Science
Based on my recently completed PhD thesis - Towards the Built Environment Linguistics - a further practical application of the findings of the research is proposed in relation to a specific type of architecture - Paleontology halls in natural history museums. This project is planned to align with the strategy of one of the Department of Architecture and Built Environment's major research groups - the Architectural Humanities Group. I intend to further develop my academic research credibility by undertaking this work and to deliver high quality publications by the end of the project.
Built Environment Linguistics is a study to consider buildings as a mean of communication. Based on two fundamental linguistic terms put forward by Saussure - langue and parole - the researcher has established a theoretical system in the PhD thesis to evaluate how architects "write" architecture with meanings and how public "read" through building components. Withal, museum is one of the archetypes of architecture that presents a strong architectural language. Apart from satisfying efficient circulation and fundamental functions, a successful museum also needs strong visual architectural entities to arrange the spaces and create a suitable atmosphere for exhibition. This means that the architectural language must be able to adapt to the characteristics of exhibits, ignite the interest of visitors and reinforce the effectiveness of knowledge transmission.
Different topics of exhibition require different architectural expressions. As a hub to touch nature within the built environment, natural history museums are always magnets that draw huge numbers of visitors and correspondingly require a special architectural language. However, compared with the more embodied specimens of existing flora and fauna, the fossils of extinct creatures often appeal more to the visitor's imagination and curiosity, and hereby, generally require particular architectural arrangements. Based on this point, the Paleontology hall offers a more representative approach to the study of the architectural linguistics of museum architecture.
The study of the linguistics of Paleontology hall can be focused on three characteristics - Space, Environment and Entity:
· Firstly, in contrast to existing flora and fauna, Paleontology exhibits are dated over millions of years' of geological history and are usually studied by their evolutionary lines. Therefore, visitors are generally keen to know not only "WHERE they were living" but also "WHEN they were living". This results in the key point of the exhibition plan - whether or not the circulation and spatial organization can indicate the eras and evolutionary development.
· Secondly, although the temperature and humidity are regularly controlled to satisfy comfort of people and preservation of specimens in the whole museum, the lighting strategy could be varied according to different themes. To be different to the skinned and stuffed specimens, prehistoric fossils are usually less perceptible and more imaginable to visitors. Therefore, people always spend more time viewing one certain exhibit, and this situation requires sufficient, comfortable and homogeneous lighting.
· Thirdly, the gigantic skeletons of prehistoric animals: not only are they magnificent symbols or icons of the whole museum, but also, given their visually logical structure and quasi-rocky texture, the skeletons often appear as components of the architecture itself. Therefore, a comprehensive cooperation between the architectural form and the exhibits could significantly improve the visual impression of the museum and ignite visitors' desire for exploration.
According to the analysis above, a comparison study between different Paleontology halls can be initiated to interpret the architectural codes, to analyze the strengths and shortcomings and to propose suggestions. Based on a careful pre-study, three typical Paleontology halls were selected from top natural history museums:
· The first case is the Paleontology hall of the Natural History Museum in London, which occupies almost all the Neo-gothic-Romanesque-style spaces of the ground floor. The central part is entrance hall with a diplodocus skeleton standing in the middle and arched niches on the both sides showing extinct animal fossils. The east wing is a Victorian exhibition corridor with giant mural-showcases containing ichthyosaurus fossils. Both halls are moderately illuminated by skylights. However, the west wing is reconstructed with a steel skywalk running through the middle which vertically divides the whole space into two parts - an upper gallery with dinosaurs' skeletons hung on both sides and the lower gallery with a zigzag circulation path. An artificial lighting strategy is applied only to highlight the fossils, which creates a strong contrast between the exhibits and surroundings.
· The second case is the Paleontology hall of the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Modernistic architectural language is applied in the exhibition area. Fossils are simply displayed in huge showcases or are standing on the floor against background of white rendered wall and large rectangular windows. There is no special design to indicate the themes of exhibits but direct daylight gained from east and south windows easily results in visual glare and overheating. However, all the fossils are strictly arranged by taxonomy and evolutional line, which is embodied in an easy-followed ring circulation.
· The third case is the Paleontology hall of the Beijing Natural History Museum of China, which is a huge central hall reconstructed into a simulative "natural" environment of the Mesozoic period. Innovative material and devices are applied to establish "real" prehistoric surroundings, where skeletons lively "wander" around the artificial landscape. Plenty of colourful artificial lights have been supplied to flood every fossil according to the different themes. Complementary sound and vivid laser animation are used to improve the fidelity of environment.
The UK, USA and China are all leading countries in the scope of Paleontology study because of their remarkable fossil accumulations and academic contributions. So, on either scale or fame, these three Paleontology halls could be the best of breed. Furthermore, wide stylistic-differences between three halls can be labelled as pre-modernism, Modernism and Innovation, which cover the most typical architectural languages since 19th century. Based on these strengths, these halls will be respectively studied in line with the three characteristics mentioned before by certain research methodologies:
· For studying the Space, a detailed survey of the plans, understanding the exhibition organization and tracking the paths of visitors will be applied;
· For studying the Environment, light-meter will be introduced to record the intensity and contrast of the environmental luminance. Data will be analyzed to figure out the difference between real condition and idealistic value;
· For studying the Entity, carefully designed psychological tests and interviews from both visitors and professionals will play the key role.
POTENTIALITY AND PROSPECTS
The potentiality can be interpreted from two aspects:
First, besides a deep understanding on architecture linguistics, the researcher also has hold Paleontology and biology as strong interest since childhood, and has built up personal relationship with some Chinese palaeontologists in the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Beijing. This knowledge-related background enables the researcher to explore this project on a more interdisciplinary and more professional level. Second, the researcher believes that, just like a great epic in which the brilliant words vivifies the story meanwhile the stirring story ensouls the words, a proper architectural language can also enhance the building performance. On a psychological level, it results in durable feeling of pleasure, satisfaction and comfort among its users; on an economical level, it can cut down cost on reconstruction, refurbishment and alteration; and on an environmental level, it will also significantly reduce the building's CO² footprint. With this social and technical background, it is arguable that well applied architectural language enables the built environment to achieve the aim of sustainable society.
A positive prospect of this project can be illustrated by benefits gained from PhD research stage. Firstly, all the data will be analyzed in the framework of the built environment linguistics, which is a strong theoretical foundation established in the thesis. Secondly, because of the same or similar methodologies applied in the PhD research, experience and skills have been developed and built on by the researcher. So, within this context, it is justifiable to foresee not only a optimistic development of this one-year project but also a confidence to attract external funds for a five-years research plan about the architectural linguistics study of the whole natural history museum.
linguistics of the built environment