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Research Students - Material Culture  
name Chih-I Lai  

Year of start: 2007
Subject: Material Culture

Research Topic/ Provisional Dissertation Title

Crafting Taiwan through Design


Professor Michael Rowlands


Since the industrial revolution, there is the alienation between deskilling and workplace (Adamson 2010); this alienation now days was even more deteriorate in the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) production model in many Asian countries which cheaply produce things we need in everyday life. This paper will discuss this phenomenon through designs with bamboo, a traditional but lately global preferred material. As the British designer Tom Dixon highlights bamboo as one of “the material of 21st century”, many designers all over the world also agree with him that bamboo is the potential material for new green designs. However, bamboo is more than a green material but a significant material for Taiwanese designers and craft makers.

In the Taiwanese vernacular material culture, bamboo is widely used to assemble almost everything from kitchen utensils to dwellings. Therefore, when creating the Yii collection, which aims to present the authentic Taiwanese design, bamboo was chosen to be a significant material to present the Taiwanessness. These collaborations between the people drafting on the desks and those working manually in the workplaces influence each other. My research aims to discuses bamboo as an example to examinant the issues about the transformation, the impacts, and the conflicts on tradition, localness, vernacular designs, nostalgic memories, and the innovative elements which are all bound up within this material in the global design market setting.

Research interests

  • Design Anthropology
  • Museum Studies
  • Exhibition Design and Interpretation

Academic Background/Education

PhD Candidate in Anthropology, University College London, 2009

M.A. in Material and Visual Culture, Department of Anthropology, University College London, 2007

M.F.A. Graduate Institute of Architecture, National Tainan University of the Arts, 2004

B. Arch. Department of Architecture, Tamkang University, 2001

Honours and Awards

CCK Fellowships for Ph.D. dissertations Grants



In press Exhibition Review: ND New Designers Exhibition in London. Design Bimonthly, 159.


London IN Design. Design Bimonthly, 156:12-15

Design with Bamboo: Rediscovering a Taiwanese Sustainable Material. at Mid-Atlantic Region Association for Asian Studies 39th Annual Conference “Sustainable Asia”, University Park (Pennsylvania), October 22-23, 2010.

Exhibition Review: the London Design Festival. Design Bimonthly, 155:27-29.

Brands with Fine Colour Design Bimonthly, 151:94-97.

Trends of Bamboo Design In Love Bamboo, Love Earth. C.Y. Lin and T.S. Chen, eds. Pp. 35-37. Nantou: National Taiwan Craft Research Institute.


Discover the New Creative Energy of the Next Generation Discover the New Creative Energy of the Next Generation. Design Bimonthly 150:21-25.

From Item to Icon: Why Some Chairs Matter. In Proceedings of Network of Design,’ London: Brown Walker Press.


From Item to Icon: Why Some Chairs Matter at the Network of Design: The Design History Society Annual Conference, September 2-6.

Zaha Hadid In Best of British Design: Love and Money. Pp. 182-190. Taipei [Chinese] : British Council and La Vie.


From Item to Icon: why some chairs matters. M.A. Dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University College London.

Zaha Hadid’s lilac at Sepentine Gallery in London. Dialogue 116, August:90-95 (Taipei [Chinese/ English] :Meei Jaw Publishing Co. Ltd).

Exhibition Review: “Zaha Hadid Architecture and Design in the Design Museum London”, in Dialogue 116 August:83-89 (Taipei [Chinese/ English] :Meei Jaw Publishing Co. Ltd).

Can a Disaster End Well? Tourism After Earthquakes. at 8th Annual Cambridge Heritage Seminar, Cambridge, May 12-13.


Ed. the Proceedings of 2005 Taiwan International Day for Monuments and Sites. Taipei [Chinese/ English] :National Center for Research and Preservation of Cultural Properties.

Adaptation of Museumified Historic Spaces with the Hermeneutic Interpretations. In the 8th International Conference of Heritage Preservation and Historic Building Adaptation, v.4:1-27.


The Interpretations of Adapted Historic Spaces as Museumified Cultural Facilities. Master dissertation, Department of Building Arts, National Tainan University of the Arts.

Innovations of Empowerment: Jane Adam’s Jewelry. ArTop Magazine 23:84-86.

‘The Interpretation of Adapt Historical Building with New Museology Concepts. Journal of the Architectural Institute of Republic of China 2004.


A Typological Research in ‘Corner Space’ by Concepts of Cinema Scenes. Journal of the Architectural Institute of Republic of China 2003.


The Public Wants More than Art: A Way to Look at Public Art through Advertising tactic. ArTop Magazine 19:62-67.


Government Scholarship to study abroad from The Ministry of Education of Taiwan

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