Embodied Architecture | Trailer from Harvard FAS CAMLab on Vimeo.



Buddhist Pagodas of the Liao Dynasty

Role:Designer, Production, Responsible for Act0, Act1 and Act3
Venue:Harvard University
Academic Work
Digital 3D Animation | Immersive Exhibition

EMBODIED ARCHITECTURE is an immersive exhibition project by Harvard CAMLab that combines architectural scanning technology. The work is based on the Yingxian (or Sakyamuni) Pagoda: an ancient wooden pagoda built in the Liao Dynasty of China.

This sacred building’s concept and structural design are closely related to Buddhist dharma, and because of its age, it has been difficult for modern people to repair and preserve. Therefore, the original purpose of the project was to preserve the pagoda digitally. Its other goal was to disseminate the history, culture, and Buddhist philosophy related to the Yingxian Pagoda to the public through an immersive experience.

I was in charge of three acts in the project: Prologue, Becoming, and Remains.

Building the Heart with Objects

This Pagoda is a real-world miracle: a purely wooden structure that has stood for a thousand years without collapsing. As previously mentioned, its architectural construction is closely related to dharma in Buddhism. The pagoda is built with a material system that represents the mental process of “bodhichitta.” The floors range from "receiving precepts and developing the mind" to "achieving dharma," from the first floor to the fifth floor respectively. And three of my design are try to show this processing: following the show, audience will feel the changing of their heart and understand this philosophy.

Act 0 Prelude

Night Rain and Bells

In the pouring rain, the bells of the pagoda sway in the wind. This is not reality; space is distorted and replaced. Eaves are stacked on top of one other, unveiling the prologue of a thousand-year mystery.

Part1 Infinite Corridor

The tower of the wooden pagoda extends infinitely far in the viewer’s line of sight. This part of the set design uses mirrored reflections to create an infinite corridor of the wooden tower, sending a silent invitation to the audience: enter the illusion of the tower from here.
Part2 Eaves

Layers and layers of eaves are intertwined. In order to emphasize the theme of "building a heart with objects", I did not completely restore the wooden pagoda to its original state in reality but rather deconstructed and reorganized it. These changes create a silent opening of the tower, standing in an illusory storm.
Part3 Bells

The eaves themselves, which are made entirely of wood, appear like birds with wings waiting to rise. A row of eaves bells is hung underneath, ringing ethereally in the fog. The style design of this scene is generally somber and pale, to reflect the vicissitudes of the thousand-year-old tower.

Act II Form

From mortal to saint

Layers of wooden structures are stacked in an endless shuttle upwards. Layers of statues are precipitated in history, and the thousand-year pagoda is built with heart.
Part1 Building the pagoda
The view of the pagoda is divided into two perspectives: one is looking up at the top of the pagoda, and the other is standing outside the building and looking down. Initially, I designed this part in a dreamy style, with luminous effects in the building materials. Later, I decided to emphasize the heaviness of the pagoda and the hardship of the building process. The materials were adjusted to be entirely wood, which is closer to reality.

Part2 Statue
In this part, the appearance of the Buddha statue can be seen. It is constructed from the second to the fifth floor of the pagoda—a total of four floors. The model of the statue is based on real 3D scanning and photo generation model.

Act III Emptiness

Remnants in snow

“My body is the Buddha's body; the Buddha's body is the pagoda's body; the pagoda's body is the cosmic body. ” The four bodies are united and transformed into emptiness, only leaving remnants in the snowing world.

Act3 is the end of the entire film. The camera slowly passes through the crumbling wooden pagoda. It is more and more distant; we can see the top of the wooden pagoda surrounded by flying birds and heavy snow. This is the great sorrow after the heart has transcended the universe, embodying the return to the silence of emptiness.