USC Asia Architecture & Urbanism Study Abroad Program

Homes Away From Home

What is “home?” When one thinks about the qualities that such a concept embodies, phrases exuding feelings of comfort, safety, and routine tend to arise. However, the idea of a home extends much further than the traditional adaptation of a walled fortress where one carries out his/her common routines. In Henri Lefebvre’s excerpt titled The Everyday and the Everydayness, Lefebvre poses a statement arguing towards the constant repetition of practices exhibited on a daily basis. He asserts that there are two types of repetition, a cyclical cycle and a linear cycle. The cyclical represents the commonplace natural activities that we as human beings experience every day. Functional opposites such as activity and rest as well as hunger and satisfaction both apply. The latter of the two cycles described by Lefebvre is represented by the linearity of the former cycle over a certain period of time. The constant repetition of the everyday cycles essentially comes to define the so called “rational” process of the linear. These two phenomena are tangential to the idea of home.

According to Lefebvre’s definition of cycles, it’s clear that every human being has individually experienced this notion. Personally, since I had left the confines of my northern California home in Saratoga, my own definition of “home” had already been blurred. Having stayed in Los Angeles for such an extended period of time, I had gradually begun to adapt to the southern California lifestyle and carried out my daily routines according to its stereotypes of glistening beaches, year-round sunshine, and, of course, traffic congestion.

While it is the banality of the everyday cycles that I had experienced during my time spent in Saratoga or USC which has allowed me to actually call either one “home,” the irony of the repetitiveness of the everyday is that everything changes. Put simply, one undeniably eats, sleeps, and breathes; but one can choose to eat a different meal, sleep in a different bed, and breathe a different quality of air. In Lefebvre’s excerpt, he makes a reference to this type of fluctuation by assigning it as programmed change. The variable characteristics of a common day is its grand quality which allows us as humans to realize the repetitive cycle of daily rituals we tend to inadvertently fall into. And in my case, it was the decision to implement the variation of studying abroad which had allowed me to realize how hackneyed my everyday life in California had become.

Hong Kong City Line

Contrary to the type of programmed change that Lefebvre has posed, other factors can also influence one’s mindset of what home could be. For instance, when first touching down in Hong Kong, the immediate surrounding environment seemed, without a doubt, very foreign. The food was different, the dominant ethnicity was different, the language was different, and most of all, the city fabric and density were absolutely mind-blowing. I thought things couldn’t get any more unfamiliar, until the Pearl River Delta portion of the trip had come along. From the ancient remote villages to the bizarre culinary options to the imitation of fashion items, southeastern China had truly given me my most outlandish experience yet. Returning back to Hong Kong after nearly three weeks in the Pearl River Delta, a large sigh of relief had somewhat fallen over me. I had realized that there was actually a good amount of people that spoke English, the cultural make up of the city was actually quite diverse, and most of all, the food was surprisingly more international than I had previously thought. In essence, for a surrounding environment to allow one to feel a sense of comfort and belonging, all it takes, in my case, is a more unusual one.

Kaiping Village: Guang Dong, China

Following Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan were the least bit alien to me. South Korea was exceedingly modernized and everything that I had fancied could be found. Taiwan, moreover, was my parents’ birthplace, and I had visited the country probably a dozen or so times. Furthermore, during these stays, a charette was also imposed at each, which allowed the USC students to work in conjunction with the local universities. By collaborating with the students whom were native to the place of study, we, as foreigners, were exposed to the area with their knowledgeable guidance. In turn, the process of settling into the two countries was quite immediate.

This constant settling in and moving out lifestyle has now led me to Shanghai, China, where the stay is approximately seven weeks. Undoubtedly, a near two month stay in one place will allow anyone to begin to blindly fall into his/her commonplace routines. From studio, to the gym, to the coffee shop down the street, everything is within such a comfortable reach that it’s almost impossible not to just become part of the everyday. Yet, it will be the subtle decisions of change that will allow me to slip out the cycles of the mundane.


Filed under: everyday and everydayness, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Reality

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AAU FALL 2013:

University of Southern California
School of Architecture
Asia Architecture and Urbanism
Study Abroad Program

Andrew Liang
Bu Bing
Steven Chen
Yo-Ichiro Hakomori
Andrew Liang
Yuyang Liu
Neville Mars
Academic Contributors:
Thomas Chow, SURV
Bert de Muynck, Movingcities.org
Manying Hu, SZGDADRI, ITDP, Guangzhou
Clare Jacobson, Design Writer, Editor, Curator
Laurence Liauw, SPADA, Hong Kong
Mary Ann O'Donnell, Shenzhen Noted, Fat Bird, Shenzhen
Paul Tang, Verse, Shanghai
Li Xiangning, Tongji University, Shanghai
Daniel Aguilar
Hong Au
Michael den Hartog
Caroline Duncan
Nefer Fernandez
Christian Gomez
Isabelle Hong
Jin Hong Kim
Ashley Louie
Javier Meier
Paula Narvaez
Ashlyn Okimoto
Tamar Partamian
Samuel Rampy
Luis Villanueva
Krista Won
Tiffany Wu

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