When someone asked me about David Greene and the influence he had on me and the way I design, I must take them back to the student canteen on Marylebone Road early October 1993. It was my first day at the University of Westminster where I studied for my Post Graduate Diploma for Architecture and I was running around the campus trying to find David. I bumped into Andris Berzins (who taught with David in the Post Graduate Diploma Course) he said if I wanted to meet David, he could invite him to have lunch with us at the student canteen. I never met David till then and the only pictures I’ve seen of him were from the 1960’s. In 1993, David had a beard and looked like Eric Clapton and after that, I spent 2 years of my life under his guidance that set the framework to how is see and practice architecture.
David never taught me how to design (because design is subjective) rather, he encouraged me to create a good narrative for the discourse I had in hand. In the first lecture I took with David, he told us “you cannot teach old dog new trick but there are a lot of old tricks I have to offer.” I also remembered on one occasion, the school had technical problems on a presentation and to kill time, David showed us an Archigram video to keep up entertained whist the problem got fixed. He only showed us around 5 minutes of it and we were totally mesmerized. I asked him later in that semester if we could see the entire video, but all he said was “I don’t like to be laughed at” which I think was his ironic response to mean he wasn’t there for our amusement.
Long Section of Wai Tang Final Year Diploma Thesis at the University of Westminster, 1995
During one of my studio discussions, David asked me to" Think about the possibilities for architecture - the 'both/and ' rather than the 'either/or' - not only with regard to speculation on architectural language and form, but also in terms of widening the site of conceptual interest that architectural project might occupy and the kind of drawings (propaganda) that could be a tool of speculation"
In my final thesis, David inspired me with an idea of “a building that constantly rebuilds itself” that was very befitting to Hong Kong at that time. It was a response to the nature of the Island where the constant land reclamation was thought to be a norm. The idea was before the Central Government Offices at Tamar and the urban reclamation zone at Admiralty and Central. The argument was that buildings were built and then taken down within a decade due to the rising land prices. What if we made it easier to rebuild? What kind of architecture will result? A metaphorical solution was to create a floating infrastructure that can expand into the seas where one could freely “plug in” buildings from time to time.
Later that semester, David introduced me to Cedric Price at our Post Graduate Diploma show. Cedric had one look at my diploma thesis and said it reminded him of his “Fun Palace” he did in 1964. Cedric asked me to get in touch with him and he could enlighten me on his ideas approach in the design of the “Fun Palace” and the “Pottery Think Belt”. He wrote me a letter to help me on my research paper which later I submitted for the President’s Medal. Cedric asked me to send him my final research paper when it was done, but I regretfully never got around to it and sadly he died in 2003. My thesis won the Runner Up to 1995 RIBA silver medal for the Best Post Graduate Diploma Project in the UK.
Cedric Price's Chart of life span and use cycle Potteries Thinkbelt, 1966
David Greene change the way I practice and perceived architecture and to this day, I look at each different design process with a way to honed into creativity beyond architectural language and form. By fully analyzing the site context, we can respond to it creatively to compose an architectural narrative that is meaningful and true its discourse.
Wai Tang's diploma project published in Building Design, December 1995
In early 2015, I got back in touch with David thanks to Katharine Heron (Head of the Department of Architecture) and I thanked David for teaching me all that I knew. He replied in his ironic way that though all the years in academia, he never taught anybody anything, but a lot of good ideas were discussed. I was just one of many pupils of David Greene, we ended up taking a photo together at the Architectural Association to mark 20 years of knowing David “The Poet of Archigram”
David Greene and Wai Tang at the Architectural Association, Bedford Square, London, 2015