China’s “Architectures of Change”

Today is for many a life lived divided between cities, between locations, between experiences – in the transculture – the space across and between different global cultures. During my daily negotiates of China, largely Shanghai, as I experienced the transculture first-hand, I watched with a critical eye, the rapid urban development of cities, whilst trying to understand and accept its changing presence and my place within it. Buildings and structures disappeared in an instant, whilst new ones, in progress, became visible on the skyline. As part of my PhD research, specifically the research as practice through exhibition as outcome part of the study’s methodology – The Temporary: 01 – I have become interested in the impact of urban development and the “architectures of change” (as I call it) in China on Chinese contemporary art and culture. The rapid construction of Western ‘modernist’ buildings, such as the Shanghai Tower, the world’s second tallest building, that – together with my knowledge of China’s new ghost cities, left empty in the wake of over-zealous construction like the city of Ordos have brought me to reflect on the notion of the “temporary” and “architectures of change” questioning the implications for the cities within which the museums are being created, for the societies, and ultimately, for each individual’s identity. How do we (re)negotiate these cities and spaces that change so quickly? What are our experiences and how do we remember them? Here are a handful of perspectives that are examining this frenetic subject…

The first is provided by Thomas Hussey, Architect and Urban Designer at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in Chicago. This “Presentation of the Day” for Pecha Kucha on 6 May 2014, talks about China’s current growth in urbanization. Although there are several challenges, such as outdated buildings, over-engineered highways, and pollution to deal with, they hope to redevelop the city, connect cities together, and create new cities entirely that would come to be potential solutions to those problems. He speaks of three specific methods of urbanization where sustainability is key – redeveloped cities (expansion of original, pre-existing spaces in cities), satellite cities (a city placed just outside of a larger city) and new cities entirely. Hussey states that it is only through multidisciplinary, multicultural collaboration that this happens. See the presentation here.

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The next perspective is by Neville Mars, Architect & Urban Researcher. His talk for INK talks examines the premise that urban growth is essentially organic, where Neville applies his radical new Evolutionary Planning methodology to make cities more efficient. Here, he shares his work on eco-cities in China and his ingenious sustainability solutions for Mumbai. Neville is a Dutch architect who has been active in China since 2003 as the head of the Dynamic City Foundation, an international research platform investigating hyper-speed urbanization. At his design studio, Mars Architects, Neville works on sustainable projects on all scales – from buildings and furniture to urban master plans. Working on the premise that urban growth is essentially organic, Neville has applied his radical new Evolutionary Planning methodology in response to China’s accelerated and pressured market conditions. His most fascinating projects include the new Sino-Dutch Ecocity in Shenzhen, and an ongoing sustainability strategy for Mumbai with the BMW-Guggenheim Lab. Read more about his presentation and watch the talk below/here.

The final perspective is from Go West founders Daan Roggeveen (HKU Shanghai Study Centre/MORE Architecture) and Michiel Hulshof (Tertium) have collaborated with the magazine Urban China to make an issue dedicated to the impact of Chinese urbanism on Africa, showing ideas and examinations from architects, planners, entrepreneurs, journalists, photographers and academics from China, Africa and Europe. I’m currently trying to get hold of a copy to read. Find out more about this special issue here.

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