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Question: What has three Arcs de Triomphe, an Eiffel Tower, an Egyptian Sphynx, a Louvre, London Bridge and ten White Houses all over? The answer: China, of course. If the Chinese government has its way, that will soon change.https://twitter.com/TheMCRsoviet/status/632080629048459264
The duplicate architectural icons may end there as the country's authorities have said no to anymore "oversized, xenocentric, weird" architecture, The New York Times reports. The State Council and the Communist Party’s Central Committee last week stated that there is to essentially be no more copycat architecture, and instead urged new builds to be “suitable, economic, green and pleasing to the eye.” The directive also stipulated that "the chaotic propagation of grandiose, West-worshipping, weird architecture" should be ended, while gated communities have also been vetoed.
Guidelines arose after meetings discussed issues regarding the alarming rate of urbanization that China is undergoing. Just two years ago, President Xi Jinping expressed his views on China's architectural scene, again deeming it "weird" saying there was to be "no more weird architecture." He went on to say that the current climate displayed "a lack of cultural confidence and some city officials’ distorted attitudes about political achievements," though only now does action appear to be being taken.
According to a translation by the Wall Street Journal Blog, Yang Baojun, vice director of the China Academy of Urban Planning and Design (CAUPA), commented on the directive, saying that "the document is a wake-up call for those places where [there has been] a one-sided pursuit of architectural form over function, where cultural orientation has been compromised by an excessive desire to show off."
The New York Times meanwhile reports that experts have warned of "stricter design standards for public buildings." It also added that, an online forum for the Communist Party newspaper, People's Daily, predicted that "in the future it is unlikely that Beijing will have other strangely shaped buildings like the ‘Giant Trousers’ " referring to the China Central Television Headquarters (CCTV) by OMA.
Feng Guochuan, an architect based in Shenzhen spoke about how the President Xi's words had already begun to have an impact on decision making regarding new projects. He was also worried that Xi was meddling with matters that should only concern urban planners, and not the President. "Generally speaking, local governments now tend to approve more conservative designs," he said.https://twitter.com/DanLewisNews/status/243113209974890496?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw
However, Wang Kai, vice president of CAUPA, said these stricture design guidelines would mainly be applied to public schemes, while private projects would still have freedom. "For private housing or commercial projects, there is still space for innovation."
Mr. Wang also added that "we shouldn’t go overboard in pursuit of appearances," going on to say how functionality should be the main concern in public buildings.
“City-ness” is at the heart of the Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture, which kicked off last Friday in Shenzhen, China. Titled Re-Living the City and curated by Aaron Betsky, Alfredo Brillembourg, Hubert Klumpner, and Doreen Heng Liu the event brought together architects, designers, urbanists, and makers on the site of the former Dacheng Flour Factory not far from Shekou Port.
Opening night culminated with giant animated graphics projected on the factory’s abandoned concrete silos, a dramatic light show that reflected the organizers and curators ambitious attempt to rethink how China, and especially still-booming Shenzhen, approaches continued urbanization. The industrial port area is primed for redevelopment and the biennial activities and adaptive reuse of the main five-story concrete building and adjacent structures seem poised to remake this part of the city into a hub a cultural activity based on tactical and informal urbanisms.
The curators divided the biennale into subthemes: Collage City 3D, PRD 2.0, Radical Urbanism, Social City, and Maker Maker, which are distributed across the site. The third floor of the former flour factory is dedicated to thematic and national pavilions. (It’s here that I co-curated with Tim Durfee an exhibition on behalf of Art Center’s Media Design Practices Program entitled Now, There: Scenes from the Post-Geographic City.)
While each thematic category manifests through distinctly different projects—Collage City for example featured Hood Design’s Symbiotic Village installation of hanging fish bowls, while Radical Urbanism presented a mural-like illustration from Interboro Partners’ Arsenal of Exclusion and Inclusion: The Battle for the Beach—there’s a shared emphasis on bottom-up urbanism, hands-on techniques, and citizen agency.
Or, as Betsky is quoted as saying in the catalog: “enough buildings, enough objects, enough images.”
His statement is certainly a provocation given Shenzhen’s skyline—at night the architectural products of the last 20 years are ablaze with LED light shows, screens, and advertisements. The curators ground their explorations in the here and now, emphasizing how the present offers future lessons for a “re-lived” urbanism. But given the recent Chinese edict “No more weird buildings,” one has to wonder if “enough” is enough to carry the next decades. Will the absence of formal agenda lead to a vacuum filled with banal buildings or instead offer space for these types of urbanisms to authentically emerge on their own?
Clifford Pearson, deputy editor at Architectural Record, will direct USC’s American Academy in China
Richard Rogers beats Norman Foster and UNStudio for Taoyuan International Airport terminal commission
This Fall, I served as special media correspondent for the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat‘s September symposium in Shanghai. The topic was “Future Cities: Towards Sustainable Vertical Urbanism,” and among the many architects, engineers and other tall building types I interviewed was Peter Kok, associate general manager of Shum Yip Land, the commercial property arm of Shenzhen Investment.Kok shared his thoughts (along with others at the conference) on how to avoid homogeneity among skylines worldwide. “The problem with all the new buildings, new hotels is people don't recognize the city,” said Kok. “So I think we need to add some cultural elements to it.” He mentioned incorporating local materials into new construction projects, as well drawing on local traditions of vernacular architecture. And, Kok said, nature should be part and parcel with high-tech urban skyscrapers. “We should not only see nature,” said Kok. “We should be part of it and mingle with it so you can really enjoy nature in these high-rise buildings.” Watch the full video interview embedded from YouTube, or here on CTBUH's website, along with the rest of the videos in the series.