asian future(s)

If you’re wondering how Shenzhen’s urban village experience does and does not map into planned and unplanned urbanization and concomitant urbanisms in Asian Cities, please check out Urban Asias: Essays on Futurity Past and Present. Tim Bunnell and Daniel Goh have edited this cross-disciplinary discussion about how cities manifest future dreams and aspirations, as well as the problems that arise when the forms of outdated futures structure everyday life.

Also: the more I interact with architects, urban planners, and designers the more I have come to appreciate good design. As an object, the book is lovely.

science fictionalized imaginations

The Shenzhen University School of Architecture is celebrating its 30th anniversary. The School of Architecture has a particular place in the university’s history because (1) the first president, Luo Zhengqi was an architect and (2) the first class of students, along with their teachers, actually designed the campus and its earliest buildings.

To commemorate its history, the school has organized a travelling exhibit of notable designs by 26 graduates. All of the designs had won important competitions and/or were being built; in this very practical sense, the work of SZU architecture students is shaping how contemporary Chinese architects are imagining, designing and building space.

Zhong Qiao’s (钟乔) designs for the Hu Yaobang Memorial, for example, inserts shiny white lines into the rolling hills of terraced rice paddies.Similarly, Zhu Xiongyi and Wang Zhaoming alos located their design for the Chinese National Gene Bank (Shenzhen) among terraced rice paddies. Even more explicitly futuristic, Zeng Guansheng’s design, Hong Kong Alternative Car Park Tower literally sends us flying.

On paper, these designs are delicately beautiful, and yet a sence of futurism and unlimited potential unites the designs. They are ambitious illustrations of contemporary China’s urban imaginary. Some designs examples from the SZU School of Architecture retrospective:

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The show opened last Saturday on the first floor of the School of Architecture building. It will travel to at least 10 other schools throughout China, returning to Shenzhen for a conference organized by the Shenzhen Center for Design on October 19.

double bind urbanization

At dinner last night a friend asked me, “If you had to choose between living in a 50 story building or an urban village walk-up, where would you live?”

This question illustrates the kind of double bind thinking that current debates about urban villages generate. As posed, the question compels us to choose between either high end futurism or unsanitary crowded settlements. But all too often the question itself becomes rhetorical justification for ignoring other examples of more successful urbanization. What’s more, the question also blinds us to what we can learn from the  tight organization and convenience of the villages, while using high tech knowledge and skills to imagine low-rise, more environmentally friendly settlements. Continue reading

honey lake: the charm of organic kitsch

Honey Park PK OCT Bay.

In the early 1980s, the Honey Lake Resort was designed as a suburban getaway for the folks working “downtown” in the city limits that conventionally ended at the Shanghai Hotel. Almost three decades later, the Resort Area has been picked apart to make room for the Urban Planning buildings and lawns, the Lake fenced, and the concrete boxy hotels, yurts, and three story castle gradually transformed into a kitschy smorgasbord of themed dining experiences. The labyrinthine alleyways in Honey Lake transform dinner into a proper urban adventure, where the creativity of our neighbors offers unexpected worlds.

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