This third chapter of the Across Chinese Cities program is a continued investigation of the rapport between the built environment and socio-economic processes of change in the contemporary Chinese context.
Across Chinese Cities – The Community explores approaches to planning linked to the development of ‘communities’ as mechanisms that create new systems of social, economic and spatial belonging.
The exhibition offers an unprecedented look at over twenty case studies that draw upon the ‘’emancipating potentialities of commoning’’ (Stavros Stavrides, The City as Commons) through integrated design strategies which embody new notions of collective identity and thus novel interrelated norms of co-dependence, participation and inclusivity.
By tackling localized predicaments generated by uneven economic distribution, environmental scarcity and demographic fragmentation, they shed light on a transitional framework of development where new subjectivities are emerging, in so producing co-actualized protocols of governance on the micro-scale. From historic districts, second tier cities, urban villages to rural areas across different Chinese regions, these projects are predicated on the edification of enlightened methodologies of contemporary coexistence: here spatial transformation becomes auxiliary to the consolidation of new alliances among economic actors, governmental stakeholders and civic constituencies in medicating the disruptive effects of forty years of China’s unabated urbanizing race.
The exhibition is organized in six thematic frameworks – Working Paradigms / The Domestic Sphere / The Consumer Revolution / Culture, Learning & Care / Leisure & Playtime / Mobility – each providing a narrative entry point to socio-cultural constructs where collective life is customarily consumed and reproduced. Each project is presented in an assemblage of visual and textual materials that render explicit the symbolic and physical systems of objects, spaces and rituals embedded in their making, thus unearthing connections among past and present regimes of sharing.
The ACC 2018 Guest City Suzhou chapter features studies on community development centred around the Pingjiang Road Preservation and Regeneration Plan; collectively these explore the city’s unique context of preserved traditions found in its historic urban fabric, crafts heritage and abundant natural resources, to enrich its ecological, economic and social condition.
This exhibition project aims at collating knowledge around dynamics of modern development centred around enabling the ‘making of community’ as a ‘’project, rather than an accomplished state’’, to inform novel discursive and planning practices of responsive governance and creative management for the contemporary city.
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_Exhibition Design: The Archipelago of Communities
Over the last few years urban development has been characterized by a spasmodic search for the realization of buildings of ‘meaning’. This global competitive process, driven by turbocapitalism, led to associate the potential of architecture with the power to change the fate of Places. However, cities continue to expand on need. Contemporary Chinese communities emerge as drivers of new socially-driven propositions, giving life to the projects that we are showing in this exhibition.
The setup inside Cà Tron building displays relevant themes on two levels, hosting two core projects. On the ground floor the city of Suzhou, a sister city of Venice, presents images, projects, ideas, transformations that seem to enter the Palace from the portal on the Grand Canal as a stream of water. A series of linear and dynamic elements that create a link between the two water cities in a game of cross-references within which people move.
On the other hand, the six thematic contents on first floor are configured through the metaphorical form of the archipelago. Deconstructed islands that represent a complex score of projects and portraits of communities, desires, rituals that generate and animate the new spaces of Asian cities.
In the 1990s Massimo Cacciari – italian maître à penser and a former mayor of Venice, wrote that the archipelago is the geopolitical form of Europe. At the dawn of globalization, it represented different national communities that identified themselves through social individuality but were connected to each other as a whole. Today this model has been contaminated and extended to the world, and when it comes to community, there is always a tension between the form of the archipelago, which keeps the parts together, and the island, which keeps them divided.
The installation on the first floor, designed by Dontstop and Omri Revesz studio, proposes a clear structure, 6 islands which have been deconstructed and connected by mediating dialogue with the makers of each project, giving expression to the immateriality of subtending connections, references and bonds.
_About Across Chinese Cities
Across Chinese Cities is an international program of exhibitions, public events and editorial projects promoted by Beijing Design Week and is advised by UNESCO-The International Center for Creativity and Sustainable Development. The program was presented as an official collateral event of the International Architecture Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia already in its 2014 and 2016 editions under the curatorial direction of Beatrice Leanza with the collaboration of Michele Brunello.
In a context of growing interdependences and radical localization of global predicaments, this long-term program brings together China’s urban leaders and experts, offering reflections around the state of producing, thinking and being in the urban condition of today China, and providing access to the practical and theoretical knowledge generated at the crossroads of its unabated challenges and ambitions.