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2017 UABB Introduction_EN 64-65 750



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“Global/South” provides the exhibition theme, “Cities, Grow in Difference”, with the background, views and standpoints to open up a discussion. Rooted in the Pearl River Delta represented by Shenzhen, UABB 2017 is to observe and discuss various topics regarding urban development from a southern perspective. This perspective, first of all, means to observe the relationship between geographical space and urban development. The “Southness” is embedded into many different observation dimensions, including the natural evolution & historical vicissitude, power centre & geopolitical shift, spatial political economy, and worldwide developing countries & urban strategies, so as to develop a wide time dimension and a multi-dimensional perspective for the theme, “Cities, Grow in Difference”.

With the subheading of Influence and Resistance, this section intends to explore the wide-ranging game between the local and global authority, between the capital and cultural dynamics, and their various manifestations; and how they lead to the diversity in modernization through adaptation and transformation. The topics under the section are presented in three sub-sections, i.e. World Settlement: Atlas of the Formation Mechanism of Human Community Adaptation, Southern World: Diverse reality| Practice and Criticism, and Lingnan, Hakka and Shenzhen, Diversity and Modernization.

  • The World Settlement Atlas of the Formation Mechanism of Human Community Adaptation 

This section intends to extensively observe and summarize the world’s informal settlement, and will present their diversities and differences ranging from natural to artificial and from the past to present. The world’s various morphologies of informal settlements will be presented chronologically in the context of historical development, which will serve as the background for later research.

  • Southern World Diverse reality| Practice and Criticism

With abundant cases and interactive works, this section intends to present the spatial and social practices in southern regions of China and the world, and conduct an overall comparative investigation to the evolving urban spaces and social realities. In the evolution process of urbanism and architecture, the focus has always been the developed regions like the Europe and US in the west, while the southern world largely comprising the developing countries have long been ignored. In the urban and social development, the south and north constitute an interconnected and mirrored unity. This section intends to provide a full-spectrum view by comparing samples of the urban or community development projects in the developing countries, such as the social development and urbanization in different parts of China, modernization in South America, urbanization and colonies in Africa, independences and rise of South Asia countries, thus share the balanced development and regeneration experiences of the developing countries..

  • Lingnan, Hakka and Shenzhen Diversity and Modernization

Themed on PRD’s history, origins and social researches of PRD, this section, through a research on the geo-spatial position of PRD in the historical evolution and the constantly changing policies in China, reviews the hidden characteristics of the PRD city clusters in the historical development process and the multi-dimensional changes of the Shenzhen-Hong Kong relation; meanwhile, presents and explores the spatial and social characteristics of Shenzhen as a migrant city.

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Urban villages are resulted from the collision between rapid urbanization in market economy period and the legacy of urban-rural dual structure in the planned economy period. Later on, the urban villages became the habitats of new urban immigrants. When most people consider urban villages dirty, messy, lousy, crowded, ugly and unsafe, urban villages integrate the clan culture and neighborhood familiarity of the native residents with the mobility and multi-regional culture brought by the migrant tenants, and spontaneously create a highly inclusive, diverse and energetic social eco-system.

With Hybridity and Symbiosis as subheading, this section begins with the knowledge pool of the Urban Village Archive which analyzes the origin and developments of urban villages, and gathers the observations and perceptions from various perspectives. Then cases, means, techniques, and proposals for old town renovations are collected at the Urban Village Armory to build the tool kits for urban village rehabilitation. After that, these tool kits are put into practice at the Urban Village Lab to intervene in the urban regeneration process of the urban villages and conduct pilot projects. This will prepare tools, platforms and paradigms for the future development of urban villages in Shenzhen and other regions.

  • Urban Village Archive Knowledge pool

For quite a long time, we have been looking up to advanced countries and regions for experiences and paradigms to develop cities in China. However, more and more unique symptoms have emerged in the modern Chinese cities, for which the standard answer keys from the developed countries no longer work. As a typical spontaneous bottom-up urban development, urban villages entail some unique adaptive survival strategies. These strategies are widely applied in urban villages, self-reproducing, creating flexible, diverse and rich urban spaces as well as providing alternative thoughts for future urban development. It is very necessary and urgent to systematically streamline the knowledge related to urban villages. How does the diversity of urban villages come along? Are there any rules to follow for its spontaneous growth mechanism? What are the inspirations we could learn from these bottom-up strategies for building our daily urban space? How do adaptive spaces follow a pragmatic logic and work beneath the seemingly irrational surface?  This section firstly collects and streamlines the massive studies and literature related to urban villages; then it conducts an intellectualized induction and summary, and finally systematically present the findings through exhibitions.

  • Urban Village Armory Tool Kit

The spontaneous growth and evolution of urban villages would not be possible without the physical elements such as tools and materials employed, and the self-adaptive strategies. This section intends to collect and distill various folk wisdoms associated to urban village renovations such as materials, means, space approaches and implementations. During the spontaneous growth of urban villages, the widely borrowed elements turned this place into an armory of “self-taught architecture” with tools and approaches which work in their own ways and even survive the social and technical conditions of different eras. In the Urban Village Armory, one may find both “cold weapons” or even “cut-throat” strategies, and the high-tech and information-based means in the Internet era. They juxtapose in a variety of complex and lively daily spaces of the urban villages, where people care little about their origins as long as they work effectively. Such Urban Village Armory as we know does not have a definite winning strategy. However, it reinforces the design in an anti-design fashion, and eventually develops the discipline of architecture through the spontaneous architecture and extends the concept to spontaneous urban geography and spontaneous urban sociology. It expands the over-sophisticated disciplinary horizon and offers more possibilities to our daily urban life.

  • Urban Village Lab Test Ground

Compared to knowledge and tools, practice has two facets: on one hand, it is the object of knowledge and tools; on the other hand, it represents the purpose of knowledge and tools. Though we can regard knowledge itself as a tool, knowledge-tool-practice works together in a closely related and systematic manner. in the real space production and evolution process. For urban villages, the practice result, after being corrected in the application process, will return to the system and be re-started in the sequence of practice – knowledge – tool – practice. Thus, the spatial practices of urban villages are experimental: it is subject to constant and dynamic correction in the application process. The Urban Village Lab intends to showcase the renovation and practice of space in urban village, and present them in the form of progress documentation and realized physical spaces. Such practice does not mean to merely provide the urban villages with established design strategies and methods, rather it learns from the spontaneous space strategies in urban villages to blend and co-exist with it. At the same time, various renovation practices in urban villages enter the application-based correction process from the very beginning and, will definitely become part of the “uncompleted” status of urban village space and embrace the future with dynamic, open and infinite potentials.

  • Urban Village Club Special Events

For an exhibition held in the urban villages, the participation of the “villagers” is a must. Different from strange neighbors who live in residential communities, villagers in urban villages form complicated social relations due to the connections of daily life, such as mangers and users, native residents and migrant population, clan relatives and friends, landlords and tenants, local merchants and direct consumers. Furthermore, their daily life connections are incorporated into to the multi-directional, radial and recurring daily behaviors like living, schooling, work, dinning, shopping, social interaction, sleeping, dreaming, happiness, tears, complaints…These activities inject vitality into each and every corner of the urban village clockwise. The Urban Village Club hosts special events that encourage the participation of the villagers and open to the visitors and urban residents. It includes physical spaces like cultural information center and inquiry desk, and holds themed activities like on-site resident projects, theaters, immersive drama society, spatial games etc. The entire urban village serves as the activity space for public program, so the exhibition itself is blended with the daily life of urban village through the Urban Village Club. By doing so, an interactive relationship between the exhibition and the urban village’s daily life is embedded and established, and the dormant energy evoked.

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Confronted with the drastic urbanization trend throughout the world, we are compelled to re-examine anew the inherent fabrics and status quo of the city. The city-making approaches that are neglected by and excluded from the official urban planning models and institutions in fact can best embody the vitality of life and offer inspiration and resources. Intervening in urban living through the lively and creative expression of the contemporary art may trigger off the experimental- and creative-experiments, and create works in unorthodox, unofficial, and non-traditional exhibition formats, ones that emerge from the people and from hybrid realities, so as to present alternative possibilities of urban development. In China, especially in Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and the Pearl River Delta, the formation and transformation of urban villages (chengzhongcun) are the epitome of the paradigms where the two city-making modes, i.e. city-making by people (renminzaocheng) and city-making by officialdom (guanfangzaocheng), compete with and promote each other. These equally present a most challenging setting for exploring the creative and people-oriented new models for mature urban development.

Centering on the urban village of Nantou Old Town (NantouGucheng), we will highlight the site-specificity of the exhibition content; then in consideration of the distinctive spaces of urban villages and taking the familiar daily life as initial topic, we will conduct objectified abstraction (duixianghuachouli) of urban villages and put them into the context of art and culture for research and discussion. Eventually we will present a semi-utopian and semi-realistic exhibition venue to the public and encourage the public’s maximum interest and participation in UABB.

For UABB 2017, a series of urban art intervention projects will be conducted. First, there will be research on the expression of street life and social production in recent contemporary art, encompassing the development of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, the Pearl River Delta, as well as that of other Chinese cities and a few international case-studies from the West (and non-West). Now that the city is regarded as the venue to accommodate the events and activities of various creative art institutions (especially independent art organizations), a series of self-organized art institutions will be incorporated into UABB framework, allowing them to take root and flourish throughout the city and form a variety of public forums. At the same time, researches will be conducted on the significance of urban villages for the development of cities like Shenzhen at the crossroad of traditional and new; moreover, relevant case studies and research plans will be established to form a research base for urban development theories. Besides, there will be artists’ behavioral performances and temporary installations that intervene with the real life of the city. In particular, in addition to the exhibited ordinary daily life, more creative life styles are also possible in the high-density environment like the urban villages .Also, ordinary citizens’ participation into the art programs and the interactions among various social groups also constitute the crucial elements of this kind of social experiments.

The above programs will form the framework of “Art: Making Cities”. The ultimate goal is to append on top of classic architecture and the city a system of greater vitality, creativity, and openness. Above and beyond breakneck developments in the economy and infrastructure, a continually extensible and developing “soft structure” (ruanjiagou) can be ushered in. It is ardently believed that the fusion of the active and passive, the long-term and short-term, architecture and art, theory and practice, will set out to establish a system of research and experimentation in the gap between ideal planning and a city’s actual conditions. The proposal of “Art: Making Cities” is indeed the starting point of this future: it supplements and complements the past while serving as a creative site and laboratory for future society.

  1. Street Life and Social Production

Communities comprising street and neighborhood life and based on certain population density, activities, agglomeration and Interpersonal communication, are being cleared away to the point of disappearance, and replaced by a regimented life that prioritizes security and control; or in other words, a passive living. How to recover and rebuild a truly living and meaningful public space has become a pressing matter. The recovery and rediscovery of streets and life, the construction of contemporary communities based on human equality, plurality and free exchange and the mindset to regard them as the dynamism to reform urban social and economic production have become the pressing challenges facing architects, planning authorities and those concerned about urban issues. Even more importantly, it is crucial for us to realize that, for this fundamental issue about the future of human societies, it is important to involve the participation of every member of society, as the bottom-up creativity is always more effective than we could imagine, and public participation is the key to a truly dynamic urban life. The art intervention will inject more creativity, imagination and energy into this process. The exhibition will, from the perspective of art, present a series of practical case studies related to street research and interventions and their role in forging public street public spaces.

  1. Art Institutions and Production of Public Realm

To display art at different sites and contexts of a city, especially in high-density urban formations lacking in public spaces, such as urban villages, constitutes an attempt to create a new public sphere through the intervention of exhibitions. Art can appear in historical architecture as well as in industrial factories, street stalls, and even ordinary rental apartments. We attempt to spatially overlap contemporary art institutions and some of their public research projects with already-existing public architecture in urban villages. Such experimentation in spatial overlaps brings about fruitful collisions that will trigger people to re-examine the role of the public sphere. On the one hand, this will leave behind photographic and videographic documentation on research into such urban spaces, while on the other hand, it will have a long-lasting impact on the formation of communities and interaction of neighbors, sparking dialogue and exchange between professionals and citizens.

  1. The Site of Life and the Wisdom of Survival

In the development of contemporary architecture, urbanism and social culture, the creativity of pluralism is more highly valued than ever. We should approach the real life of the general public, paying close attention to and learning from the design inventions and inputs from them, in particular understanding and according importance to their conceptions about the living environment. How to give free rein to the power of spontaneous architects and encourage multi-disciplinary collaboration and public participation will be particularly significant in offering answers to questions remained unsolved under the “orthodox” architecture and urbanism expertise and policies. The quality of urban life is not measured only by the standards of shelter, commerce, transportation, culture, arts, sports, or other such infrastructure. More important are the pluralistic development of people’s interests in life and the rejuvenation of urban and neighborhood spaces that contribute to the development of a civic society.

  1. Urban Interventions

UABB is more than a conventional public program of exhibitions and dialogue; it can participate more directly and actively in the actual operations of urban development. Urban Interventions includes a series of on-site experimental projects that intervene in existing urban spaces with art installations. So some specific on-site projects (small or large, short- or long-term) could be developed and realized to promote the local public cultural activities and form a specific infrastructure that can serve the community on the long run. This is a research and experimentation mechanism set up in the gap between ideal planning and a city’s actual conditions, a unique process of producing “reality” born of the inspiring clashes between an idealistic train of thought and a realistic set of actions.

  1. Art on Site

Urban system is an organic whole made up of the social, economic, and political relations between architecture, streets, people and nature. In the intricate organic form of the urban village, we will construct a space (or multiple spaces scattered in the streets and alleys) that integrate the scenes of lecture hall, dai pai dong (open-air food stalls), guesthouses, outdoor cinema, newspaper offices, among others which serve to stimulate public activities (events) in urban villages. Aside from providing a diverse array of cultural activities and local Cantonese delicacies, it will also be a connection point for artists and architects to discuss exhibition work, or a space of interaction and dialogue between exhibitors and local residents, or a place for cross-disciplinary exchanges such as discussions and performances. The entire space will be presented in a semi-utopian and semi-realistic manner. It will grow spontaneously with regional traits, truly embodying the character and dynamism of the city.