Across Chinese Cities. The Community: The Objects, Spaces and Rituals of the Collective

Beatrice Leanza

Across Chinese Cities
Collateral Event of the 16th International Architecture Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia
Texts by Beatrice Leanza, curator
Photography: Davide Galli

This third chapter of the Across Chinese Cities program is a continued exploration 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 socio-economic development where new subjectivities are emerging and so producing co-actualized protocols of governance on the micro-scale. They point towards the edification of enlightened methodologies of contemporary coexistence in the urban and rural realms. Most importantly these experiences unveil how 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.

Each of these propositions, nested through tiered urban contexts, from historic districts, second tier cities to urban villages, and rural areas across different Chinese regions, behaves in responsive capacity towards a reconciliation between policy-relevant and community-native forms of ordering based on mutual fulfilment, cultural empowerment and thus ‘’collective inventiveness’’ that are rooted in and differently informed by a heritage of communal spatiality.

The exhibition includes historical itineraries drawing connections between the present case studies and past governmentalities of architectural and social formations – the People’s Commune, the Danwei (working unit) and the Socialist Mansion, so to suggest understandings of publicness, resilience and civic participation that might differ from their Western equivalents.

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 2018 project aims at collating knowledge around dynamics of modern development centred on 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.

Full content is available only for registered users. Please login or Register

Participants: 3andwich Design / He Wei Studio, 9town-studio, AA School of Architecture/AA Visiting School (China), Atlas Studio, Bishan Crafts Cooperative, B.L.U.E. Architecture Studio, CHIASMUS Partners, Common Design Studio, DATAOJO, Digua Community, Doffice, Elsewhere, Kwan-Yen Project / Ou Ning, MAT Office, META-Project, MDDM Studio, Architecture Office, Southeast University School of Architecture, Stefano Boeri Architetti, Tianqiao E-life.

Beatrice Leanza - The Global School
Michele Brunello - DONTSTOP Architettura

Curator Guest City Suzhou: Wu Wenyi - Nexus Institute for Community Research
Guest Curators - Slow Village: Chen Anhua, Ke Wei

Exhibition Design: DONTSTOP Architettura (Michele Brunello and Marco Brega) / Team: Caterina Fumagalli, Jacopo Nori | Omri Revesz Studio / Team: Giada Cossignani | HIS Design (Guest City Suzhou)

Visual and Graphic Design: LAVA Beijing

Across Chinese Cities Program Management
Initiator: Vittorio Sun Qun
Executive Director: Eva Xie / Program Manager: Chen Jianghong / Exhibition Manager: Oliver Tsai / Public Relations: Zhou Yao

Promoter: Beijing Design Week
Main Organizer: Suzhou Municipal Government
Organizer: Gusu District Municipal Government, Keyi Cultural & Creative Enterprise Management
Partner: UNESCO ICCSD, Slowfood Great China
Institutional Support: Sino European Innovation Institute, The Global School, Nexus Institute for Community Research
Host Institution (Venice): Università Iuav di Venezia