2019 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (Shenzhen) Press Conference



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(December 20th, 2019, Shenzhen) The press conference for the 8th Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (Shenzhen) (hereinafter referred to as  "UABB") was held today in Shenzhen Museum of Contemporary Art and Planning (MOCAUP), announcing the opening ceremony of the upcoming UABB.



The theme of 2019 UABB is "Urban Interactions". The team of Chief Curators includes Architect and Director of MIT Senseable City Lab Carlo Ratti, CAE Academician Meng Jianmin, and famous curator and art critic Fabio Cavallucci. Academic Curator is the South China-Torino Lab (Politecnico di Torino - Michele Boino and SCUT - Sun Yimin). The Biennale is scheduled to open at the Main Venues of Futian Railway Station and MOCAUP on December 21, 2019, and will officially open to the public on December 22. At the same time, exhibitions of nine Sub-venues in other districts of the city will interconnect with the Main Venue, completing an organically interactive network throughout the city.


The exhibition consists of two sections, namely, "Eyes of the City" and "Ascending City", which will explore the evolving relationship between urban space and technological innovation from different perspectives. More than 140 works will be presented by over 280 participants from 24 countries and regions, among them some well-known international and domestic architects, artists and institutes, including MVRDV, Liam Young, Stefano Boeri, Sou Fujimoto, Thomas Heatherwick, Ryoji Ikeda, Google, Wang Shu, Yung-Ho Chang, Dominique Perrault, Philip Yuan, Liu Cixin, Academician Cui Kai, Academician Wang Jianguo, etc. A series of academic seminars and public events will be held during the opening week and throughout the exhibition period, to involve a wide range of visitors.


"Urban Interactions": A Future-Oriented Urban Experiment


Along with the increasingly deepened global spatial connectivity and regional integration, Urban Interactions have become a universal topic of both philosophical significance and innovative value. Urban interactions involve interactions among cities, people and machines. In a sense, the city itself is a gigantic and sophisticated complex of "systematic interactions". With increasingly emerged interactive technologies, we will definitely come across increasing "hyper cities," "hyper species" and "hyper society" that are never heard before, from virtual space to daily life, from physical urban interface to organization of human society, and from global production-consumption system to mega urban agglomeration across region. Yet the constantly evolving new relations, such as city interactions, human-computer interactions, and community interactions are gradually shaping and forming a new domain that humans are about to face in the near future.


Urban interactions give rise to a new type of space-time relation. As the virtual world takes shape and prospers, we have witnessed an unprecedented and wonderful scene where the digital world and the real one interacts with each other. Urban interactions also give rise to a new way of thinking, which crosses the boundaries of disciplines and integrates knowledge systems in different fields, like nature and humanities, technology and art, reality and fantasy, rationality and sensibility, to build a new intellectual system. Urban interactions constitutes a continuous and iterative process that keeps on evolving.


Interaction, as an important methodology of this UABB, is profoundly embodied in the concept, composition and presentation of the exhibition. Compared with the previous editions, this UABB will mark a pivotal point in its history, as it involves the widest scope of disciplines and the most diverse perspectives; and for the first time ever, architecture, urban planning, science & technology, art, science fiction and literature etc. are integrated into a platform where practice and imagination join hands; where reality and the virtual world overlap; and where present and future are interconnected. “The best way to predict the future is to create it”. This UABB is expected to embrace a future-oriented urban experiment and a burst of innovative power inherently rooted in itself.


 "Eyes of the City" Section: When City and Buildings have the Ability to See


Exhibited at the venue of Futian Railway Station, the "Eyes of the City" section is jointly curated by Carlo Ratti and South China - Torino Lab. It aims to explore how artificial intelligence is going to impact architecture as well as people's daily life, by initiating discussions on "future, technology and city" to reveal the technological changes and encourage response to technology in design.


Observing people's presence in physical space and deciphering their movements and behaviors have always been critical actions to designers, planners and anyone else who has an interest in exploring how cities work. In 1961, the "Eyes on the Streets" concept was raised by Jane Jacobs. Half a century later, thanks to the most recent advances in artificial intelligence, deep learning and imaging, architectural space is acquiring the full ability to “see.” Digital technologies  are ushering in new ways of conceiving, designing and ultimately living the urban space.“Eyes of the City” section was conceived over the course of fifteen months and is the result of an “open curatorship” approach, which has brought together many disciplines and points of view. More than 280 applicants from China, the United States, Russia, Germany, Colombia, South Korea and other countries on four continents participated in the global Open Call lasting from April 1 to May 30, 2019. The section consists of eight sub-sections, namely “The World's Urban Lab”, “Mobility Landscapes”, “Silicon Pupils”, “Digital Society, “Design Intelligence”, “Artificial Ecologies”, “Resisting Technologies”, and “Curating the City”, exploring the impacts of the "Eye of the City" scenario on the daily life.  In parallel to this, leading architects, designers, philosophers and scientists were involved as “Foundational Contributors”, to reflect on and respond to the underlying themes of the exhibition.


Starting from "observing", the installation work "Looking for Brunelleschi" of Yung-Ho Chang, principal architect from Atelier FCJZ, attempts to reproduce the famous experiment in which Filippo Brunelleschi, an Italian architect, developed the technique of linear perspective, in a modern urban scene. The installation captures scenes with visual devices, looking for the eyes in the building windows. The work "Nomadic Wood (Looking)” of Philip F. Yuan, professor from the School of Architecture and Urban Planning of Tongji University, is like a twisted digital periscope, which allows viewers to roam beyond the limitation of time and space through new perception media.


Based on Futian Railway Station, the exhibition provides a series of experience stages for exploring the scenes in a digitally enhanced city. New relations between people and urban spaces will be generated by the interior and exterior spaces of the Main Venue, and new interactions be developed in this urban transportation hub. In response to the changes brought about by urban mobility systems, MVRDV and Airbus have designed a sustainable urban air transportation system, "City and The Sky Above". The work aims to explore the new boundary between city and sky through questions. The work " Sub-Hubs: A New Breed of Architectural Objects” of Dominique Perrault Architecture (DPA-X) discuss the unusual architectural ethos of the giant connectivity spaces emerging in cities worldwide - including Shenzhen’s Futian Railway Station itself. Visitors may walk through the large mock-up of South Korea’s Gangnam International Transit Center to experience connectivity and circulation in modern cities.


A number of works attempt to emphasize the interaction between people and spaces, and experiencing is the best way to engage in the exhibition. In the work "Urban Skin" of Deng Huishu, Zhang Li and Marta Mancini, the "skin" of a city functions as an interface which is able to perceive and accept information, and to present the data by interacting with people on devices. The work "Palimpsest Shenzhen" of Wee Studio and LOW-REZ is an experimental space that provides three distinct dining experiences. Visitors may sit around the table, participating in the design and giving feedback. By doing this they will have an opportunity to immerse themselves in the space that is about to be completed.


"Ascending City" Section: Cross-Disciplinary Future Fantasies


Exhibited in MOCAUP, the "Ascending City" Section is curated by the team headed by Meng Jianmin and Fabio Cavallucci, gathering a number of prestigious architects, artists, filmmakers, and writers as well as interdisciplinary members who explore the methodology of this UABB in a brand new and profound way.


"Ascending City" consists of 3 sub-sections, "Empowering Citizens in Progressive Cities", "Urban Alchemists" and "Daily Sci-Fi", corresponding to the views of users, creators and thinkers of the city respectively. The "Empowering Citizens in Progressive Cities" sub-section looks at the city from the perspective of citizens, examining the relationship between emerging technologies and urban residents and the dramatic changes it brings to the identity and self-identity of individual citizen. The "Urban Alchemists" sub-section records and reflects transformations of city from the perspectives of architects, artists and urban planners. The "Daily Sci-Fi" sub-section aims to build a bridge between the tangible and the intangible, reality and ideality, existence and imagination.


In the "Empowering Citizens in Progressive Cities" sub-section, Wang Shu and Lu Wenyu from Amateur Architecture Studio present the documentary film "Dancing by Hands", telling the story about how the Fuchun Cultural Complex was built in 5 years, and contributed to reshape the local urban landscape. Japanese visual artist Ryoji Ikeda makes data visible and audible in his visually and conceptually intriguing audiovisual installation “data.matrix [no1-10]”.

What will cities evolve into? This is a question raised by "Urban Alchemists" in various ways. Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto builds a skyscraper with 234 pieces of Individual Furniture pieces, allowing visitors to discover and find the scale and boundary of their own in a "forest". The work of STEFANO BOERI ARCHITETTI displays the projects of vertical forests carried out by the studio around the world, exploring the coexistence of nature and urban architecture and the creation of green oasis in the city. Academician WANG Jianguo's work “Pan-dimensional City" represents a new way of understanding urban design development in the "Algorithm Age.” The work sheds new light on our awareness of the urban environment and on the construction of spatial forms.  The work "Manufacturing Human" by Wang Zigeng attempts to re-ask the long-existing and still urgent question: what are human beings? This work emphasizes the way in which due to the current overflowing of information, humans are losing their usual appearances – finally becoming the interfaces they manufactured for themselves. The work "Future City Matrix" by Position consists of 20 videos of interviews collected from around the world, forming a composite matrix-type projection installation that presents a hub unfolding multiple dimensions.


In the "Daily Sci-Fi" sub-section, architects, artists and creators are invited to imagine an "ideal city" or a dystopian one that perhaps will never be realized in reality. The work "Last Home" by Liam Young is centred on the celebration of the lunar New Year in a vertical city, where residents from multicultural backgrounds explore new spatial and existential modes determining the fate of mankind and of hyper density. The work "Curiosity Cabinet" by New-Territories presents not merely a physical but mostly a mental environment: viewers are invited to enter in a sort of Pandora's Box overlapping reality and non-reality.


In addition to the three sub-sections, the "Ascending City" section also includes three special projects, namely "Nine Cities, Millions of Futures", "Art Cube" and "Virtual Biennale". "Nine Cities, Millions of Futures" is a three-dimensional hybrid work. Artists, writers, architects, musicians, managers and students are invited to share their ideas of the future city in different ways. The work of the same name co-edited by Liu Cixin and Meng Jianmin will also be released during the opening week. "Art Cube" project is made of standalone cubes, inside which different art media are combined with technology to present different forms of content. The "powers" of technology, art and design are leveraged to create an unusual dimensional space. Inside the "Art Cube", philosophy, literature, science fiction, science and technology, physics and art blend and echo with one another. The "Virtual Biennale" explores the evolution from physical exhibitions to virtual ones. It exhibits the works created by 12 artists, architects, designers and science fiction writers for the Virtual City Creation Invitational Competition and the outcomes of LEGO Cube, a virtual city construction game involving thousands of people, and interacts with the visitors through digital media.


Unusual Venues: Futian Railway Station and MOCAUP


Futian CBD, where the high-speed railway station is located, served as the Main Venue for the 3rd and 4th editions of UABB in 2009 and 2011 respectively. Nowadays when it is about to host a third edition, the latter is no longer a mere art event that means to activate some specific physical spaces, but a brainstorming that inspires more possibilities and creativity for future cities and sets free people's imagination.


The "Eyes of the City" section is presented at Futian Station, a venue that poses many challenges. Futian Station is the first integrated underground project in China that introduces high-speed railway into urban center, and also an underground railway station with the fastest train speed in the world. As one of China's leading transportation hubs, Futian Railway Station is a functional space that is used by citizens every day, and thousands of people go in and out of the station every week. As digital technology increasingly permeates our cities, railway stations are one of the public spaces that are likely to experience the strongest shift. For a long time, stations always strike people as crowded place. Already today, they are becoming examples of a built environment that is able to recognize and respond to us in real time. The "Eyes of the City" section attracts daily visitors in Futian Railway Station with unconventional venue designs. By adopting a zigzagging spatial layout devoid of clear gateways as well as by mimicking the flamboyant visual language of duty-free shops (featuring a graphic design project by Mieke Gerritzen), the exhibition aims to expose station users to the ambiguity of the “Eye of the City”. The station becomes a space where visitors cannot escape art – and where functions and experiences get hybridized.


The "Ascending City" section is presented in Shenzhen Museum of Contemporary Art and Urban Planning, also known as MOCAUP. To accommodate the exhibition set-up and display of exhibits, the design team plans an adaptive, simple yet efficient free-standing structural system, i.e. modular walls, for the venue construction, ingeniously balancing the demands of exhibits and the venue restraints. The modular walls flexibly separate the exhibits from each other and establish a well-organized and logical visiting circulation within limited spaces, enhancing the sense of order and visitors' interest in the exhibition. The semi-transparent membrane material used for wall skins alleviates the sense of oppression of the modules, offering more lively and transparent spaces. The modular walls can also be considered as an exhibit for 2019 UABB. They not only show the utility of practical construction and a design methodology, but also indirectly express the idea on how people could cope with issues brought by the complexity of the city, such as social synergy and division of work, mass customization, as well as continuous globalization and challenges.


Nine Sub-Venues Offer Parallel Exhibitions and Events


The UABB sub-venues focusing on local cases are extensions of the Main Venue which hosted by the district governments with reference to the structure and operation of the main exhibition. These exhibitions are required to echo with the theme of the UABB, have the value of communication and represent the characteristics of Shenzhen. There are nine sub-venues this year, with the number peaks in the history of UABB. They are set in Sha Tau Kok Bonded Zone of Yantian District, Bao'an International Art Exhibition Center, Qiaotou Community of Bao’ao District, Ban Xue Gang Hi-Tech Zone of Longgang District, Guanlan Ancient Market of Longgang District, Guangming Cloud Valley, Dapeng Fortress of Dapeng New District, Xichong of Dapeng New District, and Qianhai Cooperation Zone. The sub-venue exhibitions throughout the city presented in building spaces and places with different functions will offer an unprecedented urban experience.


Yantian Sub-venue is located in Sha Tau Kok Bonded Zone of Yantian District, the earliest bonded zone in China. With a history of nearly 28 years, the Bonded Zone is now in urgent need of transformation and upgrading. The exhibition themed "City of Streams" aims to promote the rejuvenation of innovation industries in the district, serving as the prelude to the transformation of Yantian.


The exhibition themed "New Bay Trend: Life Interactive Experiment Exhibition" in Bao'an International Art Exhibition Center discusses the geographical relationship in the urbanization process of Shenzhen and how new trends may be developed and iterated in Bao'an District, and explores new ideas in five fields, namely architecture, art, design, life and products.


The exhibition themed "Coordinates: Theater" in Qiaotou Community of Bao’an District extends the significance of the symbol "theater" through reuse of the idle and inactive community spaces. Thanks to the power of art, architecture and technology, a new vibrant theater is revitalized for various urban events and activities.


The exhibition themed "(De) coding City: Wuhe Legend" in Ban Xue Gang Hi-Tech Zone of Longgang District raises questions based on the key words of "decoding", "legend"and "local knowledge production": Has Shenzhen decoded its local knowledge that leads to success? Can the local knowledge be iterated to solve new problems?


Longhua Sub-venue is located in Guanlan Ancient Market. Focusing on the "descending" (historical research) and "ascending" (renewal plans) of the ancient market, the exhibition aims to guide and advance the re-inclusion of this ancient Hakka market in this super city of Shenzhen with a "new look of old appearance" from two dimensions, memory and renewal.


Guangming Sub-venue is located in Guangming Cloud Valley. Based on the existing green and ecological urban development concept of the District, the Sub-venue is to study and review history through the exhibition themed "Inter-Connected Future", and offer intellectual support for the development and construction of the future Guangming Science City through prospective urban planning and architectural design.


The exhibition themed "The Sea of Time" in Dapeng Fortress of Dapeng New District describes, analyzes and visualizes the venue area from the dimensions of geography, space and production. Rooted in the historical and cultural context of the coastal area, the exhibition connects the past and the present of the city to create an inclusive urban container and stage.


The exhibition themed "At Ease in Xichong" in Xichong of Dapeng New District conceptualize the great potential of technical innovation and urban space by re-shaping human connections and re-defining human-nature relationships. The ideal state is precisely what the Taoists meant by “inaction”, by way of which we humans can finally hope to become a more active and positive part of the techno-city.


The exhibition themed "Superposition Cities" in Qianhai Cooperation Zone discusses urban issues with a flexible approach from multiple perspectives and at multiple levels. It guides visitors to look at and experience the core of the city beyond its physical spaces, and, through superposed perspectives, statuses and conjectures, inspires them to imagine the future.


Interactions among GBA Cities from Shenzhen’s Perspective


In the past 14 years, the UABB has adhered to the concepts of innovation, openness and inclusiveness and the principle that "city is the exhibition venue and exhibition is practice" in a context of rapid urbanization, it has always focused on cities and urbanization. In the past four decades, Shenzhen has witnessed prosperity and development, which is evidenced by not only the expanding city size and the increasing permanent residents, but also the advances in science and technology research. What kind of new relationship among the cities in Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA) will be developed and iterated? This may be one of the topics to be explored in this UABB. From GBA to the global cyberspace, it can be foreseen how technological innovation will entangle with urban spaces and how new urban interactions will catalyze unexpected life scenes. The year of 2019 saw the release of two circulars, namely, The Outline Development Plan for Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and the Opinions of the Central Committee of the CPC and the State Council on Supporting Shenzhen in Building a Pilot Demonstration Area of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics. The themes of the exhibitions and locations of the venues well echo with the current focus of urban development. The pavilions of Hong Kong and Macao are set up in Futian Metro Station. With the theme “2x2: Imagine to Innovate", the Hong Kong pavilion focuses on exploring possibilities for the future of the city from such perspectives of imagination, creativity and technology, aiming to build a livable and ideal city using latest technological solutions. The Macao pavilion presents the concept of "Cities & Gates". With the “gates of Macao” as symbols and based on the urban fabrics of GBA cities, an artistic installation sculpture composed of arches is created with the aid of CAD and 3D printing technology.


In this UABB, let your imagination run wide: cities will be a super compound, exhibitions be a status of superposition, and Shenzhen be a super fusion.