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Facing East: Chinese Urbanism in Africa

  • 19:30 - 10 June, 2015
Facing East: Chinese Urbanism in Africa
Facing East: Chinese Urbanism in Africa, Kilamba Kiaxi in Luanda, Angola
Kilamba Kiaxi in Luanda, Angola

Storefront for Art and Architecture hosts Facing East: Chinese Urbanism in Africa, an exhibition by journalist Michiel Hulshof (Tertium, Amsterdam) and architect Daan Roggeveen (MORE Architecture, Shanghai). Facing East investigates the impact of Chinese development on fast-growing African cities, and is built around personal stories of individuals involved in the urbanization process.

China’s influence in Africa is growing quickly on many levels. All across the continent, Chinese companies are creating new highways, light rail systems, Special Economic Zones, and mass housing developments. Cities have received brand new skylines “made in China”: designed by Chinese architecture firms, financed by Chinese banks, and built by Chinese contractors. From foundational elements such as concrete, window frames, and fire extinguishers, to decorative ones such as carpets and curtains, many of the basic items used to construct these skylines have been sourced directly from China.

Hulshof and Roggeveen have traveled to six African cities, from Accra to Addis Ababa to Kigali, in order to research the Chinese impact that exists on the ground. They interviewed over a hundred Chinese and African architects, politicians, entrepreneurs, journalists, students, developers, artists, and individuals who are involved in or touched by Africa’s rapid process of urbanization.

China’s influence in Africa often goes even further than what we perceive through the lens of the built environment. China’s state-owned CCTV Africa is broadcasting throughout the continent, and many African capitals have Confucius Institutes, in which an increasing number of African students are learning Mandarin Chinese.

Facing East allows visitors to experience the fascinating consequences of shifts in geopolitical power from the perspectives of those living it. The visitor finds himself in the same unstable position as Hulshof and Roggeveen during their research trips, and is forced to make associations between narratives, navigate existing and new relationships, and attempt to tie these together to comprehend the next chapter of globalization: one in which many African cities are beginning to face eastward.

Exhibition Opening:

June 16th, 7 to 9 pm: free and open to the public. Press and members’ preview at 6 pm.

At 7 pm, there will be a discussion with curators Daan Roggeveen and Michiel Hulshof along with Shanghai-based architect and researcher Zhengli Huang, on the impact of China in urban Africa.

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Cite: "Facing East: Chinese Urbanism in Africa" 10 Jun 2015. ArchDaily. Accessed . <>
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Mr Konstantine · June 11, 2015

Unfortunately these developments will hardly ever host a bustling city life. This type of urbanism is a mixture of functionalism and garden city concepts which cannot sustain a healthy urban life. The pointilistic morphology of the building layouts doesn`t create streets nor walkable paths nor local identities. Aside of poor sanitization and maybe smaller living spaces, people are happier in the traditional cities and communities.In Beijing, horizontal communities known as hutongs are a great example while a vertical model of this can be found in Hong Kong. I always prefer walking on a noisy 2-4 lane street full of people, cars and continuous frontage than an empty quiet road with trees and a few buildings here and there.

Sherlock Holmes · June 11, 2015 11:24 AM

I do like the hutongs too although they get bought and locked away by the super rich.

The main problem is the missing density of these structures. Beijing has enourmous dimensions and little population if you compare it to Shanghai. This causes gigantic flows of traffic, public, private and economical one. Which leads to highways as broad as streams cutting city life into pieces.

The most efficient still is the old fashioned housing block with several stories and a publicly used ground floor.


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