Lasting for close to two decades now, the annual Serpentine Gallery Pavilion Exhibition has become one of the most anticipated architectural events in London and for the global architecture community. With this year’s edition featuring not just one pavilion but four additional “summer houses,” the program shows no sign of slowing down. Each of the previous sixteen pavilions have been thought-provoking, leaving an indelible mark and strong message to the architectural community. And even though each of the past pavilions are removed from the site after their short summer stints to occupy far-flung private estates, they continue to be shared through photographs, and in architectural lectures. With the launch of the 16th Pavilion this month, we take a look back at all the previous pavilions and their significance to the architecturally-minded public.
Following our top 40 Architecture Docs to Watch in 2014 and our favourite 30 Architecture Docs to Watch in 2013, 2015 is no exception! Our latest round up continues to feature a fantastic range of films and documentaries telling the tales of unsung architectural heroes and unheard urban narratives from around the world. This entirely fresh selection looks past the panoply of stars to bring you more of the best architectural documentaries which will provoke, intrigue and beguile.
From a film which explores one man's dream to build a cathedral (#4) and a simultaneous history of and vision of Rotterdam's future (#7), to a tour of the world's last surviving squatter town in Copenhagen (#14) and A Short History of Abandoned Sets in Morocco (#16), we present - in no particular order - thirty freshly picked documentaries for you to watch in 2015.
As we published yesterday, iconic Chinese artist, designer, and dissident, Ai Weiwei has just had his architecture design firm shutdown by the Chinese government. But this scuffle is only the latest of Weiwei’s many brushes with Chinese law. Seemingly since birth (“I was born radical“), Weiwei has been mixing art and politics to speak out against censorship in his country. Which is why he is the subject of a fascinating new feature-length documentary by Alison Klayman: ”Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry.”
As the documentary description explains: “Against a backdrop of strict censorship and an unresponsive legal system, Ai expresses himself and organizes people through art and social media. In response, Chinese authorities have shut down his blog, beat him up, bulldozed his newly built studio, and held him in secret detention.”
While working as a journalist in China, the director, Klayman, gained unprecedented access to Ai while filming. Since being released, the documentary has gained many accolades, including the Sundance 2012 Special Jury Award for Spirit of Defiance.
You can find out more about the documentary, including if it’s playing at a theater near you at its website. And you can keep updated on Weiwei’s struggle at the Never Sorry Facebook page and on Twitter, @AWWNeverSorry
Screenshots from the trailer of “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry,” after the break…
After 81 days of detention without cause, a year-long travel ban extended for claims of internet “pornography,” and a $2.4 million dollar fine imposed for supposed tax evasion, Ai Weiwei has now been accused by the Chinese government of failing to re-register his architecture design firm, Fake Cultural Development Ltd.
As we announced back in February, Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron and their Chinese collaborator Ai Weiwei will design this year’s Serpentine Gallery Pavilion at Hyde Park in London, a special edition that will be part of the London 2012 Festival, the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad. This will be the trio’s first collaborative built structure in the UK.
Back then, it was announced that their design will explore the hidden history of the previous installations (see all the previous pavilions in our infographic), with eleven columns under the lawn of the Serpentine, representing the past pavilions and a twelfth column supporting a floating platform roof 1.4 metres above ground, which looks like a reflecting water-like surface in the renderings. The plan of the pavilion is based on a mix of the 11 previous pavilions’ layouts, pavilions that are represented as excavated foundations from which a new cork cladded landscape appears, as an archeological operation.
Grey Brick Galleries, Red Brick Galleries, Three Shadows Photographic Centre by Ai Weiwei at Cao Chang Di, Beijing
Beijing urban expansion _ The fast and enormous urban development of Beijing has transformed the city into a metropolis made of suburban residential compounds, abandoned industrial plants, community housing blocks from the 70s-80s and popular self-grown villages. A mix of high rise residential areas, business districts, impressive infrastructures enclosing spontaneous house areas surviving the demolition and renovation dictated by the construction market. The population has grown from 1 to 18 millions in 60 years, and the size of the city has reached 5 times the ancient capital within the walls – the 2nd Ring Road.
The urban expansion, mostly based on imported urban models and low quality constructions, has been exploding in the past 30 years, and it is rooted with political and economical decisions, as well as local culture and history. Briefly, Beijing is a stunning showcase of urban consequences happening in the world’s first growing economy, during an explosive industrial revolution.
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was selected as one of the runner-up candidates for TIMES 2011 Person of the Year Award. Ai Weiwei is known in the architecture world for his collaboration with Herzog & de Meuron, serving as the artistic consultant for the Beijing National Stadium, otherwise known as the Bird’s Nest stadium.
The work of Ai Weiwei was recently showcased at the Kunsthaus by Peter Zumthor in Bregenz, Austria. His collaborative work within the architectural arena was the main focus, filling all 3 floors with various projects. More after the break.
“You’re not going to find any of Ai Weiwei’s work being shown in Beijing”, said each Beijing gallery representative. That’s because the artist and agent provocateur has been detained for 80 days now was released today, from what the government is saying was based on “economic charges”. The name “Ai Weiwei” has joined a long list of sensitive words in this country, and associating yourself with the artist has become tantamount to asking for trouble. Just ask the Chinese curator who was questioned by authorities after putting Ai Weiwei’s name under a blank wall in Beijing’s Incident Art Festival.
While Beijing’s lively art scene might currently be scrubbed clean of Ai Weiwei’s work, there’s one thing that’s a little difficult to “harmonize” away, as it’s known here. In 1999, Ai Weiwei began moving into the world of architecture, establishing his own architecture studio called FAKE design four years later. So Ai Weiwei’s artistic vision continues to stand in the form of buildings across the nation’s capital. The most concentrated of these is the artist district of Caochangdi, a few kilometres north of the more commercial art district called 798. It’s also the location of the artist’s studio and where he headed straight to after his release.
More after the break.