Now in its 5th edition, the Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism / Architecture (UABB) is the only biennial exhibition in the world to be based exclusively on the themes of urbanism and urbanization. The Biennale is co-organized by Shenzhen and Hong Kong, two of the most intensely urban cities in the world, where political and economical contexts have shaped unique urban dynamics.
The Biennale is “informed by the singularity of Hong Kong but it will not be primarily about Hong Kong, just as the Venice Biennale is not about Venice: it will be about the cities of the world, making use of the unique bi-city setting of the Biennale as a platform to address global issues in a visionary and critical way.” You can read the complete curatorial statement here.
Photos and more about the individual exhibits after the break:
The New Walled City - AFFECT-T
Hong Kong stands as an Ideal city as much for its successes as its shortcomings - it is a uniquely dynamic place with a great capacity for change manifest through its constantly changing skyline. Continually reinventing itself to survive it now climbs the world rankings in terms of liveability, cost per square foot, food, entertainment, art, and commerce. It is a city which is in transition, as Hong Kong sloughs off its older colonial skin it is in the midst of defining a new identity. Away from the glamorous headlines the current state of housing within Hong Kong is far from Ideal. Polarisation of incomes has fulfilled the wishes of a few producing a city capable of catering to the global elite but has seen an increasing large section of the city’s population marginalised as the promise of economic growth has robbed them of the chance for home ownership as a first rung on the ladder to success. Ever adaptable the population who is unable to afford housing with years to wait for government subsidised living has created their own forms of housing through illegal additions and alterations. Our proposal is to map the psycho-geogra- phy of this as the new Walled City. one which is vast and disperse and most often hidden in plain sight. These are the so called edge conditions which radiate not on the periphery of the city but throughout it, through the centre as it is riddled with edges dividing the haves and have-nots. Illegal dwellings fill these gaps in the landscape, taking advantage of the physical transitions and boundaries of the city to live within these legal and physical voids.
Under our noses yet invisible to our eyes, there are places that we cannot enter, or from where we cannot escape. The city is a maze of social, economic and political boundaries that both unify and separate us. At a time when Hong Kong’s wealth gap is widening, 1 in 5 people are now living below the poverty line; a family of four live in a house of 150 sqft. In the flow of labour, capital and time, inadequate housing is a reflection of our society. These families live in the hope of moving to public housing, but in this market-led city, will the supply of such inadequate housing ever cease? SOCO’s Home modification project aims at improving the living environment of these low-income families. The aim is to provide better study space for children, helping them to do well at school so that ultimately the family is not stuck in a poverty cycle. By using the high ceilings of the old housing stock, we can free up space for daily activities. We designed the furniture to be durable and flexible, so that it can adapt with the family. The family may take their furniture with them as they move house, so that the benefit remains with them, rather than with a landlord. There is a pressing need to refocus the architect’s role within society; we must face our responsibilities towards others, and work towards acting in socially innovative ways. Collaborating with local organisations, and engaging with the community is one way. What can we do to help people living at the limits of their means. More info.
In east Asia, lively and flexible urban environments exist and function in cities such as the east District, Taipei; Hongdae, Seoul; and Jing An, Shanghai. Most of these areas emerged after the second World War and experienced an explosive growth of urban development where agriculture lands were transformed into industrial and residential land in a very short time. Without sprawling, supply, demand, consumption, and production exist all in the same piece of territory. Today, creativity emerges by combining former urban functions. The east District Area in Taipei city was developed in the 60s with housing units for middle class families mixed with office towers for big companies. After the 1990s, some housing units started to give way to working spaces for entrepreneurs, the short term working units suddenly attracted a lot of different retails and kiosks into the area, whereas the former office towers were partially transformed into small and short term knowledge immigrant workers’ living units, lighting up the night time black-out office buildings into a serviced leisure tower. These operations led by small scale entrepreneurs transform the original mono-functional area into a vibrant 24-hour economy. In Seoul we find Hongdae, an area that is famous for its endless supply of functions and forms. originally Hongdae was a spacious introverted villa district, with residents escaping the fast pace of the city by taking refuge behind high walls. In the following fifty years the district underwent a complete transformation, almost turning itself inside out. As you travel further into the district, the secrets of the surrounding structures are revealed: New Hongdae is built on old houses. each lot had previously held a detached house with a garden enclosed by a wall. In present day Hongdae there is little that remains to remind us of that time. It is difficult to imagine that not a long time ago there was only simple detached houses occupying the plots of land. They have not been lost, but they have changed – adapted to the time, density and use. It could be said that the small houses of Hongdae have matured.
Urban Sphere - Joyce Hsiang, Plan B + Bimal Mendis, Yale
What lies beyond the urban edge is less an ideal but an exhilarating reality. The inevitable city of 7 Billion envelopes the entire sphere of our existence. The question is not how we define the ideal city but how we idealize this new reality: the Urban sphere. Our exhibition projects the city as a new totality of urbanization without boundaries. It approaches the idea of the city through strategies of thinking at the global scale, from ancient Aristotelian empiricism and Ptolemaic cartography to contemporary geographic Information systems and the overview effect. This evolving global paradigm builds on the role that architects and urbanists have played in redefining cartography and rethinking our impact and relative position in the world, including Bucky fuller’s “spaceship earth,” and Constantine Doxiadis’ “ecumenopolis.” An antidote to fragmentary analyses and arbitrary boundaries, Urban sphere projects global population and development as one unified urban entity without boundaries. The installation is centered on a physical model of the entire world as one city, describing the edgeless continuity of urbanism at the planetary scale. The ideal of a total city is liberating, breaking the boundaries of current conceptions and approaches to the city. It is a conceptual strategy for urbanism as well as a way to think about the world. This global model will illuminate both similarities and discrepancies in the concentration and dispersal of people across distinct geographic regions. more significantly, it will immersively show the entirety of the world’s population as a continuous landscape and topography liberated from arbitrary geographic boundaries. The extruded densities of population in urban epicenters form a catalog of urbanization typologies that transcend the normative understanding of cities as discrete nodes or entities. Finally, a framework for addressing the entire world provides a meaningful platform for speculation on the ideal city of the world as a new reality – the ultimate utopia.