Yaohua Wang shared with us his thesis work, “Latent City”, which received Sci-Arc’s Best Thesis Award and was also selected for the Venice Biennale. One of the many highlights of this projects is that there is no “dead end” as Wang demonstrates with his circulation loop throughout the city.
The core of the design is held within the top and bottom infrastructure layers, which are the most important layers of his design where he creates a series of solid and void spaces. Wang is able to create not only a city with endless opportunities, but a city that takes advantage of its environment by maximizing daylighting strategies and natural ventilation. Wang then goes beyond architecture and takes into account the socio-political impacts his Latent City would have over China’s current conditions. These highlights, and more, have earned him this honorable recognition. More images and architect’s description after the break.
The global financial crisis of 2008 severely impacted China’s coastal low-cost industries. In fact, the crisis provided an ironic turning point for the transformation of Chinese industry altogether: the coastal low-cost industries switched to high-tech industries, and now, the government is planning to build a great number of roads and railways for an upcoming emergence of inland low-cost industries. Hereafter, large-scale emergent inland low-cost industries will be the next main step of China’s development.
The awareness of this ironic opportunity led to thesis research on the spatial systems of arising industrial districts. Throughout the research process, the basic search was for architectural or spatial solutions to solve the problems instantiated by industrial districting, and hopefully, looking forward to distinctive spatial systems that can emerge from this process of problem solving. But, as the focus of the research deepened towards the essential requirements of industrial districting and their spatial systems, the narrower definition of those distinctive spatial systems became —— the systems all ended up astonishingly inhuman-looking, and essentially at the service of production of technology.
Should we take such results for granted, or should we reconsider the logic hidden underneath? If we look back at the Chinese history, we will find that the form of Chinese cities always follows the form of politics and economy. It has never been able to operate outside these constraints. In other words, architecture just follows the will of irresponsible capital and has never been able to go beyond it.
Architects do not have real power, like political power, or economy power. The power we have is the power of design, the power of imagination. Since this power is so abstract, as an architect you need to really look hard for chances to let this power work. And always, these chances are specific and transitory. If we as architects do not seize the opportunities that can give full play to architecture, but rather, simply and exclusively follow the requirements of our temporary need, it will always end up in this vicious, and ultimately inefficient, spiral: we spend an immeasurable amount of resources to build an inhuman-looking world under an unstable system that actually will become the problems we need to solve in the future.
How can we conceal and embed the wonderful humane dream of architects into an inhuman system? Camouflage it, make it appear to serve the demands of irresponsible capital. Be patient with the march of time, waiting for the wither of semblance and the emerge of real intention.
Mentors: Devyn Weiser, Wes Jones