As part of our 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale coverage we present the proposal for the Chinese Pavilion. Below, the participants describe their contribution in their own words.
The motivation for this exhibition is more than just xiangchou, a Chinese term that refers to nostalgia for rural lands. We return to the countryside where Chinese culture originated to recover forgotten values and overlooked possibilities; from there, we will build a future countryside.
– Li Xiangning (Curator)
One of the major challenges facing contemporary built environments is the future of rural development. In China, the countryside has become a new frontier for experiments in this area, and the country is developing its countryside at a speed and scale unseen in the West. Drawn by the promise of boundless opportunity, architects, artists, developers—as well as capital flow—are converging in rural areas across the nation.
The return to pastoral life has long been an ideal of Chinese literary tradition. In modern times, living in rural areas typically involves aspects such as policy, capital, infrastructure, and technology. While modernization and technological progress promise us better lives with modern living conditions, they also, to some extent, sever the link between rural life and tradition. Faced with mass-produced rural housing brought on by urbanization, architects attempt to find a middle ground between tradition and modernization, taking advantage of modern technology in search of a vernacular connection.
From the great yellow expanse of the Loess Plateau to the water towns south of the Yangtze, from the vast and abundant plains of northeast China to the green and beautiful farmlands of the south, hundreds and thousands of villages have become sites for industrial development, self-building, and cultural creation. These sites enjoy tremendous opportunities offered by technological innovations, including the internet, logistics systems, and sharing economies. The development of the countryside in contemporary China is unprecedented in both its scale and its approaches. More importantly, this development anticipates a new solution grounded in China’s unique conditions.
Building a Future Countryside depicts the countryside of contemporary China through six episodes: poetic dwellings, local production, cultural practices, agricultural tourism, community reconstruction, and future exploration. This exhibition outlines a freespace for opportunity and anticipates future development.
Entering the Pavilion, following the exhibition’s route, the main projects are:
- Wood Kiln Bing Ding / Zhang Lei, AZL Architects
- Xinzhai Coffee Manor / Hua Li, Trace Architecture Office - TAO
- An Old-new House / John Lin + Joshua Bolchover, Rural Urban Framework
- Cidi Memo, a Town of Memory / Liu Yuyang, Atelier Liu Yuyang Architects
- Mountain Dwelling. Waterside Dwelling. Forest Dwelling / Dong Yugan
- In Bamboo / Philip F. Yuan, Archi-Union Architects, co. Ltd
Outside the China Pavilion, in the garden:
- Cloud Village / Philip F. Yuan, Shanghai Digital Fabrication Engineering Technology Center
Li Xiangning, Curator
Dr. Li Xiangning is Deputy Dean and Full Professor in History, Theory and Criticism at Tongji University College of Architecture and Urban Planning. He is a member of CICA (Comité International des Critiques d'Architecture), he has worked as curator for numerous exhibitions and has published widely on contemporary Chinese architecture and urbanism. He is Chief Editor of Architecture China and President of Architecture China Foundation. Furthermore, he has been working with international museums and institutes and he has been a jury member to many international awards and competitions.
Commissioner: China Arts and Entertainment Group (CAEG)
Organizer: Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the People’s Republic of China
Presenter: China International Exhibition Agency
Deputy Commissioner: Li Jinsheng, Wang Chen
Assistant commissioners: Huang Xiaogang, Liu Zhenlin, Li Rui, Yang Xin, Xie Yanyi, Li Yunyun, Zhang Ziwei
Collaborators: Zhu Di, Zheng Hao, Wang Mingxian, Zhu Wenyi, Shi jian, Li Hu
Curator: Li Xiangning
Assistants to the Curator: Yao Weiwei, Mo Wanli, Gao Changjun
Research Team: Zhang Xiaochun, Lin Lin, Deng Yuanye
Display Design: Liu Yuyang, Zhang Ziyue
Graphic Design: Ni Minqing, Li Jixin
Exhibitors: Dong Yugan, Hua Li, Liu Yuyang, Philip F. Yuan, Rural Urban Framework, Zhang Lei, Atelier Archmixing, Atelier Deshaus, Chen Haoru, China New Rural Planning and Design, Dong Gong, Drawing Architecture Studio, Hsieh Ying-Chun, Jin Jiangbo, Li Yikao, Li Xinggang, Seung H-sang, Nishizawa Ryue, Li Zhenyu, Lyu Pinjing, Naturalbuild, O-office Architects, temp architects, Xu Tiantian, Zhang Li, Zhao Yang, Zhu Jingxiang.