Related Staff : Tom Verebes
The contemporary condition of China is one of an unprecedented scale, rate and extent of urbanization. This studio intervened with the generic, repetitive, and standardised ways in which hundreds of cities in China are currently being conceived and built. Given the reliance upon a conventional model of standardized and repetitive production, the lack of articulation of specificities and differences in expanding and new Chinese cities stems from the perpetuation of Fordism. Mass customisation, as a model of contemporary production, aims for non-standard effects of parts leading to more complex and interesting wholes. The main question to be interrogated by this studio, concerns the implications of contemporary differentiated design, production and fabrication concepts and methods, upon the city of the twenty-first century. A Distinctive Urbanism is, perhaps, contrary to The Generic City, and is positioned away from yet another project of ubiquity and globality, valorising the specific and unique, over the general and reproducible.
The studio challenged the primacy of the GRID, as the ubiquitous organising device for deploying infrastructure and subdividing land in China’s new urbanism, and theMEGABLOCK, as an apparent modular unit of urbanism. The megablock is the offspring of Modernist superblock housing schemes of the mid-twentieth century, and, can also be seen as a legacy of compound of the Danwei, or work unit, in post-1949 China. The site for this studio is at once 100+ cities in China for the research stage of work, yet we focused on Tianjin for the design stages of studio work. In collaboration with the Tianjin Urban Planning Bureau, who supported this studio’s work on a 2km2 site, adjacent to the Tianjin Cultural Centre, this studio travelled to Beijing to collaborate with Xu Weiguo’s International Masters Studio at Tsinghua University.