This Joint Studio with Yale and Tongji Universities focuses on the design of a transit-oriented shopping development on Siping Road in northeastern Shanghai. Rejecting both the enclave urbanism that has characterized recent shopping malls on Nanjing Road and elsewhere in Shanghai, including the faux-historicist approach of developments such as Xin Tian Di and the megablocks on Najing Road, we will work instead on creating Open Urban Armature that transcends site boundaries. Our study includes a comprehensive urban design proposal for the area as a strategy for situating architecture within the complex parameters of its context. We review both generic shopping mall types and specific cases that successfully establish open pedestrian networks between multiples sites and conditions in the city, and apply these strategies to the conflicts between development, sustainability, and civic enrichment that perpetuate in contemporary Shanghai. Shopping; a program which has been described variously in contemporary urban theory alternately as a pernicious virus of global consumer capitalism to which cities are the unwitting host, and as an emerging source of exciting new urban forms, is both the theme and the problem of this studio. Shopping can be a powerful tool for encouraging movement and flow in cities and for breaking down the social and spatial hierarchies that enclaves establish. It can also be an equally powerful tool for subverting local culture with a global generic, for displacing activism with consumerism, and for establishing and perpetuating social and spatial hierarchies. The goal of this studio is to explore how shopping complicates the contemporary city, and to use shopping as a source for critical design experimentation that comments intelligently on the future of the city as place of open public exchange and interaction.
With the rapid growth of urban populations at the turn of the century, particularly in the developing world, new focus has been placed on the problem of the tall building. Where the testing of new forms and organizations for the skyscraper offer windows into possible new forms of vertical urbanism imbued by the same values as the horizontal city, the tower is another problem altogether. Precisely because in its classical form the tower is devoid of context or program and typically formed along optimized structural diagrams, it presents a unique challenge to contemporary ideology about building tall. For the same reasons, it provides a unique opportunity to study the use of non-optimal applications of optimizing logics in a building’s structure, organization and program, and to articulate critical positions in architectural theory through architectural production. The former can be investigated by proposing new relationships between the tower, its site and the city, with an emphasis on continuity of networks and armatures; the latter through rigorous experimentation in modeling techniques that allow the architect to optimize the project towards specific forms, organizations and effects that may not be optimal in themselves.
The problem of the tower in 2011 rests in the friction between its historic role as a singular icon and the shifting needs and expectations of a contemporary city in which multiplicitous, contradictory and densely packed divergences must cohabitate. Rather than acting as singular unifying symbols, can a tower create dynamic spaces and forms capable of meaning different things to different people? Rather than simply a thing to see from the city or a place to see the city from how can the tower be more effective in the city and more integrated into its networks and armatures? What environmental effects can it have on its immediate or more far-reaching context? This studio explored how flexible contemporary theory about the horizontal, heterogeneous and integrated can be by asking it to respond to a building type anathema to it.