After an initial first stage research into the development of the NewTowns in Beijing 北京, MovingCities went between February 13 and 17 2009 on a series of field research trip with Crimson Architectural Historians in function of their ongoing New Town Research. Throughout the past one and a half decade this Rotterdam based collective has developed an intriguing hybrid practice that takes the contemporary city as its object. Their ongoing study is a worldwide research project on the phenomenon, evolution, discourse and current state of the New Town and will culminate in an exhibition.
This research brought Crimson to Beijing for a ten day field investigation, conducted by Michelle Provoost, Wouter Vanstiphout and Annuska Pronkhorst. Provoost is also the director of the Almere-based International New Town Institute [INTI]. In 2006 she published the ‘New towns on the Cold War frontier‘-essay on Eurozine which gives an expanded insight in the research. A recent article published on the European Urban Knowledge Network, called ‘In new towns everything is possible‘, provides an update.
Crimson Architectural Historians
Crimson Architectural Historians are a group of architectural historians based in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. The group, which was formed in 1994 as a consulting firm, came to international attention with the WiMBY! [Welcome into My BackYard!] urban renewal project, begun in 2001 in the Rotterdam new town of Hoogvliet. The results of this project were published as The Big WiMBY! Book in 2007. The book was shortlisted for the RIBA 2008 International Book Award. Crimson was awarded the Jonge Rotterdam-Maaskant prize for architects in 2002.
After the second world war a large family of New Towns was built all over the globe. The towns were planned from scratch, based on the combined ideologies of the Garden City, CIAM-modernism and the neighbourhood principle. From Western Europe to Asia, from Africa to the former communist countries, the original universal model of the New Town was adapted to local cultures, economics and politics. The New Town research project will try to paint a worldwide panorama of the differences and similarities between the thousands of offspring of the universalist planning model of modernism. It will point out the familiarity between the superquadras in Brasilia and the neighbourhood-modules in Rotterdam. But it will also celebrate the fact that one model could simultaneously lead to Scandinavian cleanliness, Indian visual richness and Chinese density.
Then this research project will do something rare: it will go back to urbanistic projects decades after they have been designed, and it will discover and describe the myriad ways in which the New Towns have been worn, torn, de- and reconstructed by their users. Finally the project will critically investigate the current planning and building policies aimed at the New Towns. Between the ongoing modernist planning in Asia, the shrinking cities of the former communist block, the systematic demolition in the Netherlands and the United States and the subtle reconstructions in France, lies a toolbox for retrofitting the Modernist Town Planning to the needs of the twenty-first century citizen.
NewTown Field Research | Beijing
In function of the research 3 distinct areas in Beijing where visited; the satellite annex industrial town of Mentougou, the 1950s Baiwangzhuang residential area and the satellite town of Daxing.
- Mentougou | NewTown Field Research
- Baiwangzhuang | NewTown Field Research
- Daxing | NewTown Field Research
NewTown Field Research | Links
- Crimson Architectural Historians
- New Town Research
- International New Town Institute [INTI]
- “New towns on the Cold War frontier” | Michelle Provoost | Eurozine (2006)
- “In new towns everything is possible” | Interview with Michelle Provoost | European Urban Knowledge Network (2009)