ORDOS100 | mediating the media

movingcities + media + ORDOS100

  • Jan 24, 2008

Alex Pasternack, a Beijing based and urbane writer with a keen eye for both the trashy and flashy development of Chinese architecture, recalls in Xanadu 2.0 his visit to Ordos & the Ordos Art Museum, designed by the DnA Design and Architecture, a Beijing based architecture firm, in August 2007.

  • Feb 7, 2008

Building Design, published an article on ORDOS100, which reads as a dramatic wake-up call for British architects thereby already mythologizing and stretching the objective of the ORDOS100-project. The article is the first one discussing the project from the angle of nationalities, and hints that if you are not on the list, or your country not well represented, this should be a wake-up call. This struggle for talent, the incorporation of local creativity into the global construction circus is one that for sure will be part of the now and future discussion, analysis and interpretation of ORDOS100. Building Design’s article is centered around remarks from ORDOS100 participant Simon Conder who allegedly “is ‘very surprised’ to be only UK designer picked for 100-day, 100-home project in Chinese desert region of Ordos.” No information elsewhere, so far, is available if ORDOS100 will be build in 100 days.

  • Mar 5, 2008

The Architects’ Newspaper brings in a short story on the selection by the Architectural League on this year’s Emerging Voices, a story on OORDOS100 participants MOS. The Emerging Voices 2008-piece has an interesting number which is wrong; “MOS is one of the one hundred young firms chosen by Jacques Herzog of Herzog & de Meuron to design houses for Ordos, a brand new city for 1.6 million in Mongolia.” An interesting exaggeration of the 200,000 foreseen inhabitants of Ordos. Mos director Michael Meredith is quote to be impressed by the site visit in January 2008: “Walking around there is like being in some postapocalyptic movie—there are buildings and museums, but not always roads, and there is just no one there.”

  • Mar13, 2008

The Architects’ Journal brought us another wake-up call for British architects. This one a more positive one for DRDH Architects, as they are invited, seemingly last minute, to join into the project. According to The Architects’ Journal “DRDH director Daniel Rosbottom said the news of the firm’s appointment ‘came like a bolt out of the blue’.” Also the article is happy to announce, expanding on to the above Building Design analysis, that now 4 UK-based are joining into the Ordos100-project, incorporating German practice Thiele-Geisler Architekten that has an office in London.

  • Mar 20, 2008

Architectural Record published Young Residential Architects Invade Mongolia adding to the ongoing ORDOS100 coverage the American perspective. The article is a short wrap-up of the project, the ambition and voices the opinion of Lyn Rice, architect involved in phase I of the project, adding to the debate the notion, and hope, of thoughfullness of the international architects involved; “Before we met, there were two big fears: that this could turn into a bunch of architects trying to out-form-make the other, and that it could become a new type of gated community,” he explains. “But these are thoughtful architects who are doing thoughtful projects, and none of us wants to see competitive form-making.”

  • Apr 20, 2008

More Alex Pasternack on ORDOS100. In an article called “Dawn of a New Century: ORDOS100” he follows up on the project. This time an insight from the January 2008 meeting of the architects involved in phase 1, which he compares to a UN summit: “The unlikely meeting looked more like a UN summit than an urban planning consultation.” And gradually the motives of Mr. Cai, client and investor, become clear: “We would like to support young artists, give them a stage and a voice. Also, because the young architects are barely affected by tradition, they will have some new ideas to offer.”

  • Apr 22, 2008

Bert de Muynck | movingcities publishes “ORDOS100: avant-garde architecture in the desert” on the Chinese version of the “ArtForum-website”, a short impression of the phase 2 meeting, April 2008, in Ordos and a site visit with the desert designers: “At the edge of the site, the bus stopped and the architects flew out, all running in different directions, touching the sand, taking pictures of dunes, all the while dreaming about the direction this desert could take. Some planted flags (or did someone put them there before?) explaining this act with the same intensity one had when conquering the moon. In the end this wandering came to seem like an act of desert dérive or sand situationism.”

  • May 1, 2008

Fred A. Bernstein publishes “In Inner Mongolia, pushing architecture’s outer limits” in the “International Herald Tribune”, focusing on mix of cash, creativity, construction costs and China. In a swift and clear style, with a chuckling, bordering at wishful thinking, intro “we got a little taste of what it’s like to be Zaha Hadid” over the architects involved in the project, he writes down his impression of the April 11-16 week in Ordos, touching upon the impressions of the phase 1 architects and their initial reaction upon their call for participation, as Daniel Holguin, from Multiplicities (check their ORDOS100-proposal and/or their flickr-impression of phase II) recalls: “Daniel Holguin, a 37-year-old Mexican architect based in New York, said that when he first heard about the project he wondered if “it was a kind of joke,” and whether there were really 99 others. “But when you’re an architect starting out,” he added, “you have to consider every possibility.”

Also the business part of ORDOS100 becomes gradually clear as Bernstein explains: “Cai said he expected to sell the villas which he promised to have built by the end of 2009 for about $1.5 million each. He said he had interest from local businessmen who would use them as residences or as second homes for entertaining clients.” The article lets the American architects involved in ORDOS100 explain their motives and impressions, and brings it in relation with comments upon the possible motives of Ai Weiwei and Mr. Cai, and offers as such an interesting, albeit one-sided, cultural-national perspective, but also, unfortunately, falls short on the architects’ experience of the cross-cultural architectural exchange and discussions that are part of this global architectural undertaking.

And yes, one more, nice comment, feeding the architects’ desire for the delusion of the freedom offered in ORDOS100, from Lyn Rice (check their ORDOS100-proposal); “Later, though, at least one of the initial 28 —Lyn Rice, an established New York architect with more experience than many of the others — noted a downside to all the freedom. “If I were approached by a genie and told, you’ve got three wishes, they would be, one, for a project that moves along fast; two, that I don’t need to do construction documents; and three, that I have a client who doesn’t worry too much about what I do.”

  • May 7, 2008

Lebbeus Woods voices his opinion on ORDOS100 in a piece called “O, ORDOS”, most likely after reading “In Inner Mongolia, pushing architecture’s outer limits” and visiting the ORDOS100-website. He largely sticks to an American sentimental and centric view on the development of the world and architecture, as if the majority of the architects would seriously ponder on the question “Will I be mentioned in next Times article?” (that said, Dear Lebbeus Woods, the world is a-changing, and please do ask yourself the question, why does the Times article not mention any of the Chilean, Belgian, Japanese, Swiss, Portuguese, South-African, Indian, Argentinian,… architects involved?). Do you really believe that this army of architects would make a journalist their general and put their aspirations for 5 lines of fame in him?

Not unexpectedly, for better and for worse, this American perspective almost dogmatically embraces every notion of the ‘suburb’ as an invention only they can understand, debate and implement; “The idea of building large private houses on three-quarter acre plots jammed together without regard for the spaces between or the relationship of one house to the next must be unsettling to many of the invitees, especially considering the history of American suburbs.” A more interesting question would be to understand how this masterplan relates and/or is embedded within the notion of the Ordos Cultural Creative Industry Park (aka OCCIP), a new programmatic entity within the contemporary Chinese City.

To our understanding, and attending the discussions amongst the architects in January and April 2008 in Ordos, the mechanisms determining the development of the Chinese cities are a bit different than Lebbeus Woods seemingly looking sharp, lucid, provocative and poignant concluding remarks. The final lines are the words of preacher in the desert, one trying to stop the movement of dunes. He concludes; “It would be a more hopeful harbinger of the future not only for this city, but the field of architecture in general, if a number of the Ordos 100 architects banded together and came up with a coordinated overall plan and insisted that it be adopted. And, if it were not, they would simply decline the opportunity.”

  • June 4, 2008

Talking about “declining the opportunity”. Beatrice Galilee, from Icon, has the news that Eyal Weizman withdrew from Ordos100. According the Ordos100-article for the following reasons; “London-based architect and professor Eyal Weizman took part in the first phase, but withdrew due to what he described as the “negative urban and environmental effects of the project”. Weizman is concerned with the way the project is generating political and media posturing rather than potential as an urban masterplan. “It’s a 1950s model of a suburb and essentially it is, to my knowledge, a gated community,” he says.”

What comes out of the article is a clear attempt to retro-actively legitimize the architects’ acceptance to be part of the first phase mixed with a Lebbeus Woods’ kind of analysis of the masterplan (with that difference that Eyal Weizman was in Ordos and stirred part of the discussion in that direction) and the fact that his proposal was presented (check Eyal Weizman and Rafi Segal ORDOS100-proposal) during the April weekend. During the January weekend, movingcities interviewed Eyal Weizman, read the interview. Although Eyal Weizmann explains the motives for withdrawal as follows – “We can’t simply repeat patterns that we know and understand to be catastrophic in an urban sense. There is a whole lot of expertise and research that could have mobilised a sense of knowledge in urban issues.” – it is to be seen if he wants to pick up this discussion, work on it, analyze China, its cities, its state of gated communities and mobilize this in order to deal with this, yes, let us call it like that, very uncritical approach. Most likely this is not to happen now nor in the near future, and one wonders what in today’s architecture world the culture of commitment is about. Accept, design, refuse, withdraw?


(back to Embedded Research / ORDOS100)

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