Last weekend, January 25-27, Bert de Muynck | movingcities was invited by FAKE Design to attend the opening ceremony and start of the first phase of ORDOS100. 100 architects from 29 different countries and areas from Europe, America, Asia and Africa are invited to design a villa or public building with a floor area of 1,000 square meters.
Ordos, one hour and twenty minutes flying from Beijing, is located in the Ordos Basin, Inner Mongolia, a location dubbed China’s “energy bank for the 21st century”. The city of Ordos has entered the stage of large-scale development with a big number of energy projects getting under construction. In the slipstream of these energy projects, Ordos is building a city from zero.
When dealing with architecture and urbanism one can find oneself sometimes in strange places searching for the future of architecture and the city. Like searching in the desert for cities. Ordos is one of these places.
Today Ordos is a city waiting to be populated, anticipating the economic boom the region will be undergoing throughout the next decade. A territory once home to nomads and yurds, Ordos will be in the next year the site where 100 international and nomadic architects will temporary land, break ground and build. When strolling through over the site I was wondering if it would make sense to speculate if Ordos will be the first twenty-first century city in China. The ambition seems to be there, the architects prepared and a city in the making. Ordos is also the place where Zaha Hadid Ma Yangsong from the Beijing based MAD is currently constructing their Erdos Museum. On a freezing January morning all I saw where construction cranes flying low over the Inner-Mongolian desert; at this time of the year a snow covered area where welding competes with global warming. Without any doubt in the next decade Ordos will be the territory where concrete competes with cashmere, cows and coal.
One part of the new city development is called the Jiang Yuan Cultural and Creative Industrial Park, between Dongsheng District and Kangba Shi new District. On a plot of 197 ha 100 architects, all recommended by Herzog & de Meuron, will each design a villa. The project is made possible through investment by Jian Yuan Cultural & Creative Industrial Development Ltd. and Jiang Yuan Water Engineering Ltd., and is planned by Ai Weiwei | FAKE Design.
The above masterplan of ORDOS100, and additional maps, can be found via stashpocketblog. On the last weekend of January, 28 architects were invited to Ordos to visit the site, attend a symposium on the project and sign the contract. This project will proceed in 2 phases in 2008. Phase I is from January 26 to April 26 and phase II from May 17 till August 18.
The whole weekend felt like a gigantic experiment with architects, who were for a couple of days pulled from their studio’s into the open freezing air, from the creative comfort of their offices to a place where emptiness is context. During the weekend an inspiring and casual halo surrounded the architects everywhere they touched ground. It was an experience that was both driven by confusion and reality-check, questioning the relation between those two.
A full photographic overview of the weekend can be found on Ai Weiwei’s blog: Friday’s dinner, 28 architects for Phase I, ORDOS100 site visit, Saturday’s dinner, Sunday morning symposium, ORDOS100 lottery, Sunday evening Beijing afterparty. Sören Gruenert’s grüngrün flickr-page adds another view to it. Mos-Office posted one nice picture of a group of architects strolling over the ORDOS100-site. At first sight the image looked to me as a screen shot from the March of the Penguins-movie. Read also a review on the ORDOS100 opening ceremony; originally published in Chinese, and here the, oh yes almost readable, english google-translate version.
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. The Ordos Art Museum is . In order to explain the motives behind the ORDOS100-project he interviewed Cai Jiang, a Chinese business man with an exceptional architectural ambition:
The museum and the surrounding new town is the brainchild of 40-year-old entrepreneur Cai Jiang, who made his fortune in the uniquely Inner Mongolian combination of coal and milk. (…) The high-class architecture means more than flash and glamour, Cai insisted, returning to his ideas of social progress. “We want to show the government how you might start a city from zero, and what that could mean for the architectural field. Nowadays in China a lot of buildings go up every day, but after maybe 30 years they don’t work anymore. Our land has been destroyed by big development. But we could have some fantastic work here, just like the stuff you see abroad.”
In some ways ORDOS100 is a follow-up of the idea underlying Ai Weiwei’s Jinhua Architectural Park as it is based on the same principles to give young foreign architects the opportunity to build in a relatively short time. Ai Weiwei explains his motives as follows:
I want to introduce young foreign architects to China. They can’t just have good concepts; they need practice, they need opportunities.
Throughout 2008 movingcities will be regularly broadcasting updates on the progress of the project, both on this website as in publications.