Babel for Billionaires | publication

Mark Magazine had in August/September its 15th issue out. Bert de Muynck | MovingCities contributed to it with an article on ORDOS100. From our ORDOS100 Embedded Architects-perspective, yes, we need the eye of a fly to see the multitude of architectures that grow in the Inner-Mongolian desert, this piece gives an insight in the development of the project during its two first meetings, in January and April 2008.

At the time of the site visit in January, there are only two buildings on the edge of the largely empty white desert: the Ordos Art Museum designed by Chinese architecture firm DnA and a complex with artist studios by Ai Weiwei’s Fake Design. The last one is a copy of the artist studios he built in Beijing. For some architects it is hard to imagine this barren site being built. ‘I need all the imagination in the world,’ Dutch architect Kamiel Klaasse from NL Architects tells me. ‘Is this going to be a rough place or a sophisticated paradise? It’s hard to imagine what our client sees beyond the horizon.’ The high density of the master plan confuses some architects as well. Mexican architect Derek Dellekamp: ‘Considering the fact that there is no lack of space here, I expected the villa’s to be more free standing. The openness here is a treasure. Why not use it? According to the master plan, this area will be very urban. I have to make a mental switch for that.

The Green House by NL Architects (left), The Monolith by Derek Dellekamp (right)
The Green House by NL Architects (left), The Monolith by Derek Dellekamp (right)

“Babel for Billionaires” is written to provide a timely and fleeting insight into the worries, fascinations, desires and ambitions of the participating architects. At the one hand several of the participating architects of the first phase of ORDOS100 (January & April 2008) explains their first impressions and project proposal, while some of the architects from the second phase express their opinion of the critical confusion that ruled the April 2008 meeting. Exploring the complexities of the architectural creation, both culturally, technically and linguistically, through the lens of the ORDOS100-project, it is important to understand the clash of creativity that results from this unique meeting of 100 architects.

For every architect, a villa. For every architect, another story.

For every showcase, a reality check.

Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena (Elemental) is also supportive of the master plan. ‘Luxury houses in such a dense context are unusual for wealthy people. I hope this could shift the tendency of rich people to try and isolate themselves from each other.’ Korean architect Minsuk Cho (Mass Studies) sees another challenge: ‘Normally a city is composed of layers of accumulated history. Here we have to come up with instant identity, character and all of that. How do you do that? I don’t know yet.

ORDOS100 - 100 architects meet and greet | April 2008
ORDOS100 - 100 architects meet and greet | April 2008


An exhibition entitled “Thirteen New York Architects Design for Ordos” opens Friday October 10 at The Urban Center in New York. This exhibition of the designs by the thirteen New York-based firms working in Ordos will explore the unique process of the undertaking and provoke a conversation about the role that design is playing in the development.

Projects by: Barker Freeman Design Office, Keller Easterling, Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis, Lyn Rice Architects, Multiplicities, nARCHITECTS, Normal Architecture Office, OBRA Architects, rsvp architects, SINGLE speed DESIGN, Slade Architecture, Toshiko Mori Architect, WORK Architecture Company.

Installation design: Project_ (Ana Miljacki and Lee Moreau with Benjamin Porto and Daniel Sakai)

Gallery hours: Monday–Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Closed Thursdays). Admission is free.

Exhibition Opening
13:100 | Thirteen New York Architects Design for Ordos
Friday, October 10
7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
The Urban Center
457 Madison Avenue

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“Babel for Billionaires” by Bert de Muynck
Published in Mark Magazine #15 August/September, 2008

Other publications in MARK Magazine;
A Letter from Beijing | Published in MARK Magazine #09 (July-August, 07)
An interview with Ai Weiwei (CN) | FAKE Design | Published in MARK Magazine #12 (Feb-March, 08)
Olympic Architecture | Published in MARK Magazine #14 (June-July, 08)

Pictures by Bert de Muynck & Mónica Carriço |

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