Taking “Ordinary Architecture” as their general theme, the Chinese Pavilion at the Venice Architectural Biennale 2008 presents an exhibition including the work of five Chinese architects – Liu Jiakun, Tong Ming, Ge Ming, Li Xinggang, Liu Kecheng, and photographer Wang Di. The exhibition is curated by Yung Ho Chang, Acheng Zhong and Gong Yan.
Along with the exhibition, there was also the launch of the “Ordinary Architecture” website which gives following background:
The general theme of the Chinese Pavilion at the Venice International Architecture Exhibition is “Ordinary Architecture”, which comprises two sub-titles: “Negotiation” and “Daily Growing’”, explaining the meaning of ordinary architecture in modern China, as well as querying demolishing planning to the environment under the power, which breaks the relationship of growing between traditional and current architectures. Hence the concept of ordinary architectures is also an active suggestion to the power. While the rest of the world is pursuing landmark architectures produced by international star designers, we are just focusing on the prominent capabilities and the Chinese intelligence presented among some of the Chinese constructors as they handle everyday space problems amid the environment of globalization.
‘Ordinary’ stands opposed to ‘power’, it’s about authorisation. ‘Ordinary Architecture’ is buildings with authorisation. Raising the issue of ordinary architecture in a time when China serves as the World’s architects’ playground means to question the authority’s destructive approach of urban planning; one that severs the link between current architecture and the tradition. In this sense, ordinary architecture is also a form of activism.
In a text called “Red Housing/Beijing Streets” the Chinese photographer Wang Di explains the motives behind his contribution as follows:
The rapid economic development in the past ten years or so has drastically changed the look of this city. Ordinary buildings are often the first to be bulldozed in the mass urban demolition. The situation has direct effect on the basic living environment of Beijing and my fundamental, emotional identification to it. With Beijing getting alienated every day, the sense of ‘this is my city’ becomes fragile to the point that I’m now worrying about not being able to identify myself with Beijing some day in the future. It’s this fear that prompted me to photograph these buildings and this fading Beijing in my memory, a city that belongs to me.
The whole exhibition is set-up as a collection of artworks made by the participating architects. The website of the 2008 Venice Architecture Biennale – Chinese Pavilion provides text and images of following projects:
- Rebirth Brick by Liu Jiakun,
- Paper-brick House by Atelier Li Xinggang,
- MURMUR by Ge Ming,
- Water-gathering Wall by Liu Kecheng,
- Scaffold-Shelter by Tong Ming,
- Red Housing/Beijing Streets by Wang Di.