In few days time, the 2013 WestBund Biennial in Shanghai 上海 will close its doors. While MovingCities attended the opening ceremony on October 20, we went for a re-visit last week. That day, we found that several pavillions, including the main exhibition hall, were already shut down [and that one week prior to the official end]. We experienced a new type of event. In contrast with celebrated and well-communicated pre-openings, why not include the silent pre-closure as part of the program as well? Background to the biennial and the revitalization of the Westbund Riverfront.
The West Bund Architecture and Contemporary Art Biennale 2013 西岸2013建筑与当代艺术双年展 is held along the waterfront of Xuhui District, Shanghai 上海, from October 20 to December 19, 2013. According to its curatorial theme it lays focus on three aspects: space construction, artistic production and future imagination:
With the theme of Reflecta and Fabrica, the biennale covers artistic forms including architecture, contemporary art and theatre and incorporates tools such as sounds, videos, spaces, devices, performance, etc.. Making use of the West Bank, it aims at forging an international forefront for cross-domain art, creating a high-end platform for urban culture and building the largest outdoor art museum in the new century.
The overall curatorial team of this 2013 Westbund Biennial consists out of Yung Ho Chang 张永和 Zhang Yonghe [the chief curator, Chief architect of Atelier FCJZ], Li Xiangning 李翔宁 [the architecture curator, professor and doctoral supervisor at the College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Tongji University] and Gao Shiming 高士明 [the art curator, professor at China Academy of Art and dean of the School of InterMedia Art].
One of the most interesting features of the exhibition is the use of the western riverbank of the Huangpu River as an open-air outdoor construction show. This riverbank is partially located opposite of the former Shanghai 2010 World Expo grounds and as a total the Shanghai Xuhui riverside area stretches 11 kilometers from Rihui Port in the north to Xupu Bridge in the south, with an area of 7.4 square kilometers. It is on these grounds – which still featured remnants of its former harbour and industrial past – that an area is reserved for the construction of the architecture pavillions that were commissioned as part of the 2013 Westbund Biennial program.
In 2012, the Global Times featured an article providing more information and background to the intentions of this waterfront development:
The World Expo 2010 in Shanghai provided the perfect opportunity for the development of waterfront facilities along the Huangpu River, and the Xuhui Riverside Area became the biggest of these projects. The site neighbors the Huangpu River to the east, and directly faces the former Expo Park across the river. […] The design of the Xuhui Riverside Area also highlights its historical heritage. In the past, the area was home to industrial factories, cement plants, lumber stockyards and, of course, shipping docks. And various relics from this era, including anchor pile piers, dock tower cranes, train tracks and airport oil depots, have all been preserved, giving visitors a vivid picture of how this part of the city has evolved over the years.
The architecture at display is set to reflect the theme of Fabrica as the curators explain that “the show adheres to the philosophy of ‘Pre-Fab’ and ‘+In-Situ’. World renowned architects and artists are invited to conduct on-site creation so as to present their thoughts on the current works.” Four participating offices each designed a pavilion, including Yung Ho Chang 张永和 Zhang Yonghe [Vertical Glass House 垂直玻璃宅], JohnstonMarkLee [Pavilion of Six Views 六望亭], Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects [Cloud Pavillion 祥云] and Zeng Qun 曾群 & Wang Fangji 王方戟 [Ceramic Pavillion 瓷堂].
For another take on the overall set-up and intentions of this exhibition, read Sam Gaskin’s review on BLOUIN ARTINFO which partially reflects our impression of the architecture exhibition in the repurposed Shanghai Cement Plant:
The architecture exhibits are a rather uninspiring collection of descriptions and models of too many projects from around China, arranged in a ring around the silo. […] The strongest facet of the biennale is its presentation of sound art. […] The inaugural West Bund biennale is too large, with works collected rather than curated — much more editing and explanation would make for a much more powerful show — but there are still some exciting discoveries to be made.
Pictures by movingcities.org