IFP at Beijing Design Week

Don't miss IFP's shows during the design week. There is a lot going on around town but this is an antidote to the flatness of most of the design week programme. For some thoroughbred art and alternative design, come over, open your senses and stay for a while. More info at blacksesame.org

 

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In progress: Black Sesame

I am currently renovating a new space for art and design, located next to IFP Studio in Heizhima hutong 13. The space is shared between IFP, WAM/万物 and Here & Now Studio and will be used for exhibitions, installations, workshops and alike. The official opening will be some time in June. Below are some snapshots of the current state of renovation:

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IFP Sessions: Johan Zetterquist

 

For the past 10 years, Johan Zetterquist has been working on a project called 'Proposals for Public Art', in which he through various media reflects on the possibles and impossibles related to artistic representation for and of the public domain. As a reaction to the usual issues attached to commissioning and executing 'public art', resulting in bland and apolitical or politically correct works, Johan takes his absurd and politically incorrect ideas very seriously, realizing them in the form of proposals presented in the way such would be submitted to an open call or competition.

By re-appropriating common, functional environments such as those found along highways, or even the highway itself, and simply proposing to highlight their physical and aesthetic qualities, Johan Zetterquist asks fundamental questions about their status and meaning in a broader humanistic sense. His 'proposals for public art' are often based around objects so generic and lacking of site specificity that the absurdity of the proposal becomes a driver, a machine that never stops jerking as long as we still consume, drive, construct and build fences. In a further perspective, we as viewers are confronted with dystopic images, glimpses of scenarios where these mundane sites appear as poetic fragments of a bygone era of human dillusion and hubris.

As well as they can be physical, 'proposals for public art' can be highly theoretical, or at least hypothetical. In a simple statement, presented as solid block-shaped letters against a white background, framed, a new thought presents itself. Highly banal yet thought-provoking, the black letters serve the only purpose of playing a tune in repeat in our ears that is incompatible with the way society is currently modulated.

Or as put by Judith Manzoni: "In an art world overflowed with the use of violent, shocking or scatological imaginary, the use of intelligent humour and meaningful absurdity arises as surprisingly subversive, as an intellectual art that playfully criticizes the comfortable approval of the status quo while making no concessions to political correctness."

'Proposals For Public Art', Saturday December 14, 6 pm, IFP Studio

More about Johans work can be found here.

New residency programme

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Finally, after months of preparation, the Institute for Provocation is launching a new residency programme in collaboration with IASPIS. The 2-month residency is open for Swedish visual artists, architects and designers and starts in August this year. Deadline for applications is May 8, application here.

 

More information:

Iaspis – the Swedish Arts Grants Committee’s international program for visual art, architecture, design and craft – announces a new residency collaboration with the Institute for Provocation (IFP) in Beijing during 2013-14. The residency is open to applications from visual artists, architects and designers, and is thematically focused on the topic of public space in China.

Residency period: In 2013, two separate residencies of two months each are offered to two candidates, one from August 22 - October 22, and one from October 20 - December 22. Please indicate on the application form which period you are applying for.

Application deadline: 8 May 2013

Application procedure: The Iaspis delegation of the Visual Arts Fund selects a shortlist from the received applications. The final selection of grant holders is made by IFP. Successful applicants are informed by Iaspis on behalf of IFP at the end of June.

Grant: The total sum of the grant is 50 000 SEK per person and residency. This should cover costs for return travel Sweden-Beijing, food, sustenance and eventual production costs over the 2 month residency. As part of the residency, IFP provides shared workspace, accommodation and a part-time assistant. Please see more detailed information below. About Institute for Provocation

The Institute for Provocation (IFP) is a Beijing-based workspace and think tank hosting residencies, research projects, workshops and lectures stretching the borders between visual and performing art, architecture and design. As a workspace, IFP focuses on the thinking process before or even beyond the actual creation of an artifact: the collection of dramaturgical information, the testing of different architectural scenarios, the summarizing of existing artistic vocabularies and realized projects, the experimenting with new media or disciplines, and so on. Space, territory and geography serve as bridges between many disciplines and IFP has a specific interest in research that proposes cross-disciplinary strategies to open up for inquiries into topics related to these notions.

IFP was originally established under the name Theatre in Motion (until 2010) by sinologist and dramaturge Els Silvrants and architect Shuyu Chen and has since 2005 collaborated with artists, architects and performers on a wide range of projects and residencies.

The studio and workspace is located in a 85 sqm renovated courtyard house in the old city of Beijing. The studio is shared with 1-3 other resident artist(s) and IFP staff, has basic facilities such as internet, projector and screen, basic hand tools, shared kitchen. The resident artist will be accommodated close to the studio in a private or shared apartment with private bathroom. About the residency

As a part of an ongoing research project into the conditions for public space in Chinese cities, the Institute for Provocation in collaboration with Iaspis invite artists, architects and designers to apply for a residency based around the topic of public space.

China's economic rise over the past three decades is the result of a conscious strategy in which cities are playing a key role. Urbanization has been and will continue to be the main instrument for bringing the people out of poverty and into a consumption- and service lifestyle. But as the existing cities sprawl out and new ones are built from scratch, little attention is paid to their spatial and social qualities. The massive leap in scale from the ancient architectures to the new forests of highways and high-rises that now dominate the cityscapes create an array of problems related to space, identity, environment and social and economic equity. The juxtaposition of opposites – formal and informal, open and closed space – shapes the syntax in the reading of the Chinese city.

The applicant is intended to form their own interpretation of the theme and eventually find a focal point for his/her research. Responsible for running the programme in Beijing will be Max Gerthel, Swedish architect and IFP collaborator since 2011, and IFP's artistic director Shuyu Chen. We will guide the artist and provide insights into China and Chinese culture, special knowledge about cities and public space as well as local contacts in various fields. The residency will revolve around research as the main activity, without any specific requirements from the host organization regarding output or production by the artists in residence.

The purpose of this thematic residency programme is both to have a close dialogue and exchange between IFP and the artist, as well as to create more continuity, as each artist contributes to a larger body of research. This accumulation of knowledge, observation and interpretation can thus be shared internally, but also to the local community.

As a part of Sessions, IFP's public programme, the artist will have the possibility to present themselves and their work, listen to other practitioners and take part in discussions. There will also be possibilities of collaboration with external institutions for lectures and/or academic exchange. The residency will also be announced through IFP's network and newsletter, further enhancing the artist's visibility in China.

Residents will be provided with a desk space in the shared workspace of IFP's studio, accommodation in the vicinity of the workspace, a part-time art assistant providing interpretation/ translation and other assistance, support and guidance from IFP staff and opportunity to meet other artists in related fields. If the resident wishes to bring their partner/family for the full length of the residency s/he must inform IFP two months in advance. Any extra expense for accommodation of related guests will be carried by the resident.

IFP Sessions: Maurice Carlin

For the second IFP Sessions of 2013, Institute for Provocation will host Manchester based artist Maurice Carlin, who is the current resident artist Homeshop . His work revolves around the practice of publishing, defined as ‘the creation of a public’, a collective consciousness built around actions in public space.

Maurice will give a talk about his work and how it has developed from his experience of self-organisation through Islington Mill Art Academy, a peer-led experiment into alternative modes of art education. Islington Mill is a mixed-use building providing artists with incubation, production, collaboration and performance spaces. Home to over 50 cross-disciplinary studios, an artist-run B&B, gallery, residency and club spaces, it occupies a unique position within the UK, and has evolved over eleven years to become the cultural haven that it is now.

Maurice's work has been featured in publications including Frieze, The Guardian and A-N. Recent shows include First...Next...Then...Finally, Castlefield Gallery, Manchester (2013), Blanco Blanco, La Escocesa, Barcelona (2012), Self Publisher and Other Works, Banner Repeater, London (2011), How to Stay Awake, MCP, Antwerp (2011) Other Forms of Life (with Bik van der Pol), AND Festival, various locations (2010) and Beyond the Dustheaps, Dickens House Museum, London (2010).

IFP Studio, Saturday, April 6 at 6 pm (18:00 for our 24 hour friends)

The talk is held in collaboration with Homeshop, and the following day we will join there to take the discussion further. Se below.

 

Open discussion at homeshop

What are the challenges of establishing and running an independent art space/community? What possible structures can enable an independent art space to become independent of its core team? From another perspective, is there a line that separates, blurrily, an art practice from institutional organization, and what are the critical capacities proper to the different gradations?

On Sunday, Institute for Provocation will be joining Michael from Homeshop, Maurice from Islington Mill and others to launch a discussion around the topic of independent art spaces. Since we all represent various types of art spaces and collectives, we thought it fit to share our experiences in a public format, inviting everyone in to join this moment of self-reflection.

We have lined up with even more questions such as:

What contexts or practices does your space arise from? Who do you consider your "stakeholders"? What is the distribution of locality/international among your concerns? How long have you been active? What have been some changes during the life of your space? e.g. moves, reorganizations, renamings? Is there a separation between your physical space and your "project"? Is the space an institution? What necessitates or allows such a title? Is the space a form of artistic practice? Is authorship involved? How do you fund your space? How much does this enter into the activities that you consider your core concern? How are decisions made? How does this shape what takes place? Do you consider the way you run your space as a "model"?

Sunday, April 7 at 6 pm at Homeshop, Jiaodaokou beiertioao number 8

Welcome!

The Third Meaning

This installation was a part of SaYiZheng (Sleepwalking in Chinese, or sometimes translated as nonsense) a night art exhibition taking place last Friday in and around Doujiao hutong here in Beijing. The exhibition was organised by IFP's artist-in-residence Zoro Feigl and artist and curator Tianji Zhao. Altogether 23 artists participated, and quite a large amount of people came to see the exhibition and performances.

The idea behind this installation was to create a space with light, and as a response to the rough and ecclectic environment, I decided to create something that was quite purist and clean, but still made from materials found locally. The flourescent lights are activated by sound, which is also common here, especially in staircases of residential building blocks. However in the hutongs the lights are usually quite dim and the relationship to sound is more surprising. The configuration of a gate or a portal suited the site very well and provided a quite new experience of the hutong space. At the same time, its purity and materiality can refer to the typical white box gallery space, in which this kind of flourescent light fittings are virtually prerequisite.

The title, The Third Meaning comes from a text by Roland Barthes, referring to a third layer of meaning in SM Eisensteins films. I don't claim to harbor such a meaning, but if there is a third layer of meaning to anything, I'm sure someone can find it.

 

 

Preliminary sketch

 

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The next morning, only a few pieces of wood were left.

IFP Sessions #4: Hans van Houwelingen

 

On November 24, the Institute For Provocation here in Beijing will host a talk by the Dutch conceptual artist and sculptor Hans van Houwelingen.

Hans van Houwelingen mostly works within the realm of public space and his artworks often take on ideological contradictions and ambiguities, representing them in a physical form.

Feel free to join us at the IFP Studio, heizhima hutong 13 at 6pm. More information about the artist here.

UPDATE:

The talk was very interesting and lead to the eventual interruption of the presentation as a discussion over one of the works (proposal for a memorial for guest workers in Rotterdam) became extensive. Indeed the conceptual nature of Hans' works are open to interpretations and criticism of various kind, and I definitely enjoy the way he discusses the meaning of things, rather than their formal attributes.

Below some photos of the talk.

IFP Session #2 Film screening

Tonight at 6 pm in the our studio, Institute For Provocation will host Belgian filmmaker Bram van Paesschen who is screening his latest film Empire Of Dust. The film depicts the reality of the Chinese involvement in Africa through the eyes of two middle-men in on the ground in Congo Kinshasa. Synopsis: Lao Yang and Eddy both work for a company called CREC (Chinese Railway Engineering Company). They have just set up camp near the remote mining town of Kolwezi in the Katanga province of the RDC. The goal of the company is to redo the road – covering 300km - that connects Kolwezi with the capital of the province Lubumbashi.

Lao Yang is head of logistics of the group. He is responsible for the equipment, building materials and food (mainly chickens) to arrive in the isolated Chinese prefab camp. The Congolese government was supposed to deliver these things but so far the team hasn’t received anything.

With Eddy (a Congolese man who speaks Mandarin fluently) as an intermediate, Lao Yang is forced to leave the camp and deal with local Congolese entrepreneurs, because without the construction materials the road works will cease. What follows is an endless, harsh, but absurdly funny roller coaster of negotiations and misunderstandings, as Lao Yan learns about the Congolese way of making deals.

Bram van Paesschen

Born 1979 in Vilvoorde, Belgium. Graduated in 2002 from Sint-Lukas in Brussels, film/video specialization documentary. Lives and works in Brussels. (Except for when he’s elsewhere)

The work of Bram Van Paesschen is indebted to various traditions of documentary filmmaking, from "classical" to fake documentary and essayistic formats. What unites this very diverse body of work is a sometimes radical, sometimes playful reflection on the rapport between the filmmaker and the filmed, as well as the necessary and responsible involvement of both in creating the documentary artifact. (Katrin Mundt)

Date & Time: Saturday March 10 at 6pm in the IFP Studio, Heizhima hutong 13, Dongcheng District, Beijing.

Because of the limited space, please notify us by email to max@iprovoke.org if you plan to attend the screening and following talk. And please don't arrive after 6.30! Thank you

ITERATION and conclusion

 

It's now been two days since we drew our last screws into the two projects that became the product of the ITERATE workshop. The first thing I want to do is to thank our dedicated students Song Yating, Zhai Jingyang, Wu Yulun and Yangyang Seunghee. Without their adventurous choice of joining this speculative workshop, it would not have taken place. The fact that we had a group of students pushed us to do our homework and prepare a rigorous theoretical framework for our exploration, presenting a wide range of precedents and references from many different fields. The point being that we are operating in a field that crosses over to many other disciplines, and the two pieces that came out of the workshop also constitute an ambiguous result in terms of definition.

Defining what it is we made is perhaps not the most important issue here, but it still one of the crucial points of criticism that we are now facing. Early Sunday morning I received a phone call from our landlord saying that a group of neighbours had gathered in the courtyard in protest of the installation of sticks and string designed by student Yangyang Seunghee. The problem was not only that we had failed to inform all the neighbours in the courtyard behind, but also that these suspended objects were hanging at a height where you would have to crouch down to avoid collision, creating an especially precarious condition because of the lack of lighting during night time.

In a different context though, this installation might have been understood as a temporary artwork which could be spared a few hours of existence, but in the context of one of the few remaining preserved Beijing courtyards, it was seen by the local retired residents as a threat to their security and therefore must be taken down. To make it simple, we were naive towards our neighbours' capacity to accept a temporary piece which would force them to take a different route, and they were perhaps overly dramatic in their reactions against this alien object. Nevertheless, it is worth reflecting on the consequences and how they could have been avoided.

Which leads me back to the main topic; the content of our exploration and conclusions which can be drawn from it.

There was a series of underlying notions in the formulation of the framework this workshop, and by extension in the research project that now has started. From my own side, I would like to stress the ideological aspect of our project: Addressing the prevailing issue of the credibility of our contemporary consumer society. The workshop addresses this issue in two direct ways: By limiting our source of material to used or discarded matter, things that would have been disposed of in landfills or incinerated, we would not impose unnecessary pressure to the environment for the purpose of developing a specific new knowledge. The fact that these objects have unique variations in terms of form, colour and texture as well as possessing their own latent history, make them all the more gratifying to work with. In addition, we explored the social aspect of how these objects can be retrieved and harvested in the specific context of Beijing's old city. The second point is the fact that the tool we used in the reconfiguration/design of these materials, Processing, is a free, open-source software and coding language. This of course means that while you as a designer first have to design and customize your tool in order for it to become efficient, it also brings a lot of advantages. During the past two weeks we only scratched the surface of the possibilities offered by using this environment, but the future process will be directed towards developing and streamlining the code to our use.

Another major aspect is of course that of using our abilities as designers to propose and speculate on solutions for local and global issues. This aspect of the workshop is perhaps where we failed. Despite an ambitious level of research in the way some materials are used and how they are instrumental in the accretion of small reclaimed spaces in the hutongs of Beijing, the connection between our design process and these issues became increasingly blurred in the second week. In many ways, it is just as important to learn new tools as to be critical to them while they are being applied.

With better planning and stronger focus for the Processing classes, we would probably have come further in the form explorations on an earlier stage, giving more time to establish a solid relationship between our materials and the environment in which they were found. To resume to our mission statement, we wanted to explore the intersection between design, computation and public space. By designing without specificity in neither user nor site and erecting the pieces in a sheltered, semi-private courtyard we not only avoided confrontation with the public, but projected an sense of arrogance towards the local community. Instead of allowing our neighbours and our initiated friends from outside to meet inside a common fascination for our research, and despite good intentions, the works provoked a sense of alienation from the point of view of our neighbours.

 

To conclude, I would like to see this experience as part of an ongoing process, in which we tap into a wide range of material flows in the city, in production processes and socio-economic systems and reformulate unwanted output into operational synergies. In other words, turning waste, in whatever scale, into desirable matter.

Junkitecture and wood SUV's

This text was originally posted on the blog of the upcoming workshop I am currently organizing in my studio, starting next week. Through the collection of reference projects, I have come across a few very interesting practices, and here is one of them:  

The work of German duo Köbberling Kaltwasser address a very contemporary issue with sophisticated social criticism and humour. Through their remodeling of redundant commodities: turning scrapped cars into bicycles, raising self-made pavilions from debris on empty lots in Berlin, and building a temporary theatre out of disused woodboards and pallets, they are seemingly interested in the processes of consumtion and its environmental impact. But this is not an idealist practice with a "save-the-world" approach. The issues they address also reach beyond the idea of reuse.

As an artist-architect couple, Folke Köbberling and Martin Kaltwasser also deal with sensitive ideological aspects of their own native country of Germany. By building full-scale models of Audi and Porche SUV's, they are poking at something deeply embedded in the identity of the engineered German society: Despite its ability to solve serious problems, most of the engineering ingenuity goes into creating advanced metal monsters for consumption with giant's appetite for fossil fuels, eating up valuable land in our cities.

Below a few of their works:

Musterhaus (Model House), Berlin 2006

Built on a green area of the Martin Gropius Bau premises in Berlin, the Musterhaus (Model House) is a one-family prefab model house. In its cube shape it rather resembles the T-Com House, a hightech house which a manufacturer of prefabricated houses has put on show in central Berlin to advertise the delights of suburban life. In contrast to this, we have made the Musterhaus from materials that are widely available on Berlin’s streets, disused lots and building sites: bulky scrap, used materials, random finds and construction waste. We put these production cycle rejects to new use and imitate the cultural technique of direct, sustainable, user-based recycling which is primarily practiced in the southern hemisphere. The Musterhaus brings the globally prevalent concept of informal building, which has also characterised the recent urban development of Istanbul, to the heart of central Berlin. The Musterhaus, just a stone’s throw from Potsdamer Platz, forms a marked contrast to the Berlin monoculture of block buildings and the rigid plans for the city’s urban development.

 

 

Jellyfish theatre, London 2010

Built from locally sourced discarded materials by 100 volounteers during the summer of 2012, the Jellyfish was used as a theatre for the Red Room Theatre Company. Seating 120 and featuring a lounge, dressing corridor and backstage area, the creation also created quite a lot of PR for the theatre, igniting discussions about the Themes South Bank area in which it was placed.

 

Crushed Cayenne (2007)

 

IFP Sessions No 1

In the past few weeks I have been planning a lecture series hosted by Institute For Provocation, the art organization with which I share my studio space here in Beijing. The lecture series we call IFP Sessions is a public event and a contribution to the wider discourse on art, architecture and design in China. For each session we invite someone to present their recent work, followed by a talk with other invited guests. Our ambition is to create a forum for artists, researchers and designers based in or visiting China, to share and discuss their work. Last Wednesday we hosted a lecture by Brendan McGetrick who is a writer, editor and curator, to present his work as curator of the exhibition Un-Named Design at the Design Biennale in Gwangju, Korea. The exhibition was initially a collaboration with Ai Weiwei but following his arrest in April, was carried out by Brendan as chief curator together with Michelle Liu, Naihan Li and a group of students from the Oslo School of Architecture. The lecture was followed by a discussion with artist Tudor Bratu (currently in residence with IFP), art critic Mia Yu (PhD researcher on Chinese art at McGill) and architect Anu Leinonen.

Brendan's essay about the project for Gwangju biennale can be read here.

Below a few photos from the session. The next IFP Session will be on Nov 30 when architect Jordan Kanter will present his research on Tiananmen square and Mao symbolism.

 

Open House at Black Sesame

 

On Sunday I am hosting the informal opening of Black Sesame, the studio space in downtown Beijing that I will share with Institute for Provocation (IFP). Since we found the space in late March, we have been struggling with a few different entrepreneurs for the renovation, and shedding both sweat and tears (not too much blood, yet) in the process. Sweat mostly because of the escalating costs. The renovation will be an ongoing process but we have nevertheless moved in and I work there since about two weeks.

The event is open to our dear friends and colleagues, but please don't be shy to drop by and introduce yourself if I don't already know you. Hope to see you there!

 

Sublime City

Have you ever spent Chinese new year in Beijing you know what it is all about. Vast, empty streets devoid of the flocks of people, cars and that forced them take on that enormous scale to begin with. It's a bit of eerie town, nevertheless quite enjoyable, despite the relentless banging of fireworks. Today I took the bike out to Caochangdi, a trip I normally undertaken by taxi. But in the current strange state of things it was a very enjoyable journey indeed. I found another abandoned palace on the way, left concrete ruins similar to the one near Ikea (coming up).

Another beautifully strange phenomena was sighted as I passed by 798 on the way back. A monolithic ice sculpture with accompanying mini-volcano, both natural accumulations of water dripping from a pipeline carrying hot steam around the old factory grounds. The tall one looked strangely familiar, as if echoing the stainless steel sculpture I had just seen in the studio of this well-known Swiss artist. What a wonderful world indeed, where sculptures can be formed by the dripping of water, the most essential of worldly elements, surpassing the beauty of those man-made structures in which we invest so many of our efforts.

Relentless Big Salad

I am watching an interview on Youtube with the Scottish artist Douglas Gordon, most known for his video piece 24 hr Psycho - an installation where Hitchcock's Psycho is screened in slow motion, expanding the original film over 24 hours. Not having seen any show of his works yet, I am very puzzled by them and their simplicity. How we as viewers can start to enter into the life of fiction, and how fictitious characters become part of our lives.

For instance, I recently met two dedicated Seinfeld-fans here in Beijing. Being one myself, the three of us often found ourselves in situations where a few words, or even every-day words expressed in a certain way, became comical because of our shared knowledge of this fictitious reality (which furthermore ended over ten years ago). We indulge in these scenes taking place in our collective memory, constantly aware of their origin and meaning. It was a revelation also because all those phrases, expressions and nuances ("The dingo ate your baby!", "Hell-oooo!", "You had to have the BIG SALAD") become explicitly meaningful in this new company of mine. Before, very few of the people I am around share this body of knowledge (Seinfeld) so I find myself terribly alone when hearing words like pesto or salsa. I want to exclaim "Who doesn't like Pesto?" or "I wanted Seltzer, not Salsa!" but instead it bounces around in my head like a squash ball.

For those of you who have access to this amazing database of contemporary life:

Salsa, not Seltzer

Chance

Yesterday a long awaited book was finally delivered to our door: CHANCE from the series Documents of Contemporary Art (MIT Press, 2010). Compiling texts on  20 or so conceptual artists that all have worked with the unpredictable as a main driver of the work, the book narrows down the concept of chance to a few - shall we call it - case studies. The most reoccurring artists Marcel Duchamp and John Cage fail to surprise me. Needless to say, the importance of the former is monumental. The fact that Duchamp held an all-embracing attitude towards chance is perhaps the most prominent aspect of his work. Cage, on the other hand, is still quite unknown to me, and I am looking forward to getting a broader sense of his works and impact. For my part, the concept of chance remains quite important. In the projects I have developed in the past three years I have left part of the design to chance with, shall I say, mixed, but predominant success. It is with this in mind that I aim to look deeper into the art(y) references to understand the potentials of chance as an ingredient in an architectural exploration.

Below are some images from my thesis project LINE-POINT-FIELD where I used a Drawing Machine - essentially a table with a number of acrylic plates and a projected mounted at the bottom -  to distort and reproduce my original drawings. As a strategy to achieve a level of complexity that would be difficult to design, this tool did what I wanted it to. Bringing the table into the photo lab, I allowed the force of light to play a role in the process. Despite not using the drawings directly in my project, the logic related to the drawing machine became very important for the further conceptualisation.

49 percent

As expected, I haven't had time nor energy to write during the first phase of this project. Despite being a great way to clear your mind and sum up the workday, I simply don't find the time to write without it affecting my sleeping or leisure hours. Today, though, apart from being the first day of Easter and April fool's, is our half-time rest, giving my the chance to summarize the first 50 days of my diploma project. In brief, I am working on a hybrid park, a new kind of urban typology, in Beijing. Essentially a synthesis of recreational space (park), productive landscape (agriculture) and habitation (housing), the project rethinks an industrial zone and dried-out river in the west part of Beijing, and its junction with one of the city's main axes: Chang'an avenue. It all started in December last year when I was introduced to the area by my teachers at Tsinghua University, Ron Henderson and Brian Chang. Ron being a landscape architect, we were given in-depth knowledge about the region and its history, the Yongding river and Shougang steelworks. My pilot project in the urban design studio was a strategy based on the observations of the Chinese use of the axis as a way to organize buildings and complexes. By extending the Chang'an axis as a series of buildings instead of just extending the road, a new kind of identity could be given to the area, highlighting its environmentally abused surroundings by contrast.

In January, after returning to Copenhagen, I developed the strategy in my programme, written as a series of small essays on the history of Chinese planning, landscape architecture and public space, as well as analyses of precedents such as Parc de la Villette in Paris. The intention of the programme is to implement a developed strategy comprising two major layers: Fields and Locales. The locales is the string of new public functions along the axis and the fields make out the horizontal layer of recreational and agricultural space. The real challenge is to design the planning and development of these layers over time, essentially a kind of choreographed architecture that assumes its position halfway between top-down and bottom-up design strategies.

I started by documenting surrounding sites which describe some of the the programme of the new park; agriculture plots, the riverbed, hills, gravel pits, villages, industrial sites and housing communities. As I could get aerials from every year between 2002 and 2009, I could see how the sites have evolved over time and what forces are at play in the landscape (in a general sense). These registrations will be essential to the formal and conceptual development of the project. The first attempts to formalize these became very attractive, collapsing the layers into a complex weave of lines and solids. I used a custom-made table to superimpose the layers onto a sheet of paper or eventually photo sensitive paper, which I developed in the lab.

Finally I attempted the same approach in the virtual environment, superimposing the drawings onto my own site and making collage-like drawings that could give the same kind of suggestive complexity as the photo prints. Despite creating very compelling images, it didn't really work in line with my design strategy and I am now back at square one, struggling to find a method to draw and build my project in different stages of its transformation.

Concluding this first half, I am taking small steps only to go back to my original ideas. In general I am slowly understanding how NOT to work, that is, by producing beautiful images from research and using them in a formal way. Instead, I should focus on the genetics and behaviour of my "prototype sites". Which is, needn't be said, quite abstract.

Hopefully I will be able to contribute with some slightly more elaborated thoughts on the process further on.

A New Beginning

Swarm Intelligence I haven't blogged for a year! Now I'm not really sure whether the exclamation point was there to emphasize the positive or negative bias of this statement, I'll let that keep it hanging.

So, it's time to start again, since this is a good chance to log my experiences for the coming three months which constitute my Final Project. Let's just admit, prematurely, that I probably won't be able to follow myself as much as I'd like to. But that doesn't stop me from trying, does it? It would be a nice thing to be able to look back on my thoughts during bright and dark moments, written in deep presence.

Today I've been starting up the actual work, which seems slightly hard to grasp considering the size of the site and the fact that I don't know what I'm doing. And there has been troubles. Firstly, whenever I try to import the rather extensive dwg into rhino, it fails and crashes. Out of memory. Well, with so many calculations, I guess it's easy to forget. But it is an important step. I really need to get started on a model, whether physical or 3D, in order to understand the space within which I'll be working. Once I have a rough model I can start planning how to make it physical. But that's just one part of the plan.

The next part of the plan is to start trying a few different digital tools. Yes, I'm familiar with grasshopper and I think I could start do some basic scripting, but I am also realizing that what I am attempting to do - simulating variations in differentiated modules over time - is actually closer to animation than parametrics. So that's why I'm going to spend a few days to get started on Processing, a "programming environment that was created to make it easier to develop visually oriented applications with an emphasis on animation and providing users with instant feedback through interaction." Sounds cryptic? Well I'm not too sure myself. But I thought it could be worth trying out before I decide to drop my initial ambitions and focus on a more analog approach.

So let us see where this could lead! I'm looking forward to updating on a more regular basis, maybe even daily. But no promises that I can't keep.