Soft City - Forum, temporary pavilion and workshops

I am developing a project for Beijing Design Week 2016 called SOFT CITY, a multidisciplinary project including a temporary space made up of an inflated textile canopy, an international forum with two discussion panels, and a series of workshops and events in the pavilion.

For more information about the project visit soft-city.org

 First draft image of the Octopus Pavilion on site in Baitasi

First draft image of the Octopus Pavilion on site in Baitasi

 A more recent visualisation of the inflated conapy

A more recent visualisation of the inflated conapy

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WAM万物 at Beijing Design Week 2014

This year I participated in Beijing Design Week with my furniture brand WAM万物.  The showcase was set up in a small courtyard along Yangmeizhu xiejie in Dashilar. Together with my colleague Wula I wa finishing the 'Untitled' chair on site by weaving the polypropylene straps onto pre-made ashwood frames painted in corresponding colours. As a spatial intervention we created a light canopy using the same straps, suspended from one wall of the courtyard to the other in a random pattern. For the design week we made an edition of 22 chairs in six different colours. Aside from the normal side chair we also made two new models for the occasion, one slightly wider armchair and one even wider and lower lounge chair. Both seemed to be generating a lot of interest so they will most likely become part of the 'Untitled' collection.

In general we got a lot of visitors to our little off-the-main-track-courtyard; our location as the first exhibitor as they entered the yard gave us a lot of exposure, but we didn't succeed in selling any of the chairs during the week. As a first attempt at going public with WAM万物 it was still quite successful in generating publicity.

More information about the 'Untitled' chair can be found here.

 

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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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Table and chairs for WAM

  I have completed a new set of table and chairs for a client in Beijing. The pieces are prototypes but will be developed for production in the next few months.

EastWest

The table is called EastWest and echoes the architecture within which it will stand; one of Beijing's best preserved Qing dynasty courtyard houses in Heizhima hutong, just North of the IFP Studio. The name is also a reference to a book When East Meets West by Werner Blaser which draws parallels between the work of modernist Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and traditional Chinese and Japanese wood architecture. The table is made in pinewood, also frequently used in Japanese furniture, treated with wood oil and white pigment to keep the wood from turning yellow with time. The legs protrude the table top in the shape of crosses, which helps increase the contact surface between the top and the legs, as well as referencing Mies frequent use of the cross in building elements.

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Untitled

The chair Untitled is a simple dining chair made from solid wood, with the seat and back in nylon bands, normally used in clothing, bags and accessories. The entire frame is made from square profile ashwood, drawing inspiration from Donald Judd's minimalist furniture and Sol Lewitt's grid structures. I have adjusted some of the angles to provide more comfort for everyday use, and tapered the bottom of the legs to make the chair look lighter. The bands making up the seat and back are wrapped around the wooden frame several times in an ad hoc manner, to give a more complex texture to the chair. Compared to a wooden seat and back, the bands adapt to the body and allows for longer-term use.

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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.

re-iterate: Dashalar

 

Later this month, friend and colleague Jordan Kanter will be running a workshop in Beijing together with Gilles Retsin (AA-DRL, Kokkugia). The workshop will be based in Dashalar, one of the most dynamic and well-preserved parts of the historic city of Beijing. Collaborators are CMoDa, a platform for digital art and crafts, fronted by former NOTCH organizer Yang Lei.

More info below:

 

// Workshop Overview

Ecology of Objects In the course of this 10 day workshop, we will explore new techniques for mapping, cataloguing and intervening in the processes of development of the Chinese city. Working directly in the streets, alleys and buildings of the historic Dashila district in central Beijing, we will trace the particular patterns of inhabitation, use/reuse, production and exchange, documenting the ways these processes are materialized in the physical structures of the site. Working out from this “ecology of objects,” this workshop aims to explore new perspectives for activating, illuminating and informing new meaning to the everyday spaces of the city.

Participatory Mapping // Object Oriented Urbanism This work proceeds in two independent, but increasingly interwoven tracks: on the one hand, the revitalization of the Situationist approach of participatory mapping to unveil the underlying, often hidden dimensions of city identity, formation and logic; on the other hand, the development of a computational platform custom built in the Processing coding language, allowing for the visualization and manipulation of the various objects and elements – both concrete and ephemeral – encountered in the site. This begins an exploratory process into possibilities for reconfiguration, mutation, remediation, logistical reorganization, etc. in the building up of city form that is both historically grounded and radically new.

Exhibition @ CMoDA (Chinese Museum of Digital Art) + Beijing Design Week We will work directly with the agencies responsible for the development of the Dashila district to envision strategies for dynamic, iterative interventions into the fabric of the neighborhood. This will be an intensive, team-based effort with the aim of generating exhibition quality work. We will employ a variety of overlapping media (diagrams, maps, renderings, video, animation, interactive computer scripts, etc.) to communicate the logics, narratives and iterative systems at work. The results of this workshop (and a previous workshop held in Dalian) will be exhibited at the 2012 Beijing Design Week and the GeoCity Smart City exhibition at the China Museum of Digital Art (CMoDA). The workshop is open to architects, landscape architects, urban designers and planners, geographers, artists, filmmakers and anyone interested in the intersection of city development, computation and design. No coding experience required.

// Instructors: Jordan Kanter (SCI_Arc, FuturePlay), Guest Instructors TBD

// Techniques: Processing, Rhino/Vray, Illustrator/Photoshop, Geotracking/Geotagging, Basic Film Editing + Motion Graphics

// Sponsors/Collaborators: CMoDA, Dashila(b), 北京大栅栏投资有限责任公司 Beijing Dashilar Investment Limited, 北京广安控股有限公司及旗下的北京大栅栏投资有限责任公司 Beijing Guang’An Holdings and Beijing Dashilar Investment Limited

// Dates: 2012/08/22  –  2012/08/31

// Location: Beijing Shijingshan Electrical Relay Factory, No. 8 Dawailangying Hutong, Dashila’r  石景山继电器厂分厂8号

// Workshop Fee: 500 rmb

// Apply: send resume + work samples (under 2MB) to j.kanter@gmail.com

 

http://foundcity.blog.com/

Chinese Public Space Symposium

PROJECTING THE FUTURE FOR A CHINESE PUBLIC SPACE

- A symposium on the possibilities of a New Urban Realm

I am currently in the process of planning a symposium on the possibilities of a future Chinese Public Space. The aim is to start a multidisciplinary discussion about among those involved in the planning, design and realisation of China's future cities; their parks and landscapes. What are the possibilities for designing specifically "civic" spaces, belonging in the realm of society rather than for community or symbolic use?

Public space in China is a topic which crosses over into many other aspects of Chinese society; the political impact of the emerging middle-class, urban planning policies (or lack thereof), social stratification, congestion, urban cultural expressions and the emergence of a ‘virtual public space’ on internet sites, forums and microblogs.

In the Arab Spring and other forms of public mistrust towards political leadership, public spaces play a key role in providing a forum to meet and raise opinion, allowing political movements to gain momentum and eventually cause change. This fact has been, since the 1989 Tiananmen square protests, well noted among Chinese political leaders. As a consequence, urban designs of new Chinese cities often lack the kind of open, accessible squares and public meeting places found in urban centres around the world.

Before 1989, in cities designed during the Mao era, the Big Square typology was often introduced as a part of urban regeneration, to serve as a venue for political gatherings (for example during the Cultural Revolution), along with long and wide boulevards for military parades. In recent years these large squares spaces have often been invaded by commercial interests and become the staging ground for local governments’ self-promotion. At the same time, they have lost their public raison d’être as the urban population has found their place inside air-conditioned shopping malls. The boulevards have become highway-like traffic arteries for the ever-growing number of people moving around in cars, often dividing the city spatially and socially. We can see this development in Chinese cities of all scales and in every part of the country.

According to the German scholar Dieter Hassenpflug, the spaces of Chinese cities not belonging to either of two major institutions Family and Community are considered to be Open Space, which means that they belong to whoever claims them; for example cars, plants, trees, pedestrians, individuals or groups who use the vacancy for temporary activities such as dancing, tai chi, free markets etc. This typology is distinct from Public Space in the sense that its use is always negotiable, and the public - free individuals - have no universal right to it. This configuration is very different from the concepts of public space prevalent in Europe, and yet most of the architects and designers involved in the construction of Chinese cities have very little knowledge of this.

After a long period of negligence towards those spaces which still can be considered public, the growing middle-class is now at least beginning to attach greater importance to the size, design and safety of their urban environment. This is not to say that the space that these urban space are public in the sense of being civic, but instead they are often private spaces that have the appearance of being public (Example: Sanlitun Village, The Place, Jianwai SOHO). We can also see that China’s ageing population, which is increasingly urban, is putting high pressure on public parks, and making use of random open spaces such as memorial squares or generously sized sidewalks for playing music, dancing, playing boardgames and socializing.

This symposium aims to bring together the different stakeholders in the formation of China’s future urban and rural environments: Architects, landscape architects, urbanists, sociologists, anthropologists, historians, cultural theorists and activists, for a discussion and exchange of views.

Questions to be discussed: What new concepts can be formed to describe the different conditions of open space in China? What kind of urban spaces in China fit in to the Western description of Public Space and how? What are the consequences of the shifting of public communication from urban spaces to online social media? What role can designers really play in the reappropriation of the urban realm? Will Landscape Urbanism save Chinese public space?

Organiser: Institute For Provocation (Max Gerthel/Jordan Kanter/Chen Shuyu)