"Cities, Grow in Difference" - First Press Conference of 2017 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (Shenzhen) Held in Shenzhen

Mar 20, 2017, Shenzhen - In the afternoon of Mar 20, 2017, the Organizing Committee of 2017 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (Shenzhen) held the first press conference in the press hall of Shenzhen Municipal Government. Present at the conference were Xu Chongguang, Deputy Secretary General of Shenzhen Municipal Government, Xu Rong, Deputy Director of Urban Planning, Land & Resource Commission of Shenzhen Municipality, representatives from the Organizing Committee members and the curatorial team. Themed on “Cities, Grow in Difference”, the Seventh Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (Shenzhen) (shorted as UABB) will be jointly curated by Hou Hanrou, the curator and critic, Liu Xiaodu and Meng Yan, both the founding partner of URBANUS and architect. 

UABB 2017 will open on Dec 15, 2017 at its main venue Nantou Old Town with the support and complement of the affiliated venues set up in the urban villages in Luohu, Yantian and Guangming. As a platform enabling in-depth concern, analysis and solution of urban problems, UABB’s focus on urban spaces like urban villages shares the same spirit of conserving historical buildings and continuing historical context as advocated at the Central Urban Work Conference and gives better play to its role as an effective booster for Shenzhen.


Exhibiting in urban village, the most important breakthrough of this UABB

UABB has for a long time paid attention to the urban villages. From the special unit of urban village in the first UABB in 2005 to further study on urban village in successive exhibitions, the important and positive role of the urban village in the urban and social structure and the possible improvement of the urban village have been discussed from multiple perspectives. Over the past decade, UABB’s researches on the urban village have somewhat influenced the public opinion, which has been shifted from the one-sided negative feeling and reshaping from the scratch to objective evaluation and environment improvement and upgrading.

The selection of the exhibition venue ranging from the old industrial area of OCT Loft Creative Culture Park, the public space like Citizen Square, the old factory in Shekou to Nantou Old Town, the public area that is significant in terms of history, culture, economy and society mirrors the UABB’s commitment to the city, which aims to trigger public discussion and social concern rather than invigorate only one factory or one area.

As the outcome of collision and fusion between rapid urbanization and the urban-rural dual structure in the planned economic period, urban villages have been preserved as a highly potential urban lab and breeding base for alternative lifestyles in contemporary times, where the new comers start to settle in the city. The curatorial team is uplifted by taking urban village as the exhibition venue and said in view of special environment of the urban village, they have to redefine and re-consider the exhibitions structure and experience. They expect to inspire more diversified and open-minded understanding and imagination on urban living and evolutionary pattern, thus think about the significant and value of urban life in a critical way.

Tailored for the urban village, the exhibition’s theme and contents also involve alternative urbanization experience and avant-garde experiment against global context. This UABB will highlight the site-specificity of the exhibition content and, in view of the distinctive spaces in urban villages, start from topics familiar in everyday life to conduct in-depth exploration and reflection on the urban villages. The approach of implanting the exhibition into the urban village and synchronizing with the latter’s organic regeneration is to regard the urban village as a starting point to seek the new urban growth mode instead of a mere subject of renovation. The urban villages and worldwide distinctive alternative practices will be put in juxtaposed into the interaction with the urban, architecture, art and culture for research and discuss, meanwhile, present the public an imaginative yet down-to-earth exhibition venue and mobilize to the greatest degree the public’s interest and participation in the UABB and urban issues from the aspect of presentation approaches, guided tour, public education and villager participation.


“Cities, Grow in Difference”, the call for a diversified and dynamic urban system

The 7th UABB in 2017 will theme on “Cities, Grow in Difference”. As the only worldwide biennale with the fixed theme of urban\architecture and commitment to the city and urbanization, UABB pays attention to the urban issues closely related to each person in China. According to the curatorial team, different from other biennales in the world, “UABB is not only an exhibition, but also the site witnessing the most drastic urbanization during the twentieth and the twenty-first century. From Shenzhen to the Pearl River Delta, cities in themselves are the biggest exhibition venues””.

Mobilized by power and capital, China’s city making has gone through a rapid development for over 30 years, and the city tends to be homogeneous and generic. In recent years, urban renewal, in a bid to improve quality of life, has further swept away time-honored historical areas and a hybrid urban life, which have been replaced by a globalized and commercialized standard configuration. Faced with this reality, the curatorial team calls for an urban concept of “coexistence”. In other words, it consciously resists the promise of an identical and idealistic future, as a city itself is a highly complex eco-system.

“Cities, Grow in Difference” means the hybrid growth on aspects of culture, society and space. Shenzhen is the conjunctive symbiosis of top-down rational planning and bottom-up spontaneous growth; urban villages reflect conjunctive symbiosis of city and village, reality and history, order and chaos, as well as mobility and creativity.  Nantou Old Town, as the main venue, is the heterogeneous symbiosis of a historical town and contemporary urban village. “Cities, Grow in Difference” carries the creativity, energy and passion of future generation. Breaking away from standards and codes, the free minds and vigorous and creative souls need to find a new habitat in the city. 

Themed on “Cities, Grow in Difference”, UABB 2017 is a platform for finding new theories, new experiments and new practices. It is a communication platform focusing on “discovering” instead of showcasing what has been accomplished. It is a constantly growing exhibition.


Art section firstly introduced to intervene urban life from a new perspective

Based on the previous field of Urbanism\Architecture, this is the first time we officially set foot in “art” exhibition, which includes three sections, i.e. Global | South, Urban | Village, Art: Making Cities.  

GLOBAL | SOUTH: provides the exhibition theme, “Cities, Grow in Difference”, with the background, views and standpoints to open up a discussion. Rooted in the Pearl River Delta represented by Shenzhen, UABB 2017 is to observe and discuss various topics regarding urban development from a southern perspective.

The topics under the section are presented in three sub-sections, i.e. World Settlement: Atlas of the Formation Mechanism of Human Community Adaptation, Southern World: Diverse reality| Practice and Criticism, and Lingnan, Hakka and Shenzhen, Diversity and Modernization.

URBAN | VILLAGE: is the major section for the analysis and relative exhibition of urban villages. It has built three sub-sections, which are Urban Village Archive, Urban Village Armory and Urban Village Lab, It aims to provides the future development of urban villages with knowledge, paradigms and platform for experimental transformation projects. . Meanwhile a special programme is provided, i.e. the Urban Village Club, which emphasized the participation of the villagers. By doing so, an interactive relationship between the exhibition and the urban village's daily life is embedded and established, and the dormant energy evoked.

ART: MAKING CITIES: “urban villages” (chengzhongcun) are the epitome where the modes of “people making cities” (renmin zaocheng) and “officialdom making cities” (guanfang zaocheng) mutually contest and advance. What is neglected and excluded by official urban planning models and systems are exactly the city-making mode that most embodies the vitality of life, out of which we seek inspiration and resources. The 2017 UABB introduces for the first time a series of projects involving the intervention of art into the city. These projects will leverage the vitality and creativity of contemporary art to intervene in urban living, trigger experiment based on experimentation and creativity, and eventually add a more vital, creative and open system to the classical architecture and city.


Exploring future of Shenzhen and Hong Kong at Nantou Old Town

Nantou Old Town had had Hong Kong, Macao, Dongguan and Zhuhai under its administration since the Jin Dynasty, until Hong Kong was looted from Xin’an County after the outbreak of the First Opium War in 1840. Therefore, holding UABB at Nantou Old Town in 2017 that marks the twentieth anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China is of particular historical significance.

Initiated in 2005, UABB has maintained a 10-year partnership with Hong Kong since 2007. Despite different exhibition mechanisms, Shenzhen and Hong Kong have maintained consistent cooperation and mutual learning in terms of exhibition contents and personnel exchanges. As the two cities are geographically interdependent, they are challenged by similar urban problems. The fourth UABB in 2011 included a special exhibit discussing the ecological and infrastructure problems faced by Shenzhen and Hong Kong; the one in 2013 themed on Urban Border also accommodated Shenzhen-Hong Kong special exhibitions and Value Farm to discuss the future of the border zone and learn urban experiences from each other. Through multi-angle cooperation and learning, UABB effectively updated the urban quality of Shenzhen and Hong Kong, strengthened partnership and win-win situation between them, and expanded Shenzhen’s international influence. Now UABB has already become an important measure of Shenzhen to implement national strategies like “The Belt and Road” and “Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area”.

In 2017 at Nantou Old Town where Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Macao stem from, we will continue our discussion about Shenzhen-Hong Kong cooperation and envision their future via architecture and art.


Intervening every corner of the city through multi-venue interaction

This year’s UABB will continue the sub-venue exhibition model. A number of local practice exhibition venues will be established in various districts of Shenzhen to showcase excellent local cases that respond to the theme and values of UABB. Via the curator system, quality exhibition contents on urbanism and architecture are disseminated to various districts and even communities, giving full play to UABB’s leading role as a platform encouraging discussions of urban issues.

Luohu Sub-Venue is placed at the early development area in the northeast of Sungang- Qingshuihe Area, with its research scope being expanded to along Guangzhou-Shenzhen Railway covering the entire urban area. The unique “urban exhibition venue” is composed of several urban villages, urban infrastructures, existing open urban spaces and commercial clusters. The theme of the exhibition is “Materials and Flow Regeneration”.

Yantian Sub-Venue is located in Dameisha Village, the only place in the vicinity where immigrant workers can afford their basic necessities amid rapid urbanization and tourism development. Through micro building renovation, the existing scattered spaces in the village are combed and integrated with the production mode and the villagers’ daily life for creative activities and exhibition. The intervention of art will be an experiment on another level. By means of planting and cooking, we will lead visitors into the public spaces and buildings of the village and present them devices, images and interactive works that are created in combination with the profound local cultural heritage, in addition to space and food production themed on “village market (is) kitchen”. Architects and artists will work in pairs to seek a brand new possibility of urban village renovation in the future, and leave a reference template of artistic lifestyle for Yantian.

Guangming Sub-Venue is to be held in Jingkou Community with the theme of “Revitalization of Jingkou – Reengineering a rural community amidst the high-density city”. Jingkou Community is a typical example of natural villages in Shenzhen. The exhibition intends to renovate the spaces of Jingkou and introduce events into the community to make it an example of urban village revitalization in Guangming New District, hence guiding the activation of the District’s network of villages and creating a cultural community integrating urban and rural life.


UABB is a constantly growing biennial. “Cities, Grow in Difference” is a series of different and independent exhibitions which flourish and generate interactions at every corner of the city.

Let’s expect the opening of 2017 UABB in this December!

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