URBAN GORILLA

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USC Asia Architecture & Urbanism Study Abroad Program

How Free is Your City? or My Inability to Define Freedom within the Urban Realm

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I must admit that coming to China I had formed some preconceptions, though unfounded, they still made their way into my mind. The most prominent and most embarrassingly stereotypical was luckily the first to be challenged, almost immediately, through my Shanghai experiences. The notion centered on the idea of control. China due to its communist past, and the still centralized government’s  reputation, I imagined the population to appear slightly repressed upon arrival. My first journey into the city dismantled this view and replaced it with the opposite impression. The lack of control is most striking; the urban citizen is allowed to operate with a high level of autonomy, using the street as a truly public realm. From street vendors clustering around subway exits to temporal wet markets, the Chinese street has led me to question what constitutes freedom within the urban realm.

The level of public access that the Chinese urbanites have in the utilization of their streetscape is amplified by the juxtaposition of my past experiences. The United States, of course, is the counter pole of this activity but even the Japanese street wanes in comparison to the activity of China. The key difference between China and the other two nations seems intrinsically tied to levels of development. As a nation develops the occurrences that have made China so immensely interesting on this trip tend to disappear, the street becomes regulated, excluding uncontrolled activities. This trajectory of development seems to allude to a contradictory process: that as the city modernizes, moves toward a service economy, it becomes less free. Its inhabitants become more restricted, choice is diminished, regulation is imposed and enforced. Yet if one continues to compare and contrast say a city like Shanghai and Tokyo, it becomes apparent that freedom does not have a singular definition within the city but is something much more complex.

In Tokyo the population has given up a large amount of individual freedom and expression for the freedom of the larger whole. The immense conformity of the population, has allowed for an amazingly efficient, economically driven society to develop. But with the sacrifice in self-expression comes many benefits; most people can afford the consumerist lifestyle that drives society. Additionally the city is made democratic by the clockwork efficiency of its transportation system, creating a physically accessible city.

China’s current urban freedom, amplifies the opportunities of the individual. As a result of rapid urbanization the population must be given a large level of autonomy else the city would cease to function. The wealth distribution is too unequal to force the entire population to attain their goods and services from large, commercialized, global brands. The question now is how will freedom be defined as the Chinese city continues to develop. Given the statements of Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee concerning “human-centered-urbanization” and a “rebalancing of the economy,” the future is somewhat uncertain. Though human-centered-urbanization sounds as though it should support the microeconomic activity of the individual the rebalancing of the economy focuses on the need for the population to become more consumerist centric; therefore it could be argued that the Chinese government’s definition of freedom is that to consume. Yet it is more than just general consumption, for that occurs already , microeconomic activities are of course tied to consumptive needs, yet I believe consumptive centric development focuses of the creation of consumptive desires rather than only needs.

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Filed under: Desensitize, development, Freedom, individuality, pedestrians, public space, Street

Road or River?

I suffered my first few near death experiences in a taxicab on the roads of Shenzhen. The white, yellow, solid, and dotted lines seemed like some nice artwork someone had painted on the road. I lost count of the times a car almost turned directly into my passenger door. And as our cab driver swerved in and out of lanes as though weaving a rather elaborate rug, I clenched my hands, bit my lip, and wondered how on earth we were still alive.

As I continued to watch in between gasps of breath and my life flashing before my eyes, I began to notice that the traffic was acting like a fluid river. Like a river, the traffic had no breaks or gaps in the stream. As holes would open, cars would come fill the spots. If someone were turning, cars would simply go around. If the traffic began to be congestion, the cars would start doubling up in lanes or start driving on the shoulder much like a river getting blocked up.

I derived that the reason the cars didn’t hit each other through all their random bold movements was because all of the drivers on the road were extremely aware of each other. For every action a car had, all the cars around it would have a reaction.

The reason there is a heightened sense in all of the drivers is because of the city’s fast growth. The people of Shenzhen have not yet acquired what Simmel in The Metropolis and Modern Life refers to as the quantitative mind of the metropolitan. Their mindsets have not had time yet to evolve from the qualitative emotional village mentality to the calculative metropolitan mentality. The people don’t yet see other people as numbers.

In western metropolitans, the traffic is very orderly so that people have to think less about what other people are doing, in order to protect themselves from becoming overwhelmed by their environment, and can focus more on their own every day. However, the people in Shenzhen have a sense of others individuality and are very conscious of other peoples movements and paths.

This difference in mentality can also be seen in the simple way people use their vehicle horns. In a western metropolis, people use their car horns when someone cuts them off or does something out of the order of the road causing their conscious to break from the order and recognize someone else’s individuality. In Shenzhen, people use their horns as an informative tool to let other cars, buses, and bikes know of their position in the flow and causing the other vehicles to recognize their individuality. For example, when merging into a highway, a person from Shenzhen might honk letting the bike in the lane over know that they are now next to them. While in Los Angeles, the bike would honk at the merging car for coming in to close to them.

Though Shenzhen’s new fast growing economy has shown “dominance it has not truly shown a “inconsiderate hardness” that typically couples economic success. Though Shenzhen still holds its qualitative mindset, the upcoming generations may gain the quantitative metropolitan mindset.

 

-Alexis Dirvin

Filed under: AAU, Asia, Car, character, China, Circulation, development, Emotion, individuality, Psyche, Public Transportation, Shenzhen, streets, traffic, Transporation

Road to Individualism?

Collectivism emphasizes the interdependence of people in some collective group and the priority of group goals over individual goals. In the Chinese tradition, collectivism has long meant that an individual does not work to accumulate wealth for himself but rather for his family and for the community. However, as China begins to advance in its developments, it has also seemingly taken a more individualistic road towards its future. The government has slowly begun to reduce its grip on social and collectivist processes and new policies aid in creating a society in which capitalism serves as a leading social value such that personal wealth is becoming increasingly more important than other social values.

As Simmel notes in his essay, The Metropolis and Mental Life, there is a dynamic or dialectical tension between the individual and the society. For him, the greatest dilemma of modern society is that it frees individuals from historic and traditional bonds for greater individual freedom, yet at the same time, individuals are also experiencing a great sense of alienation within the culture of urban life. In big cities such as Hong Kong, we are constantly bombarded with an inflation of external and internal sensory stimulus: from the sweaty arm of a stranger that brushes against you as you cross the streets of Tsim Sha Tsui, to the overwhelming visual stimulation of signage that covers the view of the sky in Causeway Bay. The metropolis creates rapid crowding of changing images and sharp discontinuity in a single glance that fosters a situation where one must buffer him/herself from a constantly changing environment. This phenomenon can easily be illustrated with the subway scenes of Hong Kong, even though there seems to be little to no sense of personal space, no one seems to be bothered by the fact that there will always be someone brushing against them as they pass by. People simply sit quietly and stay to themselves on the subway, listening to music or playing with their smart phones. Everyone seems to be immersed in their own world: disengaged and isolated, tuned out to their bustling external environment.  And in turn, this protection manifests itself in the rise of logic and intellect where social interactions become rational and instrumental, with little considerations to emotional and personal concerns. Everything in the city becomes measurable and calculated; qualitative value is reduced to quantitative. Things therefore have no intrinsic value and are instead measured by the external objective value of money, time and power, yielding what Simmel calls “blasé”, a superficial and indifferent mentality to the people living within it.

HK subway: immersed in their own world

This mentality is also manifested in the built environment around these cities. Like the urban village, Huang Gang, in Shenzhen, we learnt that the villagers decided to tear down all the old village houses to construct new 5 to 6 storey buildings with commercial spaces located at the bottom, so that they can rent them out to different tenants for greater revenue. Little of the old fabric was maintained, and instead is replaced with generic looking low-rise village buildings, commercialized to maximize profit. Another example of this mentality is visible through the restoration efforts of the BaoMo Garden in Panyu. Described as “one of the new top eight sights in Panyu” on its information pamphlet, this “National class AAAA scenic spot” has been restored to the point where nothing seemed authentic anymore. In fact, it almost felt very theme park-like – with traditional Chinese music playing through the speakers located everywhere in the garden, the out-of-place European street lamps, the flashing light bulb eyes for the stone dragons that spurt water out of their mouths, and the vendors that tried to sell you souvenirs and fans at every turn of the corner – everything about the place was so marketed and commercialized that it seems to have somewhat lost its sense of cultural heritage.

However, in spite of all these consequences of individualism, there are still efforts, such as the Urban-Tulou by Urbanus and the “Di Wu Yuan” housing development by Vanke, made to reinstate the sense of collectiveness within our society. These projects are designed to help preserve community spirit among low-income families by inducing greater opportunities for social interaction through the attention paid to the design of their public spaces. According to Urbanus themselves, the Urban-Tulou project also explored ways to “stitch the tulou within the existing fabric of the city”.  This idea can be illustrated in the way the project comes in contact with the ground plane – by lifting the housing units on the first floor to free the ground floor for through-access commercial uses, it allows the spaces to be accessible to both the residents of the project as well as the community around it; expanding the sense of collectiveness to the greater community. It is always nice to see projects such as these that are made to induce collectivism within a seemingly individualistic modern society where everyone is preoccupied with work and with the accumulation of personal wealth. One can only hope that the idea of collectivism in China will not be left behind at the expense of the accumulation of wealth, and that more projects with an agenda on community spirit will be developed in the future to counter-balance the forces of individualism.

Grandparents and children playing in the parks of Di Wu Yuan

– Jeanette

Filed under: Collectivism, community, development, individuality, Materiality

New and Old

Urbanism looks at new possibilities for the built environment, by adding different ingredients to the community that allow the area to become richer, and better suited for its occupants. This approachis typically looked at from a blank slate, but as we continueto build, at one point there will be nowhere else to go. This will force us to go in and reevaluate what has already been built, and re-imagine the possibilities of what once was.

China’s balance of new and old has really given China a very eclectic built environment. In the bund area skyscrapers of modern steel and glass, tower over the historic fabric of the different concessions that line the Huangpu River. This contrast of what has been preserved, compared to what has been newly imagined and conceived creates this beautiful tension that China is facing today. China is a country with immense amount of culture and tradition, especially Shanghai. Time has been one of the most beautiful artists, and Shanghai’s multitude of layers has been its creation. In many ways Shanghai’s built environment is a visual timeline of Shanghais history and architectural influences.

This is the current situation, but as China continues to push forward on their economic binge, the past may no longer be as significant. History may not be able to produce the $$$ that is in developers eyes. The government in China is still the owner of the land, but has started a new leasing strategy that allows selected developers to lease the land for about 70 years. The government requires the piece of land to perform within three years of the lease, which pressures developers to build, and build quickly. Performance typically comes in the form of $$$, and the easiest way to make $$$ is by leasing out as many spaces feasibly possible. With this approach older fabric has been “carpet bombed”, and redeveloped as monotonous housing towers, shopping malls, and commercial centers. This new trend has already started to create an over saturation in the market, and as the government leases out more land, the fabric starts to become a homogenous high-density jungle.

The interesting part of this over saturation is that it has diminished the supply of the older low-density fabric. This constant balancing act between the old and the new, has created a higher demand for older fabric, which has interestingly allowed the older fabric to be “preserved”. This fabric though is not necessarily preserved in the traditional European sense, many times it has been left alone, for the owners of the lease have realized the value of its history, and have inflated the value too high for developers to see any benefit. The over inflated price has created a stagnant condition for the fabric, which has allowed it to deteriorate over time. This old courtyard typology has also been segmented up into many different spaces, to lease out low-income units. The irony of the situation, really creates this very beautiful, but conflicting condition of preservation.

This event starts to question the importance of preservation within a city. Looking at historic European cities, we see the extreme side of preservation. This mentality of keeping the old has allowed the cities to become figuratively frozen in place, as time continues onward. This condition has stunted cities growth, and ability to modernize and reinterpret urbanization.  Aldo Rossi questions what is the real benefit and understanding of the existing tangible. In Architecture and the City he comments, “In an urban artifact, certain original values and functions remain, others are totally altered; about some stylistic aspects of the form we are certain, others are less obvious. We contemplate the values that remain— I am also referring to spiritual values—and try to ascertain whether they have some connection with the building’s materiality, and whether they constitute the only empirical facts that pertain to the problem. At this point, we might discuss what our idea of the building is, our most general memory of it as a product of the collective, and what relationship it affords us with this collective.”  Shanghai is a perfect precedent for this confliction. On one side of the argument, Chinese mentality questions what is the true value of the building as an object itself? There is more importance in the location, rather than in the object. The various European influences, demonstrates the importance of the building’s materiality and face, which gives a certain character to the various concessions.

In my opinion there is value in both, and a balancing act has to be played. To preserve the city in its current state, is denying its opportunity to become something even greater. On the other hand history provides a sense of identity and culture. Shanghai’s current balance has allowed the city to become an eclectic combination of old and new, giving it a truly unique diversity that is stripped from many cities. Its ability to be modern, and still posses traits of its past, is a unique balance that cannot come from instant cities. While Shanghai continues to push forward, it would be a real shame for Shanghai to loose its older fabric and redevelop more of the same, for the beauty is in the layers.

Ross Renjilian

 

Filed under: Aldo, Architecture, bombing, carpet, character, China, development, Fabric, Identity, new, old, preservation, Renjilian, Ross, Rossi, Shanghai, Urbanism, , ,

Mediating the City

Major Chinese cities like Shanghai and Beijing have seen an exponential growth in their population since the advent of farmers and rural people moving into the city.  Because of this increase, developments of housing and retail have taken priority over much of the old fabric of these two cities.  Robert A.M. Stern’s Urbanism is about Human Life advocates reusing cities and make them better rather than making new ones.  The decision to preserve the Hutong [Beijing] and Lilong [Shanghai] given them a new life geared towards tourism and higher property value.  Places like Xintiandi [New Heaven Earth] and Tianzifang in Shanghai have a historic allure that draws the tourists and wealthier Chinese.  However, Xintiandi has been revamped to an area where tourists want to stay, while Tianzifang is the remaining old fabric that tourists visit.  When looking at the growing fabric of Shanghai, Tianzifang sticks out like a sore thumb with its complicated, disorganized, and densely compacted structures surrounded by new massive housing and retail developments around it.  Despite its age, Tianzifang strangely works with the growing environment around it because the intimately scaled Lilong mediates the overcasting structures looming near it.

Upon entering Tianzifang, I was greeted with a newly completed shopping mall that had a sky bridge stretching across one complex to another, framing the smaller scaled Lilong of Tianzifang.  Tianzifang had small boutiques, cafes, and restaurants lining the first floor, but around 5pm, the smells of food permeate through the alleyways as the residents who live above the shops prepare for dinner.  Walking through Tianzifang, my vision was focused on the street and where each arm would take me.  Some led to dead ends, while others led to the smaller alleyways with overhead cafe’s and restaurants.  The scale of these buildings were around 3 stories tall, but the floor heights were around 7-8′. The width of the alleys [especially those without bikes] did not exceed 8′.   The scale proved to be effective in concentrating all the views into the alleyways, surrounding and transporting  me into a completely different world.

There were a few moments when I was able to see the office tower or the housing structures, but they were mediated by the scale of the Lilong to show only the top portion of the building.  This made the building seem like it was floating in the air and even more like I was in a fantasy world.  I continued to wander the alleys for another because Tianzifang relieved me from the megablocked and fast paced city into a more scaled down, digestible, and relaxed setting.  Because the open plaza’s scale is proportionate to that of the high rise towers, it fails to serves its purpose as a relief space.  Rather, it makes the user feel trapped and surrounded than free.  The Lilong, with its limited amount of walking and pubic gathering space used the scale of the open sky to offset its compacted nature.

I had the opportunity to explore one of the units that was currently being renovated.  There was a small small room that was for receiving people and had a centralized stair.   As I proceeded up the stairs, rooms and balconies branched off from the circulation.  I went towards the second level balcony to see what the view was, but a 7′ wall blocked my lateral view and focused my attention towards the sky.   Even within each house, the view was introverted.  However as I proceeded to the third floor balcony, I saw the rooftops and housing towers rise up.  This was the first moment since walking into the Lilong that I could see the extent of the developments that were surrounding it.

When the Lilong was designed, it could not have possibly planned for this sort of future with towering developments and shopping malls.  Tianzifang’s introverted focus successfully filtered the overbearing surroundings and managed give itself a new second life.

_Joyce

Filed under: Architecture, China, development, mediation, Scale, Shanghai, Tianzifang, Urbanism

What is it all Worth?

Having spent almost two months in China by now, I have witnessed on a daily basis the remarkable extent to which this nation is growing.  Three times a week I ride the world’s most extensive subway system into the city center for studio.  By 2020 the system is projected to double in size.  Last month I attended the Shanghai Expo, which drew more people in five months than any other in history.  On one day in October, over one million people flooded its grounds.  In Beijing I visited the site of the 2008 Olympics where the Chinese government spent roughly 40 billion dollars, over twice the expenditure of any other Olympics in history.  And just last week I viewed Shanghai form the world’s highest observation deck atop a Pudong skyscraper.  Within a matter of two years it will be substantially eclipsed – by a building under construction across the street.

If it sounds as though I am belaboring my point, that is my intention.  Economists no longer debate whether the PRC will surpass the United States in economic might, but whether this will occur closer to 2030 or 2040.  Political thinkers no longer debate whether China is the next world superpower but whether, once fully developed, it will eclipse the United States in its military dominance and space exploration.  All of this is sure to guarantee the next few decades of global politics will be endlessly fascinating, and no doubt a bit scary for Americans content with the current world order.

But one question keeps coming back to me every time I consider China’s development: what is it all worth?  That hundreds of millions of people will rise from poverty level to the middle class is a victory for all of humanity, but will individual Chinese born into this newfound wealth be better off for it?  If precedent is any indication, the answer is not as simple as we may like to believe.

Citizens of developed countries across Europe and North America have access to the kind of wealth, education, healthcare, and opportunity that rural Chinese now seek for their children. Despite this, disenchantment with the human condition persists.  One in ten Americans suffers or has suffered from depression according to WebMD.  And Medical News Today reports that 40 million Americans deal with anxiety and stress on a daily basis.  Are the children of the Baby Boom generation, born into a Post-War era of phenomenal growth in the United States, any happier as adults than their parents who lived through the Great Depression?  By comparison will Chinese children of today, born into a country on the verge of developed status, find a great deal more fulfillment in their lives than those who came before them?  My suggestion is not that the answer to these questions is no, but that increases in wealth and technology elsewhere have often introduced as many problems as they have solved.

Matt Luery

 

Filed under: China, development, Growth

Going Astray for…

Beijing’s 798 is one of China’s contemporary art districts supported by a broad range of art galleries, cafés, artist studios, bookstores, and shops. Before entering 798, I considered the irony of Beijing, being the capital of Communist China and control center of censorship, allowing social commentary charged art to be displayed. Upon entering the first gallery, every piece of art had commentary on Chinese culture, past and present. I continued through 798, and immediately stopping the Cuba Avant-Garde art show. After seeing waves of galleries displaying Chinese artists, why was it that Cuban art was able to make it to 798?

I wandered into the Xin Dong Cheng art space seeing a various display of Cuban art, understanding that most pieces had a social commentary on the Cuban socialist government. I was drawn to Rene Francisco Rodriguez pieces because of its simplicity, but its high attention to detail.

This first piece displays a monochrome composition of people forming the Cuba with a stray figure wandering off to the right corner. Upon looking closer at the drawing, everything was composed of Q-tip sized dots for each person’s head, body, and legs. Rather than painting the background gray and dotting the people in, the artist painstakingly dotted every square centimeter of the canvas, making it impossible to ignore his intention for doing so.

The dotted paint seemed to represent the idea of socialism and everyone being equal. From far away, the picture appeared as a nicely shaded island of Cuba, indicating the country as a whole unified piece. Looking closely, the human figures appear to illustrate that Cuba is composed of individuals for the same good of socialism. However, what about the Stray veering off to the right?

Socialism on paper seems like a viable political concept. But in reality, not everyone is content with its agenda and outcome. Equality is great, but how much do you have to give up in order for everyone to be at the same level? How much are people willing to sacrifice for the common good? The stray figure symbolized the individuals who weren’t able accept the socialist Cuba and left for another life, deeming themselves as outcasts of the whole picture of Cuba. Perhaps the author sees himself as this single person, using art as a way to display his feelings towards Cuba’s communist regime.

From this analysis, I started to draw connections to China. The most obvious similarity is their communist government. Both countries underwent a transformation that affected the overall lifestyle of their citizens and many fled to other countries to pursue a better life. However, since then, China has had a different interpretation of Socialism than Cuba and has yielded extreme development results. Cuba’s growth has not evolved to that of China’s and perhaps gives many individuals like the artist frustration that the whole country can’t seem to progress further. It may have also been the intention of the curator to show very subtly the uncertainty and perhaps negative aspects of communism through the Cuban lens.

Looking at China’s fast pace of development, there is a mix between Communism and Capitalism. Few would say that China is completely socialist, but many policies like the lack of land ownership still remind people of its overarching communist stance. In America, we pride ourselves for having freedom of speech and press, but when these rights are challenged, there is a notion that people don’t necessarily have the liberty to express their opinions. We also pride ourselves on democracy, which is seldom seen because few policies are decided to benefit the people. As a communist country that has extreme censorship and human rights issues, China has been able to benefit its people with infrastructure, while America the Free is busy with airline companies lobbying against high-speed rail. The rate of progress for China has increased exponentially while the United States’ has slowed to a snail pace if not halted in the past decade.

The Stray in the painting is leaving Cuba, but where is it going? At this point the communist/capitalist hybrid system of China produces results while the United States, which advertises freedom and democracy, is stuck in a development slumber. Will the stray turn back, go to a country that has a similar system, but yields results, or a country that “promises” liberty?

_Joyce

Filed under: America, Beijing 798, Capitalism, China, development, promises, Reality, Rene Fransico Rodriguez, social commentary, socialism

Freedom vs. Freedom

As a result of the 1997 Sino-British Joint Declaration, contemporary governance in Hong Kong has much in common with Western nations.  A market driven economy and personal liberties are key components of the ‘one country, two systems’ resolution, which is to last until at least 2046, fifty years past transfer of sovereignty from the United Kingdom to China.  What happens after this is anyone’s guess, but for the time being freedom of press guarantees uncensored media, a highly effective guard against government corruption and abuse of power.  Ditto for free speech and assembly, which empower residents to organize and voice concerns in a democratic manner.  With the exception of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, who is appointed by Beijing, all political positions are subject to popular vote and the people’s universal suffrage mandated by law.

Yet despite Hong Kong’s freedoms and high quality of life, Chinese increasingly view the territory and its politics as passé at a time when freedom and opportunity of the economic variety exist to a far greater degree in dozens of booming mainland cities.  Shenzhen is directly adjacent to Hong Kong on the mainland and has grown from a farming village to a city of 15 million over the last three decades while its neighbor has remained practically stagnant.  The question this begs is why would any profit-seeking developer consider working in a city that protects 75% of its limited land supply and subjects every project to environmental scrutiny when he could simply negotiate with politicians to build the same thing faster and cheaper on the mainland?

China’s rapid industrialization, abundant land supply, lack of bureaucracy, and ballooning middle class create an unparalleled opportunity for profitable development and constitute a new kind of freedom unmatched in the Western world.  From Steven Holl’s Vanke Company Headquarters in Shenzhen, to OMA’s CCTV in Beijing, and a host of other Chinese projects commissioned to European and American architects, the pull of this new freedom is something Westerners must now reconcile.

A black and white reading trumpeting the benefits of liberal democracy and the downfalls of communism (or quasi-communism, as in the case of China) leaves out a grey area in the middle from which we have much to learn.  A heavy-handed centralized government has brought hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in China, and we as Americans would be obstinate to avoid considering the merits of such an approach, or at the very least using it as a springboard for a bit of national reflection.  Exactly what constitutes freedom or a high quality of life could be argued in much the same subjective manner as the architectural merits of a building or the urban merits of a city, and there’s nothing quite like a challenge to the status quo in spurring progress. To simply remain complacent and ignore this challenge altogether though is one mistake the United States cannot afford to make.

Matt Luery

Filed under: America, China, development, Economics, Freedom, Politics

Lambo Effect

After visiting 798 creative industry in Beijing, there was one sculpture that caught my eye. The sculpture was a model of an old school Lamborghini, Finally art that speaks my language. Instead of the model being covered in Lambo yellow, it was patterned with a multitude of bright colors. As I stepped closer I realized that it was not actually paint, rather it was plastered in Lottery Tickets.

The sculpture, by “Ghost of A Dream”, is a reflection of wealth promised by the lottery. Each object in the exhibit represents a familiar, western symbol of wealth that people can easily associate with. Creating these objects out of scratched lottery tickets represents individual’s monetary hopes being followed by their frustrating loss. This philosophy is backed by Western’s obsession with the pursuit of happiness through materialistic goods. Displaying this piece in China, a country that is fascinated with western way of life, reflects a universal frenzy for consumption.

The drive for consumption is created by the free market, and the ideas of  creating a government driven by corporations and consumerism. This model created industrial revolutions, which sky rocketed America’s economy, power, and influence through modernization and development. As a country, America started to understand that it cannot consume forever, and currently the economy is faltering due to over consumption and free market faults.

China currently is going through a very similar growth model that America has previously been through. The political model of communism is starting to take on more of a free market approach in China, and the “American Dream” model is starting to become much more prevalent in the east. This rapid development and modernization in China has already started to create a free market, in which many western values are being used as precedent. In order for China to grow as a country they are going to also have to consume.

What is starting to create tension with the idea of consumption is that resources are already starting to dwindle. Wars have been fought over oil control, and the amount of pollution that has been pumped into the environment is starting to make areas inhospitable. When we start to compare numbers, America is a country of 310 million people compared to China’s roughly 1.4 billion people, the idea of scale starts to come into play. America is starting to realize that the “American Dream” model is not necessarily a practical mindset for a world where resources are limited. America’s dependence on the car has started to create congestion and a market dependent on the price of oil. Oil is only one of numerous resources that are starting to vanish, and in the future different resources will become higher in demand.

We can only predict the impact of western values possessed by the east, and in many ways we can only hope that China learns from America’s faults as opposed to mimicking them. With the argument that America had its chance to develop, and now it is China’s turn, we already see the immaturity of the situation, and this is the part that starts to get serious. China’s search for quantitative and economic power has really been the driver for this western, free market ideology. As cities in China start to get covered in smog, this is not necessarily viewed as a problem rather as progress. Factories begin to pump out more and more products, and the instant result is that China becomes more powerful and modernized. This mentality ultimately creates the effect of 1.4 billion people searching for their yellow Lamborghini, and we can only hope they will be hybrid.

Ross Renjilian

Filed under: 798, AAU, America, American, Art, China, Creative, development, Dream, Free, Industry, Lamborghini, Market, Modernization, Politics, Renjilian, Ross, Urbanism, , ,

Kenneth Frampton’s Urbanism Lecture Conclusion at Hong Kong University

We had the privilege to see Kenneth Frampton at Hong Kong University, and the following is his main points about urbanism and the megaform. Frampton critiqued, analyzed, and demonstrated many different forms of megastructures located within larger city plans, and what their role will be in the future of urban development. These last ten points help summarize the ideas covered throughout the lecture, and give an understanding of the challenges for urban designers and architects.

Ross Renjilian

Filed under: Architecture, China, cities, development, Frampton, Hong, Kenneth, kong, mega structure, megaform, points, Renjilian, Ross, ten, University, Urbanism, ,

ABOUT THE AAU PROGRAM

The views and opinions contained in this blog are solely those of the individual authors and do not represent the views and opinions of the University of Southern California or any of its officers or trustees.

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PHOTOS FROM THE TRIP

AAU FALL 2013:

University of Southern California
School of Architecture
Asia Architecture and Urbanism
Study Abroad Program

Director:
Andrew Liang
Instructors:
Bu Bing
Steven Chen
Yo-Ichiro Hakomori
Andrew Liang
Yuyang Liu
Neville Mars
Academic Contributors:
Thomas Chow, SURV
Bert de Muynck, Movingcities.org
Manying Hu, SZGDADRI, ITDP, Guangzhou
Clare Jacobson, Design Writer, Editor, Curator
Laurence Liauw, SPADA, Hong Kong
Mary Ann O'Donnell, Shenzhen Noted, Fat Bird, Shenzhen
Paul Tang, Verse, Shanghai
Li Xiangning, Tongji University, Shanghai
Students:
Daniel Aguilar
Hong Au
Michael den Hartog
Caroline Duncan
Nefer Fernandez
Christian Gomez
Isabelle Hong
Jin Hong Kim
Ashley Louie
Javier Meier
Paula Narvaez
Ashlyn Okimoto
Tamar Partamian
Samuel Rampy
Luis Villanueva
Krista Won
Tiffany Wu