USC Asia Architecture & Urbanism Study Abroad Program

Anywhere, Everywhere

The world of today is growing ever larger, yet paradoxically growing smaller simultaneously. The common man can now access everything in the world much closer both physically and virtually, and the scope of that reach has leaped tremendous bounds through telecommunications and technology. And it doesn’t just stop there; globalization has cultural and economic implications as well. Continued spread of cultural consciousness all embody an overarching goal to diffuse culture across the world. As such, more and more consumerist ideas are adopting technology and communication as a means to advance the proliferation of foreign products as a way to participate in the global culture. But the spread of globalization has its inherent consequences. A phenomenon that seeks to unify a largely diverse group of individuals into one singular, functioning society will have a large impact on the urban both on the physical and social levels. If the world is systematically being reduced, on the spatial front, as a result of increased mobility, Ibelings concludes that, “space itself is being steadily reduced to a zone that is traversed, an interval in a continuous movement interrupted at most for a brief stopover”. We all experienced this notion of spatial reduction on our first flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo. With merely a brief stop in Hong Kong, our 12-hour flight took us from one country to another, merely passing through several airport lobbies and train stations, spaces of “placeless-ness”. As such, the result is a loss of meaning within built structures. Spaces such as airports, bus terminals, subway stations are all transient spaces serving the modern, mobile person. The mere function is not for social gathering, but rather a nodal diffusion point within a broad network of transit oriented services. Thus, unlike post-modernism, which seeks to charge meaning into the built structure through contextualization, this new age of “Supermodernism” rejects that in favor of a more neutrality through non-places. With this in mind, it is conceivable to envision the future of cities within the era of globalization as conglomeration of service industries. Individualization of services and the autonomy of individuals in relation to the urban would totally affect the use of public/semi-public space as less and less “social”. These spaces do not function or act in the traditional way that perhaps a town center is used as meeting grounds; there is no “special attachment” that creates any meaning to it. If, in fact, places are charged through social interactions between individuals and memory, the contemporary notion of traversing through transition spaces creates non-places.

The modern man, as Ibelings puts it, is “constantly being bombarded with information” (abundance of signage). Whether it’s the virtual gamut of research we have at our fingertips, or the commercial intensity of neon signs we walked through in Kowloon, the global industry of commercialism seems heterogeneous from the observations we’ve conducted throughout the trip. The fact that we’ve seen McDonalds in every city and country we’ve been to so far, or that high end retail here still encompasses brands such as Prada, Gucci, etc. all speak towards the global nature of commerce. On the architectural/urban front, the consequence of such programmatic and social tendencies creates heterogeneous urban physiology in almost all major global cities. Ibelings states that contemporary architecture has lost all contact with context and is an, “architecture in which superficiality and neutrality have acquired a special significance”. As cities, more so nations grow to attract investments abroad, the tendency is to create a “branding” of sorts to showcase modern services. Architecture has become large, monumental, and stylized, a slogan for many countries to attract global attention. “Starchitects” like Rem, Gehry, Nouvel, and many others have captivated the world with architectural wonders of the contemporary age. China is now the new stage for supermodernism to play out itself within the urban developments sweeping across the nation. As both China and the rest of the world continue to globalize, it will be interesting to see the evolution of cities on the macro scale, as well as the development of the social and urban spaces within the micro.



Filed under: Architecture, China, Ibelings, Japan, Shanghai, supermodernism, Tokyo, Urbanism


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.



AAU FALL 2013:

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

Andrew Liang
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
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