URBAN GORILLA

Icon

USC Asia Architecture & Urbanism Study Abroad Program

To Plan Efficiently is to Plan Proactively

Adjusting to China has taken some time, to say the least there are some deep nostalgic feelings longing to return to Tokyo. From personal observations, Shanghai is not as uniform as Tokyo in a sense of having a clear manner of going about the everyday, yet the city as a whole works as a cohesive unit. There is an existing chaotic order that allows the city to function everyday. The bottom up agenda gives lead way for a loose mindset, meaning that there are no set rules, but rather there is much more responsibility for the individual to conclude each and every decision. When crossing the street, oncoming cars are not scared to challenge the pedestrian, whereas in the States, it is law that pedestrians have the right of way. Interestingly, the city facilitates people’s way of life.

Shanghai holds a strong market force driven by solely the economy. Following a westernized marketing strategy where marketing culture has become prominent. Routines are facilitated by the city where there is an awareness of what is happening and done in our daily lives that then facilitate what we do and how we use the city. In Shanghai, there is a chaotic order but there is still no difference in how actions are played out. The generic fabric is dilapidated but this is in due part because Shanghai is a few decades old. The city works the same way here in Asia, but differently in the West. Walking down the street may be an easy task as it does not impact our ability to complete it. For example without using a car for transit, the task at hand can still be done while in Los Angeles, the distance of programs makes it difficult; the systems facilitate the ability to tap into certain programs due to the infrastructure makeup. These programs impact our lives, as the ability to obtain something can be a simple arbitrator. The advanced technology facilitates our mobility as the methods of transit allow to physically and mentally go to another place. To physically experience the act of travel assimilates “the real”.

The importance about programming in a shorter more decentralize way is to keep a sustainable marketing agenda. Here in Shanghai it is possible to make a living on the streets as a street vender. The concept of a mobile program is plausible. Equivalent to the food truck craze in the United States, the theoretical engagement between the behavior of the city and the social prove that there is no need for a required infrastructure. Arguably there is more social and cultural engagement between the vender and customer. This idea of mobile programming allows room for open dialogue between the two also blurring the existing boundaries of the formal and informal infrastructure. The streets are a part of the social infrastructure where the activities begin to blur the public and the private merging the activities. The systems of the social are no spectacle but simply just life.

10/19/2013 Paula M Narvaez

Filed under: China, Shanghai, , , , ,

History and Innovation

Culture is constantly shifting; there is a dynamic exchange happening. Kyoto is a cultural repository of culture in Japan. With a panoptic stance, Kyoto can be seen as an implicating and contaminating culture within Japan. The modern mixed with the traditional, displays the deep-rooted sense of history held within the city as well as how the city is dealing with the introduction of new wave of architecture into their building fabric. Shrines still stand in their original site, authentic and genuine, reverend by the locals. The notion of time reflects looking back into history allowing the culture to grow and become more of a form of knowledge as it becomes engrained into the locals. The involvement of innovation, where the gained knowledge is become instilled, detaches itself from a myth-based society due to the notion of the culture seizing to be factual but rather temporal and changeable. Looking forward becomes the base principle of that permanence within society. Once we become part of history, today we live in the present while tomorrow has its historical meaning, it has past so immediately we would not consider it in the past but eventually it becomes ancient. Culture can only be there as part of history if in fact we accept that culture is involved in the innovation process. The culture is constantly at a loss because it is caught between the searches for the reconciliation within our minds of our presumptions of Japan. As we settled into Shinagawa, our brief home stay, we were fully immersing ourselves into the everyday lifestyle in Japan. We each developed a daily routine and acknowledged our surroundings that became something familiar to us rather than foreign and unknown. We get into the idea of the “everyday”; we take the same path and every aspect of the city now has an embodiment of the thought of non-thought.

With technology, a detachment from traditionalism, a society is perceived as conformist yet it operates entirely on the other spectrum. The necessity is that we as participants need to transcend to embrace the contraction and the complexity which will offer more in holding onto the myth based agenda where we can observe and analyze. A city like Paris is encapsulated in a historical sense where the people are completely content with their city yet frustrated that there is no push forward; it is historically relevant to the people. As culture moves forward in time through the idea of modernization, it is simultaneously becoming less unique. It is rendered to become homogeneous where essentially once the discipline becomes monotonous or specialized, exposure to anything else becomes very slim. As we move towards society of spectacle, we must question whether a culture is being used in the process of creating the spectacle. We must ask ourselves why is each neighborhood made to be highlighting a certain aspect. Culture is a commodity of how society came to be a spectacle, and now that we have this knowledge, it is difficult for society to work outside of this notion.

09/18/2013 Paula M Narvaez

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , , , ,

Identities + Differences

“A life in boundless pursuit of pleasure makes one blasé because it agitates the nerves to their strongest reactivity for such a long time that they finally cease to react at all”

The city as a leader creates spectacle in a sense that the city is not only seen as an object but rather as a transformation of a place. The city provokes lives through the unique narratives created by itself, the people, and the culture. The spectacle and the phenomenon, or stimulations, relate to the normal and extreme. Tokyo is seen as a conforming society, where everything needs to regenerate in order to keep its set system from collapsing. The rules of engagement are set in place to drive order. No one deviates away from the law to do individual thinking; they simply just follow it.  The importance of being an individual within a city is to take on the role as an observant. By doing so, a larger understanding can be created through the stimulations. The idea where the blasé can either become more personal but with the consequence of being more conforming to society versus the blasé being less personal but with more room for individualism is solely up to the individual.

In a city like Tokyo, culture takes on a large role in deciphering the evolution of its dynamic. The city does not revolve around one culture but rather the city is a culture.

Within the conformed society, there are subcultures delved within the generic. The white collar business man seen walking to his destination on any given work day blends in among the mass canvas of other identically dressed neighbors packed into the subway station. The Pachinko Gambling centers offer a moment of spectacle where the businessman can create their own worlds within these loud, colorful, ornate alternative havens. Once they obtain their fulfillment they step outside the doors to once again enter the conventional world. The idea of the normal versus the extreme reflects the mental engagement of the individual within society. The Takeashita Dori in Harajuku offers an opportunity for the individual to express their personalities through fashion. Their choice of fashion displays a physical and tangible personal statement giving the opportunity to stray away from the collective. Efforts are made to be different and defy the silent rules set within society.

Attempts are made at simplifying the complexity, in this case the layers of culture. In terms of the generic versus the individual, some cases call for systems where people must be seen as a collective otherwise they will fail. Rules then become the main driver in defining the system as the dynamic evolves. The Ise Shrine located in Ise City, is rebuilt every twenty years where one site is torn down as its neighboring site is built on. The tradition is held neither through writing nor orally, but through the act of building. The heritage is found within the body of the building where the concept of wabi-sabi is implemented; the Shinto belief that death and renewal are temporary. Thus by erecting the shrine, the symbolism of the connection between ancient sacred traditions to the present lives on.

09/10/2013 Paula M Narvaez

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , , ,

Social Class Struggle

     Shifts within the global economy have generated the manner in which the land is used including the rearrangement of residential neighborhoods or in the case of Shenzhen, the urban villages. Urban villages are pre-existing villages where the city has infiltrated its surrounding by building around them. With aims to reform and improve rural living standards, urban villagers simply wanted to ease into the urban rather than have higher income and social influence. Whole villages are being torn down and replaced by redevelopment housing ranging from mid-rise to high-rise where in many cases migrant villagers cannot afford the new rent.

“Class struggle” where the government ignores the demands of the residents has established social hierarchies. Consequently urban development is affected by the class struggle. The speed of redevelopment reflects the desire of “wanting” to take over as a dominant role within the global economy. The market has invaded the way we live and what shapes our cities thus there is an immediate need to build. Speed acts as a conceptual driving tool for the market force. Yet the social construction of cities relies on a balanced ecosystem. There must be different socio-economic statuses in order to run a functioning system.

The city as a whole triggers the emotion attached to experiences. The city is constantly changing along with the social engagement. Culture shapes form similarly to the constant morphology of a city; both are ever changing. But one may ask how does one see through the layers over time to gain an authentic essence of the city? As cultural engagement changes including people and the architecture, the urban process becomes evident.

Initially an economic experiment with political intent, Shenzhen proved to redefine the definition of a city. Within thirty years, the population of Shenzhen went from 35,000 residents to 14,000,000, becoming an instant city essentially overnight. The land is fertile due to its close proximity to the Pearl River Delta, which made the area fall under a desirable condition of urban emergence. From rice fields the area was flattened out to provide land for factories and housing. The new metropolis came into existence with no intermediary paving landscape into large highways. The new expansion created transit features and access to capital. Globalization became an ultimate agglomeration. Improving the general standards of living, reforming collectivism and opening Chinese markets, Shenzhen became what it is today, a market driven urbanization that governs and sustains the economy. The question is, should this define or influence the future development of cities? As of now, a city that is inching its way closer to a utopian lifestyle is proving that this may be the route to take.

11/25/2013 Paula M Naarvaez

Filed under: China, Shenzhen, , , , , , ,

The Symbiosis Between Information Technology and Cultural Interactions

“While advances like the telephone and automobile clearly had wide-ranging impacts on the twentieth-century city, the recent wave of information technology promises to prove many more”- Scott Page and Brian Phillips, Urban Interfaces Designing the In-Between

Technology has become so vital in our lives that it facilitates almost everything around us. It allows us to gather information and increase our awareness of different programs as the distribution of communication, interaction and information is constantly morphing on a day-to-day basis. It now holds a greater presence within our lives more than ever.

As cities are shifting towards technology based, the physical city and its inhabitants are relying on the developing network of communication infrastructures. Cities including Tokyo and Seoul have fully immersed into this concept. Tokyo’s transit stations, in particular Shibuya Station, are catering to its population density, entertainment, and commercial intensity. The city has tapped into digital technology resulting in its commercial centrality to reflect human patterns and culture. Seoul has immersed itself into a completely wireless city- regardless of the location within the city, one is guaranteed to have access to a wi-fi network above ground and below ground (ie. metro subways). The web presence is substantial, unlike any other city I have visited. Upon landing into the ICN Airport, I was immediately connected to the internet via iPhone. I had no network data yet the internet allowed me to stay connected- I was “in the network” and I was connected up until my departure one week later.

Information is constantly being created and distributed. Heavily influenced by “the perspectives of media, speed, and personal perception”, the representation of our world impacts the way in which we design (61). The evolution of technology affects the way we conceptualize design. With vertical and horizontal connections, the vertical builds upwards as the horizontal allows information technology to spread among the landscape through infrastructure.

Connections are formed between networks of the urban fabric or physical beings such as social networks. Formed communities via the web have created spatial constraints as they manipulate the manner in which the user desires to be apart of something. The downfall is that physical impacts are decreased which then blurs the distinction between virtual and physical space as location-awareness diminishes. The virtual interface focuses on the particular needs of the individual catering to personal environments. We are influenced by the physical form that acts as a vehicle for “modulating streams of images (62)”. Projected images such as advertisements or entertainment media instill in the user a desire to match what they see. Advertisements for reconstructive surgery were plastered all over Seoul. A city known for its surge in aesthetic surgery clinics, there is a need to perfect the physical form. The persuasive ads to achieve a ‘specific look’ send underlying messages of pressure to cave into the generic. As the city conforms based on economic exchange, this need for personalization overrides the importance of the collective users. The quantity versus the individual places the individual under the generic, simply a number within the population.

The need to regenerate the technological based society means that the system will collapse, it does not have the ability to personalize. It all reverts back to the idea that money is a driver for culture. There is a desire to discover new advanced technology as this has a direct correlation to power. The more information given and known keeps the distribution of communication going tapping into the culture that feeds into this phenomenon.

11/26/2013 Paula M Narvaez

Filed under: Architecture, Culture, Japan, Korea, Tokyo, 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.

CATEGORIES

PHOTOS FROM THE TRIP

IMG_5302

IMG_5270

IMG_5230

More Photos

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