As you may know, our exhibition The Good Cause is on show until 1st June at Stroom The Hague. Earlier this month, ArchiNed, one of the Netherlands’s major architecture websites, published quite a positive review about the exhibition.
The Netherlands has two new prizes, the Geert Bekaert Prize for Architecture Criticism and the Simon Mari Pruys Prize for Design Criticism. They’re promoting ‘a vibrant design culture’ by stimulating writing and reflection and awarding the prize to one critique, not to a critic. Initiated by Archined and Design Platform Rotterdam they were awarded for the first time in Amsterdam on March 20th 2014. For architecture the award went to Plain Weirdness: The Architecture of Neutelings Riedijk, a text in El Croquis by the former Director of the Netherlands Architecture Institute, now Director of the Cincinnati Art Museum, Aaron Betsky. The Simon Mari Pruys Prize went to Sander Manse for his essay on the use of models in designing design.
What is essential about the work of Neutelings Riedijk is its plain weirdness. The two aspects of this definition are essential. The use of form and materials that are familiar, simple, and sometimes even primitive grounds the strangeness, the baroque involutions, and the haunting quality that gives the work its power. These architects know how to mine the vernacular to find within it the material that both grounds us and connects us to something bigger, stranger, and older than we are. Their buildings use this basis to teeter between abstraction and reference, creating a blur that allows us to intuit forms, images and spaces that the designers only imply. Finally, Neutelings Riedijk’s buildings become stages on which we can act out the roles to which we would like to become accustomed, sometimes as masques in which both the structures and we are actors, and sometimes directly, when the buildings’ interiors become, more often than not, stages.
As you may know our exhibition The Good Cause is currently on show at Stroom in The Hague. This spring Stroom will be hosting a side program accompanying The Good Cause, that consists of a number of tours, a congress, an Archis RSVP Event and a number of expeditions. Most of the events are free of charge.
Last month we officially launched Volume’s 39th issue, ‘Urban Border’. In the past weeks we have published a selection of articles, and for those who are interested how the issue looks and feels we have uploaded a preview. Enjoy! Click here to learn more about Volume #39.
Shenzhen is currently upgrading its industry; this results in empty factory buildings and huge demographic changes within the migrant population. It also implies a transition from a blue-collar to a white-collar society. Shenzhen’s economic success is based on cheap labor. Nonetheless, blue-collar migrants are considered to be both problematic and vulnerable. But do we really understand and appreciate the economic and social value of the current generation of migrants in Shenzhen? ‘Da Lang Fever’ is a story about the potential of a self-organizing migrant society in the neighborhood Da Lang. It showcases the empowering nature of bottom-up activities for migrant workers.
According to official statistics China’s urbanization rate was 52.57 percent in 2012, but according to China’s Hukou system this number nowadays is still below 35 percent! The discrepancy is caused by at least 250,000,000 peasants without urban Hukou status living in urban areas, the so-called floating population. Without urban Hukou they cannot equally benefit from urban amenities such as education, employment, medical care, retirement programs, affordable housing, and other basic public services. In fact these urban-based peasants are excluded from living a complete urban lifestyle. Although China sees it as its primary task “to civilize the whole nation by turning its agricultural population into orderly citizens”, urbanization seems mainly used as an engine to stimulate economic growth. An essential tool to guide urbanization is the process of converting rural Hukous into urban Hukous. However, this process is complex, and receives loads of critique, nationally and internationally. There seems to be no easy solution, especially since economic forces are overruling the people’s quality of life.
It’s rare that a city’s birth certificate survives, but here it is: a map of Hong Kong full of marks and notes. It is an intriguing document, but our attention should go to the upper left corner, where in the ‘white space’ of mainland China the Shekou peninsula is encircled as the new harbor and industrial location of what was to become the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone; conveniently situated and easy to control. The map with personal marks and handwritten notes makes history tangible. It all started with an idea and a location.
The 2013 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture in Shenzhen took ‘urban border’ as its theme. For good reason. If there is a place to study ‘border’ as condition, it is Shenzhen. Demographic, territorial, economic, political, social, and legal borders created this fifteen million city in less than thirty-five years, and drive its further development. The transformation of this ‘factory of the world’ into a post-industrial economy and society, the disappearance of the Hong Kong-Shenzhen divide in 2047, and the reconciliation of state capitalism and communist rule, are but three of the challenges Shenzhen is facing, to which its role and position in the larger-scale development of the Pearl River Delta can be added.
Earlier this month, Forensic Architecture, SITU Research, and Ben Emmerson (United Nations Special Rapporteur on Counter Terrorism and Human Rights) launched a web platform that maps out civilian casualties from drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Iraq, as well as Israeli strikes in Gaza.