2009 Shenzhen & Hong Kong Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture: City Mobilization | British Council Talk: 07.12.09

“The options on the menu were chicken, pork and meat, but no one could tell us what exactly the ‘meat’ was.”

Biennale logo

 Biennale 2

aberrant exhibited ‘Gordon Wu CityLocal’, a trade stand offering franchise opportunities to the inhabitants of Shenzhen’s urban villages.

Usually we develop ideas and plan exhibits with first hand familiarity of the site. China was different. It was only when we arrived in Shenzhen in December 2009, via Hong Kong, that we had the opportunity to see the urban villages for ourselves. 

Gordon Wu City Local

Gordon Wu City Local 2

Like its neighbour Hong Kong, Shenzhen is an urban metropolis stickered with gleaming skyscrapers. Unlike Hong Kong, Shenzhen has maintained Chinese villages in the midst of the urban development thanks to a lacuna in the plans for the development of the city. 

But where many local people might see an urban scar, we at aberrant see a social and architectural phenomenon. The urban villages are 24-hour mini-cities providing unique small-scale shopping streets and intimate public spaces ideal for small business opportunities. Step in Gordon Wu CityLocal.

Urban village

When the British Council invited us to present the CityLocal project to an audience of luminaries gathered together at the Biennale, Gordon Wu jumped at the chance to set out his vision for mobilizing the city from the bottom-up. 

Regrettably, Gordon Wu is also a busy man. As we explained to them on his behalf, home working in China is an emerging trend that the residential developments in cities like Shenzhen are totally unprepared for.

 British Council Talk

Working from the single-function residential towers that surround the urban villages, many people feel a sense of isolation bred from loss of office friendships and a lack of face-to-face interaction. But Gordon Wu has come to the rescue! 

His suite of CityLocal franchises on offer to residents of the urban villages target innovative products at Shenzhen’s growing population of isolated home workers. 

Commuter computer

For example, the “Commuter Computer” can be installed beneath a home-worker’s desk to recreate the experience and fitness benefits of cycling to the office, and the “Eleva-door” can be fitted to any doorframe in the house as an elevator style gateway to an office past, complete with elevator music, LED lights and up to sixty floors waiting time.

Listening to our presentation on Gordon Wu’s transformational vision for the future of the city, Dave Huxtable, the director for the British Council for South China, tweeted, “The aberrant architecture presentation is hilarious, but I’m not sure how British humour is going down in a cross-cultural environment!”

Dave Huxtable's Tweet

Outside of the speeches and dinners and parties for the Biennale we travelled around the city in search of the heart and soul of this former fishing village. What we found was a series of districts pushing 21st Century commerce to the nth degree. According to some Chinese architects we met during our visit, most people living in Shenzhen have their favourite “bling bling” building, which they will visit to do all of their shopping, socialising and entertaining.

At nighttime, the cityscape is similar to a scene from Blade Runner. But one minute we could be in our white robes and slippers dazzled by the décor of cathode lights and mirrors in our palatial R.Kelly hotel room, and the next minute, in a mash up of the new and old, we could be having food in the urban villages picking hacked up chicken bones out of our teeth. 

The options on the menu were chicken, pork and meat, but no one could tell us what exactly the ‘meat’ was. The ‘R’ word and the ‘D’ word were on the tips of our tongues, but when in Rome…

You must visit the place yourself. The exhibition continues until 23 January 2010. The main venue is huge and there are lots of the exhibits are spread across the city. So if you intend to visit Hong Kong, put aside a day to go around the exhibition in Shenzhen and make sure you sample some of the ‘meat’ for yourself. 

See the following links for more information:

http://www.szhkbiennale.org/en/

http://www.wallpaper.com/architecture/shenzhenhong-kong-biennale-2009/4167

http://www.aberrantarchitecture.com/work.php?filtergroup=title&filtervalue=shenzhen+bi-city+biennale

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXX9HE70fVI

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