Venice 2016 – 45/km2 is the average population density of Planet Earth… Even if Macau squeezes 19.073 residents per km2… According to the World Bank, over 2oo million people (2/3 of U.S. population) moved from rural areas into Far East metropolises from 2.000-2.010, creating clusters of cities with 8 mln people each. If they were one single country, they would be larger than Argentina.
Is there anything architects can do about it? At the 15th Venice Architecture Biennale, the pavilions of China, Japan, Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong showcase the urban battle to improve people’s life with sensitive architecture.
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Seoul is the home of only 10 million people but its metropolitan area, the second largest in the world, hosts over 26 million people. The Korean Pavilion at Arsenale highlights the social issues related to F.A.R. (Floor Area Ratio), the strict regulation that forces Seoul architects to find creative solutions in highly-dense urban areas by utilising space effectively.
“For the past 50 years, maximizing F.A.R. – Floor Area Ratio- has been the driving force behind sustainable force of Korean urban architecture, and remains to be the most challenging task for the majority of architects today” says Korean Pavilion Curator Sung Hong Kim.
But the social and cultural impact of this urbanisation process is even stronger. “While claiming victories for spectacular modernisation, we are losing our historic identity” says Liang Jingyu, curator of the Chinese Pavilion at Giardini, Venice. The Daily Design Tao exhibition looks back to ancient values that have been neglected in name of an idea of “future”.
“First vanished were our ancient cultural traditions and lifestyle, later the city walls. Relatively recently, numerous and wide areas of historic towns and cities have been destroyed. Today, even the most remote villages are coveted by investors seeking to modernize”.
The exhibition features the work of Chinese practices working with a holistic imprint to find a more “natural” balance. From the approach architecture studio’s sensitive renewal, as well as preservation of the whole community and entire district of Dashilar in Beijing, to the Plug In Courtyard House project by People’s Architecture Office. The studio designed a pre-fabricated building unit to slot into dilapidated courtyard houses in order to rejuvenate historic districts in the Chinese capital – Images by People’s Office Architecture, Courtesy of Chinese Pavilion.
Sharing is the key concept of Japanese Pavilion at Giardini. On show the struggles and solutions of emerging Japanese studios dealing with chronic unemployment and the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake.
“Japan glorious era ended with the ‘70s. Today the notion of a happy family life in the city, created by the modern state, has collapsed. But a new community, based on “sharing” values and lifestyles has appeared in its place” says curator Yoshiyuki Yamana.
Amongst the projects on show, the wooden complex by Osamu Nishida + Erika Nakagawa that exemplifies this new attitude. The project in Yokohama metropolis was designed for young people and a small family and breaks the rules of the traditional japanese family house by meshing public and private. Located beneath a group of small private individual rooms in the upper floor, an open space functions as a large shared living space that allows more communal interactions.
Hong Kong Pavilion, just off the main entrance of Arsenale – Venice, features the work of 13 architects and 4 artists who were invited to pick one of the “36 stratagems”, an ancient Chinese essay on war an politics strategies. Instead architecting a military battle, architects had to find solutions to overcome Hong Kong urban and social battles.
From the fight against the forced removal from their traditional homes, to crowded houses of low-income residents and the waiting list for public housing. Young architect Jason Tang created a plexiglass installation that overviews the evolution and the worrying urban decay of historical Sham Shui Po market where both locals and tourists can find pretty much everything, from everyday grocery to electronic devices.
Singapore Pavilion is presenting Space to Imagine, Room for Everyone, an exhibition that goes behind the metropolis’ efficient infrastructure and sneak-peeks in Singaporeans’ ways to interact with the city’s spaces to forge new identities, connections and social bonds.
The pavilion at the Sale d’Armi, Arsenale in Venice, is composed by a light installation of 81 customised lanterns illuminating photographs. These offer a glimpse into the homes of ordinary Singaporeans living in public housing and how each family has imaginatively created a space to call their own.