How China is Building Africa

I very distinctly remember my visit to China in Summer 2006: the vast cities wreathed in smog, the highways and ring roads snaking through them, the clusters and stand-alone generic skyscrapers. Shanghai was almost like New York City, Beijing a wholly unfamiliar, spread-out, kind of city. I recently had the chance to revisit those memories when reviewing a recent exhibition: Facing East: Chinese Urbanism in Africa, at the Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York City.

The exhibit explores how Chinese corporations are financing, planning, and building African cities and economies. While my review touches on urban design, economics, politics, and culture, it’s important to remember how these new African cities will be viscerally experienced by their inhabitants – through car rides, through dirty air, through homelessness, through business trips, through tourism. These places aren’t just intersections of abstract or global forces – they’re very real and there’s nothing quite like being there.

Link to the Article on Core77

PS. See this recent New York Times article for more on this subject.

Top Image: Facing East: Chinese Urbanism in Africa, 2015. Curated by Michiel Hulshof and Daan Roggevan. Storefront for Art and Architecture. Photo by Qi Lin.


[Guest Post] The Poetry of the Little-Known Red Brick Gallery

Dichen Ding is an Architectural Designer in New York City. She was born in China, received her Master of  Architecture from Columbia University and is currently working for TEN Arqitectos.

The Red Brick Art Gallery not only holds valuable artwork within its brick shell, but also offers amazingly choreographed and masterfully-crafted brick spaces that unfold as you move through them. Located in Northeastern Chaoyang District, Beijing No.1 International Art District, the entire gallery complex is around 20,000 square meters (about 180,000 sf) and the gallery itself takes up half that area. The Red Brick Art Gallery was founded by art collector Shijie Yan and Mei Cao and opened on May 23rd, 2014; the architect behind the gallery and its garden is Yugan Dong, a professor at Peking University’s architectural research center.  Dong is an architect who specializes in the use of red bricks; in this project he continues his exploration of red brick as an essential architectural element.  His efforts form a unique architectural language – as well as peaceful contemporary garden – in this modern gallery.

Top Image: Red Brick Art Gallery, All Photos Courtesy Red Brick Art Gallery.

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When China’s Cities Sway the Fate of the Environment: An Interview with Simon Ma

Napoleon ominously remarked “China is a sleeping giant. Let her sleep, for when she wakes she will move the world.” China has been waking, and now urbanizing, enriching, and consumer.

The People’s Republic of China began to slowly embrace capitalism thirty years ago, first in special economic zones. Cities within these areas grew rapidly as they became regional hubs, entrepots, and manufacturing centers. Consequently, they sucked up workers from all of the countryside to work in factories, construction sits, and the service industry.

Now the entire country is a free capitalist zone, with wealth and populations concentrated in dozens of enormous cities. The rapid growth of cities that Western Europe experienced starting two hundred years ago is happening in China at breakneck speeds. However, this time something is different this time around: China’s hundreds of millions of newly-minted urban denizens are consuming at 21st-, not 19th-, century levels. Will they all buy cars and eschew public transportation, leaving a massive carbon footprint? Will they waste food? Build greener or greyer cities? In other words, how would China’s ideas about how it should live (and therefore build) affect the environment?

That was going through my head as I sat to interview Simon Ma, a rising Chinese artist with an architectural education as well as extensive experience working with Chinese real estate developers and Western luxury brands (Chivas Regal, Ducati, etc.). Who better to ask about China’s rise? It seemed few would have better insight into how new lifestyles and behaviors of consumption might affect us all, and sooner than we may think.

Link to Article

Top Image: Simon Ma, Courtesy of Simon Ma.

What will the “Star Wars” museum look like?

Technically, it’s the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, but let’s be frank, we’re all excited to see the Industrial Light and Magic archives more than anything else (sorry, Andrew Wyeth).

The Lucas Museum has the wealth, prestige, publicity, and prime real estate to make it an instant icon. With a site in downtown Chicago and on the lakefront, whatever’s built will instantly become a part of the Windy City’s visual identity. The choice of MAD Architects seems to all but confirm that it’s an iconic look that Museum is aiming for…

Link to Article

Top: China Wood Sculpture Museum, image via Architizer (see link)