March 13, 2018 - Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (Shenzhen) - Venue design concept: 2017 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (Shenzhen)
Cities, Grow in Difference
December 15, 2017–March 17, 2018
e-flux Architecture
March 13, 2018
March 13, 2018

Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (Shenzhen)

Aerial view of 2017 UABB main venue Nantou Old Town. © UABB. Photo: Zhang Chao.

Venue design concept: 2017 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (Shenzhen)
Cities, Grow in Difference
December 15, 2017–March 17, 2018

Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (Shenzhen)
Nantou Old Town
Facebook / Weibo / Twitter / Instagram

Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (UABB) is currently the one and only biennale of Urbanism\Architecture in the world. Themed on Cities, Grow in Differences, the 2017 UABB (Shenzhen) is jointly curated by Hou Hanru, the curator and critic, Liu Xiaodu and Meng Yan, both the founding partner of URBANUS and architect (In alphabetical order). It is free and opens at its main venue Nantou Old Town to the public between December 16, 2017 and March 17, 2018. Tailored for the urban village, the exhibition’s theme and contents involve alternative urbanization experience and avant-garde experiment against global context.


City as Exhibition Venue and Exhibition as Practice

The Nantou Old Town in the city center of Shenzhen, China, was founded as a city over 1,700 years ago during the Jin Dynasty. In the past century, the ancient town has gradually vanished, while the village was constantly expanding. The exacerbation of urbanization in Shenzhen has resulted in an intertwined layering of the historical town embedded in the urban village, which is again encircled by the city.

At the beginning of 2016, the design and research team of Urbanus started to be involved in the Nantou Preservation and Regeneration Project and concluded that only by respecting the authenticity of the history and cherishing the cultural layers and historical traces of each period of time can we shape a timelessly dynamic urban community rooted in local history and culture. We see today’s Nantou not as an old historic town in the traditional sense, but as a historical heritage town, which carries on the history and culture of nearly two thousand years, and which preserves the spatial, social and cultural heritage of Shenzhen across every historical period. It is the only precious sample of Shenzhen’s urban culture that displays both historical relics a long side a full record of China’s rapid urbanization over the last three decades.

Based on the preliminary study on Nantou, Urbanus proposed a development model of introducing cultural events, preservation, intervention and regeneration. Later on, after sufficient field investigation, urban design and research work, we came up with the idea to propose Nantou as the main venue of 2017 UABB in the biennale venue selection process.

Further field surveys and research into Nantou’s history helped us to find a narrative line on which spatial renovation and the exhibition implementation could highly coincide. Following the urban design strategy of preservation and regeneration while locating exhibition spaces for UABB, we sought to reconstruct a public open space system in Nantou. Serving as an exhibition route, this system consists of both architectural spaces and outdoor venues. The exhibition venues are in five zones from north to south and extending out toward east and west: A. Factory Zone, B. Cross Road Zone, C. Southern Gate Zone, D. Historic Buildings Zone, and E. Chunjing Street Zone. The whole exhibition spatial narrative is formed with “Introduction, Elucidation, Transition, Conclusion, Agglomeration, Openness and Seclusion” seven interlocking themes, like the structure of Chinese literature or drama. The urban intervention of this UABB is highly consistent with the old town regeneration plan, making a smooth transition from one to the other.

During the renovation of the main venue, the design team selected a great variety of spaces within the urban village, including factory buildings, streets, squares, residential buildings, historical buildings, and parks. We hope through renovation for exhibition spaces, architecture and art interventions, and organized events to bring an alternative experimental opportunity for the regeneration of Nantou Old Town and the renovation of urban villages in general. “Urban curation,” in contrast to the current urban renewal process, is a long-term strategy for the incremental improvement of urban spaces and the quality of urban life.

*Please go to the UABB website via the URL for the full text.

Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (Shenzhen)
Share - Venue Design Concept: 2017 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (Shenzhen)
  • Share