The everyday: a degree zero agenda for contemporary Chinese architecture
|Published in:||arq: Architectural Research Quarterly, September 2017, n. 3, v. 21|
This paper highlights the theoretical and critical implications of the everyday for contemporary Chinese architecture on two levels. On the one hand, against the background that – ever since the formation of the profession of architecture in the early twentieth century – there has been a recurrent preference for high definitions of Chinese architecture either in terms of its outer form or style, or its essential and metaphysical meanings. This paper thus aims to identify a quiet yet compelling awareness of the significance of the everyday to architecture in China over the past 15 years. Beginning with Jiakun Liu's declaration of Here and Now, illustrated by his recently completed project in Chengdu, Xicun Big Yard, this consciousness has been made apparent through architectural practice, research and education. To borrow Roland Barthes’ terminology, it is a ‘degree zero’ agenda that rests on the multiple yet ostensible unobtrusiveness of everyday reality in Chinese cities rather than the hot definition of form and overladen historical and metaphysical meanings. In the context of contemporary Chinese architecture, on the other hand, this agenda can also be seen as a resistance arising in response to the dramatic construction of large-scale urban redevelopments that have, in many cases, resulted in devastating consequences. As a ‘degree zero agenda’, the concern of the everyday not only offers a way to see around architecture's obsessions with buildings as autonomous objects but also calls for bottom-up urban processes in contrast to the top down approach that has prevailed in China. The paper calls for a Chinese architecture that, by transforming the purpose and activity of design, would better fulfil its social and architectural potentials through practical, poetic and critical operations.
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