Most of the participants have arrived. Some of them, like the ones from South America, travelled for more the 24 hours to get to Shanghai. A few had visa difficulties with government officials from various countries, but here they are, posing for the statue of Mao who greets everybody entering the Tongji University Campus. The man in the middle in the green jacket is Henk van der Veen, director of Archiprix International.
In Shanghai there is a big slum clearing operation going on. Neighbourhoods with old hutong-style low- rise dwellings are being demolished and replaced for modern high-rise apartments building. Not only the old dwellings are being torn down, but the city fabric is being destroyed as well.
The new developments cover large areas, often fenced or walled. The apartment buildings are setback from the streets. Between the buildings there are small private gardens with picturesque fluff as one tutor calls it.
It would be silly to feel nostalgic about the hutong-style dwellings. The houses are small, most of them have no running water, no toilet, people use a gas cylinder for cooking and the neighbourhoods are dirty and overcrowded. So building nice new clean high-rise apartment buildings seems a good idea.
But is it? With the disappearing of the old houses, the shops and workshops disappear because there is no room for them in the new apartment building and with the disappearing of the shops and workshop the liveliness on the streets vanish. And then there are social and economic issues: where are these poor hutong people going to live and how are they going to make a living? What makes Shanghai interesting are the differences in scale and density. With the new developments that\'s disappearing.
The tasks for the Archiprix International 2007 workshop focus at the redevelopment of the Dongjiadu area, on the shore of the Hungpu river, between the Bund and the Expo 2010 grounds. It\'s a hybrid place: hutong-style dwellings, new office-buildings, old workshops, apartment buildings from the seventies, ferry stations. The participants will work on new strategies on how to redevelop this area without using the Shanghai bulldozer method.
The developments in Shanghai are taking place at a tremendous speed - at some building sites they work 24 hours a day, seven days a week and at scale that is hardly able to grasp. The planning site for the Archiprix workshop is part of a 42 kilometres (re) development on the banks of the river Huangpu and in 2010, 40% of Shanghai\'s territory will consist of green spaces. This percentage will be realised by making large parks on the outskirts of Shanghai. The city also working on a high-speed railway line to Beijing, they are building a new railway station and a new tube station. Shanghai is getting ready for World Expo 2010.
(image: one of the new green spaces in the city)
In the centre of the city, in People\'s square, there is the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall. A bright big building with lots of glass, can it be more symbolic? This is the new Shanghai, modern, seemingly transparent and in complete confidence of the future. This message is repeated in the great hall where there is a large gold-coloured model - a collage of architectural landmarks in the city - slowly turning round. Behind the model there are blazing impressions of the city and above that the slogan A Better City, a Better Life.
One floor shows the story of the development of Shanghai, emphasizing the way the city developed in the last fifteen years. The second floor is almost completely taken up by a huge model showing the future developments, and one floor up there are presentation of all the good works the city has in store. All presented in a World Expo-like way.
Yesterday evening professor Yongyi Lu from the department of architecture history and theory gave a lecture. Once again, it became clear that the people who live in the lilong or shikumen houses are eager to move. Everybody waits for the day that a municipal official will nail a note on his or her dwelling stating that it soon will be demolished. Actually this means that the tenant will get a new house, although not located in the city centre but at the outskirts, it will have a private toilet and a private bathroom, and the tenants get buy-out money.
Although the dwellings are counsel owned, the developer has to negotiate with the tenants about the buy-out money. A recently established law states that both parties must agree about the amount of money. This is not to the satisfaction of the developers. On Monday evening there was a news item claiming that property development was no longer a good investment. It so happens that the land where is built on, will stay in possession of the government. The developer gets a concession for 75 years if he is building apartments and for 45 years if it is a commercial or office space. The money the municipal gets out of the concession is invested in infrastructure, green spaces and public services.
What happens after the 70 or 45 years nobody knew, until recently a new law passed, stating that the lease will continue after concession period ends. It is not quite clear what the consequences of this new law will be in the future. Most of the time legislation follows the daily practice.
The size of the plot determines the amounts of apartments the developer is allowed to build. It seems to be the only restriction. Programmatically, typology wise and from an architectural viewpoint, the buildings that are being built are not interesting. Profits are more important than a long-term vision; this seems not only be the case for the developer but also for the municipal. A Chinese architect admitted that although they try, there is not much architects can do to change this. It is a political decision. The only thing they can do, he said, was to pay more tax and to hope that the municipal will become less dependent on the developers.
See also: Old architecture lends soul to modern cities, By Wu Jiayin, Shanghai Daily 2007-5-17
The workshop started on Sunday, Tuesday night seven groups presented their first proposals. Key issues were how to improve the living conditions of the residents in the area without moving them to other parts of the city, preserve the liveliness on the streets, creating green spaces and how to cope with the climate change.
This year Tongji University celebrates it\'s hundredth anniversary. New buildings being erected at the campus site to mark this milestone. Buildings that can easily admitted in a modern architecture guide. Who is paying for this?
Tongji is a state owned university; chairman Mao greets the visitors at the main gate. Since the nineties, the university found ways of generating money. Tongji has tight connections with western multinationals like Volkswagen; the French build a remarkable core ten steel building with which they seems to emphasize the good, strong and most of all long relations they have with Shanghai; the Architectural Design and Research Institute of Tongji University is also a professional architectural firm, and Tongji is a professional host of international symposia. During the week the Archiprix workshop took place, almost daily there where new banners up at the main gate greeting the participants of congress X by company or organisation Y.
Tongji isn\'t the only university that host congresses this way. Last autumn a university in Beijing hosted the International Forum on Urbanism, an academic gathering on ‘re-inventing the urban identity’, TU Delft was also involved in the organisation. The registration fee was € 500,- (50.000 yuan)! To put things in perspective: as Western we paid 6 yuan for a large bottle of beer and a simple meal cost less than 20 yuan. No way a (Chinese) student or university teacher can afford to attend these congresses. One wonders what the implications are for independent research when a university has tight connections with companies and organize events that their own staff and students can\'t afford to attend. Don\'t have companies and organisations some kind of responsibility?
Thursday afternoon the workshop results will be presented. Some participants slept for two hours, some for three, and some lucky ones even seven. The smell of workshop sweat can still be scented when busloads full of relations of Archiprix International main sponsor, Hunter Douglas, arrive at Tongji University for the opening of the A.I. exhibition. More than three hundred people are expected. Suddenly the place is crowed with people, mostly white men. They must have had a long bus ride - do they come straight from Beijing? They are very thirsty and hungry. Big queues form before the buffet counters. People try to jump the queue. After they still their hunger, they have a quick look at the exhibition where participants patiently wait to be asked to explain their project. By a secret sign, almost everybody disappears into thin air. Except for the dirty plates and the empty glasses, there are no visible traces of this sudden and slightly bizarre invasion.
On Monday April 16 the opening of the Archiprix International exhibition took place in the Beijing Urban Planning Exhibition Center. The crowd puller of the event was Ole Scheeren (OMA) who treated the big gathering of foreign architects to a lesson in CCTV for beginners. A report from ArchiNed\'s Beijing correspondent.
When I visited the CCTV site in early October 2006, work had just started on the structure above ground. Hundreds of Chinese workers were busy on 18 hectare-site in the centre of Beijing’s Central Business District. Tension was high. Would OMA manage to finish the project in time for the Olympic Games in 2008? TVCC looked lost in one corner of the site. Now, five months later, two steel CCTV legs tower above the fences, and the covering on TVCC is going up.
China is the egg by Andreu, the nest by Herzog & de Meuron, the Ren proposal by BIG, the harbour by de Architekten Cie. and the Linked Hybrid by Steven Holl. At the same time, the West is desperately trying to set up an engaged dialogue with the Chinese architecture scene - examples of this can be seen in the IFOU conference (Delft-Tsinghua), DOMUSchina, Urban Body Workshop (TU Delft) and Archiprix International. In these exchanges The Netherlands is playing a leading role.
During the opening of the exhibition of the world’s best graduation projects, Mr Shi Nan (Urban Planning Society of China) spoke of the importance of exchange. After all, exchange teaches foreigners more about China and can contribute positively to China’s progress. Gerard Steeghs spoke on behalf of the Dutch embassy. He noted that architecture is the most important Dutch export product after windmills and Van Gogh, and he placed OMA on a par with successful Dutch export firms like Shell, Heineken and Unilever. Rem Koolhaas, he added, was the King of Cool and he proudly claimed that OMA, UN Studio and MVRDV are making a healthy contribution to the development of architecture in China.
Ole Scheeren presented the story of CCTV in a careful and dutiful manner. This led to the painful conclusion that OMA’s CCTV communication strategy has reached an awkward impasse. To make a long story short; the lecture was a mishmash of reflections plucked from the Great Leap Forward and Content. China, Beijing, the skyscraper and the role of the Chinese architect passed by uncritically. Scheeren described the form and organisation of CCTV as a response to the question what an Asian skyscraper should be, namely one that engages with the city in a new way. The building as such should express an engagement with a district where 300 skyscrapers are under construction over a period of twelve years, for a television broadcaster with 250 channels, for the 10,000 staff of CCTV and with 100,000 m2 of public programme.
The division of the initial programme into CCTV (400,000m2) and TVCC (75,000m2) was necessary to strengthen dialogue between both, and as such had the advantage to gather everything in a single building. The CCTV building houses all media studios, news studios and programme production, while TVCC houses a hotel, visitor centre, theatre and exhibition spaces. OMA’s ambition is to turn CCTV – the building that is, though maybe it also means the broadcasting organisation – into a media machine that is not structured in a hierarchical way but sets up a direct interaction between public and media. Scheeren emphasised the role of the collective in this endeavour so to give visitors and occupants the impression of being involved in the development of a new reality.
The lecture only became intersting when Scheeren explained the single element he still controlled: the CCTV façade. That can withstand all sorts of weather conditions. The Beijing air pollution is legendary, a thick blanket of cloud usually hovers over the city and the foggy air is full of tiny dust particles. It makes architecture look ugly, according to Scheeren. The CCTV façade therefore mocks the Gods: solid on the outside and transparent inside. As is the custom in China he finished up by listing some site statistics. The concrete for the foundations was delivered by 750 freight trucks, work continues 24/7, and somewhere between 5000 and 10,000 workers will have been involved in the construction, executing the schemes of 60 architects and 120 engineers. The building, emphasised Scheeren, is being shaped through collaboration between different cultures, and not just within the design team. Therefore OMA sees China no longer as an opportunity but as a place where it really can produce architecture for China and Asia, as the office’s recent projects in Shenzhen and Singapore prove.
Given the prominent position played by Ole Scheeren both within OMA and in the construction of CCTV, I was left feeling a little abandoned and empty by his promotional talk. I wonder who would be able to sketch a ‘genuine’ picture of the realisation of CCTV over recent years by taking us behind the scenes. What is the reality of the construction process in China, of dealings with the government, of the enforced collaboration between OMA and local architecture firm ECADI (East China Architecture & Design Institute Shanghai), or of the alterations and changes made to the design during the construction of CCTV and TVCC? That exchange is needed in order to understand the reality of the construction process in China.
7.50 Saturday morning. Some large, long object looms in the distance. It turns out to be the bus. Embarking on an excursion to the Eco Island isn’t easy after a week of workshops and a prize-giving ceremony. But most people expect us, the dredge eco boys, to join an excursion like this, which is why I got up for it. Gerwin is still snoring somewhere, and when I climb onto the bus I realise he’s not the only one, since there’s plenty of room.
The bus takes us to the ferry that crosses to the island. Drab weather over the water does nothing to cheer up this side of Shanghai. It turns out to be an omen of what’s to come: one of the new exhibition halls that a growing China now boasts. Regular contents: a deluge of images in the form of a huge model, a film with lots of images of people relaxing in beautifully green landscapes and cities, an enthusiastic commentary from a Chinese person with an American accent, and loads of renderings with colours a little too bright. Or maybe it’s just my headache. The model clearly shows the scale and ambition of the Eco Island project, and it’s impressive.
The film repeated in the company of one of those responsible for this grand project. It becomes even clearer that island life will be strictly for the happy few. Lots of pictures of people golfing and sailing. The words environmentally friendly and sustainable are heard just a little too often. It seems as if the guilty conscience brought about by the unstoppable growth of Shanghai is being projected onto an enormous island. Answers to critical questions reveal that the Chinese language barrier can come in very handy sometimes. The answers on questions about what will happen to those currently living on the island and where public housing is planned are unsatisfactory. But this, too, might be down to my headache.
Then it’s off to some model homes that wouldn’t be out of place in a typical Dutch suburb. The houses have charming interiors and pleasant gardens. Here, too, we see that homes are always enclosed by an unavoidable New Chinese Wall. The gated community is never far away here.
After a Chinese meal, just as wonderful as all the other meals I’ve had here, the tour starts. It consists of a 3-hour-long drive through an agricultural area that feels very Dutch: flat, lots of ditches and plenty of trees. And plenty in China really does mean PLENTY. Fine, but not for a full three hours. The stop at the nature reserve can do little to change that. Luckily, I’ve been joined by Chew Yoon Kyu, my Malaysian workshop colleague who now lives and works in London and has adapted his humour and accent accordingly, and he’s come up with an extremely intriguing and beautiful project with Photoshoped images as paintings (vertical energy).
After chatting for a while and snoozing a little, we arrive back at the hotel. And that ends a fantastic International Archiprix workshop week.
Premiere on Wednesday 18 July at 5.00 p.m. at Las Palmas, Wilhelminakade, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
Anna Heringer and Eike Roswag recieve the award for the School in Rudrapur, Dinajpur, Bangladesh.
The Aga Khan Award, with a total prize money of USD 500,000 one of the largest prizes in the architectural world, was founded in 1977 by His Highness the Aga Khan and is handed out every three years. The award is assigned to projects that distinguish themselves in the areas of modern architecture, social housing, social development, restoration, reuse, environment and landscape in the Islamic world.
For more information about the awards, and the other award winners, see the website of the Aga Khan foundation
Archined reporter Marina van den Bergen will be present in Shanghai during the whole workshop. She will infiltrate into the workshop groups and write her daily observations...