Urban space is the site for capital circulation and accumulation, as David Harvey argues. Capitalism and power structures transform our cities through development imperatives of time and space, or “time-space,” with a sometimes negative effect on daily life. This process is reproduced in the urban construction, especially in the phenomenon of Chinese urban renewal, which is driven principally by the quest for economic benefit. Therefore, the position of the architect is characterized by a duality: instrumental or critical. In serving official development agendas, the architect’s role is instrumental. In using other criteria to study and intervene in the city, however, the architect takes a critical stance.
Rethinking Urban Renewal, curated by architect Yin Yujun, exhibits a selection of projects by Chinese architects and urban designers that speak to the theme of UABB 2015, Re-living the city. Rather than simply following conventional solutions for urban development, the selected projects reflect various ideas to “remake” city life in innovative ways. In addition to work by Yin’s Projective Architecture Office (Shenzhen), the exhibit includes work by Meta Project (Beijing), Jiwu Architecture Studio (Hangzhou), Fei Architecuture (Shanghai), FCHA (Shenzhen), LanD Studio (Nanjing), and Xuhaohao Architecture Office (Guangzhou).These practices embrace the extreme speed of the urbanization process in China, but also provide a critical position relative to it. They question the instrumentality of architecture in defining urban form and daily life, and seek to uncover unique qualities within each urban context. The exhibition thus suggests an architecture that serves people and daily life. In addition, it offers a horizontal comparison and cross-section of possibilities throughout the country, to reveal the issues involved in Chinese urban redevelopment—and the potential for alterative solutions.