全球唯一“城市\建筑”双年展
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PRD 2.0

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PRD REVISITED by Charlie Koolhaas

2015.11.19

I lived in Guangzhou between 2005 - 2011 and worked on the Shenzhen biennale in 2007. During that time I photographed the PRD area at a moment of intense change, which included the Beijing Olympics, the Asia Games and a record influx of foreign migration and economic and social development in the area. In 2015 I returned to the area to record it in its present state. But todays PRD exists in a radically different world from the one ten years ago, in the grip of an economic slow down, in the midst of a myriad violent conflicts, it is a more fearful and uncertain globe. 

I found that the euphoria that I had experienced here 10 years ago had turned into something much more cautious and subdued. We are dealing now with PRD 2.0, it stands for a new thoughtfulness and intelligence, visible everywhere, from the build environment to the faces of the children. In 2005 what had been a flashy architectural style, stemming from a ferocious desire for experimentation and newness, had now evolved into a newly tasteful and progressive style that is sophisticated, subtle and far from generic - a former accusation. 

On my journey through the PRD, in cities such as Kaiping and Taishan, I discovered that there are many moments in the past where the people of PRD had invented radically unique aesthetics and ways of living. Historically the area has thrived on its global connections, and in the 1920's the people of Kaiping returning from America, rich from working on the railways and the goldmines, built glorious mansions in their rural homelands. They invented an entirely original type of architecture that fused Chinese and western styles. Evidence that in China, design and architecture have never solely been the domain of designers and architects. In my view it is this merging of styles and details from both east and west that defines the look of the PRD - it is characterized by the blurring of multiple DNA's.

In these photographs we can see people living side-by-side with heavy industry. And yet despite its environmental issues, the PRD can teach us much about conservation. We see traditional ways of life applied to new environments. Amidst much waste there also remains a fundamental frugality, everything is used and then re-used. People only renew what they need to, like keyhole surgery. 

One of the biggest differences from ten years ago is the pervasive presence of technology. In the new PRD the virtual dimension has merged with public space, inhabited by citizens intently staring at their mobile phones or taking selfies. But despite its technological connectedness, the PRD is a more strictly Chinese place today than 10 years ago. In 2005 the streets of Guangzhou could have been mistaken for any global city, filled with the full spectrum of races and nationalities, a multiculturalism that is all but gone today. There are still traders coming here to do business, but clearly it is harder for them to stay or to live. 

Today their is more organization and structure… but I couldn't help missing some of the PRDs former wildness.