2015UABB announces the Aformal Academy – RE:Learning The City Program

【9 November 2015】The 2015 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (2015 UABB) announces the program of “Aformal Academy – RE:Learning The City”, a free-flowing information exchange platform that will engage exhibitors, educators, foreign and local students, local craftsmen and researchers, in-town guests, and the public at large. “Aformal Academy – RE:Learning The City” will be a key component of UABB School, a significant education platform of the biennale that will take place at the former Dacheng Flour Factory in Shekou, Shenzhen from 4 December 2015 to 28 February 2016. The Xibu New Residence in Longgang will be an affiliated venue.

“AformalAcademy– RE:Learning the City” is curated by Jason Hilgefort and Merve Bedir, partners ofRotterdam/Istanbul/ Shenzhen based Land+Civilization Compositions, in collaboration with Ljubo Georgiev and Hristo Stankushev. The curators believe that people’s defining educational moments are often intense, dynamic and diverse experiences that take place outside conventional venues such as the “classroom” and the “school”. “Aformal Academy – RE:Learning the City” will be a platform to REread and REform the process of acquiring knowledge, challenging the typical top-down, box-ticking and fixed-system approaches. It will create a process of multi-layered learning across disciplines for all.

“AformalAcademy– RE:Learning The City” will start with questioning everything. It will REthink the object as the core matter in perceiving architecture and urbanism. It will seek frameworks that will enhance the REinterpretation of buildings, the REmaking of our cities, and the REimagination of our daily lives. In the Pearl River Delta, the largest metropolitan region in the world with the old and the new, the east and the west, participants of “Aformal Academy – RE:Learning The City” will learn by operating within an adapting building, on a transforming city, and amongst an ongoing biennale. “Aformal Academy – RE:Learning The City” will not merely be a series of  educational workshops parallel to the biennale but also a hybrid of learning by making, exhibition, and social space, engaging the public at large with the evolving library of provocations and spatial archive of explorations.

Key activities of “AformalAcademy– RE:Learning The City” include:

Scholastic Symposium

Date: 6 December 2015

Time: 10 am – 12:30 pm

Venue: Dacheng Flour Factory

On the official opening day of “Aformal Academy – RE:Learning The City”, educators will gather at the scholastic symposium to discuss and debate the architecture and urbanism education. The symposium will be the kick off event, and set the context for the upcoming three months of “Aformal Academy – RE:Learning The City”. Participants in the symposium will include Eric Rietveld (Rietveld Architecture-Art-Affordances), Alessandro Petti (Campus in Camps), Juan Du (The culture of Making, University of Hong Kong), Liam Young (Unknown Fields Division), and 2015 UABB curator Aaron Betsky. 


 Crash Course

Date: 5 – 13 December 2015

Venue: Dacheng Flour Factory

This 9-day “Crash Course” will span the official openings of UABB Shenzhen and UABB Hong Kong. Participants will attend the lectures of, study with, and mingle with the exhibitors, international visitors, and local experts joining the two biennale openings. Lecturers of the Crash Course will include: Mimi Zeiger (Los Angeles-based critic, editor, and curator), who will focus on architecture criticism;  Sarah Green (Shekou Learning and Interpretation Manager , Victoria and Albert Museum), who will focus on contemporary craftsmanship); Marina Otero Verzier (Director, Oslo Architecture Triennale, who will focus on notions of identity and borders); and Liam Young (The Architectural Association School of Architecture), who will focus on time, space and technology.

“Crash Course” is currently recruiting student participants. The application deadline is 13 November 2015. Applications and enquiries should be sent to

Please include in the application an expression of interest letter (no more than one page pdf), a CV (no more than one page pdf), and a portfolio (not more than 10 MB pdf).


Broad Studies

Date: 5 December 2015 – 28 February 2016

Venue: Dacheng Flour Factory

This series of workshops will form the backbone of theAformalAcademy. Local and foreign students and professors will inhabit the event space throughout the three months of 2015 UABB to form a range of engaging programs that will infuse the exhibition with spatial learning. Participants will include: Columbia University (US), Tilburg University (The Netherlands), California College of the Arts (US), Soongsil University (Seoul), The School of Environment and Architecture (India), Virginia Commonwealth University (Qatar), Melbourne University (Australia), École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (Switzerland), TU Delft – Design as Politics and TU Delft – Urban Planning (The Netherlands), Pontificia Universidad Católica (Chile), and TEC de Monterrey (Mexico).


Floating School

Date: 12 December 2015 – 27 February 2016, every Saturday

Venue: Dacheng Flour Factory

“AformalAcademy– RE:Learning The City” will collaborate with Future+ and Shenzhen Design Centre for weekly engagement events with the city. Floating School will invite speakers to frame different issues at differing key locations in the city, including abandoned factory sites, polluted waterfronts, and urban villages. The events will engage with the locals on site and function as social events that will extend beyond the 2015 UABB venues. More information will be announced soon.  


Digital Dialogues

This will be an online platform for sharing with a wider international audience videos, writings, images, and other works created within the 2015 UABB framework. This will be lead by IRA-C and Parasite2.0. More information will be announced soon.


Open Source Exhibition

“AformalAcademy– RE:Learning The City” will produce an exhibition growing by the participants’ works during the academy. It will continuously use the academy space as an exhibition space to showcase works by participants and works from universities, and will archive what will be taking place on the biennale site to reflect on the biennale and the results of the spatial learning taking place at 2015 UABB.



Following the intensive three-month events, a publication will be released to summarize the ideology and explorations of “AformalAcademy– RE:Learning The City”. Topics in the publication will include: “RE:Learning” that will explore the new frameworks of perceiving the city and its components; “Points of Intensity” that will evaluate the rapid, spontaneous, and often collaborative workshop-based learning; “Beyond Objectification” that will discuss of architecture and urbanism beyond objects; “Spatial Education in Southeast Asia” that will explore how the dense and booming region without much involvement of architects will forge the future urban thinking; and “PRD Region Research” that will involve guest universities in collaboration with locals in exploration of issues such as sponge cities, floating population and spaces of belonging, informality in the information age, writing and reading the city, China’s exporting urban models, among others.

Merve Bedir commented, ““During the first week we have a crash course, which is about starting to un-learning the city. The idea will be to look critically into parts of the city that are identified with certain notions and concepts, such as special economic zones, or urban villages, or the idea of floating population. These names or categories were mostly used by outsiders in the first place. We want to look into these places again via an object, like a building or a chair even. Are they really the places that they were named after? We would like to forget for a moment all the former associations related with these places. Re-learning can only start, after un-learning.”

“When we all look back at our education, often the key moments, those that stand out, are from studies abroad, workshops, guest lecturers. These intense, immediate, and often out of our immediate context experiences in education need to be re-examined,” Jason Hilgefort said, “As architects and urbanists we were trained to think in terms of buildings and plans, to see them as individual objects to be looked at. There are currently a number of diverse discourses questioning this mode of seeing – whether through notions of affordances, climatic performances, or relations to larger networks. It is time as spatial practitioners to step back and re-evaluate the role of seeing and its relationship with ‘the object’.”

2015 UABB, the world’s only biennale dedicated to the themes of urbanism and architecture, will open on 4 December 2015, featuring presentations from over 70 exhibitors from six continents who will all explore the theme “Re-Living The City”. The biennale aims to show ways in which designers can work with people to make the city more useful, just, and sustainable. The biennale will be presented in five primary exhibitions: “Collage City 3D”, “Maker Maker”, “Pearl River Delta 2.0”, “Radical Urbanism”, and “Social City”.

2015 UABB will take over the former Dacheng Flour Factory in Shekou, a declining factory complex built in 1980s that will be transformed into a multifaceted exhibition venue. The Xibu New Residence in Longgang will be an affiliated venue.

2015 UABB is curated by four of the world’s leading architects, critics, and educators: Aaron Betsky, Alfredo Brillembourg, Hubert Klumpner, and Doreen Heng Liu. Renny Ramakers (Droog Foundation/Design+Desires), will contribute as a co-curator of the Biennale.

Apart from “Aformal Academy – RE:Learning The City”, UABB School will also feature symposiums, conferences, and workshops. Collaborators will include the Art Center College of Design, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Architectural Association School of Architecture, Architectural Digest, NAUTA, TED Talks, among others. More information about UABB School will be announced shortly.


For further press information please contact:

SUTTON Hong Kong
Sylvia Chan | | +852 2528 0792 | +852 9506 2520



Instagram: @2015UABB


About Jason Hilgefort and Merve Bedir

Jason Hilgefort is an urbanist/architect. He studied at the University of British Columbia and the University of Cincinnati. He has worked in New York, Rotterdam and Bombay. He has won Europan11-Vienna, and is part of the Future Urban Research group in the Netherlands. He has published in The Architecture of Knowledge and is regular contributor to Uncube.

Merve Bedir is an architect/researcher. She is a PhD candidate at TU Delft. She curated One Architecture Week, Vocabulary of Hospitality and produced the documentary film Agoraphobia. She is currently involved in the production of Bostan: A Refugee Garden+Community Kitchen in Gaziantep, Turkey. She has worked with the Netherlands Architecture Institute, INTI International University, Studio X Istanbul, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, ARCHIS, African Centre for Cities, and has written for Volume, MONU, Interartive, Funambulist, and Zivot among other publications.

Jason and Merve are partners at Land+Civilization Compositions, a Rotterdam / Istanbul / Shenzhen based studio exploring issues at the ever expanding edge of urbanism that views city creation as an art forum.

About UABB

Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (UABB) is currently the only biennial exhibition in the world to be based exclusively on the set themes of urbanism and urbanization. Co-organized by the two neighboring and closely interacting cities of Shenzhen and Hong Kong, UABB situates itself within the regional context of the rapidly urbanizing Pearl River Delta, concerns itself with globally common urban issues, extensively communicates and interacts with the wider public, is presented using expressions of contemporary visual culture, and engages international, avant-garde dimensions as well as discourses of public interest.  UABB is a forward-thinking biennale that focuses on the conceptual issues on urbanism and architecture. With around 770 exhibits and 310 activities since the biennale launched in 2005, UABB has attracted over 860,000 visitors worldwide. The past five editions of UABB(SZ) have investigated a range of themes including ‘Urban Village & Spontaneous City’, ‘City of Expiration and Regeneration’, ‘Public Space’, ‘Urban-rural Relationship and Agriculture’, and ‘Border/Edge’. The research, ideas and discussions have made a significant impact on the global discourse on architecture and urbanism as well as on Shenzhen, a “Vanguard” city.

UABB will further strengthen its role as a knowledge platform and set up the UABB School. During the exhibition period, the UABB School will publicly recruit programs and invite lecturers to plan a series of courses and events for the public.




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