Our Dream of Real Life People
Alberto Lotti & Luca Naso
“The Design Unit addressed the issue of quality of collective places in large-scale urbanization processes in China. As widely known, the construction of hundreds of new towns is progressing rapidly, with a weak stratification of social and cultural values. The grain that “makes the city” is no longer the house, as it was in traditional China, neither the public space, but large mono-functional lots avoiding any chance of keeping the human dimension as a fundamental of the project. To face this problem through a critical approach, the Design Unit worked in collaboration with Tsinghua University on a New Town located in the periphery of Chengdu, Sichuan Province. The aim of the project was to realize complex urban spaces, focused on community life and collective “human-scaled” places.”
“Provincializing global urbanism means identifying and em- powering new loci of affirmation, from which to speak back against and contesting the mainstream global urbanism. Mainstream global urbanism cannot meet with others, which cannot be fully reduced to its own image and assimilated to itself.”
Eric Sheppard, Helga Leitner & Anant Maringanti
Many countries that for a long time have been strongly influenced by the western culture, in urbanism and in social contest, are rediscovering the importance of their traditional cultures. Traditional notions, concepts, methods are increasingly used to solve nowadays situations and issues.
In many case this traditional way are successful, and this suggest the opportunity to develop the research in this direction of the Provincialization. This concept has multiple potential meanings that share the goal of deconstructing what we think we know about different culture, disturbing norms about what is familiar for us and what is strange. This pays homage to a genre of post-colonial, or post western, approach and theories. That searching to demonstrate the provincial character of universal knowledge has to be followed in the idea that it is impossible to have, as a definition, a mainstream global urbanism. The cities in the global South are at once full of hope and aspiration, risk, and danger, full with sharp contrasts and contradictions related to their own culture and society. They are places for which it is di cult, or impossible, to plan with a preordined method.
In our project we have imagined a viaduct in the heart of the science city we designed. Many via ducts and pedestrian overpasses in Asian cities are purely functional elements, but due to the big scale of the structure of the underpass which was built for vehicle under the lake of the city, we found an opportunity to create a unique public space in the heart of our new city. The ambition was to make this space as full of different functions and activities as possible. In the design of our public spaces, where does not exist gated space, but all is interconnected simultaneously with visual puns on several heights, with an organic pathways that allow continuous use. Organic is also the morphology of the connecting spaces between the various pub- lic functions included in the bridge. So, from the regularity of the urban fabric of the masterplan of the city, we move on to an organic vision of architecture forms of public buildings, in order to allow a different reading of these public spaces.
We believe that this idea of Provincialization is a very topical issue, which should be considered not only in large-scale urbanism, as we tried to point out in the this third part of the paper, but also on the smallest scale. It is a very important point because it considers as main point people’s lives and the cultural differences between them. It takes into account how different we are, and how many ideas and possibilities these differences can give to us.
Who influences you graphically?
In the development of this particular project we have been influenced at the same time by the work of different studios, and looking at their job we tried to develope a style of representation that could fit to the porpouse of the project. We took inspiration from the japanese studio SANAA, regarding the use of organic and smooth forms of the patios in constrast to the rigid and straight shape of the structure during the composition phase. A lot of help came from Fala Atelier, KUU Architects, and some other asian studios (Takuro Yamamoto, Atelier Bow-Wow). Expecially we were impressed by their ability in the use of patterns, textures, bright colors.
What dictated the choice of colour palette?
When we imagined the scene, we had a chaotic, living, human scenario in our mind where an almost monotone, flat and alienated structure was in conflict with a colorful series of elements.
To express that we started thinking about the colors and we decided to create a series of contrast between elements. We tried to use vivid and lightful tones in order to evidence some parts of the design, for istance the ramps, stairs and the differents kind of connections, while for the structure and the main orizzontal parts a palette of brown is speckled by hundres of colored human beings.
How does the overall feel of the images reinforce your approach to the brief and your proposal?
As written above, the feeling of our images had to pass on what could be the real life of people , but not in a search for authenticity; this is because we designed in a context that we can not fully understand in its deepest roots, in an idea of provincialisation.
These images should represent what is our dream of real life people.
When thinking of these gigantic won complexes in china, they are generally rendere through hyper realistic images – what is your take on this means of representation?
Once one of our professor during the bachelor said that the render “is a kind of representation which has the capacity to better represent a fake reality ”. Personally I do really appreciate the results of a good render elaboration and i really believe that who can make good digital work has impressive skills. Sincerely I don’t believe that this kind of representation is always the best to be use. Luckily, until now, nobody never forced me, or my mate, in the use of a particular method of drawing and this let us free to experiment. And so we did. When we started to think about which kind of representation could have been the better one to represent the project we realised that we did not need a realistic graphic. We required to put on a paper a concept that did not has to be authentic but that had to be clear. More than for realistic views we opted for 2D flat drawings to create scenaries and cartoons useful to explain our vision. Everything is exagerate and sometime absurd but colored and alive.
The plans, perspective and axo views render clear the relationship between the spaces, sometimes absent in some realistic views, and the people who live them. No cold semi-trasparent silhouettes but hundreds of red, green, blu and who knows spots live the scenes.
What dictated the choice of functions and views you render through images?
Our intent was to create representations that best represent the public spaces that we designed: a food market, which recalls the Bangkok market and a tea house, throughout this long bridge. The idea of breaking down the bridge, with a axo cross sections and exploses, allows to see what was really important (the public life’s scenarios).
You explore the project through all means of representation, do you trust that only like this is it possible to convey the project fully?
The final drawings are the results of dozens of attempts made almost during the all Design Unit’s semester. A constant research for the better way to represent our idea. We made a choice and personally I don’t think I can say if what we did was the only way to do that. I believe that there are infinite ways to represent infinite ideas, but i can surely say that for us those are the more adapt drawings to explain our project and that, with a flush of pride, I’m totally satisfy of our work.