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Emerging Architectural Practices in Beijing, Seoul & Tokyo Compared at Studio-X Beijing Conference

STUDIO-X BEIJING, AUGUST 11, 2010

Nine emerging architectural practices in three cities experiencing dramatic urban growth gathered on July 10, 2010 at Studio-X Beijing for an event sponsored by the Weatherhead East Asian Institute and the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation of Columbia University, and co-hosted by Central Academy FA.  Xian Hu, Fan Ling and Zhenfei Wang from Beijing, Poly.m.ur, Systems Lab, and The Living from Seoul, and Ryuji Fujimura, Go Hasegawa and Osamu Nishida from Tokyo presented their views on how their practices engage the conditions of their respective cities.

The discussion was moderated by Jeffrey Johnson, Director of China Lab, Professor Mark Rakatansky, and Enrique Walker, Director of GSAPP’s Advanced Architectural Design program.  What emerged was a comparative snapshot of how contemporary architecture is being influenced by the rapid changes in these three urban centers.

No time in the history of Beijing has been as extreme as the past 30 years.  Engaging with this transformation has been challenging for an emerging generation of architects like Xian Hu, Fan Ling and Zhenfei Wang.  While much of the discipline and discourse has focused on high-profile large-scale projects, these three firms — by necessity, or perhaps, tactically — have built their practice on small-scale, and at times ephemeral, interventions within the city.  Where emphasis on bigness and speed in Beijing has neglected the human element, their work argued for a more approachable result.

In response to the rapidly changing social and temporal dynamics of urban production in Seoul, the firms Poly.m.ur, Systems Lab, and The Living are providing an internationally-influenced approach to creating new aspects of mutable urban networks.  Their work has moved away from more discrete forms toward complex accumulations and dispersals of iterative figurations.  This could mean designing individual buildings as micro-urban complexes or literally drawing the city into the building.

Tokyo has developed an active disciplinary debate on architecture and the city alongside the radical urban transformations it has experienced since the 60s. The city has oscillated between being at the core of the discussion (e.g. in the early 60s or the mid-80s), and being neglected at the expense of a discussion on the architectural object (e.g.in the mid-70s or the mid-90s).  Ryuji Fujimura, Go Hasegawa and Osamu Nishida positioned their practices vis-à-vis this shifting question, and discussed the way their work raises questions about —or exploits — the urban condition of Tokyo.