Book - THE CHINESE DREAM

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THE CHINESE DREAM

a society under construction

Neville Mars , Adrian Hornsby and the DCF

010 Publishers, July 2008
784 pages, full colour, hardcover
ISBN 978 90 6450 652 9


WHAT IF YOU BUILT THE WHOLE MASS OF WESTERN EUROPE IN 20 YEARS?

WHAT IF 400 MILLION PEOPLE THEN MOVED IN?

COULD ENOUGH CITIES BE PLANNED AND DESIGNED?

SHOULD WE EVEN TRY, AND IF WE DID WHAT WOULD THEY LOOK LIKE?

.

The CHINESE DREAM
a society under construction
Neville Mars, Adrian Hornsby, DCF
(010 Publishers, 2008, p. 800, cloth bound)

Thirty years of astonishing economic growth and soci-political reform have given rise to the world’s biggest urban boom. A new China is now halfway built: within the next 30 years the world’s most populous nation will most likely take center-stage as a global superpower, with hundreds of millions of new urbanites flooding into the rapidly swelling cities. But this process — nothing less than the construction of a new society — is taking place almost without time to think. The present is so all-consuming that fast realities threaten to eclipse the slow dream of tomorrow.

The book, a visual tour de force, both encyclopaedic in scope and holistic in approach, was written eight years ahead of the the 12th FYP that holds the same thematic title: The Chinese Dream. Cutting across all levels of scale and backed by a truly multi-disciplinary team the book synthesizes a vast body of research to tackle the big paradoxes at the heart of China’s struggle for change and a brighter, greener future. As relevant today as it was on its release, The Chinese Dream has proven itself a detailed prophecy of the unique realities that emerges when urbanization happens at hyper speed and on a mega scale.

ORDER the book or download PDF of excerpted pages.

WATCH the trailer for The Chinese Dream

the full PDF slide show on Google Books.

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REVIEWS

Cadoc
http://www.cadoc.nl/cadoc.php?artikel=1274&titel=The_Chinese_Dream._A_society_under_construction._-_Neville_Marsh_en_Adrian_Hornsby **Geschiedenis** http://www.geschiedenis.nl/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2984&Itemid=16

NOS Journaal
http://www.nos.nl/nosjournaal/artikelen/2008/8/3/030808_olympische_boeken.html | NOS Journaal

CLUSTER
http://www.cluster.eu/v2/themes/ta_paracchi_eng/ http://www.cluster.eu/v2/editions/mars/

ABITARE
http://abitare.corriere.it/index_eng.shtml

VOLUME issue 16
http://www.archis.org

De Groene Amsterdammer
http://www.groene.nl/?key=95b575cdefc67c33b002f31b3c4dc8be

Independent Publishers Award 2009
Outstanding book of the year - Silver in the category: Most Outstanding Design.


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Introductions

1. THE CHINESE DREAM

Neville Mars

.

DREAMING IS NOT A LUXURY. AROUND TWO HOURS EVERY NIGHT OUR BRAINS PRODUCE DREAMS. PRECISELY WHY IS NOT CLEAR, BUT THE GENERAL FUNCTIONS SEEM EVIDENT. DREAMS PROCESS OUR RECENT EXPERIENCES. DATA STORED IN OUR TEMPORARY MEMORY IS ENCODED AND TRANSFERRED TO BECOME PART OF THE NARRATIVE OF OUR LONG TERM MEMORY. THIS IS THE SYSTEM-CHECK OF OUR MIND. CONSOLIDATING NEW DATA, IT FEEDS OUR UNDERSTANDING AND CONSTRUCTS OUR IDENTITY. EQUALLY, DREAMS WILL CONSIDER THE FUTURE. WHEN FACING IMPORTANT OR DIFFICULT MOMENTS, OUR DREAMS WILL SET THE STAGE TO ALLOW US A VIRTUAL TEST RUN. WE CAN PREPARE OURSELVES — GENERATE NEW IDEAS IN ANTICIPATION OF CHANGING CIRCUMSTANCES. DREAMS BECOME THE PLAYGROUND OF OUR DESIRES; A SAFE PLACE TO EXPRESS UNCHARTED URGES FOR WHICH THERE MAY BE NO ROOM IN WAKING LIFE. SOME DREAMS WILL BE REJECTED, WHILE OTHERS BECOME POWERFUL ASPIRATIONS THAT GIVE DIRECTION TO OUR DECISIONS.

RISE AND SHINE: CHINA HAS BEEN UP FOR THREE DECADES. WITH DENG XIAOPING’S ACCESSION TO POWER, CHINA LAUNCHED ITS LAST AND BOLDEST DREAM: THE DREAM OF INDIVIDUAL PROSPERITY. IT OPENED ITS EYES TO AN ALTERNATIVE REALITY, ITS DOORS TO THE GLOBAL ECONOMY, AND CONFORMED TO MARKET PRAGMATISM TO REALIZE THIS DREAM. SINCE THEN, A SINGLE MASSIVE WAVE OF PROGRESS HAS KEPT THE ENTIRE NATION ON ITS FEET.

THE SUCCESS HAS AMAZED FRIEND AND FOE. TODAY ‘GETTING RICH IS GLORIOUS’ MAY HAVE LOST ITS APPEAL AS A PARTY SLOGAN, BUT IT HAS EXPANDED TO BECOME THE INTRINSIC MOTIVATION OF CHINA’S ENTIRE POPULATION. SPREADING FAST BEYOND THE INITIAL TESTING GROUNDS OF THE SPECIAL ECONOMIC ZONES, THE GROWING PROSPERITY HAS NURTURED A SOLID AND CONSIDERABLE MIDDLE CLASS AND SPURRED THE CONSTRUCTION OF INDUSTRY AND CITIES ACROSS THE COUNTRY. THESE CITIES ARE THE TRADEMARKS OF MODERN CHINA, THE SUBJECT OF THIS BOOK, AND THE OBJECTIVE OF THE CHINESE DREAM: A SOCIETY OF MIDDLE CLASS CONSUMERS SETTLED IN MODERN CITIES.

THE ASPIRATIONAL DRIVE OF INDIVIDUALS SHAPING CONTEMPORARY URBANIZATION RESEMBLES THE AMERICAN DREAM OF THE FIFTIES, AND WITH RURAL POPULATIONS IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD FLOCKING TOGETHER IN MEGASLUMS, THIS MUST BE THE CORE COMPONENT OF THE GLOBAL DREAM. BUT WHAT IS THE FORM OF THE MODERN CITY? HOW CAN IT BE REALIZED? AND WHAT SOCIETY DOES IT ENGENDER?

FEARFUL SYMMETRY: THE PRECISE TRANSLATION OF THE BEIJING 2008 OLYMPIC SLOGAN IS ‘ONE SAME WORLD, ONE SAME DREAM’. TO CHINESE PEOPLE ITS INTERPRETATION IS OBVIOUS: ‘WE CAN OBTAIN THE SAME LIVING COMFORTS AS THE WEST, AND THE BEIJING OLYMPICS WILL SHOW THIS TO THE WORLD’. FOR THE PEOPLE IN THE DREAM, THE TV COMMERCIALS OF CARS GLIDING PAST A BACKDROP OF SHINY NEW TOWERS IS PROOF THAT (THIS TIME) IT IS REAL. CONFRONTED WITH SO MUCH PROGRESS, QUESTIONING THE QUALITY OF THE FUTURE SEEMS SENSELESS. THE CRUDEST FORM OF TWENTIETH CENTURY MODERNITY IS ON OFFER, AT A TIME WHEN THE DEVELOPED WORLD HAS COME TO ACKNOWLEDGE ITS SHORTCOMINGS. MESMERIZED BY NEW FOUND CONSUMERISM, THE YOUNG MIDDLE CLASS LOOKS AHEAD AND MARCHES ON.

THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT ON THE OTHER HAND IS INCREASINGLY AWARE THAT THIS PASSIONATE ADOPTION OF WESTERN-STYLE PROGRESS CAN NO LONGER SUFFICE. THE IMMINENT DANGERS: IT WILL EXCLUDE THE BULK OF CHINA’S CITIZENS FROM MUCH OF THE PROGRESS BEING MADE AND PRESENT THE POOREST WITH THE BILL FOR ITS RAMPANT ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION. YET THE ONGOING ECONOMIC BOOM HAS INSTILLED ITS LEADERS WITH A TOWERING CONFIDENCE TO RESPOND. THE LATEST TECHNIQUES FROM THE WEST ARE ACQUIRED — THE NEWEST ARCHITECTURE, THE FRESHEST BIOTECHNOLOGY. IN REALITY THE UNIQUE CONDITIONS CONTEMPORARY CHINA FACES DEMAND NEW PARADIGMS. HALF WAY DOWN THE PATH OF MODERNIZATION THE HAZARDS OF NOT DREAMING ARE REVEALING THEMSELVES. CHINA’S BOOM EXPERIENCES HAVEN’T MOVED BEYOND THE SHORT TERM MEMORY. THERE HAS BEEN NO OPPORTUNITY TO ASSESS THE PRODUCTS OF A SOCIALIST MARKET ECONOMY, SIMPLY NO TIME TO REFLECT ON ITS OUTCOME. THE CHINESE DREAM IS NOT BEING UPDATED.

INSTEAD EVERY NEW PROBLEM — MANY OF WHICH PRESENT THEMSELVES ON A SCALE PREVIOUSLY UNSEEN — IS SIMPLY COUNTERED WITH A PLAN FOR ITS REMOVAL BY THE YEAR 2020, 2030 OR 2050. IN PERFECT SYMMETRY ALL CONTEMPORARY SHORTCOMINGS ARE DIRECTLY MIRRORED TO BECOME OUTSTANDING OBJECTIVES FOR THE FUTURE. CHINA NOW BOASTS RADICAL SCHEMES FOR (ALMOST) ALL ASPECTS OF SOCIETY, FROM WELFARE TO TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATION, ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY AND MOON LANDINGS. IF ACHIEVED CHINA WILL BECOME NOT JUST A SUPERPOWER, BUT THE WORLD’S MOST ADVANCED NATION. THE WEST MUST HOLD ITS BREATH AND BELIEVE, IF ONLY FOR A LACK OF ALTERNATIVES.

SCATTERED DREAMS: WITNESSING CHINA’S MIRACLE ON A DAILY BASIS, THE CONTRAST BETWEEN THE CONTEMPORARY BIG HAZARDS AND CHINA’S BIG HOPES FOR 2020 AND BEYOND ISN’T QUITE SO STARK. RESPONDING TO CRISIS HAS BEEN KEY TO CHINA’S SUCCESS. FROM THE INCEPTION OF REFORM, EVERY SUCCESSIVE WAVE OF CHANGE HAS COME OUT OF A DISASTER PREDICAMENT. WITHOUT A BLUEPRINT FOR THE SOCIALIST MARKET ECONOMY, TRANSITION HAS BEEN A BUMPY RIDE. WITHIN YEARS OF LOSING CENTRAL FUNDING, LOCAL GOVERNMENTS FOUND THEMSELVES CLOSE TO BANKRUPTCY. WITHIN ANOTHER FEW YEARS THE LAND REFORMS PUT IN PLACE TO ALLOW LOCAL GOVERNMENTS TO LEASE AND DEVELOP AREAS UNDER THEIR JURISDICTION UNLOCKED THE WORLD’S MOST RAMPANT BUILDING FRENZY. THE ’89 UPRISING DID NOT YIELD ANY SUBSTANTIAL POLITICAL REFORM, BUT FURTHER ENCOURAGING ENTREPRENEURIALISM HAS UNLEASHED THE WORLD’S LARGEST CONSUMER MARKET.

URBAN DEVELOPMENT HAS BEEN PRAGMATIC AND OFTEN RELENTLESS. EMPLOYED AS A POLITICAL TOOL IT HAS ALSO BECOME INCREASINGLY STREAMLINED. THE SOCIALIST MARKET HYBRID CAN EXPEDITE ANY PROCEDURE, SWITCHING FREELY BETWEEN PUBLIC AND PRIVATE OPERATIONS. THE MAOIST DREAM OF COLLECTIVE OWNERSHIP IS AUCTIONED OFF IN BITS TO A MASS OF COMPANIES AND INDIVIDUALS WRESTLING FOR SUPREMACY OR SURVIVAL. FROM THE TOP, THE STATE LAUNCHES ITS MEGA PROJECTS, WHILE SOLO DEVELOPERS SEAR HOLES INTO THE ONCE COMMUNAL CARPET TO CREATE PRISTINE PATCHES FOR HASSLE-FREE PRIVATIZATION. ACCORDING TO THE ONE-STEP-UP MODEL, BOTTOM-LEVEL MIGRANT WORKERS SEND WAGES BACK HOME TO BUILD IN THE VILLAGE, WHILE URBANITES BUY THEIR FIRST APARTMENT IN THE CITY. PLOT BY PLOT URBANIZATION FACILITATES A CONTROLLED UNRAVELING OF CAPITALISM WITH CHINESE CHARACTERISTICS.

“BY 2020, CHINA WILL COMPLETE THE BUILDING OF A COMFORTABLE SOCIETY … CITIES WILL LEAD THE WAY”
– PREMIER WEN JIABAO
2005 2006 2007

LEAPFROG: THE WORLD OBSERVES THE CHINESE DREAM IN ANXIETY AND WITH ANTICIPATION. SET AGAINST A BACKDROP OF DIMINISHING RESOURCES AND BLEAK PROGNOSTICATIONS FOR THE CAPITAL MARKETS, THE EMERGING ECONOMIES ARE WHERE THE BIG GAINS ARE TO BE MADE. IT IS THE ABSENCE OF A MATURE POWER GRID, THE LOWER CURRENT LEVELS OF URBANIZATION, THE LACK OF CARS AND SO ON, THAT SUDDENLY OFFER HOPE. LEAPFROG DEVELOPMENT, SO OFTEN VAUNTED YET SELDOM OBSERVED, IS TODAY DEMANDED FROM CHINA IN ORDER TO ALIGN THE COURSE OF PROGRESS WITH GOALS FOR GLOBAL SUSTAINABILITY. BIG SOLUTIONS ARE REQUIRED TO MOVE BEYOND SUCH FUEL-DEPENDENT LANDSCAPES AS THOSE PRODUCED BY THE AMERICAN DREAM. INDEED, TO LEAPFROG EFFECTIVELY, THIS KNOWLEDGE MUST BE FOUND AND IMPLEMENTED NATIONWIDE AND NOW.

THE 400 FETISH: IN 2001 JUST SUCH A RADICAL PLAN FOR LEAPFROG URBANIZATION CAME FROM WITHIN CHINA. THE THEN STATE MINISTER OF CIVIL AFFAIRS, DOJE CERING, PROPOSED THE CONSTRUCTION OF 400 NEW CITIES BY THE YEAR 2020, OR 20 NEW CITIES PER YEAR OF ABOUT 1 MILLION RESIDENTS EACH. THIS GRANDIOSE SCHEME AIMED TO ACCOMMODATE THE PROJECTED FLOOD OF RURAL MIGRANTS AND SPRINGBOARD CHINA TO THE LEVEL OF A MODEL INDUSTRIALIZED NATION.

THE OBSCENE AMOUNT OF NEWNESS BOTH SHOCKED AND MESMERIZED ME. THE DESIRE TO CONCEIVE A COMPLETE URBAN SYSTEM IS HIGHLY SEDUCTIVE. IN THEORY, A CITY BUILT AT ONCE COULD BE FREE FROM ALL THE ACCUMULATED PROBLEMS AND CLUTTER, AND OUTSMART THE PREDICAMENTS AGEING CITIES HAVE BEEN STRUGGLING WITH. IT’S AN ENTICING AND OSTENSIBLY IMPOSSIBLE IDEA, ESPECIALLY WHEN MULTIPLIED BY 400. THE PROPOSAL BECAME THE STARTING POINT FOR THE DCF’S RESEARCH.

SOON WE FOUND REALITY IS ALL TOO OFTEN MORE EXTREME THAN CHINA’S BIG AMBITIONS. DURING THE PERIOD 1978–1998 CHINA REALIZED MORE THAN 400 CITIES. THEN, WHILE URBANIZATION CONTINUED TO ACCELERATE, SUDDENLY NO NEW CITIES WERE RECORDED. THE BIRTH OF A CHINESE CITY IS A MATTER OF POLICY. DETAILED CRITERIA ARE FORMULATED THAT PRESCRIBE THE RATIO OF URBAN TO RURAL INHABITANTS IN AN AREA, AND ITS RURAL TO URBAN ECONOMIC OUTPUT. THIS IS CLEAR-CUT, BUT IT OFTEN DESCRIBES ENVIRONMENTS AT ODDS WITH OUR UNDERSTANDING OF A CITY. DISPERSED SEMI-URBANIZED REGIONS WILL OBTAIN CITY STATUS, WHILE DENSELY POPULATED INDUSTRIAL CENTERS ARE OVERLOOKED. MOREOVER, THE REGULATIONS ARE EASILY ALTERED. THE CURRENT POLITICAL CLIMATE IN CHINA IS GEARED TOWARDS THE CONSTRUCTION OF NEW CITIES BUT PREFERABLY WITHOUT GRANTING EXPENSIVE CITY BENEFITS OR LOOSING CENTRAL CONTROL.

SLICK CITIES: OUTSIDE OF THE OFFICIAL RECORDS AROUND ONE HUNDRED NEW TOWNS OF SUBSTANTIAL SIZE HAVE MUSHROOMED ACROSS CHINA IN THE LAST DECADE IN THE FORM OF MINING-TOWNS, TOURIST TOWNS, SUBURBAN ENCLAVES, FACTORY VILLAGES, THEMED AND CONCEPT TOWNS, AND MILITARY SETTLEMENTS. THEY EMERGE IN DIFFERENT FORMS, SOMETIMES AS INDEPENDENT ENTITIES, SOMETIMES AS PART OF A LARGER URBAN STRUCTURE, BUT ALWAYS CLEARLY DELINEATED FROM THE PREEXISTING. INCREASINGLY THESE ARE SLICK CITIES — CLEAN RESIDENTIAL STRONGHOLDS FORTIFIED AGAINST THEIR MUDDLED SURROUNDINGS. COMPARED TO THEIR PREDECESSORS, SLICK CITIES LOOK AND FEEL SMOOTH. BUT THERE IS A PRICE TO PAY. SLICK CITIES ARE BY NATURE STATIC. THEIR WALLED OFF SPACE IS UNYIELDING TO CHANGE. THE PUBLIC DOMAIN IS REDUCED TO THE VOIDS IN BETWEEN THE BUILDINGS. EXPLODED IN SIZE, THEIR ARCHITECTURE NEGATES THE NECESSITY FOR PLANNING BEYOND CONNECTING ARTERIES. THE STOREFRONT, THE INTERFACE OF THE CITY, IS BLINDED. THE STREETS, ONCE THE VIBRANT DOMAIN OF PUBLIC LIFE, ARE REDUCED TO TECHNOCRATIC TRANSIT SPACE. URBAN LIFE AS WE KNEW IT, SO DEPENDENT ON HUMAN INTERACTION IS DISSOLVED. NOW FEAR HAS ENTERED THE PLANNING PROCEDURES. THE CONGESTED POINTS ARE CROWD-MANAGED WITH THE INSERTION OF EVER LARGER PLAZAS AND WALKWAYS. PEDESTRIAN TRAFFIC AND CARS ALIKE FIND THEMSELVES HURTLED THROUGH VOIDS AND HIGHWAYS UNSUPPORTED BY THE LARGER NETWORK. CONGESTION IS INEVITABLE; HUMAN ENCOUNTERS UNLIKELY. THE FABRIC OF THE SLICK CITY IS STRETCHED APART. PLANNING HAS BECOME THE PRACTICE OF MOVING PEOPLE OUT AND VOIDS IN. THE EXPANSION AND FRAGMENTATION OF THE CITY ACCELERATES.

SPLIT CITIES: CHINA’S SLICK CITIES ARE LOATHED BUT ALSO LOVED, BOTH AT HOME AND ABROAD. EUROPEAN ARCHITECTS CONDEMN THEIR SOULLESS SPACES, WHILE AFRICA, THE MIDDLE-EAST AND INDIA HERALD THEIR SCALE, SPEED AND RATIONALIZED SHINE. THE PRIME MINISTER OF INDIA HOPES TO MAKE MUMBAI (CURRENTLY A METROPOLIS COMPOSED OF 60% SLUMS) INTO A CITY JUST LIKE SHANGHAI BY 2010.

BUT THERE IS LITTLE ROOM FOR NOSTALGIA, NOR REASON TO GLORIFY CHINESE MODERNITY. FOR MILLENNIA THE CHINESE EMPIRE HAS USED CITIES AS A MEANS TO SAFEGUARD THE VAST EXPANSE OF ITS RULE. AS PERFECT BEACONS OF POWER THEY EXPRESSED THE DISTANT CONTROL OF THE HARMONIOUS SOCIETY. METICULOUSLY DESIGNED AND WALLED OFF IN QUADRANTS WITH LITTLE REGARD FOR PUBLIC SPACE THEY COULD BE COPIED EFFICIENTLY WHERE NEEDED. THESE WERE THE FIRST FAST CITIES, THE FIRST SLICK CITIES. TODAY SUCCESSFUL GROWTH CONTINUES TO BE A PRECARIOUS BALANCING ACT BETWEEN TIGHT CONTROL AND HECTIC RELEASE. EXCLUSIVE COMPOUNDS TEMPORARILY PUSH INFORMAL GROWTH ASIDE, WHILE IN REALITY THE WALLED ENCLAVES ARE ENGULFED BY THE VILLAGES OF THE CONSTRUCTION WORKERS WHO BUILT THEM.

SLICK CITIES NATURALLY GENERATE SCHIZOPHRENIC URBAN GROWTH. ACROSS THE RIVER OR TRAIN TRACK ON AN EMPTY PLOT OF LAND THE TOWN IS REINVENTED FROM SCRATCH. SELF-CONTAINED DESIGNS ARE IMPLEMENTED THAT IGNORE ALL PREVIOUS INCARNATIONS. A SPLIT CITY IS BORN: THE NEW CENTER RAPIDLY TURNS ITS BACK ON THE OLD CORE. PROMINENT SPLIT CITY MODELS INCLUDE: THE VERTICAL CITY (NEW LOOKS DOWN OVER OLD), THE RING CITY (OLD IS ENCIRCLED BY NEW), SPRAWL CITY (NEW SCATTERS AND FLEES FROM OLD) AND THE “BRAND NEW CITY”. THE MOST RECENT WAVE OF RESIDENTIAL SATELLITES ARE ACTIVELY BRANDED AND MARKETED AS NEW CITIES. THIS IS AN IMPORTANT DISTINCTION WHEN IN EFFECT EVERY TOWN, CITY AND METROPOLIS IN CHINA IS NEW. EVEN EXISTING CITIES ARE REGARDED AS TABULA RASAE WAITING TO BE CLEARED.

CITY ORGANICS: THE GOAL TO BUILD 400 NEW CITIES IN 20 YEARS IS NOT QUITE AS ABSURD AS THE ASPIRATION TO ATTEMPT THEIR DESIGN. ANY TRADITIONAL NOTION OF PLANNING WILL BE INADEQUATE WHEN URBANIZATION OCCURS FASTER THAN PLANNERS CAN MAP. IT IS DRIVEN BY CONSTRUCTIONS AT THE TWO ENDS OF THE SPECTRUM: THE MACRO-PLANNED AND THE MICRO-ORGANIC. THE DESIGNER IS PRESENTED WITH A FRAUGHT DILEMMA — TO PURSUE THE CLEAN MODERNITY OF THE ECONOMIC MIRACLE, OR TO STIMULATE THE HUMAN VIBRANCY OF CHINESE ENTREPRENEURIALISM. BUT THIS IS NO MORE THAN THE ILLUSION OF CHOICE. BOTH FORMS FEAR EACH OTHER YET FEED OFF EACH OTHER. WHILE WE DELIBERATE, AGGREGATED PROJECTS GROW THE URBAN LANDSCAPE IN THE FORM OF MORE MARKET-DRIVEN UNINTENTIONAL DEVELOPMENT, OR MUD*.

AT HYPERSPEED CHINA CAN BE ENJOYED AS A LABORATORY FOR URBAN GROWTH. WITHIN THE TIME-SPAN OF A SINGLE GENERATION IT NURTURES CONSECUTIVE IDEOLOGIES OF PLANNING. OBSERVING MUD* FORMATIONS FRACTURES THE PERSISTENT BELIEFS IN BOTH THE GRASS-ROOTS CITY AND THE ORCHESTRATED LANDSCAPE. AT STREET LEVEL CHINA’S NEW URBAN REALMS LOOK PERFECTLY MICROPLANNED WHILE THE SAME POLISHED ISLAND DEVELOPMENTS AT THE SCALE OF THE METROPOLIS MERGE TOGETHER TO REVEAL MACRO-ORGANIC SYSTEMS.

THE BUILDING BLOCKS OF CHINA’S CITIES ARE DESIGNED IN DAYS; THE ENSUING MUD* CONFIGURATIONS THEN FIXED FOR DECADES. BUT, WHILE CHINESE SOCIETY SEEMS ENDLESSLY FLEXIBLE, THE INELASTICITY OF URBAN GROWTH PATTERNS DEMANDS THAT DEVELOPMENT EQUIP ITSELF WITH LONG TERM FLEXIBLE FRAMEWORKS. DEMOLISHING AND THEN RECONSTRUCTING THE BUILT VOLUME EVERY GENERATION WILL FLOUT CHINA’S EFFORTS TOWARD SUSTAINABILITY. IT IS NOT JUST ENERGY INTENSIVE — FARMLAND WILL BE PERMANENTLY LOST, WHILE THE CONFIGURATIONS THAT DEFINE CHINA’S FUTURE ENERGY NEEDS WILL BE CONSOLIDATED.

MIDWAY: NEITHER LEAPFROG AMBITIONS NOR BIG SCHEMES AND OUTSTANDING OBJECTIVES ACKNOWLEDGE THE REALITY THAT CHINA IS NOW HALFWAY DONE. 2008 MARKS THE 30TH ANNIVERSARY OF CHINA’S OPEN DOOR POLICY AND SUBSEQUENT ECONOMIC RISE. IF CURRENT GROWTH RATES CONTINUE, IN A FURTHER 30 YEARS CHINA’S GDP WILL OUTSIZE THAT OF THE USA. OTHER SIGNIFICANT HALF / HALF MARKERS ARE COMING UP, INCLUDING THE SHIFT IN EMPLOYMENT FROM PRIMARY TO TERTIARY INDUSTRY AND THE MOVE FROM PREDOMINANTLY RURAL TO PREDOMINANTLY URBAN SETTLEMENTS.

BIGNESS AND COPY AND PASTE PRACTICES ARE ONLY THE MOST VISIBLE ASPECTS OF FLASH URBANIZATION. EQUALLY, AT THE BOTTOM END STREAMLINED NEW FORMS OF SPATIAL PRODUCTION HAVE EVOLVED. RURAL CHINA IS ALSO HALF WAY DONE. HERE TOO FEAR DOMINATES PLANNING. THOUGH CITY DEVELOPMENT IS ENCOURAGED, THE MILLIONS OF RURAL TO URBAN MIGRANTS ARE BARRED FROM SETTLING AND ARE SOON REFLECTED BACK TO THE COUNTRYSIDE. DISTRUST OF SLUMS OR POTENTIALLY UNSTABLE CONCENTRATIONS OF EX-FARMER COMMUNITIES HAS KEPT CHINA’S CITIZEN REGISTRATION SYSTEM IN PLACE. IT ENFORCES A BLACK AND WHITE DIVISION BETWEEN PEOPLE WITH URBAN OR RURAL STATUS. YET THIS DIVISION IS INCREASINGLY OUTDATED BY THE BLURRED SPATIAL CONDITIONS IT PRODUCES. CITY EDGES MELT WITH FLOATING WORKERS CONGREGATING IN THE VILLAGES JUST OUTSIDE THE CITY PROPER, WHILE REMITTANCES SENT BACK HOME SPUR VILLAGE GROWTH. A FINE HAZE OF NEARLY A MILLION VILLAGES COVERS THE LANDSCAPE AND ACCOMMODATES ALMOST A BILLION PEOPLE. PLANNING POLICIES INTENDED TO STIMULATE MODERN CENTERS ARE EFFECTIVELY URBANIZING CHINA OUTSIDE OF THE CITIES. BELOW-THE-RADAR DEVELOPMENT AND INCENTIVES LIKE THE NEW “SOCIALIST VILLAGE” ARE RADICALLY RESHAPING THE COUNTRYSIDE, AND FORMING A VAST SEMI-URBANIZED TERRITORY.

CHINA’S MOST POPULATED AND FASTEST URBANIZING REGION SPANS THE CENTERS OF BEIJING, XIAN AND SHANGHAI TO FORM THE WORLD’S LARGEST URBAN FIELD: A MEGALOPOLIS TWICE THE SIZE OF FRANCE WITH THE AVERAGE DENSITY OF A MID-SIZED AMERICAN CITY. IN ESSENCE THE CAPITAL OF URBAN CHINA, IT CONSISTS OF A HIERARCHY OF CENTERS WITHIN A GRID OF VILLAGES WHOSE ECONOMIES HAVE TRANSFORMED TO SUPPORT THE URBAN CONTEXT. THOUGH MUTUALLY INTERDEPENDENT, THE COMPONENT PARTS OF THIS MEGALOPOLIS BETRAY DEEP SCHISMS. DRAWING IN UNWARRANTED FINANCIAL AND NATURAL RESOURCES FROM ACROSS THE COUNTRY, ITS CONSPICUOUS ECONOMIC ENGINES ARE KEPT STRONG. BIG SOLUTIONS SUCH AS THE SOUTH TO NORTH WATER TRANSPORTATION PROJECT PUMPS WATER ACROSS THE COUNTRY TO THE ARID NORTH AND ARTIFICIALLY MAINTAINS THE LUSH AND COOL OF ITS CITIES. BUT THE VILLAGES IN BETWEEN HAVE NO TAPS ON THESE PIPELINES.

CREEPING XIAO KANG * : THOUGH PROPAGATING MASSIVE SCHEMES AND EXTREME PROJECTS AT THE PERIPHERY, THE CCP CENTERS ITS TRUST FOR THE FUTURE ON THE GROWING MIDDLE CLASS — A TRUST IN WELL-CONTAINED SELF-ORGANIZATION THAT FOR THE MOMENT SEEMS TO BE PAYING OFF. THE ‘HARMONIOUS SOCIETY’ PROJECTED ONTO THE FUTURE IS STEADILY CARVED OUT TODAY WITH EVERY SINGLE PRODUCER TURNED CONSUMER. CONFRONTED WITH A SIZZLING HOT ECONOMY AND SURROUNDED BY DIZZYING CONSTRUCTION, THE AVERAGE INDIVIDUAL PRESENTS TO THE PARTY STABLE PROGRESS. THE BENEFITS SHOULD SLOWLY CREEP OUTWARD FROM THE CENTER TO PERIPHERY TO REACH THE COUNTRYSIDE.

HOWEVER, WHILE SOCIETAL SHIFTS FIRST SEEM TO RUN AHEAD OF SPATIAL ORGANIZATION, URBAN PATTERNS SOON REVEAL THEIR DOMINATION OVER HOW SOCIETY EVOLVES. AS CHINA’S ECONOMIC REFORMS UNFOLD, THE TENDENCY TO PRODUCE MUD* FORMATIONS ACCELERATES. THE GRIP THE URBAN CONFIGURATION HAS ON CHINESE SOCIETY TIGHTENS; THE DREAM TO DESIGN CITY OR SOCIETY SLIPS AWAY.

PARALLEL WORLDS: THE CHINESE DREAM IS AT ODDS WITH THE CCP’S GRIP ON POWER. WIDESPREAD URBANIZATION JARS AGAINST CENTRALIZED CONTROL. EXCLUSIVITY CLASHES WITH THE HARMONIOUS SOCIETY. ULTIMATELY THE DESIGN OF A SOCIETY CONTRADICTS THE EMPOWERMENT OF THE INDIVIDUAL. BEHIND THE SCENES THE CHINESE DREAM IS SHIFTING.

BUILDING CITIES WILL SHAPE SOCIETY, BUT A MODERN SOCIETY CAN’T BE SHAPED BY CITY BUILDING. THE RIGID STRUCTURE OF THE SELF-CONTAINED CITY AS A TOOL OF CONTROL IS CHALLENGED BY TWO DISTINCTLY DYNAMIC FORCES: THE MARKET AND THE MASSES. UNADDRESSED, URBANIZATION WILL CONTINUE TO GENERATE CONFLICTING REALITIES — A DISCORD AT THE HEART OF THE SOCIALIST MARKET HYBRID THAT RESONATES THROUGH CHINA’S BID FOR PROGRESS. ITS LEADERS ARE INCREASINGLY DEMANDING ON THE GLOBAL POLITICAL STAGE, YET INTERNAL DECISIONS REMAIN OBSCURED. CHINA IS THE BASIN OF GLOBAL PRODUCTION AND TRADE OF GOODS, YET ITS ECONOMY IS OPAQUE. IT IS OPENING UP TO INTERNATIONAL CORPORATIONS, YET ITS CITIZENS REMAIN BARRED FROM GLOBAL INFORMATION FLOWS. CHINA IS DREAMING UP PARALLEL WORLDS, AND BUILDING A GLOBALLY CONNECTED FORTRESS.

THE DYNAMIC CITY: CHINA WILL UNDOUBTEDLY EVOLVE AND MATURE. IT HAS SUCCESSFULLY NAVIGATED MANY OBSTACLES TO ACHIEVE THE LAST THREE DECADES OF CONTINUOUS GROWTH. A BUSINESS AS USUAL SCENARIO IS NOT IMPROBABLE. A GOOD PART OF CHINA WILL LIVE THE CHINESE DREAM, ACCOMMODATED IN BIGGER AND BRIGHTER CITIES THAN THOSE THAT EXIST ELSEWHERE ON EARTH (A SCENARIO OF PURE STATE CAPITALISM HYPOTHESIZED IN THE MAGAZINE AT THE END OF THIS BOOK).

HOWEVER, A STRONG URBAN MIDDLE CLASS AS ENVISIONED FOR 2020 COULD CARRY A NEW SOCIETY. IN 2007 INDIVIDUALS IN CHINA WERE AWARDED GENUINE PROPERTY RIGHTS (PERHAPS THE MOST PROFOUND LEGAL CHANGE SINCE THE BIRTH OF THE REPUBLIC). WITH THE CONSUMER-HOMEOWNER PLACED AT THE HEART OF URBAN DESIRE MECHANISMS, FUTURE DEVELOPMENTS WILL SUCCEED OR FAIL IN RELATION TO PEOPLE AS OPPOSED TO STATE OBJECTIVES. UNWITTINGLY, THE MIDDLE CLASS MAY UNLOCK THE FORTRESS.

TO RETAIN MARKET PALATABILITY, THE INDIVIDUAL WILL NEED TO BE OFFERED MORE THAN PERSONAL SPACE. DEMAND WILL INCLUDE CITYWIDE PERFORMANCE. AS THE URBAN DREAM TAKES SHAPE, IT HAS TO GAIN GROUND AGAINST GROWING URBAN EXPECTATIONS. COUNTER-INTUITIVELY, THIS WILL REQUIRE MORE COORDINATED PLANNING EFFORTS AT THE SAME TIME AS INCREASED HOMEOWNER STATUS. MICROPLANNED PROJECTS WILL NEED TO INTEGRATE WITHIN A COHERENT MACROLEVEL STRUCTURE. URBANIZATION WILL NEED TO BE STREAMLINED NOT FOR SPEED BUT FOR QUALITY, IN THE FORM OF EFFICIENCY AND COMFORT. BY ABOLISHING ANTI-URBAN POLICIES, CHINA CAN UNLEASH THE POWER OF ITS GROWTH OVER THE NEXT THREE DECADES AND MOVE TOWARD FUTURE-PROOFED SOLUTIONS. IN THIS CASE, TO SERVE PROJECTED MIGRATION, NO NEW CITIES ARE NEEDED. UTILIZING PREDETERMINED

FLEXIBLE FRAMEWORKS, CITIES CAN EXPAND IN THEIR NATURAL DIRECTION WITHOUT LOSING COHESION. THE PRESSURE OF THE MASSES BECOMES A BENEFICIAL FORCE TO DEVELOP THE MIDDLE-SIZE CITIES TO TWICE THEIR SIZE, THUS CONCENTRATING EXPANSION ON THE MOST EFFICIENT SETTLEMENTS OF 2 TO 6 MILLION INHABITANTS. THIS WOULD ACCOMMODATE ALL POPULATION MOVEMENTS AND ALLOW CENTERS OF PRODUCTION TO EVOLVE INTO CREATIVE AND DYNAMIC CITIES. TO MOVE BEYOND THE WORLD’S FACTORY FLOOR AND TOWARD AN ECONOMY OF IDEAS, CHINA WILL HAVE TO HARNESS THE EXPANDING NEEDS OF ITS INDIVIDUALS. IF CHINA IS TRULY TO THROW OFF ITS COMMUNIST PAST, IT WILL NEED TO HAVE MANY DREAMS FOR ITS CITIES, AND TO ALLOW COMPETITION AMONGST THEM.

BEYOND DREAMING: THE RESEARCH THAT RUNS THROUGH THIS BOOK FORMS AN INVESTIGATION INTO CHINA’S NEW FOUND MARKET REALITY AND THE SPATIAL CONDITIONS IT PRODUCES. ANALYSES CUT ACROSS DIFFERENT DISCIPLINES AND THROUGH FIVE LEVELS OF SCALE (FROM NATIONAL TO THE INDIVIDUAL) TO CREATE THE BASIS FOR DESIGN PROPOSALS OF WHAT, IN THEORY, CHINA COULD ATTAIN. UNCOMPROMISING AND OFTEN SELF-CRITICAL ALTERNATIVES AIM TO INSPIRE A NEW COURSE OF URBANIZATION. AS SUCH IT HAS BECOME AN INVESTIGATION INTO ARCHITECTURE’S OWN LONGSTANDING DREAM: THE DESIGN OF THE CITY. WHILE FOR CONTEMPORARY CHINA, AROUSED BY A LOVE FOR THE NEW, THE INABILITIES OF PLANNING AND DESIGN HAVE NOT BEEN OF GREAT CONCERN, THE NEW CHINESE CITY REPRESENTS ANOTHER UTOPIAN CONCEPT: A SOCIETY UNDER CONSTRUCTION.



...Continue reading the introduction.

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BURB - INSERT MAGAZINE FROM THE YEAR 2020

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