LOCAL QUARANTINES 2016-2017
This year our unit started with an experimental investigation into the practice of quarantine as a strategic spatial tool. In medical terms,
quarantine is described as a state of isolation imposed to prevent the spread of disease. However, we didn't limit our exploration to disease control. We explored quarantines in a much broader sense: As a strategy of containment, encapsulation or preservation; a
spatial separation for the purpose of protecting one thing from exposure to the other; a self-contained micro-cosmos that sustains a delicate balance with its surroundings.
China became the test bed for our investigations. China today seems omnipresent - in the news, in our workplaces and in every trip to the shops. Its growth seems unprecedented and unending. Economic expansion and relocation to China's cities are radically altering China's urban and rural infrastructure and built environment, rapidly taking on a Western veneer. Our appetite for consumption and our concern for the health of our planet creates an uneasy contradiction: it feeds the tension between the pure and the polluted, the local and the foreign, the healthy and the healthy and the sick, the fake and the original. What architectures can we propose for those uncertain and fragile relationships?
Term one was research-based and propositional at the same time, studying China's culture and Shanghai from afar. We explored various scales of quarantines and our investigations reached from everyday spatial interventions to the great firewall of China. From smog, dust and pollution control to isolated Santa Claus production villages; from 'Chinawood', the world's largest film studio and camera-ready version of Chinese history to hermetically sealed greenhouses.
In early January, we traveled to Shanghai and Hangzhou. In our search for sites, we found a fast-moving and muscular city. With over 4,000 high-rise buildings having sprouted out of its ground since the mid-1980s, Shanghai's skyline has become a strangely exuberant version of a Blade Runner aesthetic, with simple geometries and sharp lines cutting into the sky, Its architecture contains a permanent tension between the past and the future. In contrast, Hangzhou's dreamy West Lake panoramas and hilly backdrop lured us into believing it was almost a classical Chinese watercolour.
The main brief challenged the unit to site the research from their project within a real context. Briefs ranged from an urban clay quarry to a G20 summit guesthouse, from a wildlife research center in the strangely illuminated forest of Hangzhou to a bone china pet cemetery. The propositions that emerged this year were firmly set in China's future - where they explored their own definitions of quarantines in the context of China and an architecture that is fictional yet possible, ironic yet critcal, and affirmative yet progressive.
Annette Choy de Leon, Zachariah Harper le Roux, Victor (Tsz) Leung,
Nur Mohamad Adzlee, Chandni Patel,
Nur (Sabrina) Azman,
lap (Justin) Chow,
Nicholas Chrysostomou, Joanna Hobbs,
Ka Chi law,
Ziyuan (Oliver) Zhu