In Brief:


Darryl Chen studied Caochangdi, an atypical ‘new socialist village’ on Beijing’s Fifth Ring Road with a thriving and diverse mixed-income community. Amongst the city’s singularly masterplanned mega-developments, Caochangdi is an anomaly. In the space created by the Chinese government’s evolving planning laws, the village’s growth is driven by the instincts of local peasants and the bohemian opportunism of artists who have established a set of unstated rules governing urban form.

The Localism Act of 2011 provides the biggest opportunity in decades to rethink the role of planning. Chen argues that the time has come to breathe new life into the idea of the village by eliminating townscape sentimentalism and recovering economic growth as the primary driver of urban form. Chen’s project questions the seemingly one-way importation of Western ideas and expertise into China by asking, what can China teach the UK about planning?

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IN THEIR OWN WORDS

Why did you want to be part of Venice Takeaway?

This is a forum for the best architectural ideas rather than the best work of a subjectively selected group of architects. The pavilion is showcasing game- changing ideas at a time when we desperately need to stimulate new thinking and new approaches to practice. Considering today’s economic climate, this seems more relevant than indulging in retrospectives.

Where did your idea come from?

My idea sparked from frustration with the planning system and the arbitrary hurdles it makes you jump through. In the UK, I’ve noticed a kind of love of anomalous detail, which is both brilliantly distinctive and maddeningly frustrating. The Chinese, on the other hand, are able to unlock urban intensity and economic opportunism at a time when they’ve become more open to new ways of doing things.

How are research and exploration important to your practice?

Design doesn’t come from thin air. Research enables a platform for a design idea to take flight. The most interesting propositions come from taking found, sometimes unexpected, phenomena as a starting point, and asking ‘what if?’ I find that exceptions to norms often say as much, if not more, about a society than intentional urban design. Consequently, I’m interested in the fringe, the underrated, the unlikely and the sometimes perverse. Research becomes a mode of operating without the rigidity of presumed outcomes.

IMAGES

Simple trades exploited in construction of an apartment building
Commercial life in Caochangdi
 Brick ornamentation on 300 Caochangdi courtyard

Commercial life in Caochangdi
 Build the New Socialist Village
Market street in Caochangdi

All images: Darryl Chen

TRAVEL LOGS

EXHIBITOR TITLE
Beijing/China Travel Log


EXPEDITION TEAM
Darryl Chen


ORIGIN
London, England


DESTINATION
Beijing, China


DATES IN THE FIELD
14th to 29th April 2012


TRAVEL MODE
Out: LON-HKG Virgin Atlantic VS0200; _HKG-PEK China Southern CZ0309

Return: PEK-SHA China Eastern MU5108; PVG-LHR Virgin Atlantic VS0251


EQUIPMENT
Camera: Canon IXUS 120 IS; Samsung Galaxy Ace Android phone voice recorder


VISA/PERMITS
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United Kingdom


FIELDWORK: PLACES/BUILDINGS
Hong Kong University; Sanlitun – Opposite House, Beijing; 798 Art District, Beijing; Timezone 8 Books, Beijing; Caochangdi, Beijing; National Art Museum of China, Beijing; Beijing Planning Exhibition Hall; Tongji University, Shanghai


INTERVIEWS
Joshua Bolchover, Assistant professor, Hong Kong University; Joe Song, Principal, PDCG; Tong Ming, Professor, Tongji University


ADDITIONAL EXPEDITION SPONSORS/FUNDERS 
Hawkins\Brown

Find out more:


Darryl Chen:
http://www.tomorrowsthoughtstoday.com/
www.hawkinsbrown.com

Recommended Reading:
Caochangdi Beijing Inside Out by Robert Mangurian & Mary-Ann Ray (eds)
Urban China Work in Progress by Brendan McGetrick, Jiang Jun

In Context:
#DarrylChen

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