집합도시 Collective City: 2019 Seoul Architecture Biennale Review

Part One — Enterprises of survival

Are you well accompanied (to survive)? Architect’s predictions on the future of architecture, economy and society

Part Two — Traces of an Invisible City: Three Notes on Hong Kong

(Left) The clip shows a man in China’s Cultural Revolution uniform giving a fervent speech on Maoism, communism in the streets of Hong Kong

The striking contrast and division of the two political sides — pro-China and pro-Democrats- dividing up Hong Kong society today caught my eye as they stood in the same place at a (what I assume to be) Mong Kok street at different times. The documentary delves into Hong Kong history to inform the audience why older generations are inclined towards communist / pro-China ideals. It reminded me of a time when I took a bicycle ride from Kwun Tong to Kowloon City for Hong Kong history tour, as the guide explained about the places where communist revolution attempts and revolts of the 60s and 70s happened in Hong Kong against the British colonial empire.

Mirroring this division is the well-known fact that Hong Kong has been ranked among the top cities for inequalities for years. In video games and movies, Hong Kong is often portrayed as a cyberpunk dystopian city, and it felt like that in real life too during the years I lived in Hong Kong as Umbrella revolution movement started in 2014, to 2019 just before a series of protests broke out in June 2019. Living as a university student and fresh into the workforce in poorer neighbourhoods during that time, I could witness the increasing amount of chaos, street crimes, loss of dignity and humanity. It cost my mental and physical health, as the buildings were built for efficiency, reducing cost rather than well-being; the society valuing productivity, innovation rather than the purpose or meaning behind them. I thought this documentary playing on an awkward empty area of the exhibition’s wall was an art in itself portraying the emptiness and poverty within the tightly packed, “collective” areas of Hong Kong.

Part Three — The huge black book on Finland’s affordable housing

This book inspired me with new ideas to arrange boring information such as budgets and costs into simple, cute illustrations that bring joy to the readers. Flipping through the huge book was also a magical experience as I could perceive the scale and weight of this project; lifting the pages 30 or more times was quite an exercise.

In the introduction, it is also very clear to see the focus and values of this project are on sustainable economics and the authors propose an alternative house construction process and housing ecosystem that could lift people out of poverty.

Part 4— Blue Rebellion: An Intervention on the Toxic Urbanism of Ultra Clear Glass by Andres Jaque, Office for Political Innovation

Reflective glass buildings act as huge mirrors reflecting sunlight, simulating a greenhouse effect. Tongue in cheek, the creator literally puts a mirror in front of us, reflective of the damage global financial powers and our greed had on the environment. To read more about this anti-glass building movement, see here: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jul/28/ban-all-glass-skscrapers-to-save-energy-in-climate-crisis

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