The 2009 Shenzhen & Hong Kong Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism and Architecture kicked off last weekend - the third edition of Asia’s largest architecture gathering. Having previously been curated by established Chinese architects and academics, Qingyun Ma in 2005 and Yung Ho Chang in 2003, this year’s events are orchestrated by chief-curator, editor and graphic designer Ou Ning, and his international team of curators (including Beatrice Galilee for London, Kayoko Ota for Tokyo, Wei Wei Shannon for New York, Pauline J Yao for San Francisco and Ya-Zhu Xu for Taiwan).
Meanwhile in Hong Kong chief curator Marisa Yiu heads a curatorial team of three; Curator for Arts, City Integration and Events Alan Lo, Curator for Education, Film and Media Eric Schuldenfrei and Curator for Urbanism, Architecture and Landscape Frank Yu.
Themed ‘City Mobilization’, the young event is passionate and thought-provoking, aiming to offer a refreshed version of the ‘biennale’ format, urging urban authorities, architects and planners to reconsider their role and refocus their creative energy to spark architectural change.
Set to nurture new ideas and young talent, the series of architectural festivities in Shenzhen hosts not only a number of established practices (like LOT-EK and Studio Pei-Zhu with Arup), but also a large number of emerging international firms. Practices like Austrians Feld72, UK-based Aberrant Architecture, Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto and Chinese MAD make an impact with a variety of imaginative installations and happenings.
In its Hong Kong guise - which will be up and running until the 27th Feb - the biennale follows a guideline, which also pushes the envelope. Following three strands of the general ‘Bring Your Own Biennale’ open call to students and professionals -‘Bring Your Own Bench’, ‘Bring Your Own Booth’ and ‘Bring Your Own Box’ – chief curator Yiu gives the power to the people, as the participants are invited to create and bring their contribution. The installations include a large-scale paper tube construction by celebrated Japanese architect Shigeru Ban at the main biennale pavilion.
Hosted in various locations around the Hong Kong waterfront and the young city of Shenzhen, the bi-city biennale highlights include installations by Chinese and International participating architects; a retrospective of iconic Chinese architect Xia Changshi; an architectural film festival; and the Odyssey literature project, bringing together famous contemporary buildings and words by celebrated Chinese writers.