Tale of two cities: the Bi-city Biennale of Shenzhen and Hong Kong opens its doors

The 2015 Bi-City Biennale
The 2015 Bi-City Biennale, shared between Hong Kong and its neighbour Shenzhen, has just opened its doors, examining the urban challenges around the Pearl River Delta.
(Image credit: courtesy of 2015 UABB)

The latest Bi-City Biennale, shared between Hong Kong and its neighbour city of Shenzhen, is back this month with a host of architectural celebrations. The large scale event is intended to focus on the common urban challenges facing the Pearl River Delta region, drawing the two cities even closer.

In Shenzhen, the exhibition (titled 'Re-Living the City') is held in a striking settting – an abandoned flour factory – but includes many, if not too many, voices, which has an impact in its overall critical strength. Still, many worthy displays offer an informative visit. 

Happily, Ecosistema Urbano's thoughtful series of small-scale urban projects stood out for its practical application of using technology to create playful social spaces like solar-powered 'air trees'; as did the V&A's 'Unidentified Acts of Design' highlighting the creative intelligence that exists outside of conventional design studios, challenging the preconception that design in Shenzhen is limited to reproductions. 

Elsewhere, Swiss architects Christ & Gantenbein's typology city guide features an app identifying hidden architectural gems in Hong Kong. Presented with floor plans and key information, the resource acts as a basis of creating new architecture based on established types.

Meanwhile, across the border, in Hong Kong's Kowloon Park, 60 exhibitors examined critical issues facing the city within a polished presentation, entitled 'Visions 2050 - Lifestyle and the City'.  Here, highlights include the Oval Partnership's examination of the interaction between people and intangible spaces, which provided an interesting take on parts of the city that are usually ignored.

Other exhibits worth seeing include legendary Hong Kong photographer Ho Fan's iconic black and white photographs of the city, and the quirky Transform Bar II by Kacey, Kwok Choi Wong. The mobile Mojito cocktail bar, complete with record player and pots of mint, takes inspiration from local hawkers, who the designers say have perfected the art of flexible design, displaying a multitude of products in a small space.  

The park setting also provided a surreal setting for ALPOD's monocoque aluminum pod homes, and elevator-company Schindler Group's futuristic immersive urban environment showcasing the potential future of urban vertical mobility.

While both Shenzhen and Hong Kong's exhibitions make for an interesting and extremely varied visit, it is a pity that with the 'one country, two systems' agreement (which is due to expire in 2047), neither city took the bold step to reflect on their position on the cusp of one of planning's most dramatic moments and China's voracious appetite for construction, reexamining the conventional planning model with a more critically audacious eye.

The exhibition titled 'Re-Living the City'

In Shenzhen, the exhibition, titled 'Re-Living the City', is held in an abandoned flour factory.

(Image credit: courtesy of 2015 UABB)

Workscape Theatre designed by Makkink & Bey

Part of it, is the installation Workscape Theatre designed by Makkink & Bey.

(Image credit: courtesy of UABB)

Embodied Pelt and Symbiotic Village.

Collage 3D created a section featuring two installations: Embodied Pelt and Symbiotic Village.

(Image credit: courtesy of UABB)

Lost & Found was the colourful display created by Jimenez Lai

Lost & Found was the colourful display created by Jimenez Lai

(Image credit: courtesy of UABB)

Macau Reframed

Macau Reframed: The City, Its People was the Macau national pavilion, curated by the Cultural Affairs Bureau of Macao SAR Government, Architects Association of Macau and Macau Urban Planning Institute, CURB.

(Image credit: courtesy of UABB)

Saskia van Stein with Institute of Relevant Studies

The Dutch pavilion was entitled Domestic Affairs and was curated by Bureau Europa, Saskia van Stein with Institute of Relevant Studies, Netherlands, Agata Jaworska and Giovanni Innella.

(Image credit: courtesy of UABB )

Architecture from Ireland, and was called 'Shan-zhen

The Irish pavilion is part of the country's program New Horizons: Architecture from Ireland, and was called 'Shan-zhen: Reconnecting Shenzhen to Shannon'

(Image credit: courtesy of UABB)

Wealth Architecture, by Feng Yuan and the Sun Yat-sen University.

Wealth Architecture, by Feng Yuan and the Sun Yat-sen University.

(Image credit: courtesy of Feng Yuan)

The City that Relives its Memories, by WISE Architecture.

The City that Relives its Memories, by WISE Architecture.

(Image credit: courtesy of UABB)

Cartographies of Planetary Urbanisation

Cartographies of Planetary Urbanisation, by Neil Brenner, Christian Schmid and Milica Topalovic.

(Image credit: courtesy of UABB)

Urban Earthworks by Anna Heringer and Martin Rauch 

Urban Earthworks by Anna Heringer and Martin Rauch in collaboration with Mu Jun.

(Image credit: courtesy of Anna Heringer and Martin Rauch in collaboration with Mu Jun​ )

Droog Foundation

www.socialcities.org by the Droog Foundation.

(Image credit: courtesy of Droog Foundation/Design & Desires and the URBB)

Bringing Fungus To China, by Phil Ross

Bringing Fungus To China, by Phil Ross

(Image credit: courtesy of Phil Ross)

Spanish practice Ecosistema Urbano created a thoughtful series of small-scale urban projects

Spanish practice Ecosistema Urbano created a thoughtful series of small-scale urban projects

(Image credit: press)

ALPOD presented their monocoque aluminum pod homes

In Hong Kong's Kowloon Park, ALPOD presented their monocoque aluminum pod homes

(Image credit: press)

ETH Zurich's project

ETH Zurich's project for Hong Kong examines the city's architectural typologies

(Image credit: press)

INFORMATION
2015 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture
December 2015 - February 28, 2016

For more information visit the Shenzhen (opens in new tab) and Hong Kong (opens in new tab) websites