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China Daily Website

Building while reflecting

Updated: 2013-04-29 02:19
By Yang Yang ( China Daily)

Building while reflecting

Oil tanks of the old cement plant are situated by the Huangpu River, facing the World Expo Park across the river.  

There are 12 prominent architects from around the world who will use the inside and outside of the giant cement plant to experiment on 12 architectural forms. The theme of their work is intended to reflect Shanghai's history of urbanization and construction, and to interpret the present and imagine the future.

The biennale is expected to create China's biggest outdoor art gallery or, perhaps even the world's, for the 21st century. It will have art programs and public education activities such as lectures, dialogues, performances and workshops, all open to the public.

Gao Shiming, the head of the China Academy of Art's School of Intermedia Art and art curator of the biennale, explains, "That's why the West Bund Biennale is different from many others. It's not a two-month fixed exhibition. It has a series of successive culture events and will penetrate into the life of Shanghai's people."

In addition to being a part of the exhibition, the 12 works of architecture will play other roles, such as that of a restaurant or art gallery, or, in the words of Li Xiangning, a professor at Tongji University's College of Architecture and Urban Planning and a curator of the biennale, "We hope that ordinary citizens will take part in the games along with the architects and artists."

The curators will take some cues from the Venice Biennale and make touring the area more convenient, by providing bikes and electronic cars. And, according to the grand plan, there will be an archive and research center for avant-garde art added after the biennale, to attract artists, including those in experimental architecture, sound art, film art and avant-garde theater.

The museums under construction include the West Bund Museum of Art, Long Museum, and Yudeyao Museum of Art, and the blueprint calls for China's largest art gallery complex to pop up here some time in the future.

Last year, DreamWorks SKG, the Hollywood studio behind hits like Kung Fu Panda and Shrek, chose to build their Shanghai studio in this area, which inspired the government to come up with plans for a digital film and electronic games manufacturing site. It will also hold eight theaters, which should help Shanghai in developing its large center for exhibitions and performances.

China is paying closer attention to the world of art, design and architecture, and it certainly does not lack biennales. But this one is supposed to be different from all the others, including the Shanghai Biennale, according to Zhang Yonghe, former dean of MIT's Architecture School and chief curator of the project. One way is that, unlike many exhibitions, it is not restricted to a gallery or two but blends in with the city.

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