Lassa, 2011

Architecturales – Diptychs

These three diptychs were created for a 2013 group show (Architecturales, La Rochelle, France). Images from different series made across China are brought together: on one side, color photographs refers to specific locations, slowly approached and apprehended; on the other side, a single city seen through the haze from a distance is depicted in black and white without further inquiry.

Not so much a criticism of the form of modern cities, these diptychs explore the variations taken during urban expansion into adjacent land, be it natural or farmland, and the interactions such an expansion incites. Whereas the evolution of the city is strongly influenced by ideologies – religious, political or economical – and local power dynamics, the structure of the city also results from local topography. Relief and individual aspirations alike induce rhythm among constructions, and physical constraints, like political will and resistance, shape urban expansion. All these factors also define the relationship users create with the urban space they occupy and its surroundings.

Lassa (2011)
Lassa, the forbidden city sought by explorers, epicentre of Tibet’s historical power and today’s capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region within China, went through a development boom since a new railway connected it to eastern Chinese provinces. Traditionally the city has spread horizontally across the wide Tsangpo valley, but the most recent real estate projects, whose shape contrasts from local, organically grown architecture, are reaching the natural limits of the valley. As the same time, as different ethnic groups enjoy unequal access to economic opportunities, the city’s development is a reflection of drastically unbalanced power dynamics.

Sertar (2011)
The colleges of Sertar, located in the foothills of the Tibetan plateau in today’s Sichuan province, stands among the high places of teaching for Tibetan Buddhism, with tens of thousands of monks and nuns living clustered in a single valley. As Sertar enjoys growing recognition among Tibetans as well as, thanks to Buddhism renaissance in China, fascination and interest from new believers of non-Tibetan background, basic single-room or double-room wooden huts colonize every available space in the valley, in a form similar to South America’s favelas. This rapid expansion and regional recognition is also seen as potentially contentious to political power, and local authorities regularly orchestrate destruction of part of the dwellings and forced relocations, most recently in 2016, during which access to this area was closed. Thanks to its peculiar architecture, Sertar is also a growing tourist destination now having a second existence as a place of representation, leading again to more infrastructure works.

Shenyang (2010)
A single house resists the expansion of this mega-city of northeast China, stuck between advancing real estate projects, condemned corn fields, and a large construction site. While the house dates back to the collectivisation era, attested by the writings “Long life to chairman Mao” and “Long life to the communist party” painted around the front door, the owner has written on the other side of the house, in protest against an inexorable expulsion, “Private property is protected by the law, access strictly prohibited to anyone regardless of their work unit”. Whereas private property is now recognized in China, local authorities and real estate developers try every possible mean available in order to compensate as little as possible displaced citizens.

Xining (2011) – 3 views.
Located on the edge of the Tibetan plateau, Xining is one of the last provincial capital to undergo fast-paced development, notably thanks to mining exploitation and the new railway going to Lassa. In the span of a few years, the city has become a forest of high buildings getting denser every year. Taken from the Temple of the Northern Mountain that has looked over the settlement for centuries, black and white images transform the city into an archetype of the dehumanized city, with buildings sprouting out of the ground like tiny bricks from a construction set. This fearful, all-urban paradigm stands as a point of no-return, an irreversible break of humans with nature, where civilisation enters the unknown realm of a completely man-made environment.

Architecturales | 2017 | Projects | Comments (0)