Foreground: REGIONAL’s work at the Shenzhen Biennale

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(The opening day of the biennale. The red carpet leads to our piece ‘foreground,’ the entrance to the biennale.)

REGIONAL did extensive research on Chinese urbanization, including the environmental practices of massive population and spatial redistribution. In Shenzhen we researched the changing topogaphy of the city and the modes of urbanization, applying the findings to our participation in the Shenzhen & Hong Kong Biennale of Urbanism and Architecture.

‘Foreground’ was the response to an invitation for an original work that would serve as the entrance to the biennale and address the theme of “cities of expiration and regeneration.”

Shenzhen has responded to the flattening of the global economy by flattening its own topographical features, replacing natural landmarks with built construction. In bringing awareness to the life-cycle of cities, REGIONAL sought to superimpose the natural topographical past onto the built present.

‘Foreground’ uncovers and remaps the lost mountainous topography of the central axis of the Biennale by using GIS data of the pre-urban landscape that came before the factory complexes.

The evocative bamboo construction references the ancient and local material contemporarily connoting renovation and renewal. The construction was entirely performed by teams of bamboo craftsmen whose techniques have barely changed over centuries.

‘Foreground’ stimulates an expanding dialogue on Chinese urbanization and environmentalism by referencing the dramatic ecological change induced by radical topographical alteration. By visualizing what came before the city, foreground ask us to contemplate what could come next.

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A video showing the urbanization and flattening of Shenzhenfrontwithmountain-or-web.jpg
foreground emerging from above the treeline and intersecting with the factory building. the amputated mountain ridge in the background.belowtwo-for-web.jpg lookingup-for-web.jpgwholethangfromfront-for-web.jpg

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The Process of Design and Construction

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gwendolyn-in-simulation-room.jpg gwendolyn-in-simulation-room-2.jpg gwendolyn-in-simulation-room-3.jpg bambo-yard.jpg

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Special Thanks to:

Mr. Li Wenjing for assembling and leading a team of fine local craftsmen in the swift, safe and excellent construction of Foreground.Huang Lu (Laura) for her vital cultural translation and linguistic translation.

Ma Qingyun and the whole Biennale team for their assistance.

Carson Chan and Fotini Laziridou-Hatzigoga of the PROGRAM initiative for art and architectural collaborations in Berlin for their early and ongoing support and guidance.

Maryann O’Donnell for her scholarly mentorship and essential companionship while in Shenzhen.

Xiaodu Liu chief architect of Urbanus in Shenzhen and Beijing for his international perspective, local vision and belief in the project from the start.

Ben Reynolds of d-e-p-i-c-t for his masterful renderings and conceptual input.

Jason Danziger of thinkbuild architecture for his valuable initial advice.

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