Modern expression of the idea of the city

Pu Jie

What is a city? In my view it is a series of square rectangles joined by horizontal lines, a format that has succeeded in forming artificial worlds. If you ascend to a great height and get a bird's-eye view, you can see for several hundreds of square kilometers. At a high altitude you can feel the divine forces that created the universes of the human world. They have assembled a world, that while being square and immeasurable, is a successful design.

My idea was to create my own cities. The process involves large amounts of formed wood of uniform size which don’t have doors or window. The roads are made of strips of wood as well. They are uniform, up right and foursquare, repeated constantly. Whether this idea appears extremely simple the tactic reflects the doctrines of the state, the state’s idea of the city: the design of cities is essentially still the shaping of square rectangles. Separately from the original plan-the edge of the city has another kind of meaning in the plane of vision. It could be the state or natural landscapes, or people, now extend beyond the original plan, under the distortion of doctrines, history or these days the phenomenon of cultural memories. Equally the idea of creating a city is a vision which demonstratedly influences the artificial process of materialization which takes place naturally in people. Mainly the city is an ideological concept that contradicts a kind of natural alienation that exists among people. People within the city, the state or the natural landscape misplace each other, but have common cultural issues. The creation of this kind of concept, the relation between people and the city, is inevitable. The concept of the square space by people led to the concept of architecture. And from that the empty shells of buildings are injected with content and cultural symbols of the era. This specific filling of empty space is the accumulation and reconciliation of history, and is a result of culture too. This is not merely the balance of the city with specific cultural issues, people have their own development which at the same time happens along with the development of city.

The design of my cities use the most general comprehensive images. The square is the language of form, each a strong empty shell, showing the modernity of the design, and the constantly repeated format strengthens the design, like in a computer God game. By this extremely simple language of form, which is embodied in state ideologies, it stresses the autonomy of the participants who can take measures to customize the environment to local conditions and which varies with each individual state. The result of true cities show the square pattern formatted in picturesque disorder, rising and falling unbrokenly.

The exhibition ‘look at the city’ takes the square physical makeup to its limits with the number of assembled squares, and hopes to illustrate those cities that succeed as an artificial world.

During China’s twenty years of reform and opening up to the outside world urban architecture has pursued the concept of the development of the square with a deep love. During the Cultural Revolution expediency entered state thinking in absolute terms by means of building. Uniform up right and foursquare buildings spread all over the country. Reform and opening up to the outside world has introduced the thrust of the market economy, subsequently high buildings and large mansions have spread across the country in big and small cities, nowadays a sign of China's modernization.

The Chinese experience of the past 40 years of rapid developments, with reinforced concrete replacing buildings built like ‘matchboxes’, with the past being replaced by complex modern cities, with even traditional brick, tile and stone buildings disappearing. Reinforced concrete has strengthened the modern concept of the city. It improves people’s living space and concrete has flooded the traditional characteristics of the city.

China’s cities at present have not so much entered a great transformation as one to become a live skin, stretching across the country. City design has embodied the modern renovation of the country.

This profound transformation, a hope to dash forward from ancient China to modernized materialization, has been a condensed ideal of China's modern culture for a century.

In experience it has been a time of being invaded, violence and long wars.

But the development in science and technology, modernization and construction, have already become set fact, modern culture should not merely abandon China's shame of its history, and should transform its nature and existence by design. The rapid development of the cities of China authenticates the reforms –the design of the city, interweaved by culture, is a scheme for instant modern Chinese culture.

The forces behind the modernization of China

Since the ‘May 4th Movement’ which gave rise to the country’s modernization drive – to incorporate western experiences into China – and has carved concrete materialization into existence.

The so-called modernization of the country is not more direct or more concrete than the desire for materialization in China's modern culture. Materialization is summed up in the development of science and technology and is deep in modern cultural themes. However, the reforms of China have relied mainly on economic development and China’s love of modern culture, in contrast to previous history. For more than a century the goal has been material, the urgent need to catch up with the modern material progress of the west. But China has also struggled with the difficult philosophical pursuit of spiritual harmony.

The issue of merging historical culture with modernity has caused a predicament – how to transform and modernize a culture with such ancient traditions?

Confidence is also still a question in contemporary culture. Obviously, modernized high buildings and large mansions are not enough, as the intention of culture aspirations lags behind material development seriously, and may still present a crisis of national identity.

In the later days of the Qing Dynasty, the material strength of China was not totally lagging behind in the west on the whole, but because culture was depleted, the national morale was very low, and China become a semi-colonial society finally. The modernization of China, is in fact the double re-structuring of modern material and modern culture.

It is key throughout thinking in introspectively, that these are the motive powers of all cultures, these are the forces in every country in the world that brings modern cities into existance.

The City offers people many conveniences, but people enjoying the advantages of city life also suffer the city’s vindictiveness --Population expansion, unemployment, crime, air pollution , even terrorism.

Cities, often regarded as the great incomparable places of existence exist in fact in ignorance of being naturally fragile. Incidents Such as 9.11, the World Trade Towers being turned to dust and ashes ; the Tangshan and Osaka earthquakes, killed hundreds of thousands, several million people have died an unnatural death in cities.

But the danger of these sudden incidents to mankind dull over long periods of time. With the population expansion that has reached us at the beginning in 21st century there are 19 big cities with over ten million people.

Soon the world will have an urban population of 65%. The world urban population stands around 3 billion already at present, most undeveloped nations urban populations rose to 40% of their total population in 2000 (up to 1.2 billion people- with a 27% increase in one year). The constant enlargement of the international economy has caused large quantities of rural people to move to the city in the 20th century, the city has become the labour market. The high level of competition has meant large amount of surplus labourers accumulate constantly in the city.

This enormous unemployment means the crime rate remains high, terrorism has grown partly out of this movement.

The modern city for nearly 200 years has developed into the hub of world economic activity and offers abundant material and spiritual wealth for human existence on the one hand, while the constant expansion of the international economy on the other hand has formed an enormous industry and rubbish associated with daily life. Compounded with use of forests and arable land for construction has caused the land to become arid. Desertification and sewage management, has polluted rivers, lakes and seas seriously, and endangered the earth’s ecosystem, cities unexpectedly have become severely afflicted areas of pollution, detrimental to health, and for this reason the world’s medical spending reaches 100 billion dollars a year.

The city has drawbacks for its part in the process of industrialization, but also has bearing the role of political systems. With the end of the 20th century, the developments of economic globalization, already means cities are changing in a rudimentary fashion into quality manufacturing bases and Hi-Tech centers, two major signs of progress. The pollution brought about by industrialization is gradually being rotated away from, the developed countries to the developing and third world countries. Especially evident now is that the most undeveloped country produces the mist pollution. The heavy division of labour of the global economy, which grew up after the cold war, has impelled the world to polarize around its cities.

There has been a change away from the traditional role of cities being the heart of a certain region – with New York for instance being regarded as a global Utopia. Obviously, the economic experience of the city corroborates the political position of the city. It already represents the region or state. Similarly the citizen of the city has also become the embodiment of the city. reflecting the region, state and culture in his or her person.

But for the city to maintain its place in our lives, as we look at the high buildings and towers rising one after another, in the spectacular urban environment, will take some thought. As mentioned cities have caused a worsening of the environment, but we still pursue eternally and unrealistically, to try to create more magnificence , this is a natural instinct and a cohesive quality in our localized lives. It also shows the controlling strength and dominance of our culture. Cities, in their net-like square modules, it is with pride sigh and sadness we create. With a kind of great pride and helpless sighing with sadness, even if we migrate to another celestial body, we want to give the city a new lease of life still, it is mankind's eternal Utopia - the City.