words Beatrice Galilee
Six months ago, 100 young architects, many of them without a building to their name, received an invitation to design a 1,000sq m villa in a desert region of inner Mongolia. The architects had 100 days to produce a scheme and present their designs to the client, Cai Jiang, and the curator of the project, Chinese artist and architect Ai Weiwei. The Ordos 100 scheme has generated equal amounts of enthusiasm, anguish and controversy, being described as “exhilarating carelessness” and a “psychological and social experiment”.
The line up is a hit list of today’s up-and-coming architects, with many of icon’s tips for emerging practices including Julien de Smedt, Sou Fujimoto, Alejandro Aravena and Estudio Barozzi Veiga. Also on the list are London’s DRDH and Simon Conder Associates. They will present their final designs to the client and curator in six weeks, which will then be handed to contractors and built this summer.
The entire masterplan of 100 villas will be produced as the first phase in a cultural and creative park, the budget for which is just £3.2 million. The client is a 40-year-old businessman and art collector and he hopes Ordos 100 will be an “urban catalyst” for the desert region. The site is divided into parcels of land, ranging from 1,216 to 2,144sq m. Each architect was given a site and a number of requirements: that the villa, which could be two to three storeys, should include servants’ quarters and a swimming pool. When the designs have been finalised, Chinese architects will generate construction drawings and building will begin this year.
Despite many of the architects being dizzy with excitement at their first project, some felt that the environmental and ecological concerns were too grave to participate. London-based architect and professor Eyal Weizman took part in the first phase, but withdrew due to what he described as the “negative urban and environmental effects of the project”. Weizman is concerned with the way the project is generating political and media posturing rather than potential as an urban masterplan. “It’s a 1950s model of a suburb and essentially it is, to my knowledge, a gated community,” he says. “We can’t simply repeat patterns that we know and understand to be catastrophic in an urban sense. There is a whole lot of expertise and research that could have mobilised a sense of knowledge in urban issues. It could have turned this into a cutting-edge site, not a site for cutting-edge architecture.”
Twenty-eight of the architects have already presented their designs and a further 72 are presenting at the end of the month.
For more details and a complete list of all architects see www.ordos100.com
top image Estudio Barozzi Veiga
Jan de Vylder
Tham & Videgård Architects