Uneven Growth 02.03.15

  • Hong Kong Is Land: The Island of Resources by MAP Office

  • Hong Kong Is Land: The Island of Surplus by MAP Office

  • Lagos Tomorrow: Renewable Energy Islands prototype by NLÉ and Zoohaus/Inteligencias Colectivas

  • The Carioca Way of City Making: Varanda Products panorama by RUA Arquitetos and MAS Urban Design

  • The Carioca Way of City Making by RUA Arquitetos and MAS Urban Design

  • Installation view of Uneven Growth: Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities

An exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York presents a whimsical view of the forces driving change in a diverse range of global cities

For Uneven Growth: Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities, curator Pedro Gadanho asked six teams of architects and designers to spend 14 months researching and analysing the patterns of uneven growth in six cities on different continents — New York, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Lagos, Mumbai and Rio de Janeiro. These explorations were threefold: they mapped out existing conditions of inequality in the city, illustrated the grassroots responses to the specific urbanism of each place and envisioned a new architectural proposal that integrated top-down planning with bottom-up, citizen-led initiatives.

Uneven Growth is relatively easy to digest, given the complexity and breadth of its content. However, the strength of the show lies not in its responses to the challenges of hyper-urbanity – which range from underdeveloped to unrealistic to totally fantastical. Rather, these are fictional solutions to problems that have no answer – a step towards framing the enormous challenges we face today. This explains the palpable legacy of Superstudio's Continuous Monument in the show. In the 1966 theoretical drawings, a single, gridded monolithic piece of architecture is extended over the entire world, to "put cosmic order on earth". This ironic, absurd solution is dystopian in concept, but is simultaneously earnest in making invisible conditions visible.

Absurdity and irony are used to varying degrees in each proposal. The most striking idea to project a fictional, satirical narrative in the pursuit of a political statement is MAP Office's Hong Kong Is Land – a proposal to add a series of eight artificial islands to Hong Kong, derived from the Chinese government's actual plans to grow the population of the already compressed city of 7.2 million people by 50%. MAP's dystopian islands expand the city into the surrounding water, and each has a specific function such as "The Island of Resources" or "The Island of Sea".

Other proposals are more like catalogs of smaller-scale interventions that might augment larger networks. Lagos Tomorrow, by NLÉ and Zoohaus/Inteligencias Colectivas, explores the urban idiosyncracies of Lagos, and proposes a series of physical and strategic interventions into the city, such as parking lots for street vendors who sell in standstill traffic. Varanda Products, by RUA Arquitetos and MAS Urban Design, indexes small-scale ad-hoc projects by citizens such as puxadinhos, add-ons to existing structures with leftover materials.

All of the projects in the show have some fiction in them, which is what many critics of the show seem to miss. It is easy to take issue with these highly speculative works, but it is an unrealistic expectation for any project or group of projects to solve these huge problems. The exhibition and its participants have some trouble keeping the analysis and proposal portions clear and separate for each city, but in the end this exhibition is about exposing this new set of circumstances, so we can better understand it and chip away at it piece by piece, place by place.

 

Words

Matt Shaw

 

Uneven Growth: Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities
Until 10 May 2015
MoMA, New York
www.moma.org

 

Photograph: The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Thomas Griesel

quotes story

The most striking idea to project a fictional, satirical narrative in the pursuit of a political statement is MAP Office's Hong Kong Is Land – a proposal to add a series of eight artificial islands to Hong Kong

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