Guest Contribution by Udit Lorraine Belkine
Architecture student Yaohua Wang started his studies in Beijing but then moved to Los Angeles in order to complete his academic degree at SCIArc. As stated by Eric Owen Moss, Director of the Southern California Institute of Architecture school since 2002 “SCI-Arc opened its Santa Monica warehouse doors in 1972 to a small group of emancipated faculty and students, most of whom had rejected the prevailing institutional models of the time, in favor of a more free form intersection of teachers and learners, a patient critique of the old idioms, and an aggressive pursuit of the promise of an ever-renewable pedagogy”.
As a fifth year student at SCI-Arc, Wang has just finished preparing his thesis which is due to next spring. Wang decided to deal with processes and changes that are happening in China, his home country, due to the global financial crisis of 2008-9. “The crisis is providing a turning point for the transformation of Chinese industry, switching the low-cost industries to high-tech industries” says Wang. “The government plans to build a great number of roads and railways for the upcoming emergence of inland low-cost industries and thereafter large-scale emergent inland low-cost industries will be the next main step in China’s development”.
“The awareness of such great opportunities leads my research on industrial building and on industrial districts arising there from” says Wang “In the process, I am searching for architectural or spatial solutions to the problems brought forward by industrial districts. Inevitably, unrealized distinctive spatial systems will emerge from this problem solving process. As the technical issues of the industrial district are understood, seemingly the narrower the spectrum of potential architectural possibilities becomes. The contemporary means of developing industrial districts do not respond to human needs, the industrial district inherently serves its own means”.
|Wang’s awakening conclusion leads to the question: should we take such results for granted, or should we reconsider their inherent logic?
"If we look back at Chinese history, we find that the form of Chinese cities always followed directives of politics and economy. It has never been able to operate outside these constraints. Architecture follows the will of politics and has never been able to advance beyond it. Therefore, architects don’t have "real" power, such as political power, or economic power. The power we have is the power of design, the power of imagination. Since this power is so abstract, as an architect you need to look carefully for chances to exercise this type of power. And always, these chances are specific and transitory. If we as architects, do not seize the opportunities that can give full play to architecture, but rather, simply and exclusively follow the requirements of our temporary needs, we will merely continue this vicious cycle of inefficiency and imminent obsolescence. We spend an immeasurable amount of resources to build an inhuman and unstable system which will become another problem we will need to solve in the future”.