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Urban China 2030

Heritage, Identity, and Sustainable Development

Columbia University Symposium

November 1-2, 2010
GSAPP Studio X Beijing
With cooperation and support from UNESCO-WHITRAP, Shanghai

China today has overtaken Japan as the second largesteconomy in the world. Urbanization in China is urgent, incessant, and ofgargantuan proportions. In the last two decades, cities and urban forms haveexperienced unprecedented transformation and development. A sense of speed,simultaneity, and complexity accompany the urban transformations. The processesof building and un-building have unleashed the creative power of architectureand city design in multiple ways: as an artistic endeavor exploring spectacularforms; as a global project expanding the boundaries of global flowsinvestments, technical expertise, and labor; as a productive enterprise testingthe limits of mass production and markets; as having the power to createsimultaneously, concrete jungles and ecologically sustainable cities; and as asymbolic force that constructs national narratives and local identities.

This two-day symposium will bring together experts,scholars, and critical thinkers of urbanism in China to explore urgent issuesfacing Chinese cities today, and to discuss the new challenges of developmentand urbanization they must confront in the coming two decades. The creative processes of building new iconic forms and mega-projects have been accompanied by the destructive un-building of heritage, identity, and the natural environment. But the losses have also been counter-balanced by precise and carefully designed initiatives to preserve cultural heritage and promote environmental sustainability. The many imaginaries of urbanism in!China, past and present, global and local, have had to contend on the ground with trenchant realities. How do experts on Chinese urbanism envision the coming! two decades of urban future? Given the growing salience of the global agendas of sustainability and heritage preservation, how do they see the twin processes of building and un-building being played out in the contours of the cities under pressure for development? How can global agendas and identities be reconciled with regional histories and local culture to pave pathways to sustainable development?

The launch of the World Expo in Shanghai in 2010 and the Olympics in Beijing in 2008 have dramatically altered the landscape of these cities and have made the task of envisioning an urban future especially urgent. Transitioning from identities that are historically and culturally defined to global ones of technology and finance, questions of Chinese-ness and a Chinese identity (or plural identities) in architecture and urbanism and the ways these are represented, mediated, interpreted, experienced, and arbitrated become particularly significant.

For pictures from the event, click here.

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