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Travels in Woundedland / Manfredo Manfredini for the Shenzhen Biennale (UABB) 2019

Travels in Woundedland / Manfredo Manfredini for the Shenzhen Biennale (UABB) 2019

Travels in Woundedland / Manfredo Manfredini for the Shenzhen Biennale (UABB) 2019

What happens when the sensor-imbued city acquires the ability to see – almost as if it had eyes? Ahead of the 2019 Shenzhen Biennale of UrbanismArchitecture (UABB), titled “Urban Interactions,” Archdaily is working with the curators of the “Eyes of the City” section at the Biennial to stimulate a discussion on how new technologies – and Artificial Intelligence in particular – might impact architecture and urban life. Here you can read the “Eyes of the City” curatorial statement by Carlo Ratti, the Politecnico di Torino and SCUT.

Two key phenomena of contemporary spatial production are critically challenging the integral resilience of present-day communities: translocalization and transduction. Their increasing pervasion and dynamism are profoundly transforming our society. Translocalization is the redefinition of territorialization patterns due to an increasing mobilization of people and things that dissipate the continuity, cohesion and permanentness of traditional social and spatial networks. Transduction implies the coming together of heterogeneous forces in either progressive iterative processes or irregular ones that restructure given domains into provisional unities through the diffusion of an exogenous activity. The combination of these two phenomena within an environment pervaded by augmented and mixed realities produces unprecedented metastable spatialities with powerful, yet ambivalent, relational capacities.

The Woundedland Project responds to this challenge by addressing territorial contexts with particularly strong metastability and relational capacity: places where radical deterritorialization and reterritorialization processes have profoundly restructured the central space of large, both local and translocal, communities. Major walled political borders are prime instances of such disruptive and momentous processes. As bastions of geopolitical interests of primary global organizations, these walls are the global epitome of divisive strategies that inhibit migration and networked translocalism, constituting symbol and matter of the unmovable and unforgiving boundary of staged, stalled or latent conflicts that dissociate both the locale and the trans-locale.  

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Figure 1, Alex Young-Il Seo. The multiple and somewhat instable inter-Korean border
Figure 1, Alex Young-Il Seo. The multiple and somewhat instable inter-Korean border

The heavily fortified, armed and ruthlessly enforced Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is the context chosen for this project. Its Demarcation Line, a 250 km-long divider separating Korea in two parts, is just one of the multiple formal boundaries originating from the post-WW2-designated border on the 38th parallel north (figure 1). Its space is an indiscernible composite of simulation and reality. Grand metanarratives are deployed by multilayered geopolitical apparatuses of hegemonic powers in unstable internal alliances and wavering external conflicts. Semicoherent administrative mechanisms and knowledge structures transform the DMZ into a multistage political arena of superimposed plays, cowritten by ill-related authors, intertwining represented dramas with actual tragedies. Semi-dependent characters interpret propagandistic and spectacularized narratives that cobble together objective, symbolic and experiential authenticities in performances rich in solipsistic dialogues and absurdist practices. Weaponization, overdetermination and abstraction are deployed to progressively strengthen control on this space of power. The established social, material and cognitive relationality of local individuals and communities is diminished, their traditional commoning practices interrupted.

Gangmin Yoo and Justin Baek, Manfredini Studio. Indeterminate and deprogrammed open infrastructure as reconciliatory civic foundation: A floating settlement in the extra-territorial freespace of the Han River Estuary joint civilian waterway
Gangmin Yoo and Justin Baek, Manfredini Studio. Indeterminate and deprogrammed open infrastructure as reconciliatory civic foundation: A floating settlement in the extra-territorial freespace of the Han River Estuary joint civilian waterway

Closer studies on the DMZ-based local and translocal communities show how they develop relevant antagonist forces. The new metastable spatialities foster both their associative emancipatory capacity and alternative conceptions, perceptions and usages of space. The profusion of the digital public sphere enables the formation of independent networks based on inclusionary and collaborative commoning practices that claim the right to the city. Digital augmentations contribute to the affirmation of civic counterspaces with new types of commons that produce diffuse spells of reappropriated places: wonderlands of reimagined, diverse and participative concrete utopias of autogestion.

The design propositions affirm these antagonist commoning machines through creative speculations, scenarios and proses focused on key centers of the DMZ. Specific topoi are used as discursive sites for reimagining utopia; they envision the future of the new civic commons set free from the dominative symbolic and spectacular warfare of the imposed mode of spatial production. The future commons embody desiring-formation processes that combine distant and heterogeneous elements in composite assemblages of material and immaterial infrastructures for cohesive, resilient and productive social, physical, and symbolic assemblages of pluralistic jouissance. Allegorical, context-specific narrative methods to give consistency and cohesion to the translocal metastable environments and establish critical engagements with possible worlds, proposing tight signifying chains of fluidly recoded components, instituting realms that make moments of utopia accessible as parodic fabulatory proses of the ordinary.

1 – Brickell, Katherine and Datta, Ayona (eds.). (2011). Translocal geographies: Spaces, places, connections, Burlington: Ashgate; Greiner, Clemens and Sakdapolrak, Patrick (2013). Translocality: Concepts, applications and emerging research perspectives, Geography Compass, 7, 5, pp.373–384; Kazig, Rainer, Masson, Damien and Thomas, Rachel (2017). Atmospheres and mobility. An introduction, Mobile Culture Studies, 3, pp.7–20.

2 – MacKenzie, Adrian (2006). Transductions: Bodies and machines at speed, London: Continuum; Simondon, G. (2013 [1964-89]). L’individuation à la lumière des notions de formes et d’information. Paris: Edition Jérôme Millon.

3 – Horvath, Agnes, Benţa, Marius Ion and Davison, Joan (eds.). (2019). Walling, boundaries and liminality: A political anthropology of transformations. Oxon: Routledge.

4 – Gelézeau, Valérie (2011). The inter-Korean border region – ‘Meta-border’ of the Cold War and metamorphic frontier of the peninsula, in Doris Wastl-Walter (ed.), The Ashgate research companion to border studies. Oxon: Ashgate, pp.325-348.

5 – Seo, Alex Young-Il (2018). From disorderly dispersion to orderly concentration: Frontier villages at the Korean border 1951–1973, Scroope: The Cambridge Architecture Journal, 27, pp.43-58.

6 – Kim, Nan (2015). Memory, reconciliation, and reunions in South Korea: Crossing the divide. Lanham: Lexington Books.

7 – Linebaugh, Peter (2007). Magna Carta manifesto: Liberties and commons for all. Berkeley: University of California Press.

8 – Foth, Marcus, Brynskov, Martin and Ojala, Timo (eds.). (2015). Citizen’s right to the digital city: Urban interfaces, activism, and placemaking. Singapore: Springer; Fuchs, Christian (2014). Social media and the public sphere. TripleC, 12, pp.57–101; Manfredini, Manfredo (2019). Give Us Space, research synthesis report, Retrieved from

9 – Manfredini, Manfredo (in print). Simulation, control and desire: Urban commons and semi-public space resilience in the age of augmented transductive territorial production. The Journal of Public Space; Purcell, Marc (2014). Possible worlds: Henri Lefebvre and the right to the city, Journal of Urban Affairs, 36, 1, pp.141–154.

The article includes the contribution by: Mingxing Song, Chen Hui, Paola Leardini, Haison Wang

© Manfredo Manfredini
© Manfredo Manfredini

 About the Author

Dr Manfredo Manfredini is Director and Senior Lecturer at the School of Architecture and Planning of the The University of Auckland and Honorary Professor at the College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Hunan University. His core area of expertise is at the intersection of comparative urbanism and architectural design. He taught design and theory courses at leading global schools (e.g. Tsinghua University Beijing and Milan Technical University) and was invited as keynote speaker in international conferences (e.g. 9th China Housing Congress and 7th Arte-Polis Conference). His research leadership has been recognised by publications (100+ papers), invited presentations in high impact journals, leading global universities (e.g. University of Stuttgart and Chinese University of Hong Kong), major international events (e.g., UN-Habitat 3, Rome Biennale of Public Space and Bi-City Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism in Shenzhen and Hong Kong) and important and awards (e.g. first prize at the Biennale di Venezia). Over the years he collaborated with prominent educators and designers, such as Colin Fournier (Archigram and The Bartlett, UCL), Andrea Branzi (Archizoom and Milan Technical University) and Ulisse Staccioli (Brera Fine Arts College, Milan).

“Urban Interactions”: Bi-City Biennale of UrbanismArchitecture (Shenzhen) – 8th edition. Shenzhen, China

Opening in December, 2019 in Shenzhen, China, “Urban Interactions” is the 8th edition of the Bi-City Biennale of UrbanismArchitecture (UABB). The exhibition consists of two sections, namely “Eyes of the City” and “Ascending City”, which will explore the evolving relationship between urban space and technological innovation from different perspectives. The “Eyes of the City” section features MIT professor and architect Carlo Ratti as Chief Curator and Politecnico di Torino-South China University of Technology as Academic Curator. The “Ascending City” section features Chinese academician Meng Jianmin and Italian art critic Fabio Cavallucci as Chief Curators.‬‬‬

“Eyes of The City” section

Chief Curator: Carlo Ratti.

Academic Curator: South China-Torino Lab (Politecnico di Torino – Michele Bonino; South ChinaUniversity of Technology – Sun Yimin)

Executive Curators: Daniele Belleri [CRA], Edoardo Bruno, Xu Haohao    

Curator of the GBA Academy: Politecnico di Milano (Adalberto Del Bo)

“Ascending City” section

Chief Curators: Meng Jianmin, Fabio Cavallucci

Co-Curator: Science and Human Imagination Center of Southern University of Science and Technology (Wu Yan)

Executive Curators: Chen Qiufan, Manuela Lietti, Wang Kuan, Zhang Li

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