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UABB – Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism \ Architecture 2017. Shenzhen, China. Cities, Grow in Difference. 15 December 2017 – 15 March 2018

The Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (UABB) is currently the only bi-annual exposition in the world to be based exclusively on the themes of city and urbanisation, explored through a combination of modern technology, art, innovation and social awareness. Co-organized by the two neighboring and closely interacting cities of Shenzhen and Hong Kong. UABB lies within the Pearl River Delta region, in south-west China and has set ‘urbanisation’ as its long-term theme. As urban development and construction affect urban space and the cultural environment, the Biennale examines the activities and processes accompanying the transformation. These include city planning practices, architectural design, and green and eco-environmental issues, connecting China to the global dialogue on the problems and potential of the development of urbanisation.  The ambition of the UABB 2017 is to be a laboratory of urban interventions, concerned with discovery and communication to explore trends that can adapt technical innovation with harmonious social and cultural construction to interpret the spirit of the times.

The themes of the biennial concerns China’s urbanisation:

  1. City life, space and culture
  2. Time and space of urban development
  3. Urban space humanisation
  4. Urbanisation of Shenzhen, Hong Kong, the Pearl River Delta and China
  5. Global urbanisation

UABB2017_The city should be different, its survival and prosperity liest in its ability to maximize differences and alternatives

UABB 2017 –  Cities, Grow in Difference

“Today, we are living in a world confronting instability and uncertainty, with unbalanced economic development, cultural conflict, divided views, and contradictions. Meanwhile, globalism, consumerism, and media hegemony are overturning the existing world order, economic landscape, and people’s lifestyles, constantly reformatting people’s ways of thinking and doing. Mobilized by power and capital, China’s city making has gone through a rapid development for over 30 years, and the city tends to be homogeneous and generic. In recent years, urban renewal, in a bid to improve quality of life, has further swept away time-honoured historical areas and a hybrid urban life, which have been replaced by a globalized and commercialized standard configuration.”

Faced with this reality, we call for an urban concept of “coexistence”.

“We should consciously resist the promise of an identical and idealistic future, as a city itself is a highly complex eco-system. Today’s city should be a manifestation of a balanced coexistence of different value systems. It should be a civilized community with maximum heterogeneity and diversity in which people co-live in one world sharing a variety of dreams. A city should be all-embracing, and seek harmony yet not uniformity. Its survival and prosperity lie exactly in being more inclusive and tolerant toward the cultural “difference”, “alternativeness” and “otherness”.”
Shenzhen civic square

“Cities, Grow in Difference is fundamentally the recognition and inclusion of different origins, status and values at social, cultural and spatial levels. It is a revolt against mainstream cultural centralism. It manifests a heterogeneous conjunctive symbiosis: Shenzhen is the conjunctive symbiosis of top-down rational planning and bottom-up spontaneous growth; the urban villages reflect conjunctive symbiosis of city and village, reality and history, order and chaos, as well as mobility and creativity. Nantou Old Town, as the main venue, is the heterogeneous symbiosis of a historical town and a contemporary urban village. In the past century, the ancient town has gradually vanished, while the village constantly expanded. The exacerbation of urbanisation in Shenzhen has resulted in an intertwined layering of the historical town embedded in the urban village, encircled by the city. The main exhibition venue, Nantou Old Town displays the spatial evidence of the urban village transformation to urban village.  It embraces its Chinese origin and Western influence, through a hybrid coexistence of the past and the present.”

“Cities, Grow in Difference carries the creative energy and passion of the future generation. Now these creative young people wandering on the street can hardly find a sense of belonging, as the free and open spaces in which they live and grow are being squeezed and eliminated by normalized, institutionalized and standardized urban spaces. Places such as CBD, university town, science city, technology park and even the so-called creative park also become identical, conventional and unimaginative. Free minds, vigorous and creative souls should have their inhabitation in the city; however, the current conventional urban typology is no longer able to accommodate any far-reaching vitality of true innovation. Thus, creativity and imagination need to find a new habitat in the city.”

The exhibitions in Cities, Grow in Difference emphasises the multiple identities and perspectives of a diverse society incorporating the dimension of time, spatial variety and uncertainty. It adopts the idea of ‘The Jungle of Growth’, which emphasizes differences, hybridity and resistance. The exhibitions will be spread over the lanes and alleys, parks and squares, residences and plants in Nantou Old Town, adopting the aesthetic of subtle urban interventions which infiltrate into our daily life and encourage unexpected encounters and discoveries. A glimpse during a walk, a moment, or an encounter may bring about profound understanding. To quote George Brecht, “The most important things are the insignificant ones happening in the street”.

The Seventh Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (Shenzhen) (UABB) will be jointly curated by curator and critic Hou Hanrou and founding partners of URBANUS Liu Xiaodu and Meng Yan.

UABB curatorial Team 2017

‘Cities, Grow in Difference’, the 7th Bi-city Biennale of Urbanism \ Architecture (Shenzhen).  December 15, 2017 – 15 March 2018. Main venue: Nantou Old Town in Shenzhen, China. 



About jeh

Jeremy Hunt is Director of the AAJ Press (Art & Architecture Journal / Press) – a writer and consultant on art and public space


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