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Gandong Cai, Yujia Wang

Instructor: Niall Kirkwood

Independent Study, Research, Exhibition, Publication

Graduate School of Design,

Harvard University


指导老师:Niall Kirkwood





Interview with [POST]:

Why “Urban Underspace” and how do you find it important?

Wang: The research combined several preliminary studies we did at Harvard, such as the prototypes study, community planning, landscape and infrastructure study. We realized the potential of expanding these studies into a comprehensive research, thus we started the whole project.

Cai: We kicked off the project from the investigation of the innovative urban landscape, and we found a lot of interesting underspaces in cities like New York and Boston. We thought it could be a good independent research.

The study of the underspace makes great sense for highly dense metropolitans like Hong Kong. What were your expectation when you applied the study to cities in mainland China? The public consciousness? Or the urban planning logic?

Wang: Cities in mainland China, especially the developed urban areas face similar situations of limited land and dense population as Hong Kong does. While it is hard to find new public space, the underspaces are massively produced and immediately abandoned during rapid urban development. This is a sad story and we wanted to criticize such a phenomenon through our research, and bring the attention back to the Urban Underspace.

Cai: In our research, we mentioned Chongqing, the mountainous city with a special geographical and historical context, in which the air-raid shelter system represents a unique local characteristic of underspace. We wanted to emphasize: though leftover space, the Urban Underspace is diverse in terms of typology and form, and it is full of potential to be further developed.

Who will care public space in mainland China? What is the difference between them and foreign publics?

Cai: While plaza space in front of public buildings are very common in western cities, traditional Chinese cities have streets, alleys and small scale neighborhood spaces: the Qilou space, the chessboard space under an old tree, and the playscape in the alley, are examples of how the Chinese utilize public space.

Wang: the traditional Chinese gardens are famous as private spaces, not public spaces. However, people will be interested in public space once they need public life. I don’t see a big difference between the east and the west in this perspective. The Chinese people also have abundant public life: during the low tide period, Chongqing people will hang out on the gravel beach, play games and have snacks. The experience in old alleys and courtyards is not the opposite of public life but a positive supplement to the understanding of public space – a tree or a table can form a public space in China, which is not a universal condition in other parts of the world.












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