venice architecture biennale 08: photographs by wang di in the chinese pavilion
sep 15, 2008
venice architecture biennale 08: photographs by wang di in the chinese pavilion

photographs from the ‘red dwelling’ and ‘beijing streets’ series by wang di displayed on old wooden desks
image © designboom

the theme of ‘ordinary architecture’ was prevalent in the chinese pavilion at the venice architecture biennale with
the architectural exploration of ‘negotiation’ and ‘daily growing’ represented as sub themes. the notion of
‘daily growing’ deals with the relationship in nature regarding growth, and the relationship of growing being
about nature. architecture is about the relationship of growing, filling up larger frameworks such as a city, town,
market or residence. this relationship should never been overlooked by planners or architects.

in chinese, the word for ‘culture’ is made up of two characters, the first one is ‘wen’, or ‘civilized’. the reference
here is clear: that various parties in a relationship should remain civilized, avoiding any aggressive or
confrontational ways of dealing with one another, as the chinese saying goes, ‘one cannot be a noble man without
first being a civilized person’. the title ‘daily growing’ refers to the gradual accumulating relationship of growth
within our daily lives as well as our relationship with other human beings. on the site of the chinese pavilion at
the venice architecture biennale stands the oil depot of the arsenale where an exhibition of photographs by
wang di which explores this theme. his photographic work deals with both types of relationships: the positive
inter-growing relationship between ordinary buildings and our daily lives beneficial to life itself contrasted by a
malicious, contradicting, confrontational and indifferent relationship.

the first series of buildings wang di has captures are titled ‘red dwelling’ and each have something in common:
they are residential houses designed and built in a generic way which were mandated by the national housing
standard during the socialist planned economic period, and were distributed to people as a form of
social welfare. this has not only influenced the layout, area and overall planning of these housing communities,
but has also created a unique and visual style inspiring the theme ‘red dwelling’.

the second grouping of photographs is ‘beijing streets’ which were taken according to direction of curator acheng
and his interpretation of the chinese pavilion’s theme ‘ordinary architecture’. in the words of wang di regarding
his work:

‘through these images I have tried to show the conflict between the natural growing and the ‘non-growing’
relationship of architecture and the environment through continuous shooting of several hutong
(traditional alleyway) blocks in beijing. as the capital of various dynasties, the city of beijing was realized in a
top-down manner rather than a spontaneously spawned one from the very beginning. nevertheless, if you look
at the details, you’ll see how the cultural tradition of hundreds of years and the citizen’s constant improvement to
the living condition and culture have produced a subtle and continuous urban fabric. in the past 100 years,
however, the breakdowns of that tradition and the clashing of old and new cultures and ideologies have resulted
in a lot of incongruity and the discontinuity of what we call the growing relationship. it’s this condition that
beijing streets is focused on.’
– WD

image © designboom

photograph from the ‘red dwelling’ series by wang di (2008)
image © designboom

image © designboom

image © designboom

photographs from the ‘beijing streets’ series by wang di (2008)

‘kitchen of the 6th floor of an hua building’ by wang di (2008)

‘lane 11, jiuxian bridge, building 10′ from the ‘red dwelling’ series by wang di (2008)

photographer wang di


venice architecture biennale:

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