venice architecture biennale 08: MAP office
venice architecture biennale 08: MAP office venice architecture biennale 08: MAP office
sep 29, 2008

venice architecture biennale 08: MAP office

below the superhighway in the pearl river delta region of china, rows of billiard tables are set-up for people’s enjoyment
image © MAP office

the metropolis of southern china is one of the most rapidly developing urban areas noted in the
twenty-first century. for this year’s venice architecture biennale, MAP office has contributed a multi-media
installation ‘underneath: life within the continuous monument of china’ which includes video, drawings and
photography that speaks to the research the group has done on the pearl river delta region in china. the project
explores the new urban fields which lie below the long 185 km superhighway in guanzhou, china. owned by
hong kong developer hopewell holding and CEO sir gordon wu, the private corporation ultimately controls
the economy, geography and culture of the region.

‘underneath’ questions the areas of contact and spaces which conflict within the city. above sits a
mega highway, with life rushing by, while below, city inhabitants have modified the area into their own
personal haven. the environment and development of the landscape underneath the highway includes farms,
industrial factories, shopping malls and stadiums, juxtaposed against traditional villages and new villas creating
quite a dichotomy between the urban and rural lifestyle. restaurants, parking lots, small shops all find a home
amidst the chaos which races above.

‘underneath’ has now become a new geography of living. it can be seen as an effective strategy for
colonialization, transforming the environment which sits below into a series of construction systems which are

all contained within the mammoth, concrete structure. this type of infrastructure is rapidly taking over our cities,
challenging our sense of place which is transforming and being altered with much uncertainty.

a restaurant sits under the fast-paced lanes of the superhighway
image © MAP office

small villas are also part of the community which has been built below the concrete infrastructure
image © MAP office

the space also acts as a car park
image © MAP office

against the busy urban life runs a river, a sign of nature amidst the predominantly artificial landscape
image © MAP office

view of MAP office’s installation at the venice architecture biennale
image © designboom

‘PIXEL songgang, shenzhen’ drawing by MAP office (2005-2008)

superficially, the region looks like a 2D collage however, it is much more complex than it seems, holding quite a
heterogeneous mix of places and stories.

detail of ‘PIXEL daojiao, dongguan’ drawing by MAP office (2005-2008)

booklets and activities are on hand to inform visitors of the work going on in the region


‘the site. the visit with the contractor and the developer is always exhausting but fascinating. when I enter the
construction site, protected by my plastic helmet, I immediately grasp its scale. trained as an architect,
I am supposed to understand the building structure, but here it is far too big. as I move further along the
steel bars and the crane rails, I cross a swarm of bulldozers and workers pouring concrete, moving cement,
sand and transporting bricks. I take a temporary lift that climbs along the scaffolding to the 49th floor.
what a spectacle!’
– MAP office

the ‘modern’ day inhabitant on his motorcycle vs. the inhabitant which still does things the traditional way

reading materials and activities are on display to inform visitors about the area’s past and present situation

games to play in the pearl river delta region

MAP office:
venice architecture biennale:

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