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Urban China: Informal Cities

by Vivien Park

China has experienced an almost supernatural growth in urban development in recent years. Urban China, a magazine founded by local architect and designer Jiang Jun in 2004, meticulously documented the rapid changes and emerging themes through a multifaceted lens of photojournalism, architecture, anthropology, historical research and activism. With a growing roster of collaborators that include officials, sociologists, architects, artists, and institutions, Urban China is probably the foremost publication on urbanism in China.

If you’re in Chicago, you can literally walk into the magazine pages by viewing its travelling exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Selected topics and timelines were printed on wallpapers, juxtaposed against constructed objects, interactive kiosks, copies of the actual magazine, and notepads, which visitors can use to answer questions posed by the editor himself. The dizzying array of topics and the density of content were organized into three distinct sections: national or communal beliefs and policies, how these concerns impact city architecture, and their effect on home and its objects.

From "Socialist New Village" to "Afterlife Fantasies", "Fordism Art Village" to "Rotten-Tailed City", informal systems have emerged and represent individual innovation to adapt and subvert the structure of planned cities, despite being a product of the fastest process of urbanization ever recorded in human history.

Urban China, Informal Cities is on view until April 2, 2011 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

Credits: Image of Urban China covers from People's Architecture.