Summary by Xu Xiaoming 许晓明 (student, SZU)(assistant lead)
I feel honoured to have taken part in this workshop. From the survey of the urban village Baishizhou, to visiting the factory in Guangzhou, to looking for a theme to keep in touch with the knitting factory, M&L. My life during these two weeks, with tutors, classmates and workers gave me many lessons that impressed me a lot. The most dramatic moment was three days before the workshop. I imagined the workshop would be something like a three day survey of the different factories located in Baishizhou and then for the rest of these days do some kind research on how to use paper tubes and fabric to build something related to the factories (like we would do in university). But in fact, we ended up doing the opposite; Alex asked me to consult with the manager of the factory to try to let the workers take part in our workshop. After having visited some factories I felt it would be difficult to move the workshop to a factory for a whole week, considering they are busy with their business. Unexpectedly, however, the manager Liu accepted our proposal effortlessly. I have to say that he is so nice and open-minded. And on top of that, the workshop lasted for not only one week, but two!
Seeing the reality of Baishizhou urban village’s renewal, the people who live and work there should have a voice. Their memories, taste and footsteps all belong to this place. This is their home and they want to stay there here forever. Also, they insist that keeping some important and typical parts of Baishizhou will be better than removing all of it. These old standing factories are the testimony of Shenzhen’s past. Based on this, we took on the role of documenting and design assistants throughout the whole process, speakíng with the workers as friends, hearing the voice from their heart. Design was not the sole purpose.
Although it was very different to the subjects that we learn in university, architecture can also be a stage to narrate people’s daily life. In this sense, there is a clear relationship between what we did in this workshop and architecture. As I see it, the first step was not to imagine, but to know what life in Baishizhou is like. The second step was to design and abstract this phenomenon. Then the third step was to show the work in a logical and funny way.
Then there is another phenomenon, and that is the situation of people feeling cold living in the mega-cities where millions and millions people gather. As opposed to towns or the countryside where the locals are familiar with their neighbours. Places where they are acquainted and are a part of a small society. This is where they can take part in the public affairs, building a sense of group honour. In the same way, our workshop invites many kinds of social roles, such as college students, teachers, architects, directors and factory workers. For these two weeks, the factory became a mini-community where we all enjoyed the whole process. This sense of participation itself is full of meaning.
In the end, I appreciate the workshop a lot, and I would like to thank our whole team. They are the best! I am hoping that more workshops will come as a result of what we have done.