Challenges in China


21 Sep 2007 - 21 Nov 2007

Tour & Taxis, Brussels

During Autumn 2007 CROSSTALKS and Buro II organised "Architecture, Photography & Chinese Encounters: Raising Added Value by Exchanging Expertise and Creativity" - a series of constructive crosstalks sessions on all possible challenges involved with Chinese -Belgian partnerships.


During Autumn 2007 CROSSTALKS and Buro II organised a series of constructive crosstalking sessions on all possible challenges, tresholds and economic, cultural and creative added value of Chinese-Belgian partnerships. The full program existed of a photo exposition of Philippe van Gelooven, a workshop on photography and architecture and an interdisciplinary session on challenges in China. All events took place in Tour & Taxis and back tracked to the design and development of the Baiyun International Congress Center in Guangzhou, a huge and prestigious architectural project in the south of China, which Buro II got assigned as winning architects of the design contest set up by the Chinese Government.

BURO II asked photographer Phillippe Van Gelooven to document the construction process and final realisation of the congress centre, which resulted in the exposition "Images | Imagination, Citygate in Red". The expo refered to the explicit open attitude of the construction towards the surrounding historical landscape and its dual landmark functioning as both city border and access point. Van Gelooven's pictures deliberately focus on the cultural-historical roots of the project and the architectural expression of contemporary culture and its inhabitants, blending strong and sharp architectural volumes with subtile references to local culture. To stimulate further reflection and discussion on the interaction between image and representation and the creative opportunities that rise from it, a first workshop on "Representing Architecture through Photography" was set up with Veronique Boone and   François Schuiten on October 17th. As an architect-historian and  a renowned scenographer (Les Portes du Possible, Brüsel, ...) Boone and Schuiten respectively approached the representation issue from very different artistic angles. This resulted in enriching talks on the role of photography in the representation of Le Corbusier's work, depicting Le Corbusier as a skilled PRmanager avant-la-lettre whereas Schuiten drew the attention to the far too often underestimated powers of imagination and drawing as innovating forces in architecture.

It was a bit against expectations that Buro II's non-deterministic, collaborative and bottum-up approach of architecture - referred to as   "Beyond the Building", inspired by architect-designer Salvatore Bono - could persuade Chinese policy makers to opt for a radically different and provocative design. Inspite of a meticilous technical preparation, time was not on BURO II's side to explore Chinese society and do some prevention management. The first establishments were built in 2005, while during 2006 construction works were driven in the highest gear, as the official opening was scheduled for spring 2007. No need to state that a lot of things didn't run smoothly. Confronted and challenged with a great deal of cultural, social and labor-related miscommunications, Buro II decided to turn their Chinese adventure into a learning experience, organising a second workshop on Oct 19th 2007 on "Challenges in China".   Sharing and discussing problems and strategies with and interdisciplinary panel of professionals from different backgrounds - Bernard Dursin (senior vice-president Barco & vice-president FCCC Flanders China-Chamber of Commerce), Jan Cornelis (vice-rector research VUB), Gustaaf Geeraerts, (director of the Brussels Institute of Contemporary China Studies ), Danny Venlet (designer) and Jeanne Booden (sinologist, Chinaconduct) - proved to be a very constructive setting to gain new insights on how to bridge cultural gaps and define common goals for future joint actions.