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“The last two decades have radically transformed the metropolitan centers of the developing world. What were still relatively compact 19th-Century cities in the early 1950’s have since become progressively overlaid by the deluge of modernization as effected by freestanding high-rise construction and the elevated freeway; the one capitalizing on the increase in land value brought about by the other. Hence the gargantuan ever-expanding Asian conurbations such as Tokyo, Mumbai, Bangkok, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur etc. which at 15 million plus can no longer be regarded as cities in any traditional sense. It is obvious that the received discourses of urban planning and urban design can no longer be effectively applied to the mediation of such urbanized regions. The most that one may imagine in terms of a foreseeable future are limited urban interventions combined with infrastructural changes.”Kenneth Frampton

The symposium on DeCoding Asian Urbanism explores the current discourse and creation of innovative architecture and urban interventions that are effectively transforming the spatial and operational landscape of the complex Asian city. The focus is to highlight efforts that strategically embrace the rapid growth and the cultural and physical complexity of the built environment in Asia. The symposium builds on an exhibition at the A+D Architecture +Design Museum>Los Angeles, curated by Kenneth Frampton, Ken Yeang and Farooq Ameen. The comprehensive effort including the exhibition, this symposium
and accompanying publication stimulates a dialogue between designers, policy makers and public officials who are shaping the Asian city today.

While the scale and pace of 21st-century urbanization is staggering and unprecedented, new urban development in Asia alone in the next two decades will likely exceed the urban growth worldwide of the last two hundred years. While Asian cities have historically drawn on their history and regional culture, this critical assimilation has been vastly superseded by the sheer velocity of urban growth inspired by external/global/western models. The dominant discourse on Asian cities has focused on aspects of globalization (Shenzhen), cultural authenticity (Kuala Lumpur), or social/economic dysfunction (Mumbai slums), all of which are in reference to euro-centered development models.

DeCoding Asian Urbanism will focus instead on those critical interventions that go beyond globalization to achieve a substantive systemic innovation in the Asian City. This focus is consistent in the exhibition, publication, symposium and other programming that constitute the project. This approach organizes and presents transformational projects that revitalize, renew and transform the complex urban environment and illustrates their key principles. The urban condition, the historical context, the proposed program and the stated objectives of stakeholders are considered elements that inform and guide the formal and spatial responses.

The phenomenal growth of Asian cities remains a challenge to their infrastructure, existing resources, and the roles that have traditionally constituted city-making in the broadest sense. If we consider the city constructs and the unique elements of their organic identities as self-organizing systems within a greater global complexity, then they are the access nodes to communication and distribution. They are also, within the system, ruthless reminders of social poverty and alienation. With little exception, only selected citizens of any major Asian city have benefited from global connectedness through communication, trade and the flow of vast amounts of capital. Through appropriate interventions in their evolving trajectories, the revitalization of our cities can embrace the vast majority of its citizens to benefit from the wide range of dynamics at these strategic global nodes. In this context, the Objectives of the Symposium are to:

  • Mediate the complex discourse on Asian urbanism, given the diversity in cultures, economy, world view and geography.
  • Situate the discussion in the context of globalization and
  • Evaluate current and potential tangents for response.

To ensure organize the Symposium Objectives, it has been tentatively structured in three sections:

1. DEFINITION: DECODING THE CITY
This section focuses on understanding the state of the Asian City today. The intention is to distinguish the scale and extent of specific challenges and opportunities. This is an inquiry as to how the Asian city is evolving at the global, trans-national and local level.

2. MEDIATION: RESPONDING TO THE CITY
The discussion focuses on the effective mediation of challenges with the Asian City. Participants discuss existing and proposed strategies that integrate sustainable models to transform the operational and formal aspects of the Asian city.

3. TRANSFORMATION: INTERVENING IN THE CITY
Participants focus on specific urban interventions within the Asian City in five categories: Interventional Megaform engaging the public realm of Civic programs / spaces; Interventional Abode or residential; Interventional Workplace; Interventional Transportation enabling mobility for the City; and Interventional Landscape facilitating sustainability