Venice Architecture Biennale 2018


Across Chinese Cities – The Community (The Objects Spaces and Rituals of the Collective)

Collateral Event of the 16th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia

Following its two previous instalments at the Biennale Architettura 2014 and 2016, the third chapter of the Across Chinese Cities program is a continued exploration of the rapport between the built environment and socio-economic processes of change in the contemporary Chinese context. Promoted by Beijing Design Week in partnership with Suzhou Municipal Government, Across Chinese Cities – The Community explores approaches to planning linked to the development of ‘communities’ as mechanisms that create new systems of social, economic and spatial belonging. The project offers an unprecedented look at over 20 case studies that draw upon the ‘’emancipating potentialities of commoning’’ (Stavros Stavrides, ‘’The City as Commons’’) through integrated design strategies which embody new notions of collective identity and thus novel interrelated norms of co-dependence, participation and inclusivity.  By tackling localized predicaments generated by uneven economic distribution, environmental scarcity and demographic fragmentation, they shed light on a transitional framework of development where new subjectivities are emerging and so producing co-actualized protocols of governance on the micro-scale.

Nested through tiered urban contexts, from historic districts, second tier cities to urban villages, and rural areas across different Chinese regions, these projects are predicated on the edification of enlightened methodologies of contemporary coexistence, where spatial transformation becomes auxiliary to the consolidation of new alliances among economic actors, governmental stakeholders and civic constituencies in medicating the disruptive effects of forty years of China’s unabated urbanizing race.

The exhibition is organized in six thematic frameworks – Working Paradigms / The Domestic Sphere / The Consumer Revolution / Culture, Learning & Care / Leisure & Playtime / Mobility – each providing a narrative entry point to socio-cultural constructs where collective life is customarily consumed and reproduced. 

Once again showcased in the unique framework of Ca Tron palace, the ground floor plays host to the ACC 2018 Guest City – Suzhou chapter and features studies on community development centred around the Pingjiang Road Preservation and Regeneration Plan; collectively these explore the city’s unique context of preserved traditions found in its historic urban fabric, crafts heritage and abundant natural resources, to enrich its ecological, economic and social condition.

On the first floor 15 selected projects are accommodated in an installation devised by DONTSTOP Architettura  of Michele Brunello, co-curator of the exhibition, together with Omri Revesz Studio – here thematic contents are laid in an archipelago of curvilinear shapes where an assemblage of visual and textual materials renders explicit the symbolic and physical systems of objects, spaces and rituals embedded in their making, thus unearthing connections among past and present regimes of sharing.  

‘’Each of these propositions behaves in responsive capacity towards a reconciliation between policy-relevant and community-native forms of ordering based on mutual fulfilment, cultural empowerment and thus ‘collective inventiveness’ ‘’ states Beatrice Leanza, curator of the show.

The exhibition includes historical itineraries drawing connections between the present case studies and past governmentalities of architectural and social formations – the People’s Commune, the Danwei (working unit) and the Socialist Mansion, so to suggest understandings of publicness, resilience and civic participation that might differ from their Western equivalents. The project eventually aims at collating knowledge around economic and socio-spatial dynamics of modern development in China centred around enabling the ‘making of community’ as a ‘’project, rather than an accomplished state’’, which therefore inform novel discursive and planning practices of responsive governance and creative management for the contemporary city.


3andwich Design / He Wei Studio, 9town-studio, AA School of Architecture/AA Visiting School (China), Atlas Studio, Bishan Crafts Cooperative, B.L.U.E. Architecture Studio, CHIASMUS Partners, Common Design Studio, DATAOJO, Digua Community, Doffice, Elsewhere, Kwan-Yen Project / Ou Ning, MAT Office, META-Project, MDDM Studio, People’s Architecture Office, Southeast University School of Architecture, Stefano Boeri Architetti, Tianqiao E-life.


Chief Curator of Across Chinese Cities, Beatrice Leanza 

Michele Brunello – DONTSTOP Architettura

Curator Guest City – Suzhou: Wu Wenyi – Nexus Institute for Community Research

Guest Curators –  Slow Village:  Chen Anhua, Ke Wei

Exhibition Design

DONTSTOP Architettura (Michele Brunello and Marco Brega) / Team: Caterina Fumagalli, Jacopo Nori

Omri Revesz Studio / Team: Giada Cossignani

HIS Design (Guest City Suzhou)

Visual and Graphic Design

LAVA Beijing

Across Chinese Cities Program Management

Initiator: Vittorio Sun Qun