Venice Takeaway Debate – The Working Village

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On the 14th of March, Wouter Vanstiphout will join a live think-tank at the Architectural Association, London as part of the Venice Takeaway: Ideas to Change British Architecture.

The event – which will be chaired by Darryl Chen of Tomorrow’s Thoughts Today – draws together experts from the fields of urbanism, planning, branding and development economics to explore the making of The Working Village, a radical entrepreneurial village on the outskirts of London.

The background for this debate is the idea of Chen’s research project on the New [Socialist] Village, that featured at the British Pavilion for the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale, and is currently being exhibited at RIBA London. Chen studied Caochangdi, an atypical ‘new socialist village’ on Beijing’s Fifth Ring Road with a thriving and diverse mixed-income community. Amongst the city’s singularly masterplanned mega-developments, Caochangdi is an anomaly. In the space created by the Chinese government’s evolving planning laws, the village’s growth is driven by the instincts of local peasants and the bohemian opportunism of artists who have established a set of unstated rules governing urban form.

The Localism Act of 2011 provides the biggest opportunity in decades to rethink the role of planning. Chen argues that the time has come to breathe new life into the idea of the village by eliminating townscape sentimentalism and recovering economic growth as the primary driver of urban form. Chen’s project questions the seemingly one-way importation of Western ideas and expertise into China by asking, what can China teach the UK about planning?