While education is currently under financial and ideological pressure, learning is flourishing. Learning is not a self-contained period of time and place in which we magically transform into adults, but rather a life-long condition, a process that now permeates everywhere and everything at all times. For some learning is a luxury, yet for others it’s an economic necessity. Learning can be a tool of social liberation, but also one of financial subjugation and political oppression. In this issue of Volume, we’re thinking about what it means to learn: how it happens, where, by what, for whom, and why. Learning points us in a direction and gives us tools; does it also teach us how to use them and make a move?
One of architecture's histories is that of the art of display: architecture displaying power, political ambition, economic success, social agendas, or less mundane notions like dreams, convictions and belief. These days architecture has also become subjected to display: the display of architecture — in museums and collections, and in auctions for example. That adds but also distracts meaning; not every aspect of architecture can be displayed as easy. And what does a culture of display (be seen or perish) add to this condition?
There is a theory that the more organized (read: developed) a society is, the less self-sufficient it becomes. All sorts of services and amenities, from housing to energy, from culture to justice, are centrally organized and distributed. But is that necessarily so? Or are we heading for a new order in which decentralized and self-reliant become the norm?
For the first time, a general theme was given to the national pavilions at this year’s Architecture Biennale in Venice. They were to be historical shows, focused on the impact of modernity on a country’s architecture. What it produced was not just a global survey of twentieth century construction, but also heroic stories of nation-building. Yes, architecture can build nations. Today, we seem far from that notion. The nation-state is either giving up on itself, or exploited through tyrannical regimes. Meanwhile architects are hardly taking up the cause.
Four years ago we published Volume #26: Architecture of Peace to explore the agency of architecture in post-conflict environments. It was clear we had only scratched the surface of a tense and complex issue. So now we’ve tightened our focus and zoomed in on the period directly after peacekeeping forces have arrived. Our goal: to see what a ‘reconstruction mission’ actually is, how peacekeeping can anticipate its legacy, and how different cultures come with quite different solutions to build or maintain peace. Re-building after war, it would seem, is another battle altogether.
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The 2013 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture in Shenzhen took ‘urban border’ as its theme. For good reason. If there is a place to study ‘border’ as condition, it is Shenzhen. Demographic, territorial, economic, political, social, and legal borders created this fifteen million city in less than thirty-five years, and drive its further development. The transformation of this ‘factory of the world’ into a post-industrial economy and society, the disappearance of the Hong Kong-Shenzhen divide in 2047, and the reconciliation of state capitalism and communist rule, are but three of the challenges Shenzhen is facing, to which its role and position in the larger-scale development of the Pearl River Delta can be added.