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Blueprint Beijing exhibition

Ma Yansong picks six highlights from his Blueprint Beijing exhibition

Architect Ma Yansong, the curator of Blueprint Beijing, a feature exhibition exploring the future of the Chinese capital at the 2022 Beijing Biennial, shares six of his highlight installations from the show.

Ma, the founding partner of Chinese architecture studio MAD, invited 20 architects and artists of different generations from around the world to present their visions for the future of the city of Beijing in a variety of mediums including architectural models, installations, photography and videos.

Blueprint Beijing curated by Ma Yansong
Blueprint Beijing is the feature exhibition at the inaugural 2022 Beijing Biennial curated by MAD's founding partner Ma Yansong

"Blueprint Beijing is a comparative study of history and the future of Beijing and the world," Ma told Dezeen.

"We compiled a compendium of seminal events, people and ideologies from around the world that have vividly explored the theme of 'the future', such as Archigram, Oscar Niemeyer and many more, that have had a significant impact on current architects, and have influenced changes in Beijing's urban planning in relation to major events."

"The works of several creators selected here traverse the dimensions of time, space and geography, and their personal creative imagination has brought distinct significance to the exhibition," he added.

Blueprint Beijing curated by Ma Yansong
Twenty architects and artists from around the world are invited to re-imagine the future of the city

The exhibition also presents material taken from historic archives about eight architects and collectives that have showcased visionary ideas, as well as four Chinese science fiction films with historic significance.

Here, Ma has selected six of his highlights from Blueprint Beijing for Dezeen:

Blueprint Beijing curated by Ma Yansong

Restaurant Inside the Wall, by Drawing Architecture Studio, 2023

"The Restaurant Inside the Wall installation is presented as a graphic novel, with a restaurant hidden inside the wall as the protagonist. Drawing Architecture Studio (DAS) transformed the graphic novel into a spatial experience in order to strengthen the absurd and suspenseful atmosphere of the story, by collaging and connecting the real elements of various street stalls.

"Drawing from the observation of urban spaces in China, DAS has discovered a lot of unexpected pockets of wisdom embedded in everyday urban scenes, and roadside 'holes in the wall' are an example of this. This installation adds a microscopic daily footnote to the grand avant-garde urban blueprint for the future."

Blueprint Beijing curated by Ma Yansong

Filter City & City as a Room, by Peter Cook from Cook Haffner Architecture Platform, 2020-2022

"In this installation, Peter Cook dissects two of his drawings – Filter City (2020) and City as a Room (2022) – into elements that concentrate on sequences.

"Cook utilizes his signature strategy of creating concept drawings that remain connected to the built environment, while also moving towards a new future-looking 'hybrid', particularly interiors, that can be created from fragments of drawing and images.

"As a result, viewers can transcend from distant observers into participants."

Blueprint Beijing curated by Ma Yansong

Liminal Beijing, by He Zhe, James Shen and Zang Feng from People's Architecture Office, 2022

"The installation of Liminal Beijing, created by People's Architecture Office, connects the city of Beijing in different time and space. It features a knot of radiant, winding, and rotating tubes that can be interpreted as pneumatic tubes transporting documents in the 19th century or the hyperloops developed today, representing the link between the future and the past.

"Modern life would not be possible without the hidden system of ducts that deliver heating, cooling, and clean air. Air ducts in Liminal Beijing are made visible so they can be explored and occupied, and are presented as missing fragments of space and time."

Blueprint Beijing curated by Ma Yansong
Photo is by Jerry Chen

Astro Balloon 1969 Revisited x Feedback Space, 2008, by Wolf D Prix from Coop Himmelb(l)au, 2022 edition

"This installation was realized by combining two of Coop Himmelb(l)au's previous works: Heart Space – Astro Balloon in 1969 and Feedback Vibration City in 1971, which were first shown in this form at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2008.

"The resulting installation is a cloud-like, semi-transparent and reflective floating space that translates visitors' heartbeats into a lighting installation.

"Throughout its practice, Coop Himmelb(l)au has presented numerous futuristic 'architectural' prototypes of dwellings which are responsive to the sensibilities and activities of their inhabitants."

Blueprint Beijing curated by Ma Yansong

Beijing In Imagination, by Wang Zigeng, 2023

"Chinese architect Wang Zigeng illustrates two city models that were informed by visual imagery of mandalas on the floor and ceiling of the exhibition space, expressing the tension between the ideal city and the chaos of the real world — a parallel reality of both the present and the future.

"He believes Beijing is the embodiment of ancient cosmologies and an ideal city prototype through the ritualization of urban space – the establishment of political and moral order as a highly metaphorical correspondence between human behavior and nature."

Blueprint Beijing curated by Ma Yansong

Pao: A Dwelling for Tokyo Nomad Women II, by Toyo Ito, 2022 Beijing edition

"This installation explores what living means for city dwellers in a consumerist society. Even today, half of the population living in Tokyo are living alone, and having a place to sleep is all one needs. Pao is a light and temporary structure that can be dissolved in the buzz of the metropolis.

"This is a new edition of Toyo Ito's previous work Pao: A Dwelling for Tokyo Nomad Women. By recreating the installation in Beijing while coming out of a global pandemic, Ito hopes to provide a space for visitors to reflect on the excessive consumerism that has continued to dominate the present."

The Photography is by Zhu Yumeng unless otherwise stated.

Blueprint Beijing is on show at the 2022 Beijing Biennial Architecture Section at M WOODS Hutong in Beijing until 12 March 2023. See Dezeen Events Guide for an up-to-date list of architecture and design events taking place around the world.