We have been always fascinated by human density and urban transformations. Our research engages in a process of investigation of the rapid urbanization in China, focusing on the relations between social and physical aspects of everyday environment and defining ways for people to reinterpret the urban landscape. Cityscape is for us the result of the relations between people and their habitat. The urban analysis provides the starting pretext for a deeper and street related urban approach involving inhabitants and their lifestyle, in which experience, time, paths, observations, encounters and ideas become eventually as important as the built environment. We like to refer to our work using the concept of "microurbanism interactions", which combines the sense of small scale urban spaces with the possibility to temporarily use them as a public stage on which the audience’ response becomes the main event.
Instant Hutong, Blinking City, 120 KM and Theory of Moments are the projects on which we are currently working:
Instant Hutong project explores the borderline case of Hutong districts in old downtown Beijing threat by development. The project started in 2006 and it is intended as a series of installations and events on the border between art, social investigation and urban research to screen the uniqueness of a urban tissue made of lanes and courtyard houses and the community of people living in it. The work involved questions such density, unstructured reappropriation, gentrification, relationship between people and their physical space, property speculation, disappearing community and identity.
[ The city of Beijing is formed by a succession of parallel alleys mainly crossing it from east to west, that have the ancient Mongolian name of Hutong. The width of these alleys varies from 3 to 9 meters. The Siheyuan courtyard houses form a continuous tissue, filling the space between the alleys; they are more or less 70m deep and about 20m wide. The main pavilions of each Siheyuan face south to make the most of the low winter sun. A row of pavilions placed to their rear protect the main buildings from the north-western winds. An ancient architectural typology has been used to build the entire city of Beijing. Every single building is considered part of the whole, that is harmonized in a kind of great horizontal monument. Like the Hutongs, also the Siheyuans were built according to a project that has remained almost unchanged since the time of the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.). The buildings forming each Siheyuan, organized in a sequence of courts, may house an extended family of up to three or more generations. The size and number of the courts originally depended on the social status of the owner. But regardless of the dimension, even a humble Siheyuan, that had low fences and doors rather than tall walls, featured the same plan as the residential district of the Son of Heaven in the Forbidden City. Other salient characteristics of the courtyard houses comprise the curved form of the roof, the visibility and refined design of the load-bearing wooden structure (beams, ledges, columns), the north-south axial arrangement of the buildings, the use of colour on the roof tiles and sometimes on the casing. Finally, an important characteristic consists on the regular proportions, both in the buildings and in the open spaces, and their implicit serenity, aimed at assuring the constructions are in harmony with the landscape and with Man. The wooden structure of beams and pillars that support the pavilions is the result of precepts that are older than the city itself. The proportion and definition of all wooden parts of a building were established in the Ying-tsao Fa-shi ("Building Standards") by Li Chieh, published in 1103 during the Dynasty of the Northern Sung. As a result, since the publication of this treatise all buildings are governed by a rigid system of standardization that has eventually become an essential element of Chinese architecture. The spaces of Siheyuan have proven very adaptable to changes during different periods of history. Since 1949, following the strategy of redistribution of dwellings, spaces that were originally occupied by one family were assigned to several nuclei. The wooden frame structure and the brick partitions, through simple rearrangements and constructions of new rooms, made it possible to adapt the buildings to a new lifestyle ].
Blinking City consists of multi-media objects that investigate the inadequacy of traditional maps to describe city environments characterized by fast pace transformation and urban growth, such as contemporary cities in China. Changes are usually so fast that as soon as the map is done, the city it depicts has already gone. Each part of the project plays with this idea of change, ranging from stencil art on walls of dilapidated and abandoned houses under demolition, interactive ever-changing maps printed on lenticular discs that vary according to the movements of viewer, photographic record and video animation.
The 120KM project shifts the focus from the city to the countryside and the development set in motion since the last Five-Year Plan (2006-2011) which placed several key issues helping to elevate the conditions of farmers and rural population but radically changing at the same time secular traditions. For the first time ever in human history 50% of human population lives in cities or urban settlements. In traditionally rural China the emergency of this phenomena assumes the form of a high pace revolution, with an invasion of urban products to the countryside. The related risk is to turn upside down a whole rural culture overlapping new consumerist urban models on it. 120KM project crosses the territory of rural provinces of Hebei and Shandong, the territorial structure of which is a texture made of a fine dust fragmentation of rural villages and modern infrastructures. It composes an activity of social mediation, in the format of an open and un-planned journey carried out at different stages, involving people’s perception of changes, participatory consultation and awareness of their role in the evolution of their habitat.
Marcella Campa and Stefano Avesani graduated at Venice Institute of Architecture, Italy, and since 2003 have been studying the urban growth of Chinese cities and their transformation. They won in 2005 the international Archiprix prize in Glasgow for a double coordinated project for historical districts in downtown Beijing and Shanghai. October 2005 they moved to China where they started working on the Instant Hutong project, which was taking part in several exhibitions in China and abroad. Marcella Campa has been chosen to receive the Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant for year 2010. They currently live in Beijing.
马吃辣和思凡诺毕业于意大利威尼斯建筑学院。自2003年以来就开始研究中国城市都市化进程和城市的变化。他们2005年因关于北京和上海老城区的双人项目获得“全球建筑毕业设计大奖”（Archiprix International）。2005年10月他们移居中国开始“速溶胡同”项目，并多次参加中国和国际展览。马吃辣2010年获彼洛克-克拉斯那基金会（Pollock-Krasner Foundation）资助。他们现居住在北京。