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Field study

By Deng Zhangyu | China Daily | Updated: 2018-04-17 07:15
A bird's eye view of Wu village near Wuzhen, from where Chinese intellectuals discuss rural China over the internet with Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas hosts a marathon talk session on China's rural development as part of the 2018 Wuzhen International Architecture Forum.

After focusing on cities and skyscrapers for the past 40 years, Rem Koolhaas, the Pritzker Prize winner and one of the most important architects of his generation, has shifted his attention toward "the rural", a field he has repeatedly described as holding the key to the world's future.

To explore the subject more deeply, the 74-year-old held a six-hour talk on Thursday with 17 Chinese experts on rural issues. The Dutch architect says China highlights its countryside more than others in the world.

The dialogue titled Countryside Marathon, part of the Wuzhen International Architecture Forum 2018, saw Koolhaas hold discussions from his apartment in Amsterdam via the internet with scholars, officials, architects, artists, writers and independent musicians who actively take part in China's rural reconstruction, in Wuzhen, a water town in East China's Zhejiang province. The architect was unable to attend the forum in person due to health reasons.

Koolhaas says that he believes the impact of urbanization on rural areas is an issue that affects the entire world, not only China. But the architect also says he finds China's situation interesting, especially since the country's planners are putting it firmly at the top of their agenda.

The architect, who has designed many iconic buildings in major cities around the world, is perhaps best known in China for his design of the CCTV headquarters in Beijing, a landmark in the capital. When he visited China ahead of Spring Festival in February, he says he was impressed by how quick people were able to move from the cities to the countryside to celebrate Chinese New Year, leaving some cities almost empty.

In fact, Koolhaas began his engagement with China's rural regeneration last year by joining forces with the Central Academy of Fine Arts to set up a one-year course for 13 students working in areas related to rural development, including several architects and a city mayor.

Lyu Pinjing, the director of the academy's architecture school and a speaker at the Countryside Marathon forum, introduced the one-year course he developed with the help of several foreign experts including Koolhaas, explaining that its aim was not to teach students specific skills but instead to enlighten them with a global perspective.

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