Category Archives: Jinyang Han

Jinyang Han

Speed and efficiency

It is well-known now that China has been developing very fast, and might continue for several more decades.

The fast growth of economy has made a huge change of the whole society. Although there are still many poor people, but some people did get really rich in a very short time. Many others have seen it, and are trying to archive the same. But somehow the key point was changed. The time they spent became what people care the most, instead of the effort they made to success. People want to spend money today, and earn the day after.

In this context, cities are growing, with an unbelievable speed, especially after 1980s.

Take a look at the city where I lived for nearly 20 years. After finished study in high school I left my hometown to Shanghai for further education, and it was 2009, since then I only spend 1 month in winter and summer every year at home. In these 5 years, my hometown never failed to surprise me every holiday when I arrived home. Buildings which were built 10 years ago were demolished, and fancy new skyscrapers took their place in several months. New roads were built, so were metro lines. Every 5 month I got to know the city again, even the streets close to my home. Now, in 2014, after 5 years, I fell like a stranger in my hometown. If you have seen this city in 1990s, and have a look at it now, you probably won’t believe it’s the same city. In Barcelona, I can still find streets, shops and markets that I knew one year ago, and I’m quite sure that they’ve been there for a long time and they will be there for some more time. But in China, you will never know what time a new building will be built and when it will disappear.

It is kind of crazy. Everything is changing too fast. The fast growth in economy is good, definitely, but the urbanization following is not always doing well.

I love my home city, very much, so I’m so sad some times seeing that she is becoming banal, becoming more and more like other developing cities. I’m happy to see the city is developing, but I’m so upset seeing many ridicules scenes playing in the develop process.

You would never be regret to know about my home city, whose name is Kunming, which is also known as Spring City. It is located in a remote area in southwest China, and is center of a province which is rich of natural resources and culture diversity. The climate here is a gift, it’s never too hot in summer and never too cold in winter, four seasons here are as pleasant as spring. In every winter there come seagulls far away from Russia to spend their winter, even though the city is hidden in mountains. The city held expo of horticulture in 1999, which became a very important start point of its fast developing.

Fast urbanization demands more construction, and brings more work. In order to build more in a short time, the time should be spend in designing and investigating is saved. There we created some fast architecture and fast design. Just copy and paste, and then new buildings stand up to fill up the voids between new ambitious highways. In these mass production there is lack of thinking, sometimes in order to save time, there is also a lack of quality. But anyway they look good, at least at the beginning. But aftermath is not always good.

The same thing happens to the urban development. City is developing, at the same time being damaged. People want to be fast, but they don’t know how to do things fast and good at the same time. This summer when I arrived home, I found out that finally they finished 2 metro lines. My parents were happy about it, for metro would let them reach city center in a shorter time, and they showed me the station and the train. I have to say, there were some huge stations, making you feel like inside a train station, the design was ok for a remote city, looks modern, but rough. But if you don’t know the station well, and you want to find your way by referring to the map and instructions in the metro station, you will have a big chance end up trying every exit to find the right way, well, it was actually what my mother and I did. That is the point. People have seen many things, and they want to do something, they may have the money and power, but their knowledge is not growing as fast as the number in their bank account. Although there is nothing new, if they studied how the metro system works in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Beijing, Guangzhou, or any other city in China that has a developed metro system, they would not put the map provides nothing useful there. But they simply did so. It was the worst drawing I have ever seen in a metro station. It was quite like what I did in my first year in university, I didn’t know what was important, and just drew something. So it looks like a good metro station, clean and spacious. But I didn’t get lost in Shinjuku railway station the first day I arrived in Tokyo, and I got lost in a metro station that had only 1 line and 4 exits which was located in my hometown. It’s a shame.

For me it is so bad. We are behind, but it also means there are many examples, good ones and bad ones. We can chose a good one to follow, and avoid the failure bad ones have made, so we don’t need to waste time and resources trying to find our way out of failure like what people did before, so we could go much faster, why not? But in fact we are just repeating what other did, repeating their mistakes. Why?

Maybe just because of the speed.

China is like a high-speed running train, everybody in this train is facing new things every day. Here, sometimes you haven’t understood what is happening, it has already finished, and new thing has being on. It is good, but not perfect. With this speed, people don’t have enough time to understand, to study, to think. You don’t have enough time to count what you have got, to say nothing to realize what you lost.

My city was once a city exiting in people’s dream. Although it was small, far away, but famous. People wanted to come even a single time to feel and see the different scenery and life here during their lifetime. Also from here they can transfer to go deep into this amazing province. Once upon a time, the leaders of this remote province was quite advanced, and they really did push revolution of the country forward. During the Second World War, here was the last sanctuary of the best universities in China. But now, you can only find a city full of people came from other places, buildings look like buildings in other cities. The municipal administration seems to be a mess, they haven’t decided a symbol system, signs in different streets are different, also it seems that they spent 5 years and still could not decide whether to plant more trees in sideway or put more flowers. For locale people the feeling is complicated, the life is better but people still miss the past, for tourists there is no need to go into the city for better transportation has been developed they can go directly to other towns without transferring here, and the city has nothing interesting to visit.

I fell so sad about this. Things could be better. When we were tearing down walls that were erected hundred years ago, people in Beijing and Shanghai were fighting for their grandfathers’ houses. People didn’t know how to value what they have, they just wanted to make money, as soon as possible.

I’ve been constantly thinking what I can do for my hometown while studying. I got chance to know about Le Corbusier, from whom I leant the sense of social responsibility of an architect. I’m not saying that everyone should do something like the Radiant City, but the spirit quite inspired me. I entered one of the best universities in China, and then got an opportunity to study abroad. I think I can find a good job to feed myself, but there must be something I can do for my hometown as an architect.

Up till now I still don’t have a certain answer, but there is one thing that is for sure, if people can’t see far, so just act right in front of their eyes. An architectural project has the potential of influence more people. If the decision of the government cannot be changed, at least we can provide them better projects and options.

As architects, we always like to link ourselves with artist and philosopher, since we have the knowledge of history and art, we are different from civil engineers. We’ve been told to express our thoughts in our design, not only to build something, but try to say something using the language of space, light and material. But architect is not artist. Architect is much more practical. For me, the best part of being an architect is to learn so many different things, and try to find a solution using all of them. Architecture will not exist in vacuity, so it doesn’t make sense if you are building something in information era but knowing nothing about information. It doesn’t make sense building something in a society where economic factors are so important but knowing nothing about economy.

China has been running with a huge body and high speed for a while, therefore, its head may know where it is, but other parts of the body do not know where they exactly are. What they did was just following the high speed running, doing what others did, without knowing clearly why and how. We should not stop this fast running, but we need time to think about where we are, both from spacious aspect and economic aspect.

It’s the same for architectural work. It should be located in its surroundings, as well as its economic environment. Especially in China, if we want to be fast, we should not have time to redo, to waste, what should we should do is try to add value to our projects, to make them fast and beneficial at the same time. For cities like my home town, where is still a lack of self-awareness, it is even more important for architect to think. A good development should not only be fast, but also be patient. Like in China, where the population is huge, and the gap between the poor and the rich is huge, people need time to understand what is happening. There are already some architects doing their researches to about social issues in cities like Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing, but how about others? In my city, people know the benefit of metro but they do not aware the importance of maps and signs and direction boards inside a metro station. They need help. They don’t need colorful rigid buildings standing in their city, they need to understand and feel what is advanced inside the building. They don’t need somebody to tell them that they need to build a city for people, they need to feel and see a city that full of details designed for people.

That should be what architect should do. Architect should do more and talk less. Even their project. Where people still are confused about the development, a building which only talks about aesthetic and philosophy is not making much sense. Only when it works, people will feel it. And when the people aware of it, and then the discussion about improve the design, about the thoughts behind the design would be much more meaningful. Well, or course I am not saying that there can be any tolerance of ugly buildings. But, economic factors should be taken into consideration in order to add more value on to the project.

That is to say, we have a good speed of development right now, but how to make it more efficient could still be a meaningful discussion. We can simply reduce waste and save resources just by making a better choice. So, why not? Fortunately we architects have the capacity to do something, especially in China, a country in her urbanization process, where construction takes place everywhere. A better decision might take time to reach, but if it brings more value, it would be more efficient then a worth one. When everything is running fast, patience becomes more valuable.

Once a mayor started an ambitious project in my city, who wanted the city to be greener, therefore he wanted each sideways to have 2 rows of tress. So holes for planting trees were dig on every sideways. It might be good in the future, but the city looked so messy. Before people could fill up every hole they dig with trees, the mayor left, and a new one came. And the project stopped. Now there are still holes left in sideways. I’m quite sure that the decision to start digging was a quick decision, for they were digging despite of the space, no matter a sideway had a width of 2 meters or 10, they dig 2 rows of holes. And the decision of stop the project might took more time to be made, but it still showed how impatient people were. So at the end, nothing happened but scars all around the city and a huge waste.

That is what is happening. Fast never equals efficient. We have been doing things fast, and now it’s time to do things better.

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