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City Montage 城市蒙太奇

(2009-12-10 16:46:51)


City Montage


Eva Wang


A city is a book. To open it is to open a new world. A city is a person, to know it is to know a distinguished personality. A city is an open canvas; to complete it is almost impossible because it keeps changing. A city is a symphony, to hear it is to follow every note and beat of every movement.


Over the years, the experience of world cities has become an integrated part of my design subconscious. Whether developing an urban design concept, creating the form for a stand-alone building, or reworking the interior of existing building, some experience, from some corner of the world and at some point in time, emerges to inspire.


I have a special place in my heart for Chicago and Shanghai, of course, the two cities I call home. But work and travel have introduced me to many other great cities, from North America to Asia, Europe to South America, Africa to Australia. On almost every trip I fall in love with the city I visit.


My favorite travel book is Invisible Cities by Italo Cavino, best expressing a traveler’s mind through a designer’s eyes and with a poet’s rhythm. Another favorite is The World by Jan Morris, someone who can observe and catch so many cities’ mood and spirit over time and with such insight.


By chance or by choice, most of the time I travel alone. The only thing between me and a city is my camera. My camera is my best company on my journey, capturing everything appealing to my eyes - architecture, landscape, street life, fashion, art, people, as well as sound, light, color, smell, taste…atmosphere.


To me the best way to get to know a city is by walking, neighborhood by neighborhood, street by street, building by building. Only until I walk through every zone of a city do I feel like I have roughly finished its book. Even then, many books need rereading and many chapters need rewriting.


There are cities that are love at first sight, like Paris and Florence where beauty is everywhere; there are cities that take some time to know and love, like Shanghai, Tokyo and London, so complex and dynamic. There are cities that are simply irresistible, like Rio de Janeiro where sexiness is in the air, or Venice . . . which is like a soulful sad song. There are cities that give me mixed feelings --- Lagos: chaotic, messy and energetic at the same time, Kiev: magnificent but somehow broken.


There are cities that are masculine, in Italian with “o” in the end, Milano, Berlino, Beijingo, and I added Chicago; there are cities that are feminine, with “a” in it instead, such as Roma, Toscana, and I would add Shanghai. There are cities that I would embrace and let go, like Stockholm and Amsterdam whose culture and design I can identify with immediately; there are cities that I would go back to over and over again, like New York which keeps reinventing itself, or Barcelona with everything I love in one city: ocean and mountain, an historic old town, cutting edge design and art, great food and drink, and easy-going people.


Multiple-city travel adds another layer of richness. Coming back from Germany and Italy over one holiday, I was amazed at how much two places can contrast. My road trips through sunny Italy, from Milano to Umbria to Ancona to Treviso, made Berlin look cold and distant. However, behind the care-free nature there is precise craftsmanship and the perfection of Italian design that oozes luxury and the good life, while the clean and formal surfaces of Berlin seem embedded with deep passion and restless energy.


I like extremes in a city. My favorite places are either extremely urban or extremely rural, which reflect human needs I guess --- on one hand, the desire to create and to conquer a place with art and form, on the other, a longing to get back to nature. It is a paradox for an architect and designer like me, who is constantly inspired by everything a metropolis, has to offer, and whose job is to design spaces for people, to also dream of a pure, natural retreat, where there are no people . . . only solitude.


Over time, I have found my camera and my mind are quietly switching their attention from the physical to the human aspect of cities: the dancing crowd on Ipanema Beach in Rio; the blond kids laughing in a playground in Amsterdam; the young lovers kissing on a bench in Central Park, New York; the old Cantori factory worker so immersed in her iron work in Ancona; the backs of the white-haired couple holding hands in Perugia Airport, the baby learning to walk, supported by her young mother in a community park in Frankfurt; the angry women carrying heavy baskets on their heads, a whole family on a motorcycle in Abuja…


I used to think I was helping to design cities, but it seems now like cities are designing me.










我最爱的旅行书籍是Italo Cavino的《看不见的城市》,通过旅行者的思绪,设计师的眼光和诗人的韵律表达出与我最接近的城市印象。还有一本是Jan Morris的《世界》,文章非常关注世界各个城市的情绪及精神,其透彻的洞察力和深刻的理解力令我折服。
















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