Selected by the UABB organizing committee as the main venue for the “Eyes of the City” section, the Futian high-speed railway station might seem at first like a challenging location for a Biennale exhibition. It represents one of China’s leading mobility hubs and it is part of one of the world’s most extensive underground spaces, traversed by hundreds of thousands of people every week. Since September 2018, it is possible to travel southwards from Futian station to Hong Kong in about 15 minutes – in a journey that prefigures the impending fusion of the two cross-border cities.
The exhibition reacts to this unusual setting by pursuing a design strategy that aims to attract an audience not necessarily accustomed – or even interested – in visiting a Biennale about urbanism and architecture. By adopting a zigzagging spatial layout devoid of clear gateways as well as by mimicking the flamboyant visual language of duty-free shops (developed by the Dutch graphic designer Mieke Gerritzen), the exhibition aims to expose station users to the ambiguity of “Eyes of the City” scenarios. The station becomes a space where visitors cannot escape art – and where functions and experiences get hybridized.
Ultimately, this unusual venue stands out as the natural home for the “Eyes of the City”. As digital technology increasingly permeates our cities, railway stations are one of the public spaces that are likely to experience the strongest shift. For a long time, stations have been places where one could experience urban anonymity at its highest form. Already today, they are becoming examples of a built environment that is able to recognize and respond to us in real time. In stations as well as in airports, we can already observe what an “Eyes of the City” scenario might look like and start a critical reflection about it.
In this spirit, a specially-made technological system will permeate the space inside the Futian high-speed station. Visitors will be facially scanned upon accessing the exhibition through the two info points designed by MVRDV on opposite ends of the venue. The system will work in a transparent manner and camera locations will be highlighted throughout the space. Visitors who wish to opt out will wear a special sticker – designed by Benjamin Aranda and Sam Keene of The Cooper Union and their students – to bypass sensors and remain anonymous, signaling their stance to others.
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