Dressed in her shining armor, the futuristic silhouette of China Tracy flies over LeCorbusier’s modernist plan of the utopian city ‘La Ville Radieuse’, sketched by the great Swiss-French architect back in 1935.
The inspiration of this very rudimentary collage (I must admit I’m still very unskilled in graphic design) came to me from the title of the ongoing exhibition at Berlin Deutsche Guggenheim, featuring works from both RMB City project and the post WW1 Bauhaus movement (http://rmbcity.com/2010/01/rmb-city-at-utopia-matters-deutsche-guggenheim/).
The German Post-War architecture school responded to the conditions of its historical moment with a form of idealistic functional utopia, promoting an ideal unity of method and design, of art and technology, and imagining a utopian urban planning with ordered streets, a rational and systematic optimization of space, and some set rational ‘International standards’ for the new living culture of the 20th century.
Almost one century later, architects and urban planners still have to cope with similar problems of urban developments, facing an even more complex postmodern industrialized landscape, a chaotic standard of living, an increased mobility and new ecological challenges.
On some aspects, Cao Fei’s Utopia retraces the same path undertaken by the Bauhaus school, specifically with regard to the general interpretation of the term ART. Snobbery and formalism are alien to Cao Fei’s works, too, and similarly to its German precursors, RMB City also promotes an idea of unity of art and technology and an understanding of an artistic project as a collaboration between diversified internal and external sources. RMB City motto: ‘My City is Yours, Your City is Mine’ somehow thus reintroduces the idea of the Bauhütte, a premodern guild of stonemasons and co-workers.
Cao Fei’s city is however a much freer and ‘impurer’ world, where opulence and modernity cohabit with the old and dirt, the sacred mixes with the profane and fantasy overlaps reality.
The faultless order of ‘La Ville Radieuse’ becomes a joyful carnival of heterogeneous elements in RMB City, where vitality and energy take shape in many different informal ways and set the stage for a different utopia.