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These spaces cannot be ignored:
Considerations about the exhibition ‘China Goes Urban’

Leonardo Ramondetti
In Planum. The Journal of Urbanism 2020, Vol. 40(II/2020), pp. 1–16
Ramondetti, L. (2020). These spaces cannot be ignored: Considerations about the exhibition ‘China Goes Urban’. Planum, 40(II/2020).
ISSN 1723-0993

This article discusses the main issues raised by the exhibition China Goes Urban. The city to come, opened on October 15th 2020 at MAO – Museum of Oriental Art in Turin. The exhibition invites us to reflect on the transformations affecting the contemporary city, and the importance of investigate these in contexts where their features are more evident and radical, such as today’s China. It is a well-known fact that since the past two decades the Chinese city has undergone radical changes related to great processes of infrastructuralisation, migration, enormous urban growth and so on. Even if these phenomena have drawn the attention of many scholars in different fields of study, a general consensus in considering the Chinese space as a ‘different’ and ‘exceptional’ space is still dominant in most of literature. Differently, the exhibition aims to document and investigate the Chinese urbanization in order to reposition this subject into a wider and more ordinary framework regarding urbanization processes, and, in so doing, making it debateable. In order to perform this operation the objective of the exhibition is twofold: on the one hand a step-by-step de-contextualisation of the spaces observed, on the other a progressive familiarisation with the inquired subject. By adopting this strategy the exhibition turns the Chinese city into ‘a lens’ through which it is possible to investigate the world around us; an helpful viewpoint to identify and discuss topics that today are extremely relevant. In particular the exhibition puts the spotlight on four main issues: ‘urbanization’, ‘urban fragments’, ‘infrastructures’, ‘urban-rural relations’. Based on these topics, the exhibition poses questions and opens up to issues that overcome the specificities of Chinese city. In doing this, it highlights the necessity of performing increasingly precise empirical research able to move past those culturalist approaches that still characterize most of studies on Chinese urbanization.