Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda: "unMade in China" Examines the Cutting-Edge Architecture That Never Was

MVRDV's design for Long Tan Park Liuzhou

WHAT: "unMade in China: Undone Architecture in P.R.C."

WHEN: Through June 20, Monday-Saturday 10am- 5pm

WHERE: ide@s Gallery, 25 Jianguo Middle Road, Shanghai, China 200025

WHY THIS SHOW MATTERS: With the explosion of architectural development China has experienced in recent decades — Rem Koolhaas's CCTV Tower, Herzog & de Meuron's National Stadium in Beijing, and Norman Foster's Terminal 3 at Beijing Capital International Airport, for example — it's interesting to hear of an exhibition about buildings that aren't there. That's the focus of "Unmade in China," a show of the most awe-inspiring structures of the last ten years that never were, the proposed designs that misfired, or simply never took off.

Through sketches, models, and renderings, viewers glimpse the unrealized Long Tan Park, a Liuzhou project started in 2004 by architects MVRDV (the architects behind the unfortunate Cloud-9/11 controversy in Seoul), then abandoned in 2006. The Dutch practice proposed a "vertical village" embedded into a limestone mine of the Karst mountain range, made in part from the actual surrounding rocks, with each box-like concrete housing unit a little pixel in the picturesque landscape. In a two-birds-with-one-stone swoop of sustainability, the project would have both provided housing for the region's rapidly growing middle class and stopped the erosion of the steeply cut mountainside.

There's also amphibianArc's Shenguotou Plaza Renovation, started and stopped in 2010. It was intended to turn an outdated, poorly planned shopping facility into a glowing space for public art, with better pedestrian traffic, and refurbished building façades — as well as a Sam's Club outfitted with an artificial 65-foot-tall tree, the tensile membrane and curvilinear steel branches of which would provide shoppers with both shade and a little panache. Also on view: the woven swaths of metal that make up UNStudio's Dalian Football Stadium, and the electrifying glow of Spark's Shanghai Kiss towers, neither of which we'll ever get to experience in real life.

Taking a tour down roads never traveled, "Unmade" examines what could have been, but what's missing from the exhibition is the answer to the obvious question: Why? While myriad obstacles stand in the way of a building's development, this is the type of show that could give creators an impetus to pick back up where they left off. While the works remain unmade, they're hardly unrealistic.

To see images from "Unmade in China" at ide@s Gallery, click on the slide show.