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Van Minh Nguyen - Vinhomes Central Park (on the left) and Thu Thiem (on the right) (Ho Chi Minh City, 2018).

Ephemeral spaces

In China and Vietnam, underpinning urban development is a narrative of modernization. Making the modern city often implies processes of unmaking, causing the disappearance of spaces considered unsuitable to the visions of the future put forward by the authorities. Destruction is carried out in the name of ideals around the “civilized” (văn minh, wenming) city, which includes cleanliness, order and safety; ideals that often conceal market-related concerns. Places are often demolished overnight, disrupting routinised spatial practices. Sudden emphasis on legal norms to justify destruction is also extended to rural areas, where young urbanites avoid regulations by crafting out their own living arrangements. Beyond the photos included in this cluster, other places shown in the exhibition might await a similar fate.

Constructing a house on wheels

Nolwenn Salmon

In 2015, in Fujian Province (China), a group of young urbanites settled down in the countryside to launch an eco-community with the aim of being self-sufficient. A few months before this picture was taken (2018), following a media report on television, the local government had destroyed the houses built on the hills by the community without construction permit. In order to prevent new destructions and to avoid the request of a permit, a couple decided to build a mobile house that does not require any construction permit.

Welding a metal structure

Nolwenn Salmon, image courtesy of Xie nanbu shenghuo ba / SouthernLife Community Experiment

A few members of the community help one of them build an arbor, which will be used to have some rest when working on the fields during hot weather. A construction destroyed by the local government before completion.

Improving collective facilities

Nolwenn Salmon, image courtesy of Xie nanbu shenghuo ba / SouthernLife Community Experiment

Some members of the community dig a water well to be used by all of those living on the hills. A good way to facilitate the access to water when the houses do not have running water. A construction that may last in this unpredictable environment?

Looking in the same direction

Mikaëla Le Meur

Before 2015, in Quy Nhon (Vietnam), young couples coming to the seafront by bicycle or motorbikes used to watch the multiple fishing nets and boats moored a few meters from the shore. As fishing activities were deemed in contradiction with tourism development, local authorities banned fishermen and their typical round bamboo dinghies from the beach. Is the landscape as romantic as it used to be?

Vanished 77 Street in Xidan (Beijing, 2018)

Hua Bin

Driven by fast urban development and the shock of fast-growing online businesses, the 77 Street, a former hub for youth culture, was demolished and dismantled and will be transformed into a public park to benefit residents of the neighbourhood. This comprehensive shopping centre was once crowded by local youth, who were attracted by its fashion stores, game centres, platforms for ACG (Anime, Comic and Games)-related goods exchanges, as well as its variegated snack and cuisines. Furthermore, board skaters used to gather and practice on the building’s rooftop. Now, the good-old-days have given way to mass destruction.