Slow Food Freespace

Pilot project for the first Slow Food Village in China. Starting from the wide vision of Slow Food China – supporting an agricultural economy that values the culture and local products – Stefano Boeri Architetti has designed a school, a library and a small museum for each village (or group of close villages) involved in the Slow Village program.

Three cultural epicenters able to build the hubs of a wider infrastructure that can allow millions of Chinese farmers to invest in the future of their rural territories, rather than abandoning them to move to metropolitan suburbs. Offering the best cultural, economic, architectural and environmental conditions to a dusty galaxy of local communities, the Slow Food Freespace program aims to forcefully combat the emigration towards large Chinese cities that has grown in the latest years, and the consequent homologation of the specific cultural characteristics linked to the richness of the territory.

We easily forget that the rural areas provide sustainability to our daily lives. It is an inevitable necessity of architecture to confront the speed of evolution while also feeding it with the richness of the past. For this reason, we have proposed to enhance the agricultural villages with a system of small but precious catalysts of local culture, able to improve the lives of the residents”, as explained by Stefano Boeri in Shanghai during an invitation from Anhua Chen, Project Leader of Slow Villages Cobuilding, for collaboration in a shared and concrete vision of design and territory.

This meeting has produced a program strongly linked with the current political and social situation, that interprets architecture as a porous territorial device, able to absorb and reactivate the rich and varied tangible and intangible patrimony of the rural Chinese civilizations. “Preserving the rural environment means protecting the cultural diversity”, confirms Yibo Xu, Shanghai partner of Stefano Boeri Architetti; “significant efforts have been made in the latest decades in China with regard to the urban questions and, in the future, greater attention should be paid to the versatility of expressions, traditions and patrimonies of the countryside”.

Located in Qiyan, in the south-west province of Sichuan, the first Chinese Slow Village rises from an open and collaborative vision. Stefano Boeri Architetti China will provide its design ideas and technical know-how free of charge, necessary for the construction of the first pilot system in the village: the library, the school and the museum. Like a single organic accelerator, the three catalysts will act to feed not only the culture of the preparation, consumption and supply of food, but also the popular ancient and deeply-rooted traditions, as well as the small and insightful individual stories. Enhancing and amplifying the natural richness, the p. 1 program also proposes to condense a worthwhile and attractive offer, aimed towards the wide universe of knowledge and towards Chinese and international tourism.

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Times and locations of the presentation of Slow Food Freespace, in Venice on May 25th, 2018, are not accidental. On the one hand, the project is illustrated for the first time to the public in the context of “Across Chinese Cities – The Community”, programming initiative that aims to explore forms of design linked to the development of new systems of social, economic and spatial belonging. On the other hand, and in the larger sense, the program introduced by Stefano Boeri Architetti can be conceptually linked to the theme of the Venice Biennial of Architecture (whose inauguration is scheduled for May 24th and 25th) and has been named “Freespace” by curators Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara. With that definition, the founders of the Irish studio, Grafton Architects, intended to identify a democratic, unprogrammed and free-use space, able to emphasize the gifts of nature – the light of the sun and moon, the air, gravity, materials – and to offer everyone an additional and unexpected generosity in every aspect. An architecture, in other terms, with its own life, able to embody even the most unexpressed desires and to build sensorial, linguistic and emotional bridges, providing the well-being and dignity of each citizen. A great revolution for the “fragile planet”, that can also start from a small village in the Chinese countryside.

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