5th Year Anniversary Special: Memory of the City – Catching-up with Song Qun, architect and artist from Xian

Author Song Qun interviewed by Katja Hellkötter
Published September 2020
Location Xian
© Song Qun

“Would you be willing to answer a few questions for the 5th anniversary of CITYMAKERS?” asked Katja Hellkötter CITYMAKERS-friend Song Qun from Xian in a wechat message. 3 Days later, the answers were there.

Song Qun, you were with us 5 years ago at the kick-off of the CITYMAKERS Network in Berlin and shared with us your inspirational works. And 2 years ago you hosted a group of city maker friends in Xian for an informal cultural dialogue. We would like to catch up with you. First of all: What work/project are you currently busy with?

It seems that I have been quite busy lately. One of the important projects is the renovation of an old factory covering about 30,000 square meters. My team and I are in charge of the entire project planning. For the design we have invited the famous architect Mr. Liang Jingyu. The implementation has already started, and we expect to open to the public by the end of this year. This old factory has a history of over 70 years, it used to produce towels, but was shut down many years ago. The buildings resemble Bauhaus architecture. After the renovation it will be a new kind of community center, including a bookstore, a market, a café, retail shops and restaurants as well as an innovative flower market. Hopefully the neighbors from the surrounding compounds will enjoy this mix of old and new.

最近好像更忙了。近期最重要的项目,一个是老工厂的改造,大约30000平米,由我和我的团队负责整个项目的策划,建筑设计邀请了著名建筑师梁井宇先生,已经开始实施,预计今年年底会对外开放。这个老工厂有70年多年历史,是一个生产毛巾的工厂,已经停产很多年,厂房有一点包豪斯风格,改造完成之后,是一个新型的社区中心,包括了书店/菜市场/咖 啡/零售和美食,最有意思的,是里面还会有一个新型花市。希望周围社区的居民会喜欢这个新旧混杂的空间。

 

Renovation and transformation of an old factory © Song Qun
Renovation and transformation of an old factory © Song Qun
Renovation and transformation of an old factory © Song Qun
Renovation and transformation of an old factory © Song Qun
Renovation and transformation of an old factory © Song Qun
Renovation and transformation of an old factory © Song Qun
Renovation and transformation of an old factory © Song Qun

You have created the space “Bendi 本地- Local Life” that is a space for art and culture, and contemporary presentation of “Urban Memory”, a place for exchange. What is currently happening in space? Any projects you could do at all this year, of if not this year, what was your last bigger project you can share with us? And are you actually continuously collecting items?

Localand is an urban cultural public space I founded in Xi’an in 2018. It covers an area of approximately 3,000 sqm with a small community museum, a café, restaurants, retail space and a small concert hall. Localand consists of 7 small individual buildings that form an entity in a bustling shopping district that merges with an open community. It is a project that got started in 2012 and developed from an inner urban village in combination with new structures. My team and I were responsible for the whole planning process. Localand is located in the heart of the neighborhood and has become an interesting space that connects old and new residents, business owners and consumers as well as visitors from outside. Over the years, we’ve organized a lot of city-themed exhibitions and various events connecting artists and designers from different cities like Taipei, Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, etc. Although it has been a lot of work and we spent a lot of time on it, but luckily Localand is very popular among young people, so we’re very happy. Chengdu’s Localand is about 4,500 sqm and is expected to open by the end of the year.

We constantly collect objects of daily use from all kinds of people, as well as the stories behind these objects, and we film people while they recount the stories of these objects. That is the project “Memory of the City 1000+” that has been going for three years and shall be continued.

Localand是2018年我在西安创立的一个城市文化公共空间,集合了小型社区博物馆/咖 啡/美食/零售/音乐空间,大约3000平米,由7栋独立的小建筑组合而成,在一个繁华的商业街区里,和一个开放式社区融合在一起。这是一个城中村改造与重建项目,开始于2012年,一直是我和我的团队在负责整体策划工作。Localand位于街区中心位置,成为连接原住民/新居民/经营业者/消费者/游客的一个有趣空间。这几年,我们做了很多城市主题的展览和各种活动,连接不同城市的艺术家与设计师,台北,东京,上海,香港等等。虽然做这些事情很琐碎,也花费了大量的时间与精力,幸运的是,Localand很受年轻人喜欢,所以我们也很开心。成都的Localand大约4500平米,预计年底开放。

我们一直在收集各种人们丢弃的日常用品,也在收集每一个物品背后的故事,并且拍摄记录人们口述的这些故事,这就是“城市记忆1000+”计划,已经执行了三年,还会继续进行下去。

Localand – Urban cultural public space © Song Qun
Localand – Urban cultural public space © Song Qun
Localand – Urban cultural public space © Song Qun
Localand – Urban cultural public space © Song Qun

You are also the publisher of the magazine “bendi 本地 ” – What have been the topics this year?

The book that was supposed to be published this year was about two Japanese photographers who photographed China in the 1980s, Mr. Shimao Shinzo, 71, and his wife, Shoda Tokuko, 80. They began traveling to China in 1981, visited many cities, and have since come back to China many times. They have published more than a dozen books about daily life in China in Japan. In 2018, we had invited these two artists to Xi’an to participate in a small exhibition in the Our Xi’an City Image Museum and in a forum on urban memory and revival. I also made a special trip to Tokyo to visit them and to discuss the book publication and exhibition in their home. Unfortunately, due to the situation of the epidemic in Tokyo, this work has been interrupted and the publishing and exhibition project may be delayed until next year. There were many plans for this year which had to be postponed, and this one is one of those I regret the most.

今年本来要出版的书,是关于两位日本摄影师拍摄的八十年代中国,岛尾伸三先生71岁,他的夫人潮田登久子八十岁,他们从1981年开始来中国旅行,去了很多城市,之后又来中国很多次,在日本出版了十几本关于中国日常生活的书籍。2018年我们曾邀请这两位艺术家来过西安,在我们的西安市城市影像博物馆参加过一个小型展览,和一个关于城市记忆与复兴的论坛。我也曾为出版专程去东京拜访他们,在他们家里讨论书籍出版和展览的事情。无奈的是,受东京疫情影响,这个工作被迫中断,这个出版与展览计划可能要延迟到明年。今年有很多计划,都被延后,这是其中最令人遗憾的一件。

Magazine “bendi 本地 ” © Song Qun
Magazine “bendi 本地 ” © Song Qun
Magazine “bendi 本地 ” © Song Qun
Magazine “bendi 本地 ” © Song Qun
Magazine “bendi 本地 ” © Song Qun

What is your personal strongest memory of the city of Berlin or of your experience here? Did the visit of Berlin eventually even influence your work?

The memories of Berlin are unique. Among the many museums in Berlin, the one that impressed me most is the Jewish Museum. Human faces cast from iron, piled up on the floor of the exhibition hall, which one has to step on in order to walk across, make a loud sound of iron against iron as one walks across, like the sound of shackles or chains, and to this day I can’t forget those sounds. The openness of Berliners towards the history of their city is admirable, and I learned a lot from the fact that each museum is writing the history of the city in its own way.

Berlin is a fascinating city, full of an artistic atmosphere. The CITYMAKERS meeting in Berlin was very well organized. We discussed many relevant topics and I made some new friends, some of whom I later met again in China. There is even a German friend who accepted my invitation to participate in our project in China, so this experience was really interesting.

柏林的记忆,是独一无二的,柏林的博物馆众多,印象深刻的是柏林犹太博物馆。铁铸造的人脸,堆满展厅地面,人们必须踩踏才能走过,走过时发出铁与铁碰撞的巨大声音,就像脚镣或锁链的声音,到今天我都忘不掉那些声音。柏林人坦诚面对柏林历史的态度,令人感到钦佩,每个博物馆都在以自己的方式书写城市历史,让我学到了很多。

柏林是一个迷人的城市,充满艺术气息。柏林的CITYMAKERS会议,组织的很棒,讨论了很多具有现实意义的议题,也让我认识了一些新朋友,有一些朋友后来一起在中国再次相聚,甚至有德国朋友接受我的邀请,参与了我们在中国的项目,这个经历是非常有趣的。

 

© Song Qun
© Song Qun
© Song Qun

 Any dream or project vision that is on your mind for next year/ the future?

We hope to find a place in the future that is large enough to move our Urban Memory Museum there so that we can make longer term plans. It should be a place with traces of the passing of time or a historical memory. We’ve been looking for such a place for some time and hope that we can realize this goal in the future.

希望未来可以找到一个足够大的地方,一个有时间痕迹或历史记忆的地方,能够把我们的城市记忆博物馆搬过去,这样就可以做比较长期的计划。我们一直在找这样的地方,希望这个目标未来会实现。

© Song Qun
© Song Qun
© Song Qun

If you could come back to Berlin and Europe again, what joint project what you like to realize?

I would love to have the opportunity to be involved in some project in Berlin. That would be very challenging and interesting. I also hope to be able to bring the urban memory and urban renewal projects that we did in China to Berlin, maybe in the form of an exhibition or as an event, so that the two cities can make some kind of connection on the non-official level and promote mutual understanding.

另外,我想说,很高兴成为Citymaker的一员并且参与其中,谢谢Robert Bosch基金会,以及城市创者和Katja,这是一个非常有趣的分享与交流平台,很乐意继续参与下去。谢谢!

Lastly I would like to add that I am very happy to be a member and participant of the CITYMAKERS’ network, I would like to thank the Robert Bosch Foundation and the founder of CITYMAKERS China – Germany, Katja. It is a very interesting platform for sharing and exchanging and I am looking forward to participating in the future. Thank you!

如果有机会的话,希望能够参与到柏林的某一个具体项目之中,应该会很有挑战性,也会很有意思。另外,希望能够把我们在中国所做的城市记忆与城市更新项目,以一个展览的方式,或活动的方式,带到柏林去,让两个城市以民间方式进行某种连接,促进彼此了解。另外,我想说,很高兴成为Citymaker的一员并且参与其中,谢谢Robert bosh基金会,以及城市创者和Katja,这是一个非常有趣的分享与交流平台,很乐意继续参与下去。谢谢!

 

Welcome to Berlin again!

 

Übersetzung: Maja Linnemann

About Song Qun

SONG Qun, born in 1970, comes from Xi‘an. As an artist and idea generator, he has been working in the fields of architecture, art, design and the creative industry for many years. He is the founder and publisher of the magazine “local 本地” and “MOMADA” and collects and archives photos, videos and texts on the city’s history. In his endeavor to preserve the city’s cultural memory, the focus is on ordinary citizens, their everyday lives and their world of experience. SONG Qun is also practically involved in urban development and has advised the development of several large, commercial urban residential and commercial buildings. He has also curated the “Reading Changes the City” series of around 300 events, including exhibitions, workshops and demonstrations. These have become an influential hallmark of cultural life in Xi’an. His work “Something about Food” was exhibited at the 15th International Architecture Biennale in Venice in 2016. He has been teaching at the Shaanxi Normal University Art Academy since 1992.

艺术家,出版⼈,设计师,策划⼈。2007年创办《本地》书系,⼀直以⺠间⻆度记录 ⻄安的本⼟⽂化与城市记忆。2011年以来,以“艺术介⼊城市”⽅式,发起多个融合在 地⽂化与艺术的城市⽂化项⽬,持续进⾏城市变迁与发展研究,并深度进⾏城市更新 实践,创建了⼀系列“本地⽂化与艺术”主题的城市⽂化公共空间,主持策划与设计过多个旧城改造与⽂创园区项⽬。2016年,受邀参加第 15 届威尼斯国际建筑双年展(中国家馆) ,2017年创办中国第⼀个城市记忆主题博物馆-⻄安市城市记忆博物馆。2019年创办⻄安市城市影像博物馆,从事与城市相关的影像⽂献及图像研究/展览。曾获 2019“中国最美的书”,《中国摄影》图书榜“年度摄影集”以及2018 年⾹港设计师协会“环球设计⼤奖”,意⼤利A‘Design设计奖, 德国红点(RedDot), DFA design for Asia Awards 2019(亚洲设计影响⼒)等⼀系列国际奖项。

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