'Reuse, Renew, Recycle' Opening at MoMA in September
4. June 2021
Atelier Deshaus, Long Museum West Bund, Shanghai, China, 2012–2013. Photograph by Shengliang Su (MoMA 263.2020.4)
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has announced a new exhibition that will open in the fall: Reuse, Renew, Recycle: Recent Architecture from China will feature eight projects by "a new generation of Chinese architects that rethink existing definitions of social, cultural, and environmental sustainability."
On display from September 21, 2021, to July 4, 2022, Reuse, Renew, Recycle will be arriving a few months after MoMA's most recent architecture exhibition, the provocative Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America, which closed at the end of May after a scant three-month run. Instead of being located upstairs, Reuse, Renew, Recycle will occupy the admission-free street-level galleries that are a new component from the museum's 2019 expansion.
The exhibition is being curated by MoMA's Martino Stierli and Evangelos Kotsioris, with the input of Li Xiangning, a professor at Tongji University and the curator of the Chinese Pavilion at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale. Some of the eight architects in Reuse, Renew, Recycle were also part of Xiangning's "Building a Future Countryside," including Archi-Union Architects, Atelier Deshaus, and Vector Architects. It's no surprise that all of the eight architecture studios, listed at bottom, have office profiles on Chinese-Architects, the World-Architects country platform curated by Eduard Kögel.
Reuse, Renew, Recycle follows a four-year research initiative, per a press release from MoMA, "which has included extensive conversations with the architects and numerous site visits to all the projects presented." The models, drawings, photographs, videos, and architectural mock-ups that will comprise the exhibition come from MoMA's recent acquisition of around 160 works of contemporary Chinese architecture. Many of these works can be found on MoMA's website when narrowing a search to recent acquisitions in architecture over the last three decades.
Thematically, as the exhibition's name alludes to and the press release spells out, Reuse, Renew, Recycle "will present eight projects that speak to a multiplicity of architectural methodologies — ranging, from the adaptive reuse of former industrial buildings, the recycling of building materials, and the reinterpretation of ancient construction techniques, to the economic rejuvenation of rural villages or entire regions through non-invasive architectural insertions." Not coincidentally, the exhibition comes a little over five years after the Chinese government called for a move away from "weird" architecture, much of it previously designed by foreign architects, and a recognizable shift since then to exemplary projects in rural areas — the last as evidenced by Xiangning's 2018 exhibition and MoMA's selection of architects.