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China, Nanjing

London Design Biennale 2018 Medal: Honorable Mention

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Reclaiming a collective monument as shared place: The Memory Project of Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge

RECLAIMING A COLLECTIVE MONUMENT AS SHARED PLACE REVEALED HOW THE NANJING YANGTZE RIVER BRIDGE BECAME A POPULAR ICON AND ENGRAINED ITSELF ON THE NATION’S COLLECTIVE MEMORY AND HOW CONTEMPORARY DESIGN-BASED PLACE-MAKING HAS RECLAIMED THE MONUMENT AS A PLACE OF MEMORIES AND EMOTIONS.

The Chinese pavilion considered the emotional significance of an iconic structure and how it became part of the nation’s collective memory. The Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge was completed in 1968 during the Cultural Revolution and was the first modern bridge in China to be designed and built without foreign assistance. At more than 4.5km in length, the double-deck roadrail bridge quickly became a national symbol of technological achievement, its image and the story of its construction disseminated through mass media, such as propaganda posters and lowcost photography. “The bridge is an exceptional case of a single monument which in the radical 1960s and 70s sparked an emotional state among a whole nation,” explained curator Andong Lu. “It became the pinpoint of a shared memory and people from all over China had their own stories to tell about it.”

The exhibition explored how this collective memory came into being, revealing to visitors a historic space that was both real and imagined. Since 2014, LanD Studio has collaborated with historians and local artists on the Memory Project of the Nanjing Yangtze Bridge, amassing an archive of artefacts, memories and audio and visual evidence – a selection of which was on display at London Design Biennale.

Over the years, through a combination of design projects, exhibitions, participatory campaigns, the Memory Project gradually reclaimed this ideological monument as a contemporary public space – in other words, to give it a new emotional resonance. “It is important to re-access the memory of the bridge in a creative way, so that we can gradually redefine the icon.”

Credits:

  • Administering Body: Nanjing University
  • Design Team: LanD Studio
  • Curator: Andong Lu
  • Supporting Bodies: Jiangsu Art Museum, Shanghai Railway Administration (Nanjing Section)