Modu Magazine: A Tale of Urban China

2019 Shenzhen & Hong Kong Bi-City Biennale – “Eyes of the City” Exhibition

Opening in December 21st, 2019 in Shenzhen, the Shenzhen & Hong Kong Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism and Architecture (2019 UABB) will discuss the theme of “Urban Interactions”. First to incoporate Facial Recognition and Artificial Intelligence on its very premises, the public exhibition will test new grounds to reflect on the impact of digital technologies on the urban life.

Set up in Hong Kong’s neighboring city of Shenzhen, the main exhibition is called “Eyes of the City” and aims to explore the new urban condition of cities that can “see”. Entirely fabricated locally and interspersed in one of the halls of a high-speed railway station, it features original work by more than 60 acclaimed international exhibitors. The “Eyes of the City” section is curated by MIT professor Carlo Ratti (Chief Curator), Politecnico di Torino and SCUT (Academic Curators), who will unveil the final selection at the Biennale opening.

“At a time when urban technology and facial recognition are prompting polarization and conflict – from Hong Kong to San Francisco – our exhibition wants to provide a critical reflection,” says Carlo Ratti, director of the Senseable City Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The “Eyes of the City” installations revolve around the following question: what happens when the sensor-imbued city acquires the ability to see – almost as if it had eyes? The exhibition premises will be in the newly inaugurated Futian high-speed railway station in Shenzhen, connecting Mainland China and Hong Kong in less than 15 minutes. Because of new technologies, stations themselves around the world, as well as other public spaces, are transitioning from spaces of anonymity to spaces of constant data gathering.

Visitors will be facially scanned upon accessing the exhibition through the two info points, designed by leading Dutch practice MVRDV, on opposite ends of the venue (visitors will choose either they want to be scanned or not and will anyway see the whole system of cameras throughout the space). Among the installations that underscore the “Eyes of the City” approach is the work by leading Chinese architect Yung Ho Chang, in which a series of upside-down telescopes invite us to “Look Back” at technology, advocating for a bidirectional relationship between mankind and the digital city: beyond its “Resisting technologies” section, the exhibition path will be divided into a series of sub-clusters devoted to exploring different fields in which the “Eyes of the City” can impact tomorrow’s urban landscape.

“The installations will deal with topics as diverse as Shenzhen’s transformation dynamics and collective memory, the transformations to urban infrastructure brought about by autonomous mobility, the increasing convergence between the natural and the artificial, and the ways in which A.I. might both support or disrupt design and construction processes,” explains Michele Bonino from Politecnico di Torino. The list of practices and designers involved in the “Eyes of the City” exhibition includes names such as Baukuh, Cui Kai, Dominique Perrault Architecture, Future Firm, Thomas Heatherwick, Liu Jian, Antoine Picon, Terreform ONE, XKool, Long Ying, J. Meejin Yoon, Liam Young, Philip F. Yuan, Zhang Li.

“We believe that the only role of the Biennale is one that can make people think about issues, one that uses design to engage with pressing societal issues. It must start a conversation, in this case about the role of technology in cities, architecture, and most importantly, public space,” says Carlo Ratti.



Urban Interactions - Challenging AI and Facial Recognition


December 21, 2019 to March 31, 2020

Main Venue:

Futian Railway High-Speed Railway Station and surrounding area


Shenzhen Public Art Center and Shenzhen Biennale of Urbanism\ Architecture Committee Office

Chief Curators:

Carlo Ratti, Meng Jianmin and Fabio Cavallucci


Yung-Ho Chang, Vicente Guallart, Mitchell Joachim, Ying Long, Geoff Manaugh, Antoine Picon, Daan Roosegaarde, Liam Young, Philip F. Yuan

About 2019 UABB:

The overarching theme of 2019 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (Shenzhen) is ”Urban Interactions”. Chief curators for this year’s UABB are Architect and Director of MIT Senseable City Lab Carlo Ratti, CAE Academician Meng Jianmin and art critic Fabio Cavallucci. Under the theme of ”Urban Interactions”, there are two parallel sections, namely ”Eyes of the City” and ”Ascending City”, both exploring the evolving relationship between cities and new technology. The ”Eyes of the City” section features Carlo Ratti and Politecnico di Torino-SCUT as the curatorial team, while the ”Ascending City” section is to-be curated by Meng Jianmin and Fabio Cavallucci.

About Carlo Ratti:

Carlo Ratti (1971, Turin), an architect and engineer, is a founding partner of the international design and innovation practice CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati and teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he directs the Senseable City Lab. A leading voice in the debate on new technologies’ impact on urban life and design, Carlo has co-authored over 500 publications, including The City of Tomorrow (Yale University Press, 2016, with Matthew Claudel), and holds several technical patents. His projects combine a scientific approach with a humanist perspective, and have been exhibited in several venues worldwide, including the Venice Biennale, Rome’s MAXXI, Barcelona’s Design Museum, London’s Science Museum and New York’s MoMA. Listed by Wired as one of the “50 people who will change the world,” Carlo Ratti serves as co-chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Cities and Urbanization.

"Eyes of The City" section:

Chief Curator: Carlo Ratti
Academic Curator:Politecnico di Torino – Michele Bonino; South China University of Technology – Sun Yimin (South China-Torino Lab
Executive Curators: Daniele Belleri [CRA], Edoardo Bruno, Xu Haohao
Curator of the GBA Academy: Politecnico di Milano (Adalberto Del Bo)

  • 2019/12/21 - 2020/03/31

  • Shenzhen

  • 2019 UABB