The space of dynamic informality – Archiprix 2020

The site of Jiayun Xu’s graduation project at TU Delft is a station on the New Silk Road in Tblisi which she transforms into updated market area with a dynamic, informal character.

The space of dynamic informality - Jianyun Xu - Archiprix 2020

New market area, elevation and section.

Can you explain your choice of subject?
I have always been interested in the sociology aspect of the architecture subject. When I saw spontaneous practices in Georgia and Azerbaijan, I was inspired a lot, that architecture could be also amazing with the bottom-up system.

What or who are your sources of inspiration and can explain this?
The informal practices I saw in Georgia and Azerbaijan, of course. In the meantime, my tutors also recommended several precedences for me, including Daniel Libeskind and Lebbeus Woods.

State the key moment in your graduation project.
I think it was when I tried to build up a logic structure about informal practices based on research, then the whole following design process is more or less based on the structure.

The space of dynamic informality - Jianyun Xu - Archiprix 2020

Catalogue of formal & informal components.

Project text
The site of my project is a station on the New Silk Road in Tblisi. I have retained the existing market while reorganizing the transport infrastructure. After studying the local conditions, including the present lack of space and the typologies on site, I introduced a set of formal components and a set of informal components. The formal category consists mainly of infrastructure components for pedestrians. It also acts as a framework providing in-between spaces for the informal part, which itself consists of small flexible market stalls. The formal and informal parts together constitute an updated market area with a dynamic, informal character.

The New Silk Road has spawned many new infrastructures, which in turn led to the spontaneous evolution of marginal spaces in the surrounding area. Those margins (leftover spaces, thresholds, in-between spaces and the like) are transforming from neglected terrain vague into functioning parts of their surroundings. These fragments parasitize the infrastructure and the local urban fabric; they are both dynamic and unstable, reflecting the needs of their temporary inhabitants. These evolutions share a large measure of spontaneity and informality and gradually reveal the area’s special qualities.

The space of dynamic informality - Jianyun Xu - Archiprix 2020

Tent area of market under abandoned warehouse structures, stalls selling fresh vegetables and fruit.

I discovered all this during my research into the New Silk Road and found it fascinating, which is why I further investigated the following two topics in my graduation project. First, there are the characteristics and qualities of the marginal space and informal practices related to the large-scale infrastructure of the New Silk Road. Second, I sought to determine what improvements an architect can design as an alternative to demolition and standardized solutions.

The programme for the site has been developed and replaced several times. This combined with the complex traffic situation makes it the ideal context for a new architectural strategy. Based on my theory of informal practice, I sought to preserve the existing autonomous retail market while reorganizing the transportation structure. My attitude towards informality is that it is important spatially as well as socially. Although there are indeed reports of negative effects, the marginal spaces are still full of vitality and imagination. If the need for renovation should ever arise, it would be best to respect the existing informal qualities and then make new interpretations.

The space of dynamic informality - Jianyun Xu - Archiprix 2020

Bird’s-eye view of the new market area.

Jiayun Xu,

Technische Universiteit Delft / Faculteit Bouwkunde
graduation started
September 2018
July 2019

What are you doing now?
I am a freelance architect now in Rotterdam. Doing some competitions and also participate in commission projects.

What hope / do you want to achieve as a designer in the near and / or the distant future?
My interest and concern is still pretty much about the bottom-up perspective and people’s lives from the neglected margins of the city, and will hopefully carry on that concern during future practices.

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