The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has announced a new exhibition that will explore how modern architecture in China is rooted in its cultural context and history. Called Reuse, Renew, Recycle: Recent Architecture from China, the exhibit is curated by The Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design, Martino Stierli, and curatorial assistant Evangelos Kotsioris. It will be on view from September 16, 2021 through July 4, 2022. 

Eight architectural/urban projects will be showcased designed by “a new generation of China-born architects” who have shown their commitment to blending new architecture with existing structures,” according to Stierli and Kotsioris, who spoke to RECORD. Much of the architects’ works are about “exploring the environmental and aesthetic potential of reused and recycled materials,” they added.

The exhibition will feature works by Wang Shu and Lu Wenyu of Amateur Architecture Studio, Philip F. Yuan of Archi-Union Architects, and four former RECORD Design Vanguard recipients: Atelier Deshaus’ Liu Yichun and Chen Yifeng (a 2011 Design Vanguard firm), DnA_Design and Architecture’s Xu Tiantian, Zhu Pei (a 2007 Vanguard), Dong Gong of Vector Architects (a fellow Design Vanguard from 2014), and ZAO/standardarchitecture’s Zhang Ke (a 2010 Design Vanguard).

According to the MoMA curators, the architects and studios to be exhibited “share a deep skepticism towards notions of unimpeded development that has underscored large construction projects—often designed by foreign architects—in China.”

Stierli and Kotsioris say that China’s construction “boom” of the past few decades, beginning with the experimental architecture movement of the 1990s, has “repeatedly been framed as reliant on imported architectural expertise.” This new exhibition seeks to challenge this narrative by focusing exclusively on recent Chinese works designed by native architects. In doing so, the curators say Reuse, Renew, Recycle will “highlight the multivalent approaches of these architects, whose creative practice has been decisively informed by their personal experience of living and practicing in China, while often studying and teaching abroad.” 

“What brings all these practices together is a commitment to social and environmental sustainability, which marks a decisive shift away from the urban megaprojects of the preceding generation,” say Stierli and Kotsioris. “Reuse, Renew, Recycle seeks to showcase this shift and to propose it as a way forward for contemporary architecture more broadly, in line with the urgent need of an ecological recalibration on a global level.”

In addition to this exhibit, Stierli has also curated MoMA’s Toward a Concrete Utopia in 2018, which explored the architecture of Yugoslavia, and collaborated on the museum’s sixties-themed showcase From the Collection: 1960-1969 in 2016.