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在线翻译:
szdaily -> People
French architect gets locals involved
     2014-June-27  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

    Claudia Wei

    claudiamente@hotmail.com

    JUST like many other young people around the world, Frenchman Michael Patte was curious to see what the world outside Lyon was like. It was curiosity that drove the young landscape architect to set his feet in Shenzhen, a completely different culture from what he was accustomed to.

    Patte accepted a job offer in Shenzhen more than seven years ago, even though back then he didn’t feel very sure about coming to China, a country he didn’t know much about.

    “I wasn’t sure what was out there for me when I made the decision to come,” he said. “But why not?” His desire to explore the world overpowered his insecurity. He was given a trial period of one month, after which he could easily leave the job and Shenzhen if he had problems settling down. “China has gradually become one of the focal points of the world. I wanted to see it myself.”

    To his own surprise, life in Shenzhen turned out just fine for Patte and he decided to stay after one month. He was intrigued by the vast contrast between the young city in an old country.

    Patte found it very odd to see new high-rises and modern shopping malls springing up across the city and run-down houses “vanishing” overnight. “Just like that, when you blink your eyes, [an old building] is gone,” he said.

    The new high-rises are almost identical — tall with flashing glass walls. “They don’t have a character [that] people [can] remember. You just feel the same wherever you go, which makes people feel disconnected,” he said, adding that people are disconnected from the neighborhoods they used to know. The old neighborhoods have been replaced by modern, gigantic structures that enter their lives out of the blue.

    It made Patte sad to see these old neighborhoods disappearing as the city underwent fast economic development. “To simply demolish those old buildings was, to me, completely erasing the city’s past, its tradition, [and] its memory. And that’s cruel to me.”

    Patte said people should be included in the decision-making process concerning their homes and their city.

    However, Patte doesn’t believe that Shenzheners didn’t care [about their homes, about their neighborhoods], but rather they didn’t have a chance to get involved, a channel to have their voices heard.

    So after working for a small local design company, Patte, now 37, moved on to work for AECOM, a U.S.-headquartered multinational specializing in architecture, engineering, construction management, operations and maintenance for another four years, during which he expanded his network with both local and international designers.

    However, Patte still wanted to get more involved in the public domain, one of the very reasons he stayed in Shenzhen. He then set up a nonprofit network with other designers — Riptide — to hear different voices and opinions, as well as to get ordinary citizens involved in the process of design. He wanted to help local residents get to know more about their neighborhoods in spite of Shenzhen’s fast urbanization.

    “It is everybody’s city, so every single person should be given a chance to participate in its development, instead of letting the developers and large design companies decide what the city will be like.”

    In July, Patte will organize another Riptide event — a special “Pecha Kucha” — at a run-down factory near the Shekou Ferry Terminal, featuring designers and citizens who want to share their ideas and opinions on the value of keeping the deserted flour factory building and how to renovate it.

    “Pecha Kucha” was started by Tokyo, Japan-based English design association Klein Dytham Architects as a night event where participants could share their interesting, creative ideas. Each participant’s presentation is restricted to seven minutes and 20 PowerPoint slides. “Pecha Kucha Nights” now happen in over 700 cities around the world. Patte’s Riptide started the “Pecha Kucha” craze in Shenzhen.

    China Merchants owns the flour factory in question. The developer originally planned to simply tear down the factory to make way for a new real estate project in Shekou. After learning the plan, Patte reached out to China Merchants with a proposal of how to start a new project without tearing down the old factory building. Patte then held the first Pecha Kucha event at the factory with his designer friends and people who cared. At the event, Patte collected quite bit of firsthand feedback, which he compiled for the developer.

    He said he was happy to learn that people appreciated such a valuable chance to get involved in the decision-making process for the neighborhood they live in and love. “Many people didn’t want to see the factory torn down. Of course, the city needs to develop, but the factory is part of the city and a part of many people’s lives,” Patte said. “We need to respect that a little bit more.”

    After a few talks with Patte, China Merchants seemed to realize the potential of the run-down factory, which could be renovated into an art center or a place for creative minds and concepts.

    Patte has come a long way in persuading China Merchants to keep the old factory, as well as keeping Riptide in operation.

    Riptide was set up as a nonprofit network, but it still needed funds to keep operating. After Patte started Riptide with a few designer friends, they had to continue doing design work for commercial companies to support the network.

    Patte worked as an architect during the day and organized Riptide events at night. It was no easy job for Patte and his Riptide associates. “We carried on with a mission in mind,” which was to help ordinary residents get to know their homes, their neighborhoods and their city. Riptide wants to encourage locals to get involved in the development process of their home city, to make the design process accessible for nonprofessionals.

    “I wanted to let ordinary people know that designing is not a sophisticated job that only professionals can do,” Patte said. “It simply reflects people’s needs in the products. It concerns everybody.” Patte believes in his mission and keeps practicing it, painstakingly yet fulfillingly.

    However, what bothers Patte is that after hosting a number of successful Pecha Kucha nights and other events, including “My Shekou,” which attracted a few well-known designers and “laoshekou,” — those who have worked and lived in Shekou for the past two decades — he is known simply as an event organizer to people outside of the design community. He rejected quite a few offers to help host events.

    “I’m simply not an event organizer,” Patte said, “I’m a designer and I like events because they can facilitate getting more people involved and can get me immediate, firsthand feedback on the design process.”

    After years of hard work, Patte and his Riptide associates felt the urge to take a more aggressive approach in spreading their concept of getting people involved in the design process. Patte became aware of important resources the city government has at its disposal to achieve what he and his associates have been working for. His design philosophy coincides with the city’s drive to turn Shenzhen into a creative city during its painful transition from a labor-intensive economy to an information- and creativity-oriented market.

    One of Patte’s close allies in Riptide, Gigi Liang, started working for a semi-official organization, the Shenzhen Center of Design. She helped organize a few Pecha Kucha events for several city government projects.

    Due to Liang’s effort on the government side, the Riptide concept has gained popularity outside of its base in Shekou. Patte said he is happy to see their efforts paying off. “Some developers are embracing this novel idea Riptide has brought in — getting people involved in the design process.”

    “To simply demolish those old buildings was, to me, completely erasing the city’s past, its tradition, [and] its memory. And that’s cruel to me.”— Michael Patte, a French landscapist

    — Michael Patte, a French landscapist

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