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Urban Below

Han Wu

Synthetic cities: a fresco of an impossible future.


In times of health and urban crisis, rethinking the way we live in cities is essential. As a pandemic landscape dim the light of our present, transforming the way we live, we work and we communicate completely, "Urban Below" by Han Wu uses a futuristic aesthetic, something we have seen since Moebius’ works or in Blade Runner, to invent a bizarre city constructed under a bridge.

"The initial idea of this short animation originated from research into the urban slum areas of the Philippines where the space beneath the bridge is utilized as a shelter," he explains.
The architectural short film starts under a rainy sky, crossed by dozens of drones: even the rain feels concrete, as if it was made not of water but rather by some flimsy material, from time to time shadowed by some dark cloud, possibly pollution. Then we understand that we are looking from a large window: nobody is around, everyone is inside - as if trying to escape from something and as if, by some technological means, life indoor has become the only viable solution. We learn also that the congested and incongruous patchwork of the cramped rusty urban cabins clung to the bridge: the bizarre and complicated landscape is rotated upside down. In "Urban Below" - now we get the title! - imagines a future not too different from the one we live in: urban clusters getting bigger and bigger, slums growing everywhere, as the cities become the only place one could make a living. It is an exaggerated version that is influenced by the ruinous future seen in Blade Runner - a film in which it was always raining.

As Han Wu said, "Urban Below" draws from the same idea of the Philippine urban slums and illustrates an informal settlement below bridge and dives into various perspectives and uses of the space and how it has been transformed and adapted as a livable and buildable space. The animation has been produced for STUDIO 35mm led by Hamid Khalili, Melbourne School of Design. Studio 35mm (Studio 29) is a design studio at master level that challenges the traditional tools of architectural representation and attempts to employ time-based media such as film, animation and virtual reality.

The video is well-realized and takes our contemporaneity to its extremes: but there is a question that arises from watching from movies like this and it is: "what can we imagine beside this? How can we draw a future that is not a nightmare and could help us rethink cities and how we build them?"

Authors icon Credits

Editor: Han Wu
Studio Leader ar STUDIO 35 mm: Hamid Khalili

Australia 2019
Duration: 4'23"