THE DISTRIBUTED CULTURAL INSTITUTION
Urban centers are an aggregation of a diverse array of inhabitants that bring together a wide range of people
seeking economic opportunity, social mobility, educational opportunity, new experiences, and fresh starts.
As internal migration in China increases and continues to reshuffle urban to
rural relationships, migrants to urban centers must contend both with issues of belonging, and in terms of the negotiation of a dual identity that navigates both the past and the present, the city and the hometown. For individuals from ethnic minority groups in China their unique cultural identity becomes uprooted from its home place.
How to redefine identity in this new context?
Developed by TGS team members Catherine McMahon and Jenny Chou from ATLAS studio and Nicola Saladino of reMIX, three practitioners trained in architecture yet working with theoretical and methodological frameworks well beyond their given backgrouds - the lab asks if a different type of cultural strategy can be enacted—that of thedistributed cultural institution— in other words, initiatives that seek to work tactically within networks of peoplerather than through a centralized institution. In this sense ownership of the meaning and stay linked with thegroups who are active in the production of their own culture. While these individuals are often loosely dispersedwithin the urban fabric, there is the potential to identify, aggregate, and build tools to better bind thesecommunities together. Craft, music, and food are highly portable examples of cultural practice (and heritage) thatcan be replicated, taught, transformed, and evolved to meet contemporary conditions. Furthermore we look tosee how one’s cultural identity might be strategically leveraged in order to better meet social and economic needsfor life in the city.