Be where you want to be and move. Do not sit still. Allow yourself to be yourself.
And this is exactly what we did, by building an international community on the side. Architects are usually glued to their desk endlessly revising office layouts or quickly sketching something for the long ignored backside MEP enclosure. We can simply not accept this. This project is our aim to redefine “being architects.”
#donotsettle is about creating a group of urban explorers. With the rising globalization and urbanization, we use social media to build a framework for like-minded people to share their explorations. #donotsettle creates a platform where exploring, motivation, and adventure are keywords.
We are creating a new vision. Out with the old, say hi to the new architect. This is a new ambition to recreate something by observing, failing and standing up. Over and over again, because we do not settle.
#donotsettle is Wahyu and Kris: two Shanghai-based architects who are attempting to change the way we see the city. We are both originating from a totally different background (Indonesian and Belgian), growing up in countries on opposite sides of our globe. This unique and previously unseen multicultural ensemble results in an original fresh set of eyes in which the city and its architecture are seen. This created an opportunity to learn from each other and think differently. We each brought different influences to the table and envisioned a project that has no limitations or boundaries.
A new ambition calls for a new name. Brainstorming about a term that is stronger than architects or urbanists, we started calling ourselves “urban enthusiasts.” The city is our playground. We observe, recognize and perceive the city through our eyes.
With an educational and professional background in architecture, we bring our knowledge to the table and correlate between theory and the built environment. We discuss between our global community and ourselves about the changes happening and predict the future.
What started as an escape plan from our architectural design work grew into an opportunity to change the way we see the city. We go exploring because we are eager to witness the transformation of the city. Beyond “feeling” the ground we have a big interest in top-view supervision. Everybody wants to get surprised or amazed by new or old things. We are letting the amazement overtake us when we see new discoveries in architecture or urbanism. We are exploring from new angles and go up, way up. Cities are experienced visually and everything is different from up there: speed, sound, scale, form, and feel. Rooftops have long been inaccessible and neglected, usually only used as a place to store mechanical equipment, however these platform open up a new opportunity to study the rapid change happening in this world’s financial hub. Our observations show the rich history of Shanghai’s urbanism and reveal the unfair fight currently happening where Shanghai’s heritage is losing against the overpowering pressure of the shiny skyscrapers.
Rooftops are a representation of an unseen platform and they are not the subject. We show the people, with our photographic research, that the city is bigger than they think. The result is a gallery of photos showing the endlessness of a city like Shanghai, which is the world’s most populous city. Being on top of a skyscraper leaves you with a double feeling. At first you feel small, and keep growing smaller the more you look, because the city is a huge mechanism where you are just a character in an extremely oversized puppet show. However, secondly, you feel yourself grow bigger because you feel the extremities and can capture the environment completely instead of limiting to a certain view. You are able to relate yourself and put things in proportion. We are living in a world that is too big to grasp. However, when you go higher you are starting to handle this.
Step by step. We go higher, we go wider and we go bigger every day.
Break Your Limitations
We both don’t have a background in photography. We are designers. With this background we go out and bring some simple tools along on our explorations. No expensive set-ups, no professional cameras are needed to capture what we see. All of our photos were taken with the latest iPhone and some cheap pocket cameras. For us it is not about how you take the photo, it is about why you take this particular photo. To create some variations, we always bring pen, paper, small tripod/monopod and sunglasses. What can be seen as a limitation (no photography background or expensive setup), turned into an opportunity to think differently and try harder. When a limitation comes our way we brainstorm to find a way through. When you get pushed against a wall, break the wall.
One thing we haven’t broken yet is door or lock. We intend to keep it this way.
Who Seeks Shall Find
The research is a combination of individual interests and common objectives about the city. We learn about urbanism by discovering and growing a sense of knowledge about the environment, informality, infrastructure, alienation, demolition, wilderness, architectural form, (resi)-density, and familiarity amongst other. We call our explorations “spontaneous observations.” By walking 15 kilometers on average for every day of exploring, we reached 22 rooftops and snapped 2500 pictures of Shanghai. These photos are arranged in sets revolving around different topics. Is it possible to make non- architects excited about our built environment? By sharing our explorations on Instagram and other social media, we aim to share excitement. Social media gives us the flexibility to get recognized by people from around the world.
When we are ready to end the day, we go explore some more. It is non-stop.
Our battlefield is Shanghai. As the largest city and the financial heart of China, there is plenty to explore. With nearly 25 million people living in the city, there is no slowing down in sight yet. With a huge crowd of individuals and a huge surface of high-rise buildings, this is the perfect context to be. Shanghai is Asia’s urbanism at its maximum. Being rambunctious and energetic, change is seen every single minute of every day. With a vibrant fusion of old and new, the city is a more than welcome backdrop in every photo. We learn about city restoration and foresight reaction at the same time.
Today we live in the age of icons. Every city around the world is creating their iconic view. It is their mark on the map, their marketing material to be sent in postcard form to loved ones on opposite corners of the world. Our urban explorations put these familiar views in a new limelight. This is the start of a new platform, full of energy that can be applied to every city in the world because cities are there to be seen and observed 24 hours a day.
In the beginning, we were captivated to capture the unforeseen of urban spaces with our architectural interpretation. Once we started sharing our work, we were embraced with motivation from other people who started seeing the city from a new point of view. There is a certain warming feeling when somebody who you had no connection with before, walked up to you and said: “You gave me inspiration to take my camera out again.”
Cities are changing and grow larger than they ever were before. This requires a new ambition to redefine urbanism, as we know it. Cities which developed for this generation need more different meanings and ideas. A global community gives us a platform to initiate discussion panel that can result in a better understanding of our cities and why things happen the way they happen.
We learned things that we could not imagined before. We started as simple photos grew in an opportunity to tell a story of our experiences living in this mega-city; but even so, it is becoming a way to motivate ourselves and our community to keep going. Don’t look back, just keep walking. Accept every challenge with open arms.
Cities don’t stand still, they change overnight at high speed. The past months we have consolidated our explorations in a book format. This is our visual archive of how the city was at the moment, because we are not capable to hold the change. Instead we embrace the change and try to understand the facts.
Combining 99 of our best photographs with our observations in architecture, this book is our representation of unsettledness, a new action concept in the city. Divided into four chapters: Identification, Recognition, Transformation, and Perception; we talk about architecture, urbanism, and the mind. This is how we feel living in world’s most populated city in the world.
We feel this is just the start. By using photography, video, text and other forms of media we are building a network of urban explorers who share the same ambition. That is where we need you. Give us a look on Instagram account @donotsettle, post your explorations with hashtag #donotsettle, or write us an email to say hi to firstname.lastname@example.org. More of our tag explorations can be seen on: www.donotsettle.co.
Wahyu and Kris