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RCA Architecture Research Guides Students at Hong Kong-Shenzhen Biennale

Research into making the bureaucratic planning system more accessible by Royal College of Art PhD candidate David Knight has helped guide work for the UK Pavilion at the 2013 Hong Kong-Shenzhen Biennale, which opened last weekend. 

Knight's research, ‘Making Planning Popular’ and ‘Building Rights’, an alternative user-generated planning information portal that aims to cut through complex legislation and bureaucracy, has provided the concept for an eighties-style interactive video game, and features as part of the UK's Liquid Boundaries exhibition at the Chinese urbanism and architecture biennale. 

Architecture PhD candidate Knight, was one of four ‘clients’ including 00:/, Inigo Minns and Spacemakers, selected to brief Central Saint Martins students, guiding them in producing work  that would explore an urban public realm under threat from increasing commodification of the built environment.  

Knight set students a brief to create a piece that would explore the complexities of the existing planning system through gaming. Students  Ria Dastidar, Laura Keer, Frank Wang and Natalia Biegaj devised The Planning Game – a 129-second, eight-bit interactive video game, where the lead character gradually learns how to change their built environment through learning to navigate the planning system. 

Similarly, Knight's planning portal 'Building Rights' – the main output of his research at the RCA, also showing at the pavilion in its own right – aims to facilitate more grassroots-led, rather than government or corporate-led, development of UK space when it launches next year. The user-generated forum aims to be the primary planning resource – a 'repository of planning knowledge, where the rules of what is built and what is not are shared, tested and generated in public'.

According to Professor Jeremy Till, Head of Central Saint Martins and Pro Vice-Chancellor, University of the Arts London, who curated the pavilion, Knight’s research offers potential to 'democratise the production of space'. He said: ‘If normal, lay, people can engage with the planning process, it will allow more ways for our cities to be changed from the bottom up. I have always found David’s work very engaging in taking a quite off-putting subject and treating it in a serious yet playful way,' he said.  

Knight commented, ‘There’s a real need to democratise a hugely complex planning system shrouded in bureaucracy. It’s biased, yes. It becomes biased when you have to pay for the expert planning advice.'

The Hong Kong-Shenzhen Biennale runs from 5 December 2013 to 28 February 2014. For further details, visit the website here.