Year: 2007
Work product: Textile

Caochangdi Map Quilt

Context:

In summer 2007, I participated in a summer architecture studio in Beijing. Our studio space located in an urban village near the fifth ring road in Beijing named Caochangdi, populated by residents who had immigrated from rural China to work in Beijing and by many informal buildings (and some very formal buildings designed by the artist Ai Weiwei). (The village has since been demolished.)

Walking around the village, I was struck by how the village's residents would hang up their quilts and blankets outside their homes along the street after a hot summer night’s sleep. Doing so transformed an intimate, horizonal domestic textile into something exterior and spatial, and made the textiles a part of the public sphere, a part of the architecture of the place.

Also, getting lost in Caochangdi's unmarked streets, I started making little maps for myself to get to the shop, to the fruit market, or to a lunch restaurant and back again. Using the quilting skills I'd learned as a girl, I decided to make something that melded these two impressions of the space of the village.

Solution:

I designed and sewed a quilt that was a map of the village, using materials sourced from an outdoor fabric market I visited in south-west Beijing. I loved the idea of representing the village itself using a textile, a medium that felt so emblematic of the experience of walking down the streets of Caochangdi and seeing its temporary walls made out of quilts. And I loved the idea of representing a place using surveying and mapping, fascinations of mine in graduate school.

impact:

The quilt was subsequently exhibited on three continents, including at an exhibition at the University of Michigan and at an architecture biennale in Beijing.