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Pronounced Absurdity

MIT M.Arch Thesis
Site: Xiamen, China
Thesis Advisor: J Jih
Thesis Reader: Axel Kilian, William O’Brien Jr
Date of Project: Jan. 2022

Usually taking on an exotic appearance and occurring as a defocused and cropped backdrop in a picture frame, a wedding park is an architectural complex that provides spectacular and romanticized scene settings like a proscenium stage for wedding photographs. In order to satisfy the bourgeoisie lifestyle fantasy, architectural symbols out of the in situ context are extensively deployed to create a sense of elsewhere in a wedding park, leading to a misalignment of a wedding park’s pictorial presence and physical reality.

A wedding park as a real estate typology is an architectural response to both the prosperous wedding economy and the visual consumption fever in China. Xiamen, a city branding itself as the international wedding capital, expects a new typology of wedding park that conforms its highly dense urban fabric and city image around weddings.

The double-image phenomenon in a wedding park is paralleled in a dummy cake, a cake whose sponge has been wholly or partially replaced with polystyrene blocks. The dramatic counterpose between its sumptuous profile and inedibility becomes a metaphor for the duality of wedding spaces.

This thesis understands a dummy cake as a political and cultural artifact that echoes the double-image of architecture and critiques the misalignment of imageability and physicality in Xiamen’s wedding spaces. This thesis imagines a set of wedding infrastructures inserted in the highly dense urban fabric of Shapowei district, building up fantasies with the appropriation of architectural symbols. The concentration of diversely themed wedding scenes signifies an efficient, inhumane, and consumeristic image-making mechanism. By replicating alienated symbols and juxtaposing the fantasized construct and the realistic urban context, this thesis creates spectacles for visual consumption and simultaneously foregrounds the absurdity of both the construct per se and its uncanny collision with the existing urban ambient. In this way, the rationality of wedding infrastructures only exists in the conical field of a camera, and the dysfunctional, disordered and obscure physical reality behind a flawless wedding photo becomes a critique of visual consumerism.

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