Kashgar / Tarim Basin
Emerging Border Conditions in Eurasia
MSc3/4 Graduation studio
2020 / 2021
Tutor: FILIP GEERTS
The Tarim Basin, the southern portion of China’s Northwestern Xinjiang Region, is both ultimate periphery and absolute centrality. A distant, strange and transient frontier from imperial vantage points: the far west of the far east, since time immemorial. It is even peripheral within Xinjuang, nothing like the northern portion that is richer, glitzier and… arguably more Chinese? One of the iconic stages on the historic silk road(s), the vast region has itself a ‘void’ at the centre: the notorious Taklamakan desert, to be circumvented via a northern or a southern (which one was worse?) incarnation of this conjectured reification of timeless trade flowing and supposedly joining civilizations. That improbable prophecy of globalized trade, patiently waiting to be discovered by historians in the footsteps of Xuanzang, Marco Polo and camels, and finally to be appropriated to legitimize new conquests – to be become new silk road(s) – would join again in Kasghar, a city of which Marco Polo, yes him again, could not stop musing (or was it complaining) about, only to bifurcate again: crossroads! Chinese terminus of the Karakorum highway and halfway between Beijing and Aleppo, Kashgar holds both much promise and much history: it was practically entirely demolished only a few years ago and immediately rebuilt – healthier, safer and seismic-proof! Is Kashgar still there? Or is what is there, still Kashgar? For sure, it is all about architecture: demolishing and re-building, and satellite pictures as forensic proof of something that looks like maybe they might be… what are those? This place on the edge of all maps, is not empty after all and deserves its own map(s). And architecture seems to be the one thing that speaks to us. What a fascinating, mysterious, and cruel crossroads. What is to be done?