Skip to main content
Architecture (MA)

Yiran(Alina) Zhang 张伊然

Upon graduating from the University of Bath, Alina developed a particular interest in the intricate mechanisms between the living environment and community behaviour. Using the strong links that architecture projects within sociology, psychology and social culture as inspiration, she tests architectural design as an intervention to enhance the connection between identity, action and spatial composition. Her projects establish environments that positively impact communities and people, create memories, and bring a stronger sense of belonging.

This year, based on her personal experience, she unfolds the fandom world and the cultural potential of fan communities. Through her project, she proposes a method to bring fan activities out of hidden corners and the virtual platform into the city. The project insights into an exciting possibility for the future through the collision of fantasy and reality. 

Rebuilding Fandom Statement Caption

'Rebuilding Fandom' captures fandom's nomadic feature and their collective strength in rewriting the official context as prosumers. 

The project demonstrates the potential of the Greater London area's odd lots to provide dedicated fandom space, by utilising the permitted development and timeline loopholes in UK planning legislation. 

A method was proposed that combines permanent and pneumatic structures through three strategies: Expanding, Framing, and Lofting, accordingly transforming the site into Workshop, Mini Convention, and Public Event Pavilion space for fans.

How to utilise loopholes in planning permission to create dedicated spaces for the nomadic fandom culture in the current urban context of London's inflated real estate market?

The project suggests a new mode in an instructive way to weave the fan activities into everyday life context. 

#The Rebellious Love#

Fans may often be considered devoted followers of what they like, but that's not the exact fact. By closely examining the fan communities of novels, films, anime and similar cultural works, one can see that fans are simultaneously loving and rebellious. They gather in secret conversation groups, constantly discussing other possible plots and stories, and post their unique opinions with proficient knowledge and analysis of the original works. This is the beginning of all kinds of fan derivative works, including novels, illustrations, comics, music, videos and even mini-games. 

These non-profit-generated works embody the fans' love and enthusiasm for the original stories and characters, but also poach and rewrite the official texts according to the fan's personal wishes. These fan creators are, to some extent, rebellious and capricious, but these characteristics give the group its cohesiveness and vitality. The communal narrative established by thousands of fans has given them a powerful cultural capital that can already compete with the massive cultural industry.

The Confession. Video. 2 mins.
Launch Project

#The Confession#

'We are not numb receivers'.

The prosumer theory was developed by Alvin Toffler in 1980. The term, consisting of Producer and Consumer, defines a new social identity in the post-industrial era. It accurately describes fan creators in fan culture studies, and by recognising fans as proactive producers rather than passive recipients, the value of fan creation is confronted and acknowledged.

A Night of Fanfic Creators. Digital Manga. 300 x 300mm.
Launch Project

#Virtual Convergence#

Fan activities, including discussion, creation and distribution, are essentially digital-focused.

With the advent of the Web 2.0 era, the rapid rise of user-generated content and social media platforms has contributed as a breeding ground for establishing fan communities. In the past decades, the development of fandom reflects the advancement of online platforms.

Meanwhile, fan culture is based on volunteerism and gift culture; fan creation is non-profiting, so most fan forums are structured by volunteer programmers. The open resource culture in the programming industry has also been supported behind the scenes.

Fan Room Activity Analysis. Digital. 420 x 297 mm.
Fan Convention Activity Analysis. Digital. 420 x 297 mm.

#The Quiet Obsession, The Roaring Celebration#

Fans often live in a paradox caused by the clash of two social identities: they enjoy fandom and fantasy, but in performing their general social identity, they are often reluctant to reveal too much about themselves as fans. This two-faced state of affairs is reflected in how fans practice offline activities: At fan events such as conventions, they express enthusiasm with abandon, dressing up in costumes and decorating the space with relevant objects, communally creating a temporary utopia; when the event is over, they come back home, where they hide and protect their love in small corners of the rooms.

A Day in London MCM. Digital Collage. 420 x 594mm.

#Badges, Postcards, Booklets, Posters, Freebies#

Fan fairs are filled with a dazzling array of items displayed on fan booths: banners, posters, badges, postcards, booklets, 'freebies'... These items are the palette that fans use to paint the featureless exhibition space with their own colours. Each fan object symbolises fan identity. Like the convergence nature of fan culture, the countless objects and the rows and rows of fan stalls together rewrite the massive venue space.

Fake Booth, Real Passion. Mixed Media Installasion. 1200 x 1800 x 600 mm.
Fake Booth, Real Passion. Mixed Media Installasion. 1200 x 1800 x 600 mm.
Fake Booth, Real Passion. Mixed Media Installasion. 1200 x 1800 x 600 mm.
Fake Booth, Real Passion. Mixed Media Installasion. 1200 x 1800 x 600 mm.

#Fan Booths: From Suitcases to Showcases#

Before the convention commences, fan stallholders arrive at the venue with a suitcase. They are individually allocated a 1200x600mm table and a folding chair, which is the site awaiting to be decorated with various props fans brought to transform the non-characteristic venue space.

The convention only lasts a few days, so stallholders often use wireframe boxes and other domestic storage modules to efficiently build temporary structures on tables, hanging, displaying and stacking items to enhance the visual impact. The fan booths' temporary installations and eye-catching presentation are reminiscent of the various self-made protesting facilities. Fan stalls are an essential mode of expression for the practice of fan space.

At the same time, fan productions often clash with massive cultural industries that possess the copyright. But they cleverly use rewriting mechanisms to cope with legalisation and other restrictions, and even actively mimic official modes of behaviour. Such parodies and derivative creations do not conflict but become powerful weapons that fans use to suppress the official context.

Odd Lots Map. Digital. 594 x 841 mm.

#Odd Lots#

When reperform fans' world created on digital platforms in a realistic setting, fans realise they are inevitably limited by legality and, more often, the secular dilemma of lacking adequate funding. Where in London's inflating real estate market can one find a space dedicated to fans, where they can freely exercise their endless creative abilities and connect with the public?

Inspired by Gordon Matta-Clark's 1973 project, 'Real Properties, Fake Estates', the project maps and complies London's cheapest plots of land at auction. Most of these plots stem from errors in urban planning or gaps in the ownership of different plots. With peculiar shapes, they are scattered around London, forming a vast network.

These odd plots respond to the nature of fan culture and offer a possibility for the fan community to bring their online practices to an offline environment. At the same time, the fans will inject new energy into the neighbourhoods in which these plots are located, creating a platform where fan culture can be witnessed and acknowledged by the public audience.

Hacks for Fandom Manual. Printed booklet. 130 x 183 mm.
Launch Project
Hacks for Fandom Manual. Printed booklet. 130 x 183 mm.
Hacks for Fandom Manual. Printed booklet. 130 x 183 mm.
Hacks for Fandom Manual. Printed booklet. 130 x 183 mm.
Hacks for Fandom Manual. Printed booklet. 130 x 183 mm.
Hacks for Fandom Manual. Printed booklet. 130 x 183 mm.

#'Just Right' Compliance with Order#

Inspired by Squatter's Handbook distributed by the British and Dutch Anarchy, the Hacks for Fandom Manual aims to provide fans with information about the UK planning permission terms in a simplified and instructive manner. By deconstructing and translating verbose legal texts into fan-friendly phrasing, the manual can inspire fans to exploit relevant legal loopholes to build spaces affordably and expand the full potential of odd lots. It shows an architect's thinking from a different perspective: not how to organise and represent spatial arrangement, but how to use methods and practices to fight against the rules and seek more applicable solutions.

Backyard x Workshop Proposal. Digital. 686 x 1016 mm.
Pedestrian Green x Pavilion Proposal. Digital. 1016 x 686 mm.
Accessway x Mini Convention Proposal. Digital. 1016 x 686 mm.

#The Bubble and the Shell#

In conjunction with the two planning clause loopholes presented in the manual:

1. Timeline Loophole

2. Permitted Development Loophole

The project suggests a binary system of fixed and pneumatic structures to respond to both strategies and to envisage possible fan activities responding to the characteristics of specific plots.

In order to avoid government and official inspection, fans advertise their derivative works by renaming selling as 'paid exchange', fan-fic or fan comics as 'illustrated notebooks'. This method of effectively avoiding legal liability by definition traps also applies to architectural practice.

In everyday scenarios, the facility on site is presented to the inspector as a legally constructed garden shed, walls as barriers, or a pergola behind dwellings. When the event day arrives, the inflatable bubbles hidden are blown out, rewriting the original appearance of the site by expanding, framing, or lofting. The inflatable skin separates the space semi-permeably, forming a dreamy space in the secular context while appropriately exposing the fans' activities to the public sights.

Fixed and temporary, hard and soft, legitimate and illegitimate, the binary system responds to the conformity and resistance in the nature of fan culture.

App User Flow Chart. Digital. 420 x 400 mm.
App User Flow Chart. Digital. 420 x 400 mm.

#Nomadic Fans#

To further respond to the nomadic behavioural patterns of fans, the project further envisions an app platform. With a stamp-collection model and rewards to encourage players to follow and attend new events among sites, the app will incentivise fans to flow in the city.