ULAANBAATAR (29/3 – 23/4 2018)
Urban agglomeration land area: 4 704.4 km2*
Urban population: 1 396 288**
When compared to Moscow and Beijing, Ulaanbaatar, capital of Mongolia, is considerably smaller in both population and land area (even though Ulaanbaatar is very large, most of its administrative area is uninhabited). But for the country of roughly 3 million, Ulaanbaatar is a „mega“ city, incomparable to any other urban settlement within the country (the second most populous city being Erdenet with only about 80 thousand habitants).
Different factors endanger traditional nomadic life of Mongolian herders – climatic change (drier summers and colder winters) and missing support which was common during the communist period of Mongolian People’s Republic (1924-1992). Together with lifting the communist law, which was forbidding people to choose freely where in the country they want to live, the influx of newcomers to Ulaanbaatar causes serious problems.
Currently Ulaanbaatar is both a fascinating and horrifying metropolis. Unbelievable traffic jams, in proportions incomparable to even Moscow or Beijing, serious air pollution and harsh winters make it a very challenging place to live. In Mongolia’s capital the outdated Soviet urban plan meets unregulated free market expansion of high-rises and unstoppable mushrooming of gers (Mongolians’ yurtas) in city suburbs. Finally, aside to the reasons mentioned above there is one more important factor deepening the current state of chaos and dysfunctionality: corruption.
During my stay in Ulaanbaatar I decided to focus on articulating city’s west-east linear structure around which the city is expanding as well as presenting Ulaanbaatar as a city of possibilities. There indeed are many projects aiming to make the transportation network in Ulaanbaatar function better: expressway to the airport, new airport, Bus Rapid Transport lines and maybe most importantly a subway line. Nevertheless most of those plans are currently being delayed or postponed.
In Ulaanbaatar I presented several art talks, lectures and performances, created collaborative performance with a local artist, Enkhbold Togmidshiirev, and for almost two weeks fought an ear inflammation.
* Source: Ulaanbaatar municipality (www.ulaanbaatar.mn), year not disclosed
** Source: National Statistical Office of Mongolia, 2015