Anticipating The Urban

Ground Control

Related Staff : Joshua Bolchover

Keywords: Displacement, Relocation strategies, Slope tectonics, Rural-urban transformation, Brutalism

Infrastructure has been a key tool to project urban processes into rural territory. As Brenner articulates in his thesis on “Planetary Urbanism”, the concept of the city as a bounded entity has become superseded by a differentiated, yet continuous landscape organised to “support the continued agglomeration of capital, labour and infrastructure”.  This concept is explicitly spatialized in the urbanisation of the countryside in China: the territory has become co-opted to facilitate growth, primarily through industrialisation. Infrastructure, via highways and high-speed rail, has been the conduit for this process of “projection”. The roads and rail connect raw materials to factories, labour from villages to urban areas, and products to sites of consumption or for export.

The construction of infrastructure creates a series of displacements: agricultural land is destroyed, villages erased; people relocated; and vast amounts of earth and rock are removed. Slopes and hillsides are made vulnerable to erosion and collapse and local forms of connection can be disrupted and settlements bisected. On the other hand, new economic drivers are created including roadside commerce, real estate, manufacturing and logistics. 

The studio reacts to the current construction of a new highway in Liuyang Village, Changsha, to design a series of prototypes that respond to the volatile displacements occurring in this transformation process.

The government has already started the construction of the highway and the demolition of people’s homes. The villager shown in the photograph is heralded as an example by the government to encourage others to leave their homes, claim their compensation, and rebuild.  However, the sites that the government has offered the villagers for the resettlement are not attractive to some who desire plots as close to the highway as possible. This has stalled redevelopment creating an urgency to create design alternatives that can mediate the needs of both villagers and government. The studio develops projects for housing and programmatic catalysts that can respond to the demands of the new context.

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