INCREMENTAL URBANISM: Ulaanbaatar’s Ger Settlements

Incremental Urbanism Executive Summary.pdf

For thousands of years, Mongolians have been living in gers – portable structures made of timber, felt and canvas. It is a perfect dwelling for the nomads. Yet, when this specific type of dwelling forms the basic unit of inhabitation for Mongolia’s capital city, Ulaanbaatar, it has led to unsustainable urban development, resulting in sprawling districts that lack basic urban infrastructure and contribute to toxic levels of air pollution in the city from coal burning stoves.

Incremental Urbanism Final Report

The report positions the Ger districts of Ulaanbaatar as a unique example of an informal, yet legal, settlement. It documents their spatial characteristics and mechanisms of growth and the impact of this urbanisation process.

Based on this research, the creation of an incremental urban strategy for the Ger districts through the implementation of a series of architectural prototypes, sets out an alternative model for how these districts can be upgraded. As a more agile, bottom-up solution, it could offer much needed sustainable development solutions for the fringe districts of the city. As the ger district phenomenon is not just specific to Ulaanbaatar, but exists in every urban area of Mongolia, it could have widespread ramifications for the entire country.

Border Ecologies Hong Kong’s Mainland Frontier


Hong Kong’s border with Shenzhen is dissolving. By 2047, the border will likely not exist. Integration with the Mainland will remove distinctions created by the “One Country Two Systems” policy. The uncertainty surrounding what will happen has created anxiety relating to law, identity, freedom of speech, and voting rights. Caught in this debate is the Frontier Closed Area, a 1951 undeveloped buffer zone of estuaries, fish farms, forests, villages and military posts. In contrast, Shenzhen, has exploded into a metropolis of 15 million plus.

The book explores this unique border ecology. Design strategies inserted within this ecology promote alternate forms of development. The example widens the discourse on borders to raise critical issues that impact the contemporary city.

The rural is not what it used to be. No longer simply a site for agricultural production for the city, the relationship between the rural and urban has become much more complex. Established categories such as rural /urban and village/city no longer hold true. Rural and urban conditions have become increasingly blurred, so how can we identify and distinguish their specific characteristics? Where is the rural, and what role does it play in an urbanised world? In developing countries the countryside is a volatile and contradictory landscape: legally designated rural areas look like dense slums; factories intersect fields and farmers no longer farm. In contrast, in developed regions, the rural has become a highly controlled landscape of production and consumption: industrialised agriculture coexists with leisure landscapes for tourism, retirement and recreation. This issue of AD investigates how architects and researchers are critically engaging with the rural as an experimental field of exploration.

Contributors: Neil Brenner, Christiane Lange, Charlotte Malterre-Barthes, Sandra Parvu, Cole Roskam, Grahame Shane, Deane Simpson, and Milica Topalovic and Bas Princen

Architects: Anders Abraham, Joshua Bolchover and John Lin (Rural Urban Framework), Ambra Fabi and Giovanni Piovene (Piovenefabi), Rainer Hehl, Stephan Petermann (OMA), Huang Sheng Yuan (FieldOffice), and Sandeep Virmani (Hunnarshala)

Contextualizing, Materializing, and Practicing the Rural in China


China’s economic transformation has triggered an unparalleled rate of construction that includes the creation of iconic architecture and the massive production of generic buildings. Consequently, vast swathes of rural fabric are being erased. As urbanization brings about a radical shift away from an essentially rural based society, the way people earn money, where they live, how they socialize, and the once simple relationship between land and its people are fundamentally changing.

Homecomingaddresses the issue of rural development in China today and the role the architect has to play in this shifting context. It questions the definition of “rural” and “urban” in Chinese society and the larger issue of architectural identity. The book discusses how the rural–and its embedded significance in China’s political history–is a site for furthering contemporary architectural discourse.

Homecomingbrings together historians, architects, theoreticians, curators, and writers with diverse backgrounds and experiences. They provide perspectives, narratives, examples, and prototypes to debate the role that the rural has to play in China’s future. In many respects, they form a critique against the overwhelming trends that saturate architecture and building in China today.

With contributions from Joshua Bolchover, Yung Ho Chang, Frank Dikötter, Juan Du, Huang ShengYuan, Hsieh Ying-chun, Hua Li, Liu Jiakun, John Lin, Meng Yan, Cole Roskam, Philip Tinari, Tong Ming, Robin Visser, Wang Weijen, Zhang Ke, and Zhu Tao.

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Rural Urban Framework
Transforming the Chinese Countryside

rural urban framework

In 2005 the Chinese government announced its plan to urbanize half of its rural population by 2030 – a staggering 350 million citizens. At the same time, Joshua Bolchover and John Lin set up Rural Urban Framework (RUF), a research and design collaborative based at the University of Hong Kong. Their work aims to refocus attention on the Chinese countryside rather than the city.

Just 30 years ago the majority of China was rural. Since then, rapid industrialization and economic growth has completely restructured the relationship between the rural and the urban and has led to a growing income gap, a decline in agricultural production, and a rural exodus. This book brings these issues to light by looking at various villages in different states of transformation. It presents a rural cross-section of a territory in flux, together with design approaches that challenge the generic construction taking place across vast swathes of the Chinese landscape.

RUF’s design projects offer alternate models and strategies for these rural villages to prioritize public space, community programs, and the environment. While the attention of the world is on the megalopolis in China, the authors argue that the evolution of the rural is critical to the country’s future.

Available for Purchase Here