I discovered last week that an urban village I visited about a year ago in Shanghai is in the process of being demolished. Although this is all to common in China, this case was especially disheartening because this village housed the architectural studio of YangXu. In the past few years YangXu has developed some innovated designs for integrating the current urban villages into their rapidly urbanization surroundings.
As the names suggests, Urban Villages were once rural villages that have been swallowed by China’s ever expanding cities. YangXu describes this phenomena:
Driven by the rapid urbanization process in Shanghai, the suburban villages situated in outer-beltways are being swallowed into the “Urban Villages”. The original villagers who lost their fields uncomfortably became the “new citizens”; the defeated villages formed slums, enclosing the city as an “enclave” on the urban periphery. These “Urban Villages” have become a common phenomenon under the process of Chinese urbanization, leading to continual demolition rather than resolution.
Unfortunately demolition seems to be the inevitable fate of so many of these communities in China’s cities. According to YangXu, his former Urban Village was demolished as part of an “ongoing clearance of the villages” as there are plans to covert the land to residential and commercial leasehold of properties. Since the government of Shanghai, technically owns all of the land, the government certainly stands to profit from such endeavors. However where the many relocated residents will now live remains unanswered.
YangXu’s design solutions, pictured above, maintain the existing buildings and build new structures on top of them instead of demolishing the existing urban fabric. Unfortunately though it does not seem likely that these plans will be realized in the near future, as demolition in order to build new towers is certainly more profitable for China’s local governments.
Below is a series of photos of YangXu’s from studio, his work and the urban village that once existed.
Inside YangXu’s studio. More pictures can be found on his website.
YangXu’s pilot project of “Reconstruction and Improvement on Urban Periphery” where he asks:
- The original village is endowed with the charm of the traditional framework. Is it possible that these Urban Villages can be preserved and reformed as part of community reconstruction, thereby confronting the demolition of the urbanization process?
- Urbanization or modernization should maintain a sense of pluralism, will the reconstruction of “Urban Villages” provide an approach in contrast to the downtown area of Consumerism or Epicurean
- Reconstructions connotes some aspects of “Cultural Self-Consciousness” as part of modernization, can we really reform ourselves through it?
A young resident, standing next to an electrified fence that separates her urban village from the condominium project next door.
Illegal access to electricity and other utilities is very common in this neighborhood.
A neighbor selling fresh meat and fish.
A vegetable vendor.
A house that appears to have been part of the original, rural village.
Photo Credits: Melissa Reese