Urbanisation Portrait of China

Almost 40 years after 1979, the People’s Republic of China today has witnessed forceful urbanization processes across its vast terrains since the Open Up in Pearl River Delta Region. The mainland modernization undergoing now proved to be both fruitful and conflicted, depending on which measurement one utilizes against the happenings. Amongst myriad urban disputes that arose within this duration, a category called the Urban Village was formalised as a by-product of urbanization mimicking its global context and is deemed to be somewhat a troubling issue in its Chinese vernacular. To transform how these Villages are perceived is a grand project on its own, and we question how the contemporary urban planning methodology has come about to produce confrontations between the metropolis and Urban Villages.



珠三角改革开放以来已有将近四十年,幅员辽阔的中国大地经历了翻天覆地的城市化进程,从南到北,从沿海到内陆,各个城市争相竞逐同一个目标。 伴随着大量人口到来与尘土飞扬的都市情景,高速的城市建设在每个人的眼中也有了不同的定义与看法。 越来越大的都市不可避免地汇集起了越来越复杂的情况,而世界通有的一种城市生活方式也逐渐走入了中国都市人眼中,在这里,这种生活空间被赋予了“城中村“一名。 这些空间的出现在城市化的进程中是必然的,并且应被理解为全球现代城市必不可少的元素。我们现在所运用的城市规划知识体系还徘徊与于上个世纪的技术领域里,城中村之所以被分划出城市范围,也是这个老旧体系的思想衍生品。通过此次展览,我们希望以卫星科技向公众呈现一个现代的眼光去审视我们的城市,并发起对城市规划知识体系,城市生活与周边自然环境的公众讨论。






The highlighted 25 cities in China (coastal and inland) have been carefully selected for further studies using remote sensing technology. This is to look at the urban villages in China’s urbanization process in the context of macro scale.  




Transformation of Suzhou 苏州变化 – 2014(Red), 2010(Green), 2007(Blue)

 Transformation of Tianjin 天津变化 –  2014(Red), 2010(Green), 2005 (Blue)

Transformation of Chengdu 成都变化 – 2014(Red), 2011(Green), 2009(Blue)

Transformation of Hefei 合肥变化 – 2014(Red), 2010(Green), 2009(Blue)

Transformation of Wuhan 武汉变化- 2014(Red), 2010(Green), 2007(Blue)

Transformation of Shenyang 沉阳变化- 2014(Red), 2010(Green), 2007(Blue)

Transformation of Changchun长春变化- 2014(Red), 2011(Green), 2007(Blue)

Transformation of Beijing 北京变化 – 2014 (Red), 2011(Green), 2009 (Blue)

This mini research project is an ongoing process that I work with Nicole Zhang, AA 2015. We begin with detecting the spatial transformation of 25 cities in China and attempt to unfold the timeline in order to open up a broader discussion on Pearl River Delta. Nicole and I find Shenzhen is a fascinated city in terms of the vast development. Shenzhen is a city under the influence of both capitalist market and socialist ideology forces: on the one hand, the city has a centralized planning system that guides the overall structure of urban development; on the other hand, Shenzhen has been rapidly “produced” under the market forces, with a clear priority of economic growth. The consequence of this marriage is the conflict between the city’s master plan and its actual urban form, especially in the aspect of land use. Since the master plan cannot keep pace with socioeconomic changes, therefore, it always fails to guide urban transformation in urban changes. Through looking at the Urban Village and looking closely Shenzhen’s current urban change and beyond Shenzhen, which we have analysed the cities in China along the coastline as we believe the urban village’s case can be comprehended not only as stand-alone projects but a phenomenon shared across a wider milieu. The research Project “ Urbanisation Portrait of China” not only opens up the discussion on the urban design method for Shenzhen’s current de-industrialization process in order to guide urban transformation but also documents and demonstrates a plethora of urbanization processes along the frontline of Reformation since the 1980s. We want to invite our audience to evaluate the Urban Village cases and apply them to myriad cities who are also undergoing similar urbanization processes across the coast. The sheer extent of urban development over such a short period of time is alerting. Some of them are still expanding, some are slowing down, or have come to a pause. As architects, we question how the architectural profession is projecting its plans for these urban enclaves and their inhabitants in looming future. The report visualizes different development rate over the past decades, alternatively showing how much labour forces were mobilized from inland suburbs to coastal cities – the Urban Villages were formed and expanded together with the metropolitan areas, will they stay, keep on expanding or diminish slowly? The Villages have eluded the planning system since its creation, expansion and, should they be continuously left to be free of the metropolitan blueprints? 

If you are interested what we are doing,  please leave a comment below and we will see some of you at the Hong Kong Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/ Architecture (Shenzhen) for further discussion.

My other related research project which exhibited in the previous Biennale:
2015 Bi-Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture,
Urban Scene: Through the eyes of knowledge Infrastructure  (Please find Link)
2013 HK Biennale, UABB ( Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture)
The Divan ( Please find Link )










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