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Cultures, Communities and Design

Architectural Investigation of Urban Villages in Shenzhen and Wuhan in Relation to Rural-Urban Chinese Migration
Y. Wang
1:30 pm - 3:00 pm


The urbanisation of China has recently gained widespread attention within academia. As one of the biggest developing countries in the world, its unique development path of urban growth has formed multiple and complex urbanisation models, which could bring new inspiration to areas of research, such as architecture, urban design and social sciences. In addition, China has been experiencing a gradual transformation in its urban structure, which results in various spatial and social alterations. This study, in this context, is about urban architecture and internal migration (population mobility between different cities) in contemporary China. ‘Urban Villages’ in the context of Wuhan and Shenzhen will be discussed in detail. The growth and transformation of China’s cities since the 1980s lead to a massive population movement, which created a new spatial category, the ‘Urban Village’ (Liao, Breitung and Wehrhahn, 2018). ‘Urban Village’ is a direct translation from the Chinese term Chengzhongcun, which means ‘the village that embraced by the city’. In China, urban villages are generally located in the centre of cities and are considered a type of informal settlement. The main reason that caused the formation of an urban village is the ambiguous regulations of ownership in rural land (Zhang, Zhao and Tian, 2003). This unique spatial environment is characterised by apartment buildings that are built close to one another, colloquially referred to as ‘handshake buildings’, which disregard urban and rural design standards, safety regulations and environmental considerations (Gao, Shahab and Ahmadpoor, 2020). Two distinct immigration destinations in China, Shenzhen and Wuhan, are the focus of the case studies. Because the characteristics of these cities are quite different from each other socially and politically, they represent typical Chinese cities with a special economic area and developing inland transportation hub, respectively. Those qualities have the potential to affect the ratio of different migrant groups in the whole immigrant population, and this can lead to differences in urban villages and their inner function. A significant research step is to build a theoretical framework in the study of migration and urban villages, including the review of the literature on urban studies and legislation. And then, the study would focus on village buildings, including the analysis of interior spaces, relationships between buildings, and buildings and other spaces. Henri Lefebvre’s triad concept in relation to the production of space (1991) will form the main theoretical framework.