Peri-urban Nodalities

China’s economic boom, combined with migration from the rural areas, is fueling a high-speed urbanism that is producing cities in the shortest imaginable time and completely changing the face and the character of the country’s older towns. This directional urbanization from the coastal zones perturbing into the countryside, has brought even the smallest villages face to face with the phenomenon of globalization, foreign capital and generic architecture. In parallel, the place and scale of development, particularly in the mega-cities of Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou, has highlighted the interrelated problems of mass migration, pollution and loss of arable land. The lack of overarching urbanisation policy means that there are no mechanisms of negotiation between economic interests, cultural traditions, development pressures and existing ecologies. At a large scale, China risks seeing its urban identity swamped by a generic pattern of indiscriminate urban sprawl.

In 2000 the former civil affair minister of China, Doje Cering, formulated a plan to build 400 new cities by the year 2020, to accommodate the migration from countryside into urban conglomerations. According to this plan 20 new cities need to be established each year. This formulation is taken as a framework and departure point of the project, testing the applicability of Landscape Urbanism methodology to the limit, than adjusting and reformulating it. The result is a proto strategy for new large-scale agglomerations as a way of critically addressing the phenomenon of mass-produced sprawl urbanization in China. The testbed of the project is peri-urban area 15 km East of Dongguang in the Pearl River Delta - the first ‘production power house’ area of China.

Kilometres of fragmented, unstructured peri-urban fabric – interlocking low-end housing, industry and agriculture – is a chronic symptom of rapidly developing production oriented, peri-urban areas in China.

The project hypothesis replaces the linear economical model of consecutive production sectors with a hybrid model, where different mix ratios of sectors determine the modal tendency of a specific organization, achieving a more sustainable environment socially, spatially and economically.Local material intelligence is infused with an adaptive design strategy that puts forward hybrid clusters as nodal mechanisms for controlling growth, direction and programmatic orientation of new fabric. At the same time, clusters introduce hierarchical differentiation that structures and consolidates existing urban and rural ecologies.

The project concludes with a research attempt to deliver a processual tool for development and management of urban strategies in these peri-urban areas.