Xiong'an, alternative potrait, Special Economic Zones (SEZs), China, Baita village, urban typologies
In 1978, with the onset of economic reform, the creation of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) started to accelerate in China. Beyond the success of these mega-cities, if one starts to relate the history of SEZs to the political history of China, one may find that SEZs have always been utilized as a method for the leaders of CCP to manifest their authority and to fortify their achievements. Such state projects are inevitably founded on a paradoxical claim. While being announced as monumental undertakings capable of glorifying the country and benefiting people, they also demand sacrifices of citizens for a higher and collective goal.
With the amendment of the Chinese constitution, president Xi Jinping's Xiong'an is reaching the climax of this political conviviality. Based on our experiences in the city, along with the emphasis on collective goals, the conflict between the powers and the locals and between modernity and local identities are particularly evident in Xiong'an.
However, the impact of the establishment of Xiong'an, as well as of the former SEZs, on local societies is far more convoluted than this seemingly simple binary opposition. While the establishment of the new cities and individuals' reactions are creating new urban typologies and social classes, planners and architects in the country tend to plan and study them from a totalizing view while ignoring the emotions and reactions of individuals. Thus, this project views Xiong'an New Area as an opportunity to study urbanism from an alternative perspective, that is, through the perspectives of individuals. The objective is to design small-scale public centers as platforms and starting points to initiate dialogues and negotiation among separated layers and groups of people.
The project takes Baita, one of the rural villages in the New Area, as the sample to explore how architecture can respond within the uneven, interconnected but also segregated condition, and how design can be regarded as a means to interrogate existing problems and to formulate unanticipated issues and solutions, and thus, to anticipate the unknown, the unpredictable, future.
Wei, Minglu and Zuo, Ying, "Xiong'an,Minglu Wei Baita: Towards an Alternative Urbanism" (2019). Architecture Senior Theses. 448.
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