Yan Liu, Syracuse UniversityFollow

Document Type

Thesis Prep




Fall 2018


urban villages, China's urban development, Pearl River Delta(China), spatial agencies, Chinese economic reform, Shipai Village, Sanyuanli Village, Dafen Village






“Throughout history, expanding cities have always run over villages, hamlets, estates, gardens, and soft elements that constitute the countryside, the domain that hosts agriculture and nature.” Urban Villages, essentially a composite of these “soft” elements, remained as one of the hardest anchors among the residual or by-product in China’s urban development. Until 1985, the Pearl River Delta region had been mainly dominated by farms and small rural villages. The onset of economic reform and the open-door policy brought an influx of foreign investment which fueled the unstoppable train of urbanization. Rapid urbanization let to the formation of Urban Villages, a contested space between urban and rural land. Conflicts between different constituents of these spaces start to emerge. In the view of city government, urban villages are illegal constructions rather than a part of the city’s fabric. They are often considered an urban pathology that is incompatible to the city’s modernity. Thus, the complex power structure within the debate of urban villages is often misconstrued and misunderstood as the dichotomy between city government and indigenous villagers. However, the migrant workers, the most vulnerable group who relies heavily on urban villages’ informal housing are often neglected and ignored by planners and architects. Therefore, there is an opportunity to dissect the urban landscape from an alternative point of view: finding spatial agencies for migrant workers. The project focuses on researching urban villages within the Pearl River Delta region of China. The research strives to identify and understand the constituents at play and their respective spatial agencies and find possible interventions in both conventional and non-conventional design method that would start generating spatial agencies for migrant workers.


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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.

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