Design Challenges in Zhangyang Village, Fujian Province. Rural Revitalisation in the Chinese New Era


2020. PhD research by Gerardo Semprebon
Politecnico di Milano + Shanghai Jiao Tong University
Supervisors: Prof. Ilaria Valente + Prof. Luca M. F. Fabris (Politecnico di Milano), Prof. Ma Wenjun + Prof. Huang Jianyun (Shanghai Jiao Tong University).


The conflict between the necessities of economic development and the protection of the local assets, both environmental and cultural, puts the countryside areas in a condition of fragility. This dissertation studies the formal characters of a rural settlement situated in the Fujian Province. The goal is to investigate the spatial consequences of the ongoing socioeconomic transition and to explore the design problems emerging in such contexts.
In the countryside, the transition from a planned economy to a market economy is coupling with the production of new architectural forms and spatial aggregations which are reshaping the rural territories. Rather than a linear path, Chinese ruralities are witnessing a controversial process of transformation, left to uncontrolled negotiations and rapid discontinuous courses of crisis and development. The consequences include, but are not limited to, economic backwardness, social inequality, land-use pressure, food insecurity, environmental instability and cultural loss.
Against the backdrop of a context in permanent evolution, the question of rural development imposes a profound reflection on the modalities of site modification, and the recycle of spatial resources. This study meets these themes and tries to put them in the form of design challenges. The research discusses which values, goals and means can be reconsidered by architectural and urban design to read and re-orient the ongoing phase of transition. Architectural and urban design can contribute to re-negotiate the priorities expressed by a multi-disciplinary debate that is mobilising different actors and topics, among which environmental stability, economic growth and cultural diversity.
The thesis considers Zhangyang Village as a paradigmatic example to explore cutting-edge methodologies at the scales of architecture and urban design.