IT TAKES A VILLAGE
TYPE: Urban development
LOCATION: Xi'an, (CHN)
ROLE: Member of 6 person design team
China’s rapid urbanization is creating many challenges and problems. In the last decades, many villages that once existed outside the Chinese cities, have been swallowed up. Today they are surrounded by
high-rises and a hectic modern life.
ONE OF THESE CHALLENGES CHINA FACES IS HOW TO DEAL WITH THESE VILLAGES KNOWN AS “URBAN VILLAGES”.
Our assignment took place in an urban village in Xi’an, located next to The Small Wild Goose Pagoda. Within 2016, the government plans to demolish this village and replace it with a public park.
OUR GOAL WAS TO RENEW THE VILLAGE THROUGH A SUSTAINABLE PROCESS, THAT MAINTAINED THE FABRIC OF THE VILLAGE AND AT THE SAME TIME IMPROVED THE STANDARD OF LIVING.
The buildings in the village are the owners' property, but the land itself is owned by the entire village. This land is managed by the committee, that functions as the village board.
This means that the owners have a certain amount of building area, but they do not have site boundaries in the same way as we are used to.
Our strategy aimed to maintain the same ownership structure with the committee responsible for the implementation of the project.
KEEPING THE OWNERSHIP STRUCTURE WOULD MAKE IT EASIER TO IMPLEMENT THE PROJECT. IT KEEPS THE SOCIAL STABILITY AND THE NEIGHBORHOOD RELATIONSHIPS INTACT.
People do not have to move, and the feeling of the human scale of the village stays the same.
During the FIRST SEMESTER negotiations occur between the village, the investor and the architect.
In the SECOND SEMESTER the investor starts investing, and the village receives money that will allow it to assume alone the renovation in phase 3.
After this, the goal is to keep the ball rolling. More sales generate more money, which they use to renew more buildings.
AFTER 36 MONTHS, halfway in the process, the income is big enough so the focus changes. Instead of selling 75% of the new apartments, the committee rents them out. The village continues to be a host for migrants.
AFTER 6 YEARS the whole village is renewed. The focus on renting instead of selling created a stable income every month. The village uses it to pay public jobs as teachers or even dentists.
One of the main goals of the project is to INVOLVE ALL THE VILLAGERS. That’s why the first step of the reorganization of the village is to create a new communication structure, based on the relationships that already exist.
Improving the way people communicate in the village begins with the creation of a communication platform. EVERY VILLAGER, OWNER OR RENTER, CAN COME HERE AND EXCHANGE IDEAS.
But beyond the general communication between all the inhabitants, THE VILLAGE ALSO NEEDS AN ASSOCIATION, ABLE TO ORGANIZE THE PROJECT : THE COMMITTEE.
THE OWNERS VOTE FOR SEVERAL REPRESENTATIVES, WHO MAKE THE MAIN DECISIONS, and an auditor, responsible of overseeing the committee. THE RENTERS ALSO ELECT A REPRESENTATIVE, ATTENDING ALL THE MEETINGS. This representative has no voting rights, but is involved in the main decisions.
Despite its outward appearance, the urban village has many good qualities.
Firstly, it is very central with short distances to metro and bus stops. Secondly, the only vehicles that can go inside the village are tuk-tuks and bikes. The streets are bustling with life, and their privacy lets the neighbors interact with each other, giving a feeling of safety.
The village is also facing challenges. Besides having a bad reputation, many of the inhabitants do not feel a part of the urban community. The rural migrants do not have access to the social services of the city. In addition, with so many people in such a small space, it can be difficult to handle the trash. Finally, the lack of overall planning makes it difficult to improve the infrastructure. Based on the analysis of area functions, it is possible to conclude that the wasted space in this village leaves a potential for a new plan. Besides better infrastructure, the new plan should provide more space for courtyards and streets, absorb the population growth, and provide better living conditions.
The project aims to optimize the public space and to bring back the quality of ancient Chinese courtyards.
The new layout respects the existing property lines, and so reflects the original fabric of the village. This enables the owners to retain their plot, and the villagers to stay in the same place. The business plan requires a rise in population, which again requires more public space. To achieve these objectives, one of the main focuses of the project is to convert the wasted space, nowadays used mainly
for access, into more public space and various buildings.
Finally, the strategy is to keep the same community and population diversity that exists today. Because of this, the renovation of the village needs to happen over time, sector by sector. This will also facilitate the phases of construction and help the negotiation with the current owners.
The public building is located in the busiest street of the village. Its location is central, but not too far inside the village. By doing this, outsiders are able to use the facilities, without disturbing the privacy for the rest of the street. The building defines the largest public square in the urban village, and houses communal activities such as markets, dancing, outdoor cinema and practicing sports, that people cannot find there
The design intends to recreate the atmosphere of the village, characterized by earth volumes of different heights. Made in wood, the multipurpose pavilion contrasts with the rest of the village and brings character to the square. The building opens up to both the public square and the several neighboring courtyards. The relationship between the courtyards connects the building to its surroundings.
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Perspective section E - W