Imagining a Post-Hukou Rural Territory of China
China is on the verge of overhauling the system that has divided the country's population. The plan to reform Hukou will remove the distinction between urban and rural citizenship, triggering the largest rural-urban migration in China since the country's establishment. The project is charged with a paradoxical ambition in a post-reform scenario. On one hand it offers a counterproposal to urban centres by selectively redistribute and retain rural citizenship, and on the other it takes form as a territorial boundary that contains Greater Beijing. The proposal addresses this paradox by concentrating a rural infrastructural settlement within a linear system - an alternative mode of production and inhabitation in Greater Beijing as an invigoration to the Great Wall – a rural counterpart that constitute the physical limit of urban China.
The proposed settlement is an alternative to the city.
Hukou reform will strip away rural ownership of land and rural citizens to relocate freely. Rather than the urban bias and inclination for rural-urban migration, the proposed settlement aims to offer a productive and socially sustainable rural organisation of life, in contrast to the fragmented and dispersed rural settlement that we see today. The linear settlement will be the limit of urban sprawl.
The proposed settlement will be a series of longitudinals that complements the existing village network, offering the territory a sense of recognisable orientation in the plethora of rural settlement. The settlement can begin from a public investment by the government on small-scaled diffused production and rural entrepreneurship. The provincial government essentially only prepares the ground for settlement to reside in. The project suggests a typology of houses that inhabitants can adapt and mutate. Adopting a simple Chinese village courtyard house, one prototype unit has four small courtyards and one main shared courtyard in the centre. There will be two floors with apartments on the first floor and workshop, offices, ateliers or small-scaled production spaces on the ground floor.
Reorganising a productive rural livelihood challenges the possibility of an alternative mode of living. In the public domain, district governments can target welfare and services towards an effective population density. In the private domain, inserting a production datum in the settlement enables a genuine social sustainability in rural living. Although the project requires the government to follow up with matching social reforms in areas such as education equality and social welfare, the project is an attempt that points to Chinese countryside since Mao "demonised" its conception. In this project, the rural reorganisation will be the physical backdrop to cities. Rural life does not have to be an inferior choice to cities, rather, the desirable alternative.
Pier Vittorio Aureli, Maria Giudici
Carl Schimtt - Nomos of the Earth
Mies van der Rohe