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  • Writer's pictureNusrat Jahan Mim

Alternative Chaos: Middle-out Urbanism in Historical Urban Villages, Shenzhen, China

Updated: Jun 10, 2020

The METSYS (a word derived from the mirror assembly of “system”), an aggregation-based “middle-out” system that challenges the existing power distribution/hierarchy in design and development process in developing contexts. Designing for “developing” context is always challenging. In most cases, the design decisions become entirely top-down, and little or no voice from the subalterns reach the decision-makers. In cases where the development process is somewhat bottom up, that often conflicts with the vision that the policy-makers hold for the future. This problem becomes even more complex in situations where such projects involve the stakes of multiples parties with different levels of affluence, power, and education. The Urban Villages in Shenzhen is one such context which is, to the rest of the city, an opaque box - very little to explore or preserve. Many of the villages has been demolished to keep pace with the modernist development process going on in the city of Shenzhen after the economic boom. Villagers want to protect the villages form demolition but fail to boldly represent the cultural values, ethnic knowledge, and local expertise that these villages possess, to the rest of the city. In this adversarial context, the objective of our proposal is to increase the porosity of the Urban Village so that the city can experience the richness of the culture, foods, and the vibrant lifestyle of the villagers, and thus understands the values of a balanced and sustainable development. We are providing the villagers with tools, techniques, and policies so that they can develop an entirely bottom-up system of generating spaces, programs, multi-use zoning, or complex street life in the Urban Village. The adaptable, flexible METSYS will not only preserve the natural order of the village life and culture formed by its residents, but also will ensure the overall economic sustainability of the locals.

Co-Author: Shanaya Ghirdarlal

Visiting Critic Studio with Urbanus



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