Design Thesis Projects 2017 - 2018
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Qiuyi Zhang
Advisor: Lisa Landrum

What is the urban village in China? They are commonly inhabited by the poor and transient, and as such, they are associated with squalor, overcrowding, and social problems. They are heavily populated, intensely developed, and lack infrastructure. Just in Xi’an – my hometown and a typical second-tier city, there are more than 180 urban villages still active and struggling to survive in the city.

It sounds like the urban villages in China is a kind of “slum” dwellings. However, they are generally highly vibrant places due to their mixed-use organization. Indeed, ground floors on main passages are often used day and night for commercial activity, with services provided, goods exchanged and food sold. Contrast to newly developed city streets where every commute is done by car and where commercial streets are replaced by malls, this kind of spontaneity is what I found the most valuable thing in urban villages.

And the market is obviously the most popular place in the urban village. It is the center and the soul of the urban village which connects the village and the city. So the revitalization of those “slum-like” urban village should begin from the rethinking of the marketplace.

This thesis aims to rethink, reinvent and revolute the market in Chinese urban village and try to give an architectural response to this social and geopolitical issue.

It will start from the deep-seated relationship between the market and the development of the city and explore the middle ground between a thriving urban landscape and a chaotic overcrowded market street. The design will aim to invent an affordable and safe environment for those small market traders. In the meantime, thinking about how market design can help to address the problem that children grow up in narrow and dirty spaces without enough attention from their parents who earn their living in the market? And also trying to find the answer to the question that how the market influences the whole village atmosphere and assist to improve the life quality in urban village? And the most importantly, how, the market could open the door of urban village to the city and give the beneficial effect? Finally, this project should also be partly self-developed and self-designed by the users themselves.

As Charles Correa said: “We must create cities where the poor are not dehumanized". A new marketplace in one urban village would not totally reverse the situation in the short time, however, it could act as an experiment that may change the area a little, and attract more attention to this impoverished and dying place. Today, the market is in crisis in China. It needs to be reimagined in order to survive.

1.    Cart device drawing for unveiling the life cycle of a seed
2.    The section drawing of the urban village market building
3.    The photo of the market building model
4.    The study model of a specific market area in Luojiazhai urban village
5.    The photo of the final model of the market building  
6.    Lighting and shadow of the central courtyard

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