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Beyond Pragmatism: Rethinking Segregated Suburbia in Beijing

Part 2 Project 2013
Dan Ladyman
University of Cambridge | UK
By 2020 it is predicted that an eighth of the total global population will live in Chinese cities. With the population of Beijing increasing by half a million residents per year, the political, social, economic and cultural implications of this growth are being played out in the rapid suburbanisation of the contemporary city. This project tackles two distinctly different, but inherently interdependent phenomena; gated urbanism and the contemporary culture of consumption.

The exodus toward suburbia has far outpaced traditional Chinese culture, by shaping distinctly unique yet generic suburban territories where the dominant urban typology - the residential gated community - has defined an introverted and exclusive relationship between the block and city. This project explores the political and economic status of gated development in suburban Beijing and investigates the spatial implications on either side of the gated block perimeter.

Described by Pu Miao as the cancer of urban life, the contemporary suburban condition is explored through this project by speculating, theorising and testing how this particular urban condition could be reconceptualised through a comprehensive understanding of the forces that shape it. The project uses a series of massing studies to explore the possibilities of occupying the space between gated communities, to shift the balance of publicly accessible space.

Part of the reading of the economic growth in China has involved an in-depth study of the rise of the commodification of space. This commodification has involved a mass appropriation of western building types, forms and symbols, reinterpreted through the mechanisms of the Chinese building industry and the aspirational nature of property development. The project has used this as a starting point for a series of tests that involve the collage of western urban patterns – from popular international travel destinations. Alternative urban configurations reframe the gated block, creating new scales of urban density and spatial diversity within the space of the street between the gated blocks. Through a deep understanding of the contemporary suburban condition, the project attempts to redefine the relationship between gated block and city thus, challenging gated urbanism through the reinvention of the territory in which it is surrounded.

Dan Ladyman


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