Cyan Jingru Cheng:
Chinese cities will be, in the two decades to come, confronted by a reform of the hukou (household registration) system and consequently by the new challenges of urban growth and densification. The hukou system is an administrative instrument of the central government used to control labour mobility and welfare distribution by dividing Chinese citizens into rural and urban households. The forthcoming reform will abolish this fundamental rural-urban dichotomy. Although the reform of the hukou is foremost social and political, the interrelationship between different urban, social and political agendas also makes the reform fundamentally urban.
Hukou Reform in P. R. China
Floating Population of China
Urban Sprawl and Fragmentation
The history of Chinese planning follows a cellular logic of development, growth and control (for example, the courtyard house, danwei and mega-plot models) that embodies the changing ideas of collectivity and autonomy in both socio-philosophical and spatial terms and depends on repetitive modular urban units. While these previous models assume a coherent social structure, the increased mobility and mix of urban populations that will result from the hukou reform precisely undermine this very idea: the concept of a stable and clearly defined social tie. Therefore, the idea of collectivity and autonomy, initially enforced by the hukou, will eventually be destroyed by the reform and a new, non-modular provision of social welfare and urban governance will be required. By fundamentally breaking cellular logic, the hukou reform will radicalise the Chinese cities of the future.
Chinese Cellular Logic of Planning: Urban Formations
Chinese Cellular Logic of Planning: Social Ties
The project, therefore, examines this fundamental and inevitable urban transformation and how the current cellular logic of urban planning and governance will be challenged by a necessarily differentiated infrastructural logic. The project proposes an infrastructural network for central Shanghai that is based on the existing metro system and overlaid onto the current cellular urban structure. Where these two logics interact, an urban atrium is proposed to articulate the nodal point of new network relations. The project is a claim for a new model that holds together a new collectivity defined by the provision of basic social welfare and education. The infrastructural network will eventually form a new master plan that is able to define a new welfare distribution operating beyond the Communist Party and a new collectivity cutting across multiple scales. As such, the possibility of a radically new model of urban governance arises.