No. 1 (2023): WASTELANDS. Recycling urban spaces for the shrinking city

The Rural as a Frontier of Expression in Contemporary Chinese Architecture: Projects and Strategies to Mitigate the Hollowing of Countryside Settlements

Gerardo Semprebon
Politecnico di Milano

Published 2023-09-12


  • Architectural design,
  • planning,
  • village,
  • hollowing,
  • China,
  • rural revitalization
  • ...More

How to Cite

Semprebon, G. (2023). The Rural as a Frontier of Expression in Contemporary Chinese Architecture: Projects and Strategies to Mitigate the Hollowing of Countryside Settlements. Contesti. Città, Territori, Progetti, (1), 93–116.


Village hollowing can be seen as the other side of the coin of the binomial land taking and farmland shrinking. Its mitigation, control, and counterbalance are top priorities in the People’s Republic of China. The reasons span from social and cultural to economic and demographic to environmental aspects, and the cross-disciplinary dilemma that derives calls for original and innovative approaches to revitalize the countryside. In China, design and planning fields have been acknowledged to play a leading role in reshaping rural-urban relationships and the related controversial transition. This paper discusses how some Chinese architects engaged in rural projects explored new possibilities of design expression. Representatives of a multitude, they tested local materials and traditional techniques in innovative ways, renovating design processes and architectural languages. Their engagement has generated a variety of approaches showcasing surprising solutions characterized by challenging attitudes toward standards, dogmas, and canons. In this way, they stimulated a vivid debate repositioning the role of designing at a global level. The paper puts forward an interpretative key to observe how Chinese architects envision the future of ruralities.


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