crops into cities

Thread-like sky is to be seen inside Urban Villages in Southern China, among their hyper-compact mini-towers.

These former farmer villages did not go to the city, but the City came suddenly to them. Keeping the field property structure and minimal 1-2 metres narrow paths, rice crops were turned into 5-7 storey housing blocks, since the 1980s. And informally, peasants became real estate developers.

Despite this urban agglomeration, some villages (Shuping Village in Guangdong Province) learned how to convert themselves into a shareholding company, which helped restructure the power relationship between the administrative village and villagers’ teams.

This self-organized shareholding system strengthened villagers’ collective identity; unlike agricultural collectivism under Mao, which focused on production, real estate-centered collectivism in the village shareholding system emphasizes the distribution of collective wealth, as well as provide health care and education facilities for their members (a kind of danwei-ization of villages, as former planned economy had done).

As You-tien Hsing concludes in The Great Urban Transformation, village corporatism highlights the active role of society in urban social transformation through a bottom-up approach; a self-initiated strategy against state expropriations. [Source> You-tien Hsing: The Great Urban Transformation – Politics of Land and Property in China. Oxford University Press 2010]

[Image 1> thread-like sky in a Guandong Urban Village by Houhong] [Image 2> aerial view of a Shenzhen Urban Village from googlemaps] [Image 3> informality in Urban Villages by Peter Herrle] [Image 4> Wuuf Village proposal by Aberrant Architecture for an ironic redevelopment of Shenzhen Urban Village]

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