Fei Wang’s shortlisted Micropolis is an antidote to the super-size developement that has typified China’s built expansion
In September’s special issue of AR, Pascal Hartmann described China as ‘the largest urbanisation project in history’. In 2011 the country’s urban population exceeded its rural population for the first time, with some 691 million people now living in cities. The impact of this shift, Hartmann argued, will reverberate far beyond China’s borders to ‘shape the 21st century’. The role of architecture in the outcome of this transition could be pivotal.
As a riposte to the mega-scale development that has so far typified this growth, Micropolis is an alternative vision of Chinese urbanisation based on historic development patterns such as siheyuan, the traditional courtyard dwellings that were particularly prevalent in Beijing. Its creator, Fei Wang, has sought to make an urbanism that, instead of starting from the masterplan, begins with the human scale of the domestic. Arranged around either closed or open courtyards, individual dwellings are aggregated to create a legible yet complex piece of city.
The judges liked the project’s appreciation for intimate spaces and everyday urban life, while at the same time admiring how this sensibility − Sana’a meets Archizoom − would not greatly impede the drive for mega-scale, rapid development; and therefore might be compatible with to market conditions. It is a compelling imagining of the future Chinese city.
Different densities permit a more varied urban fabric than rigid top-down grid plans
Punning on the radical reversibility of axonometry, Wang’s visualisation oscillates between negative and positive space like an Escher drawing
Squares and alleys naturally become the public spaces of the organic agglomeration