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Pratt Institute 2018 Degree Project Award Jury Top Honor
Archived by Pratt Institute

Shenzhen, China
Spring 2018
Partner Mingxuan Qin
Instructor Karen Bausman and John Szot
Undergraduate Thesis Project

Shenzhen, as a trailblazer in China's urbanization, epitomizes Chairman Deng Xiaoping's economic reform. Over the course of 30 years of rapid development, it has emerged as China's third-largest city, distinguished by innovation and a population of 11.389 million, with over 70% comprising immigrants who often initially settle in urban villages.

However, this developmental trajectory is notably imbalanced, resulting in underdeveloped villages characterized by issues such as overcrowding, dense building blocks, a heightened crime rate, and various social challenges. Despite extant plans advocating for the demolition of these areas in favor of redevelopment, our design offers a compromise: the preservation of the village to accommodate migrant living spaces.

Intervention structures, encompassing both point and linear structures, introduce essential public facilities and vibrant business streets. Three distinct typologies are meticulously crafted to suit varied urban village contexts, emphasizing functional identities in limited spaces to ultimately reinvigorate the entire village. This approach, marked by its nuanced understanding of challenges, aims to provide sustainable solutions that elevate the community and seamlessly integrate migrants into the intricate tapestry of Shenzhen's urban milieu.

Introduction   01


The urban landscape of Baishizhou is characterized by mixed-use buildings, where the ground floors of most blocks are dedicated to commercial activities like restaurants and vegetable vendors, while the upper floors are primarily residential spaces connected by narrow staircases.

This architectural arrangement is a reflection of traditional spatial divisions, where the size of each block adheres to historical norms. However, contemporary construction practices have deviated from this tradition, with multi-story buildings now occupying land that was historically designated for single-story structures. The consequence of this departure is evident in the formation of narrow alleys and a lack of sunlight penetration in the apartments.

The term "hand-shake" buildings has emerged to describe this urban phenomenon. The moniker stems from the close proximity of these structures, to the extent that individuals residing in one building could metaphorically shake hands with occupants in neighboring buildings. This close quarters living, while a testament to the evolution of urban planning and architecture, brings challenges such as reduced natural light and intimate spatial connections that define the unique character of Baishizhou. Despite these challenges, the mixed-use nature of the buildings contributes to the vibrant and dynamic atmosphere of this urban village.

02  Chinese Land Reform 

history diagram2.jpg
Thesis Book Ming, Jo and Tian

Current views in urban village, photos from the websites*

Composite Drawing and Data_Mingxuan Qin&

The initial impression for newcomers to the village is often one of uniformity in building appearances. To address this, our team conducted on-site visits, identifying crucial landmarks such as prominent restaurants and public facilities. These key points serve as essential reference markers, allowing us to create a new circulation framework within the existing village layout.

Our project places particular importance on this reorientation process, leveraging these identified landmarks to guide navigation effectively. This not only enhances internal coherence but also aims to improve accessibility for external visitors. Going beyond physical connections, we integrate various elements to ensure a seamless and welcoming experience for those unfamiliar with the village. Through this approach, we seek to establish a balanced relationship between the local community and visitors from outside.

Development Potential  03


Current Condition




<<< Baishizhou Urban Village

        Physical model  (4ft X 4ft X 2ft)


This project proposes acupuncture therapy as a unique intervention. The design aims to enhance circulation and introduce additional public services to the existing village, intending to dissolve the boundary between the city and the village. By identifying specific key locations within the village, our proposal seeks to stimulate the local economy and support small businesses by redefining the functions of small-scale spaces. We have designed three distinct typologies, applying them across the entire village region.

In restructuring the circulation system of the village and connecting these key points, the design actively encourages other citizens to explore the village. It strives to find a sustainable solution by synthesizing the existing village's forms through the integration of design innovation and the shared historical memory of this migrant city.

Urban Proposal  04

Proposed Mater Plan_Tianyue Xiao&Mingxua






Map Diagram 1 [转换]-01.jpg


Map Diagram 3 [转换]-01.jpg
Map Diagram 2 [转换]-01.jpg




Point A Perspective Section_Mingxuan Qin
Point A Plan B_Mingxuan Qin&Tianyue Xiao
Point A Plan A_Mingxuan Qin&Tianyue Xiao

In certain areas of the village, restaurants are concentrated. However, the subpar dining environment fails to meet contemporary expectations. In response, the intervention structure offers improved dining spaces, benefiting both the restaurants and residents. This enhancement not only attracts external visitors to the village but also provides them with a better understanding of the local way of life.

Simultaneously, the intervention addresses the shortage of public programs by introducing communal spaces such as movie theaters and playgrounds for children. This diversification enhances the village's appeal as a gathering place, fostering a sense of community and enriching the overall living experience for both residents and visitors.

Point A - Public Dining Space  05


<<< Baishizhou Urban Village - Point A 

        Physical model  (3ft X 1ft X 2ft)

Point B Perspective Section_Mingxuan Qin

The markets in the village can stimulate surrounding businesses by attracting people to this area. In the past, food trucks randomly occupied the streets, worsening traffic in the village and creating environmental issues. In this intervened structure, they can freely access the ground floor to continue their businesses, making it easier for the local government to manage.

On the upper floors, the spaces intentionally have less definition to attract a variety of businesses, aggregating to produce larger economic benefits. This approach allows residents to buy what they need in a more effective way and contributes to the overall economic vitality of the village.

Point B - Public Market Space  06


Baishizhou Urban Village - Point B  >>> 

Physical model  (3ft X 2ft X 2ft)          

Point B Plan A_Mingxuan Qin&Tianyue Xiao
Point B Plan B_Mingxuan Qin&Tianyue Xiao
Point C Perspective Section_Mingxuan Qin

In the redevelopment process, certain buildings may be selected for deconstruction to make way for new structures to intervene. The residents originally occupying these buildings will be relocated to the newly constructed ones. To accommodate a larger population, we are doubling the height of the existing buildings.

The exterior attached structure is designed to offer public spaces, including reading areas, co-working spaces, and observation decks. These amenities are intended for both the residents of the building and the surrounding community, fostering a sense of shared space and contributing to the overall well-being of the residents and the broader neighborhood.

Point C - Residential Renovation   07


Baishizhou Urban Village - Point C  >>> 

Physical model  (2ft X 2ft X 3ft)          

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