A New Model for the Urban-Rural Fringe in Jiangsu Province

For the last six years, MIT Architecture students and faculty have joined faculty and students of Southeast University (SEU) in Nanjing, China to collaborate on a summer workshop examining new forms of residential development. This new research proposal is an outgrowth of the long-term MIT SEU relationship and the recognized need to develop innovative models for the next wave of Chinese urbanization. China’s extraordinary economic boom has gone hand-in-hand with an unprecedented scale of urbanization that has strained infrastructure, ecology, housing conditions, health, and other important components of cities. As of March 2014, China’s leadership has outlined a new form of urbanization that calls for a balance between the development of small cities, small towns, and new rural communities, with a focus on urban-rural coordination. This requires a new model for intensive, yet economical and environmentally sensitive, development in the urban-rural fringes, a challenge that demands fresh approaches to sustainable urban development, land use reform, community and housing design, and affordability.

SEU has invited MIT’s Center for Advanced Urbanism (CAU) to join a project they are doing with the Jiangsu Province Construction Department to develop pilot projects testing new models of urban rural development. The research will focus on the rural-urban fringe balancing the development of small cities, towns, and communities in contrast to the large cities of the past decades. The aim of the effort is to find models of urbanization that support common prosperity and stability alongside sustainability and livability. This topic is particularly appropriate as CAU is in the midst of a two-year theme around redefining "The Future of Suburbia," focused on developing alternate models to dense urbanization and the growth of megacities.

SEU and MIT architects and urban planners will work together closely to envision and document concepts for the future of urban-rural fringe development. The process will include historic and geographical contextualization, case studies, a student workshop, concept development, and implementation.

Fall 2015